By Brad Gessner
Differentiation is undoubtedly crucial in today’s competitive workforce. But, setting yourself apart doesn’t always require you to do something big or novel. In sports, you’ll hear coaches talk about their team doing “the little things.” They spend hours practicing every element of the game, not just to make corrections and address weaknesses, but simply to get in the habit of doing “the little things,” the right way.
The same concept applies in public assembly facility management, hospitality and tourism. It’s not always about making an immediate impact; the path to senior leadership is built on experience, patience, perspective, and sustained motivation. Here are six of the most powerful “little things” you can do to succeed in one of the most exciting and rewarding industries out there.
1. Get Your Foot in the Door
This might seem too simple to be helpful, but many people pass up opportunities that could develop into incredible career builders. They want an express ride to the top, which can cause them to sabotage their own success by writing off a seemingly “small” or menial job. If you can get in with a great organization, don’t be afraid to take a relatively humble starting position. There are plenty of leaders in this business, including myself, who were willing to start at the bottom and work their way up.
2. Embrace Every Step on the Ladder
Pursuing a goal is every bit as fulfilling as achieving that goal. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to climb the ladder. Ascension is an inexact science, and there’s a fine line between being patient and being content, but everything you learn along the way will help you become a better employee, colleague, friend, leader, and mentor.
Oftentimes, someone who catapults to the top runs a higher risk of failure and will damage their reputation before they ever hit their prime. I like the saying; “A career is more like running a marathon, not a sprint.” And remember, you’re not just building your career; you’re building your reputation.
3. Have a Vision
Industry icon Tom Liegler, a mentor of mine, once told me to enter every job with a vision of staying with the position for at least five years—a dramatically different school of thought than that of most millennials today! That doesn’t mean you have to definitely stay for five years, but it will help you develop a plan by which you can evaluate your progress over a longer haul. “Job hopping” might be shedding its negative connotations these days, but it’s not conducive to gaining valuable experience and maximizing the opportunities within a given organization.
4. Be a People Person
Being a “people person” is a prerequisite for excelling in any sector relating to facility management, hospitality and tourism. It’s a relatively subjective term, but a people person is essentially someone who genuinely likes people and shows honesty and integrity in everything they do. Hospitality is all about taking care of other people, be it attendees to our venues, show managers, promoters, or fellow employees. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to not only take care of the guests, but also empower your staff to do the same and bring value to all stakeholders. Doing so ties back to being genuinely committed and invested in delivering a great experience across the board.
5. Be the Volunteer
Are you a go-getter? One of the best ways to be noticed by supervisors and decision makers is to be the volunteer in the room when someone asks who wants to take on a project. No one likes an attention seeker, but a big part of getting a promotion is making it known that you are willing to work hard, contribute and have the desire to advance your career. There are plenty of people who are perfectly fine in a lifetime role; you don’t want to be mistaken for one of them. Making yourself visible isn’t a matter of outwardly stating you want a promotion or placing individual recognition ahead of team objectives. It’s more about putting your skills and enthusiasm on full display. Take pride in your work, be willing to go the extra mile, and others will soon begin to notice.
6. Invest in Education
In an age where you can Google anything and get a thousand results instantly, it’s all too easy to take a short cut in educating yourself. But when it comes to your career, you need more than a general understanding of management. I went back and attained a Master’s Degree at 57. And had an incredible experience and learned a lot in the process. Commit to being a lifelong learner!
Brad Gessner is senior vice president and general manager, Los Angeles Convention Center, AEG Facilities