Alex Drew's Story
I was looking for work and signed on at Tottenham Jobcentre after school. I spent just over a year doing temporary jobs and I talked to agencies but it was time to look for something permanent and I thought I’d be a train driver. I found out how to do that and they said ‘you’ve just missed a recruitment drive for this, why don’t you go along to this hospitality day in Hammersmith? It is a bit far away but they’ll pay your travel expenses’. It worked out well.
The reason hospitality appealed was they said they would work hard on the course to get us a job – and they did. I’d done bar jobs and waiting as teenager, which were skills I could use, and also, everyone there seemed to enjoy what they were doing. The day we attended was at the hotel where I ended up working, Novotel London West Hammersmith. It was a big hotel, very impressive; I’d never seen anything like it.
I started as a reception team member. On the course, they give you a mentor from the industry and we had to say where we wanted to work. I said I will do the bar and my mentor Raphael Urbani said ‘give reception a try’. I’m glad he did because it is a much better fit for me – I like being in front of people and making them welcome. I don’t feel like I am actively pursuing a career plan, anything linear, and as long as I have got a challenge and am enjoying myself, I’m content. I definitely like working in a team.
To anyone starting in the hospitality industry, I would say don’t put yourself in a box, you’ll get a lot more out of collaborative effort than by doing it by yourself. If you don’t know what you want to do in hospitality, a good starting point is a large hotel because it is like its own economy. You see every type of work, including some you would not necessarily think of as typical of a hotel; there is not just reception but restaurants, engineers, sales, IT.
A lot of colleagues started in the bar, ended in maintenance and moved to health & safety management. If you are not sure what you want to do, it is a good way find out, and if you are sure, it’s a good way to discover what you might rather do instead.
And to anyone looking for a job: when I was job hunting, it was still in the aftermath of the financial crisis; don’t worry about all the rejections. Get your foot in the door, work as hard as you can and show that you are willing to try. Certainly in the hospitality industry, it is better than any formal training; one of the best things about Accor is that you will progress if you want it.
- Alex Drew
- Welcome Manager
- Novotel London Brentford (UK)