Opportunity rarely arrives with a neon sign pointing to the next step, especially when it comes to careers. While I’m a fan of being strategic and applying for work that you are passionate about, I also recognize it isn’t a luxury that everyone always has.
The trick is not to miss out on an opportunity when it arrives, because…well…sometimes opportunity is a sneaky bugger that doesn’t look how you expect it to.
With that in mind, I want to tell a story about the softest career-knock that I almost didn’t answer.
When I was 20 I graduated from University with a BA in English Literature, and a minor in General Science. I had planned to become a teacher but I didn’t want to deal with parents so that was an idea destined for collapse. I opted instead to go on an adventure and gain a little life experience.
After applying to several resorts, I scored a phone interview with one in the East Kootenay region of BC. Mid-way through our call, I was taken aback when the interviewer asked if I’d like to be a housekeeper rather than the server position I had applied for.
I almost said no…after all, who in their right mind would want to make beds and clean bathrooms for a living?
But I gave it some thought and decided the adventure was worth the gross journey to get there and accepted the job.
Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions of my life.
I started my summer cleaning toilets and making beds on a piece-rate system where I was paid for how hard (and smart) I worked. I met some great people, got an excellent workout and probably did irreversible damage to my liver. At the end of the season I was offered a position for the winter as a Quality Supervisor, teaching new housekeepers how to make up rooms.
My mother thought it was hilarious that my new job was to teach teenagers how to make beds…
Fast forward through a Logistics role that helped to frame piece-rate in a way that made sense (and actually worked), and at the ripe old age of 22 I was the manager of a Housekeeping department. Standing at the front of a room of 100 supervisors, housekeepers, inventory team members, common area cleaners and administrators it (finally) occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea what to do.
Fortunately, I was given excellent leadership advice at this junction by one of my mentors: know your people, keep it simple, exude gratitude. And that was my mantra.
Little by little, we made progress. Our rag-tag group of millennial ski-bums put together a system that delivered better rooms to customers faster and with fewer problems. The business plan presentation that year was epic – we informed a room of experienced hoteliers that we’d saved nearly $500,000 in one year by going back to the basics and leaning on smart hiring and training. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when a committed team get to do what they do best.
But I almost didn’t do it.
I almost said no to the opportunity because housekeeping wasn’t glamourous and cleaning toilets is (admittedly) a little gross. One of my proudest accomplishments and my steepest leadership-lessons nearly fell victim to what I thought my career should look like.
My point in this blog is pretty simple: sometimes career-gifts come in surprising (or in my case, moderately gross) packages. Our job is to recognize them.
Wherever you are in your career, own it.
Regardless of where you are working, build on it.
If you are in a position to lift someone else up, do it.
Even if it isn’t glamourous or sexy, opportunity is probably knocking; but it’s your job to open the door.
Cheryl Krestanowich is a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Acuity HR Solutions where she executes on clients’ staffing needs by matching them with top candidates. For more information about Acuity HR, visit https://acuityhr.ca