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Lessons learned along the career path

publication date: Apr 4, 2012
author/source: Andrew Lo

Lessons learned along the career path | By Andrew Lo

Lessons learned along the career path | By Andrew Lo

If I hadn't gone to high school in Hong Kong, I would not have attended the school's alumni event in the summer of 2009. If I hadn't gone to that particular reunion, I might never have met Mandarin Oriental's then-CFO. If I hadn't had the opportunity to meet him, I wouldn't have been introduced to the group's director of HR. If I hadn't ...

There are many paths one can take in this life, even to reach a common goal. Picking the right one may seem crucial, but as I've alluded to before, there's no such thing as a "wrong" path. Depending on the route you choose, you may arrive a bit sooner or later and accumulate different experiences and skills along the way. But as long as you have a goal, you will eventually get there.

Here are a few things I've learned thus far on my chosen path:

Play to your strengths. Identify and improve on your areas of weakness and don't let these get you down. No one's perfect, and if anyone says they are, they're just kidding themselves. Don't let anyone tell you you're not smart enough or you don't have what it takes. In all that you do, keep your head up high and seek to fulfill your dreams.

Set goals. If you're fortunate enough to find a field you love, think about what you'd like to achieve. It might be in health care, construction, hospitality or anything really. Do you want to build the tallest building in the world, have your own chain of hotels or be the leading doctor in your city? Start talking to people in your desired industry and dedicate your time to learning as much as possible about that industry. Be a sponge and absorb everything and always think about where you want to be. The benefit of identifying a goal and relentlessly working toward it is that you will be encouraged by each small success along the way.

For me, that goal is to be a global leader in hospitality, one who makes a difference in the lives of other people-colleagues and guests alike-every single day. Having been in the industry for just over eight months, I've seen that there is more than one way to develop a career in my chosen field. From hotel management to property development and hospitality consulting, there are several paths you can take and still be intimately involved with this business.

To find my true passion in the industry and attain a professional specialization, I'd like to attend graduate school at some point for a master's in hospitality management, focusing on real-estate finance. The immense economic growth in Asia, particularly in developing countries like China and India, brings exciting opportunities in the hotel development arena. It is not surprising that huge hotel chains like Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Marriott International are dedicating enormous resources to the region.

I hope graduate school will add new knowledge to the experience I am now acquiring and help me discover what path in the hospitality industry I actually want to pursue.

Map out your journey. In mapping out your career, it is key that you have some sort of an idea of where you're going. You don't have to know exactly what you want to do when you finish school, but deciding on a general direction will help.

One of my teachers in high school always used to tell us, "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail." Planning is something I enjoy immensely, but I believe there is such a thing as too much planning. When you try to map out every step of your life, the lack of spontaneity may cause you to miss unexpected opportunities along the way. The better tactic is to balance your two- to five-year roadmap with your larger dreams. With passion, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, that dream could eventually turn into your success.

Create your own definition of success. In his book "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur," Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson comments that "successful people aren't in possession of secrets known only to themselves." Success to some might mean receiving a Nobel Prize, being listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, or even getting published on Wikipedia. Don't spend your time just admiring every billionaire on Forbes' annual list. "Listen instead to the wisdom of people who've led enriching lives (and) found time for friends and family," Branson said.

I believe if you keep an open mind and respect the people who walk along the same path as you work toward your dreams, the rest will take care of itself.

In life, what matters most is that you do everything responsibly and make a positive difference. When you first start out, it's rarely easy. Work hard and work smart to get what you want. No matter how difficult things might be in the beginning, don't complain or sulk. Your attitude will play no small part in determining your success. I've only just started my career, but I see that it's a long journey about learning and gaining experience. Be patient and don't forget to have fun along the way.

Thanks so much for following this series, and good luck with your own career.

Andrew is a trainee in Rooms Division at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. A recent graduate of Stanford University, he majored in International Relations and minored in Economics. Despite not having gone to hotel school, Andrew has a real love for travel and hospitality. Feel free to contact him at anlo@mohg.com.
Email: andrewcl88@gmail.com

21 April 2011

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