What Hospitality Taught Me About Communication

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Sometimes even the most fancy academic degree is outsmarted by lessons you’ve learned in life. Today’s post by Australian based Jeszlene Zhou from the blog First Comms Job proves that it’s true. Read on to learn what a job in an Irish pub taught Jesz about communication.

Jeszlene’s story

While I just started my first public relations job this year, as the community relations coordinator of WPBeginner, I believe my training as a communication practitioner started at the tender age of 19, at an Irish pub collecting name cards for the pub’s marketing database.

As a socially awkward teenager, the learning curve was steep. Yet, faced with a SGD$20/hour offer versus the SGD$6-8/hour wages for a waitressing job alongside a dormitory rental bill, I was highly motivated to pick up the required communications skills quickly. Within a few months, I was offered a $50/hour position by Johnny Walker.

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Here are 4 Communication Lessons I Took Away from My Stint in Hospitality

1. Jump into the Deep Blue

I believe we learn the most when faced with extreme situations. On my first day of work, I stared at a table full of tipsy looking Irish man, thinking “This is scary. How do I… what do I say… hmmm… I need the money for rent. Just do it.”

Two of the most difficult aspects of being successful is getting started and getting over the fear of failure and/or embarrassment.

Neuroticizing over the “how” often creates opportunities for excuses, increasing fear and the eventual giving up. Have a challenging situation on hand? Stop over thinking and go face your demons.

2. Personalize Your Service

One of the clubs I worked at had a regular clientele and my job involved selling them whiskey at SGD$120 a bottle. My biggest sales obstacle appeared in the form of scantily clad beer promoters whose product cost less than 80% of mine.

Within my first few weeks of work, I sussed out the whiskey drinkers, their names, how they like their drinks and details of their personal life. As my regulars walk enter the bar, I provided instructions to waitresses on how to set up their table, greeted them using their first names, poured them drinks according to their preferences and asked about their businesses, family or recent soccer bets over a toast. The beer promoters didn’t even get a chance to deliver their sales pitches.

As a communication practitioner, knowing your target public well is highly essential, whether you work in community engagement, media relations, internal communications or marketing communication. Statistic research isn’t enough for building genuine relationships with people. However reading through followers’ tweets, asking your office receptionist about her day or studying the personal blog of the a journo does.

3. Protect Your Personal Integrity

It’s amazing how many club promoters are willing to offer flesh for a few dollars worth of commission, not understanding, “if you respect yourself, others will learn to respect you.”

I made it clear to customers (and bosses) that I the job was merely a pay to finance my goals and did not indicate a particular lifestyle choice. Sometimes I did that by talking about my ambitions but mostly via a friendly yet proper body language. On the rare occasions where a customer attempted to take advantage of me, I would hold his hand gently yet firmly with a smile that communicated, “I’m not going to create a scene, but I’m not that type of girl.” If that didn’t work, I would excuse myself to the ladies or another table. Because of the way I conducted myself, my customers treated me with respect and my colleagues started watching over me like protective older siblings.

Many communication practitioners face the daily challenge of being given tasks by bosses or clients that might be unethical, strategically unsound, inefficient or plain stupid. Will you compromise your professionalism to stay in a job or close an account? Do you know how to say no without offending someone and walk away with an even better relationship?

4. Transfer Lessons and Skill Sets Across Industries

As a community relations coordinator at WPBeginner and a blogger at First Comms Job, I pitch guest posts ideas and receive (sometimes not so well-written) guest posts regularly, as well as manage relationships with various stakeholders.

After nearly a decade of working within the media, I took a plunge by signing up for a communications degree and received a job offer within 6 months of my first public relations class. I put in the extra effort to read social media updates of my online community with regular personalised interactions. I say no to submissions or suggestions that do not fit into my strategic plans without burning bridges. I believe successes and skill sets are transferable within industries and I hope my story has demonstrated that belief.

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Thanks to Anna for proving this posting opportunity and thank YOU for reading it. I truly hope that you have enjoyed this article.

Did you work in a different industry prior to communications? What were some of the lessons you learnt? Do you believe that knowledge transcends job descriptions? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

About the author:

communicationJeszlene Zhou is the community relations coordinator at WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site.

She also runs First Comms Job that discusses tactics for entering the field of media and communications.

Say hi to her via Twitter or Google+.

Photo credit: San Diego Shooter via photopin cc

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3 Responses to What Hospitality Taught Me About Communication

  1. Yay, my two favourite girls together! :)
    Great advice gets even better when it’s personal. Like your easy going style Jeszlene! Love how your posts are always about the person Anna!

    • Anna Rydne says:

      You’re always so sweet, Ioanna! Love how you take your time to comment and add to the conversation. Thank you very much. Looking forward to see what exciting content you’ll post on your great blog next year!

  2. Wangari says:

    This is brilliant. Started my 1st coms job last month after doing audit for 2 years and events for 6 months. Both jobs required I understand people well and clearly communicate for optimal results. Thanks

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