Essential traits for building a career in hospitality

Some people are born to work in hospitality. Friendliness and a never-ending willingness to give guests a great time are like a second nature to them. The majority of us, however, aren’t. Most people like the norm, which is weekdays only from 9 to 5.

Hospitality people are certainly a special breed. They are the face of your hotel or restaurant, a hospitality company's living business card. Hospitality staff are in continuous contact with your customers and as such they are the go-to people when something isn’t exactly as your demanding guests expect. Needless to say, the ideal hospitality employee has an impressive skill set.

Some of these skills are:

  1. Commitment To be successful in the hospitality industry, you must be committed to ensuring customer satisfaction. You must do whatever it takes to keep customers happy and also create repeat business.
  2. Computer Know-How A great hospitality employee has good computer skills and is familiar with a wide range of technological applications that are used within the industry.
  3. Enthusiasm Great employees of the hospitality industry are enthusiastic about their jobs and strive to do the best work possible. They want to give their customers the best experience available.
  4. Interpersonal Skills To be successful in hospitality, one must have top notch interpersonal skills, as the very nature of the business is to provide spectacular customer service.
  5. Leadership Great hospitality employees have strong leadership skills and are able to command projects and make significant contributions to an organization's overall success.
  6. Organized To stay on top of the multitude of tasks you'll face as a hospitality employee, you have to be organized and multitask without difficulty
  7. Knowledgeable of Safety/Hygiene Issues Successful hospitality employees are familiar with rules of safety and hygiene as they apply to food serving places, hotels, and other places where people spend time.
  8. Teamwork  Successful members of the hospitality industry work well with others and can be a productive member of a team. They value the contributions of everyone.
  9. Thorough Great hospitality employees are very thorough in their work and realize that any oversight could result in customer dissatisfaction. 
  10. Listening Listening to your guests is vital, especially if they don’t speak the same language. Good hospitality staff know how to listen, not just with their ears but with their entire body. It’s not only about what guests tell them, it’s also about their non verbal communication; are they nervous, stressed, do they seem a little lost? And what does the guest tell them between the lines?
  11. Oral Communication After the listening comes the talking. This is almost as important as the listening. When your guests speak a different language, you want to make sure your staff are confident about their English or whatever other language they’re required to speak. And it’s not just about the way they talk. Again, it’s about the employee’s general attitude; they need to look the guests in the eye, have a friendly face, speak clearly, etc.
  12. Customer Orientation ‘The customer is king’ is something that goes for all businesses. Even more so in hospitality. Your guests come to you to enjoy a well-deserved celebratory meal or holiday. Expectations are high and if not lived up to, disappointments are big. Hospitality staff need to go out of their way to make their guests happy.
  13. Stress Tolerance Working with different people from all four corners of the world inevitably leads to stress. It may just be an unhappy guest shouting at a reception desk worker - your staff needs to be able to deal well with all kinds of stressful situations.
  14. Quality Orientation Now we’re not saying being quality minded isn’t important outside the hospitality sector. Of course it is. When it comes to receiving people into your hotel, B&B or restaurant, however, quality standards do go up a notch. Think about fire exit regulation, pool safety rules and a first aid facility and H&H regulations for example.
  15. Work Standards Depending on the job, working in hospitality can be pretty tough. It often means long hours, being at work when your friends and family aren’t, and literally running around all day. Add some demanding, not always easy, guests to the list and you know your staff need to be extraordinary.
  16. Multitasking It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in a hotel or a restaurant where an employee has to do two (or more) things at the same time. Think for instance of a reception desk worker with a complaining guest in front of him, simultaneously having to pick up the phone and cancel a booking on the computer.
  17. Empathy Empathy isn't just about reading other people's feelings. It's about feeling what they feel, their highs and their lows. Hospitality is an industry completely focussed on the customer and on giving them what they want.
  18. Creativity Don't listen to anyone who says they don't like surprises. People love surprises, some just prefer ones that stay in their comfort zone. Being genuinely creative is about giving people something they don't expect.
  19. Hunger You have to love food/ love service etc. You have to think about it all the time.
  20. Flexibility There is no set way of doing things. There is no "this is how it's always been done”.Customers' tastes change all the time so we do too. Whether it's making practices more sustainable, changing how we present our food, or emphasising healthier dishes, there are always ways to do things better
  21. Honesty Sure, this goes without saying in any field. Really, what we mean by honesty is "taking ownership". This isn't about blaming yourself - a good company should make you feel able to admit to mistakes and work out how to avoid them in future. It's about telling customers clearly when something goes wrong, being able to apologise and improve.

You may have noticed that these soft skills and personality traits are most common in successful people, in the major industry sectors in every country around the world. These are often referred to as transferable skills. Meaning, people that are conditioned to behave this way have a higher chance of securing work and having multiple career paths in their life.

A professional has the power to add a spark to or ruin your day. A professional can set the tone for a great day ahead just as a non-professional can spoil it so badly for you that the bitterness or exasperation of the exchange carries on into your other interactions and spheres of work.

So, who do you wish to be? The choice is yours.