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On the Chopping Block; Are You Prepared
If You Get Your Marching Orders?

By Mark Keith, HVS Executive Search
This article first appeared in HOTEL Asia Pacific
April 2003
 
As hotels continue to cut back on staff, your head could be next on the chopping block – but are you fully prepared to cope if you get your marching orders? Human resources expert and HOTEL Asia Pacific columnist Mark Keith gives some timely advice on how to prepare for the worst-case scenario

You get the call from the director of human resources, and your stomach sinks. "Thanks for all your great work for the company," she says. "But, things being the way they are, we have to let your go. I'm sure you understand." 

Most people, when they lose their job, are traumatised. The shock, coupled with fear and anxiety, leaves them feeling vulnerable and hurt, and often shatters their confidence to look ahead with certainty. 

But, today, it's a harsh fact of life that you could be laid off - and it's something you should plan for so that, if it happens, you will be ready to view it as an opportunity rather than a disaster. 

A sound basic rule is that it is easier to find a new job when you already have one but, if you do find yourself unemployed, it's a lot easier to cope if you have already planned for the eventuality. 

"Coping" usually boils down to having funds available to manage the crisis, and having thought about your course of action in this "what-if" scenario. 

Rather than taking an "it can't happen to me" attitude, you should start organising your "disaster contingency plan" now - just in case the unthinkable happens to you.
For an expatriate hotelier who enjoys free accommodation as a key benefit of the job, being laid off could result in having nowhere to live. 

Allocate a portion of your personal financial portfolio to your disaster fund, allowing for at least six months' rent and living expenses. Select in advance a handy bolt hole - a comfortable and affordable location to regroup and recharge your batteries while looking for a new job. 

With such a back-up plan in place, it is less stressful to consider the various courses of action and to plan accordingly. It also allows you the luxury of choosing carefully your next career move.

Unfortunately, a career downward spiral often happens when a poor choice is made during times of desperation or stress. This can lead to a catastrophic career event getting even worse and developing into a career meltdown, destroying in one cruel, fell swoop all the previous successful years.

Almost as bad as losing your job is being stuck in the wrong job. 

As many readers are probably all too aware, good jobs can turn bad, a new boss can turn a dream job into a nightmare or a particular position might be leading you nowhere.

Whether you find yourself jobless, stuck in a dead-end rut or contemplating your next move, it is essential that you take a strategic approach to planning your career. 
The first step is to reflect objectively on the "journey so far".

When asked about their career plans, many hoteliers respond in terms of merely "the next step", "the next promotion", or "the move to a company that offers a more favourable career opportunity". 

When questioned about how they envisage the next 10 years, a common answer is: "Well, let's take one step at a time". 

This usually indicates a lack of strategic career planning, which is underscored by many of the thousands of resumes that have passed over my desk over the years.
The alarm bells always start ringing when I receive resumes from candidates which indicate they have: 

  • Jumped from one company to another at every stage of their career; 
  • Accepted a job [which turned out to be  disappointing] without carrying out diligent research;
  • Indicated a successful working history that is not accompanied by a corresponding and continuous approach to education; or
  • Time gaps in their professional experience, which may indicate an untimely exit from an unsuitable job. 
Companies understand these issues and they look for evidence. But, above all, they look for competence, which is often expressed in the following behaviours and skills:
  • Social skills and team abilities; 
  • Relevant professional knowledge;
  • Analytical, problem-solving, decision and judgment skills;
  • "Performance management"of others;
  • Creativity and innovation;
  • Emotional resilience and pro-activity; and
  • A strong service orientation.
A long-term career plan can enable you to see the strategic value of a job that is not providing immediate satisfaction, and help you endure an unpleasant stage in your career that is necessary to position you for your next move. Positioning yourself for a career move in the hospitality industry is all about being perceived as being able to do the job well, and not just looking the part.

Career positioning contains all the elements of a good marketing strategy. Here are some guiding principles:

  • The best indicator of future performance is past performance which means that, to give the impression that you will do a good job, you have to have been doing your current job well.
  • The best way to get an upward career move is through a promotion within your existing company. They know you, your strengths and weaknesses, and they appoint you based on an assessment of your competence. As they are the ones who made the decision, they will also support you and encourage you as you learn to operate at the new level.
  • If you want to join another company that is either a better-quality employer of offers greater career opportunity, you will likely need to move into a similar position to the one you currently hold. Getting a position promotion when joining a new company is usually accompanied by a compromise in terms of location, compensation or standard of operation.
The hospitality industry remains one of the few where "starting at the bottom" is still a practised route to the top. Plus, of course, a little luck but, as one of the leading hotel schools puts it: "Luck is the dividend of sweat". 

The last word goes to a successful executive on the secret of his success: "If you want to get run over by a train, you have to be on the railway tracks".

Mark Keith, MD of HVS Executive Search based in Hong Kong, has more than 25 years’ experience in international human-resource management, including senior positions with the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, Holiday Inns Worldwide, Mandarin Oriental, Inter-Con-tinental and Hilton.

© Copyright HOTEL Asia Pacific

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Also See Fighting Spirits! Rank-and-file Staff at Bali InterContinental Resort Talk About Their Hopes, Fears, Dreams / HOTEL Asia Pacific / April 2003
Trevor Bilney, Executive Chef at the Bali InterContinental Resort, Fights Hard Since Last October 12; Keeps Morale Up  and Costs Down / HOTEL Asia Pacific / March 2003
Hotels Stepping Up Security; Learning to Live with the Threat of Terrorism as Part of Conducting Everyday Business / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / March 2003
50% of Hoteliers Have Not Increased Investment in Security – More than a Year After the September 11 Attacks / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / December 2002
Security: Something No Hotel Can Ignore / Geoff Griswold / Summer 2002
Biometrics Lend a Hand to Hotel Security / Feb 2002
Hotels Near Airports Provide Better Safety and Security Features According to The Center for Hospitality Research - Cornell Hotel School / Dec 2002


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