Want that Job? Network and Write a Strong Resume
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Saturday, 19th September 2009
Brian Tan did not let zero hospitality experience stop him from going for the job he wanted at Fairmont Singapore.

If Brian Tan (left in the picture) had to single out two things that were responsible for his career switch from lecturer to hospitality, it would be networking and learning to write a strong resume.

The operations analyst at Fairmont Hotel, Singapore, who was on the Young WIT panel at WIT*e – Inspiration & Mentoring said, "I went about my career switch via the masters programme at Cornell. Throughout the programme, I got to know many industry contacts through networking sessions.

"It was through one of the industry contacts that I met my present employer, Fairmont Singapore. So networking was an important part of getting to that first interview. Learning to write a strong resume is another important factor."

To get that operations analyst job, Tan had to go through three rounds of interviews which included a structured interview where he had to answer 60 situational questions in 45 minutes. 

"My employers also wanted to know if I could lead, guide and motivate people around me. Leadership and interpersonal skills are vital attributes for managers."

Tan, who has a Master of Management in Hospitality from Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality, added, "For management positions, employers are looking for attitude, technical ability as well as leadership potential.  Having the right attitude is foundational - it sets you up to learn and grow into positions way beyond your education or past experience can take you."

Asked what motivated him – money, job satisfaction or career progression, he said, "I would be lying if I say money is not a motivator but really, there are two other things –  impact and opportunities.In my current position, I have the opportunity to continually impact my organisation by effecting changes and improvements.  This is very satisfying to me.

"It also gives me great opportunities to learn about what I could not have learned in school – hotel operations. Being in a multinational company also means greater opportunities for growth and rotation to different positions."

As he had zero zero hospitality experience, he chose a company that was established internationally and, at the same time, still growing its presence in Asia. "This allows me to imbibe its proven practices and healthy organisational culture.  At the same time, the organisational is not so huge that I feel I may not be able to make significant impact.

"I had met my present bosses on a number of occasions prior to my employment. They make me feel very comfortable and confident that I would be able to fit in the organisation's culture very well.

"I'm right so far."

On what were the obstacles to attracting young talent to the industry, Tan said, "I guess the six-day week is a big hindrance.  The need for work-life balance applies to both young and old.

"The hospitality industry traditionally prides itself on being very "ground up".  Many general managers started their career washing dishes or cleaning rooms.  The thought of going through what they did in the past to reach where they are today may not appeal to the young, who are usually rather impatient."

To climb the career ladder, he said it was vital to keep acquiring new skills. "Hospitality organisations are rapidly evolving to meet the new challenges of the digital age. Hence, it will be vital to have some basic handle of these new skills if one were to aspire towards the higher echelons of hospitality leadership in the future.

"A company like Fairmont believes in investing in its people. Hence, we continue to have a big training budget and encourage our staff to attend both internal and external training."

On how he sees social media impacting the way young people interact and how companies could use these tools to engage with younger workers, Tan said, "The phenomenon of social media reveals an age-old need of people – to be connected with others, or as Maslow puts it, love and belonging. At the same time, it also reveals a paradoxical need for privacy/freedom of expression.

"While it is great to use these tools to engage employees, the important thing to note is that employees are looking for a caring employer, a place to belong to and a culture of respect for individuals."

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com

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