BACK TO SCHOOL

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by my college advisor from the University of Arkansas. I am still local, and I regularly reach out to her on behalf of my job for part-time help. But this time was different. She was asking me for something.

A huge part of hospitality, and working towards a degree in it, is actual experience. Accountants can be taught formulas and how to use QuickBooks in class, lawyers have to study the history and teachings of law before they can practice on their own, and doctors and nurses have to study anatomy and physiology before they can actually begin to intern and practice. Hospitality is learned or just naturally there. Experience builds on hospitality. It is hard to teach, and the times it is taught – is not nearly enough.

In a team retreat last year for my company, we watched a video, which is based on the art of hospitality. In this video, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, speaks to what hospitality is and what hospitality means. He compares hospitality to a dialogue, and that it is different than service. His company believes “the way you make people feel is what they remember, more than anything.” Meyer goes on to talk about what they look for in employees, a “high hospitality quotient,” which he says is 49% technical skills and 51% emotional skills. That 51% adds up to someone who is naturally wired to want to make people feel better.

Meyer continues with a phrase that has really stood out to me since watching that video, “always be collecting dots, so you can always be connecting dots.” He relates this to always knowing who you’re talking to – and what’s important to that person. When you make a client or a guest feel special by connecting the dots, you are creating a customized experience for them – and that brings them back. That might even make you their favorite. Meyer adds that being someone’s favorite, is better than being the “best”, because others can’t tell you what is or is not your favorite. Just like they can’t take a picture of the way a hospitality professional made their heart feel – showing the art of hospitality.

I couldn’t agree more.

The University of Arkansas’ Hospitality Innovation program has grown significantly in the past few years. One of the core requirements that they have added is the pre-internship class. This class focuses on the preparation for getting an internship – resumes, cover letters, elevator speeches, and interview skills. Which brings us to the opportunity that my college advisor presented me – she invited me, along with several other industry professionals and past alumni, to participate in mock-interviews with the pre-internship class students.

Building on that video, and what I’ve learned working my way through the hospitality industry thus far, I was excited for this opportunity to participate in the growth of these students. The guidelines for our mock-interviews were minimal, but they were encouraged to be a mini-version of an interview for the companies we represented. The students were tasked with researching us, in addition to our companies, and to be prepared for questions we might ask based on our jobs.

As most interviews go, I asked each student (candidate) to tell me a little bit about themselves. Most responded to this with their elevator speech, which usually started a great conversation. From there, we touched base on their job experience, and a few situational questions based on our respective careers. Overall, the students did well. Some students were outstanding in comparison to their classmates, and I could tell that some struggled. But the positive outlook in their struggles is that we, as industry professionals, could give feedback to help them improve.

We were asked to evaluate the students based on their communication skills, presence, and their self-confidence. The majority of the students were very successful on their presence, specifically in their attire. I could tell that their communication skills and self confidence had improved since they may have been freshman, and where there was room for improvement, we were able to address that. For example, some students struggled with the word “like” or “uhm” throughout their conversation, or fidgeting with their hands a little too much. These are mistakes that I still catch myself doing – so as I noted an opportunity for improvement on students, I also noted an opportunity for myself.

I don’t know who was more nervous for these interviews – the industry professionals or the students. Either way, it was a great experience for all of us and I am very grateful for the opportunity from the college advisor that still sees something in me.

XO – MC

PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS

Have you ever had inspiration to do something completely out of your normal? I had that today. I’ve been wanting to kick off this blog (and a little bit of photography) for quite some time. But I didn’t know where to start, or where I wanted this to go. I have a pretty good eye for a good photo, but my editing skills were lacking. I barely know how to use my super fancy Nikon.

A few weeks ago, I helped execute a bridal expo at work. One of the vendors, a semi-new vendor friend of mine, was at the show, across from our booth. His booth was so cute, complete with a neon-pink sign and balloon arch. Oh and he had petit fours. Our booth was amazing too, complete with the largest charcuterie board I’ve ever seen (credit to my Director of Sales), but for the sake of inspiration, we’ll focus on his booth for now.

I have met Dale a few times throughout my time working  within the Northwest Arkansas hospitality industry, the first time being when I was still in college and he had a shoot at the hotel where I worked part-time. I’ve always admired his work. He and his fiancé, Tyler, were prepping the booth and we all kind of hit it off – the petit fours absolutely had something to do with it. I mentioned how badly I wanted to learn from Dale and his photography skills, and even sent a few brides his way. By the end of the day, I owed him my sister’s vegan pumpkin muffin recipe.

About a week later, his Instagram story had an announcement about a photography class. I instantly signed up and invited one of my friends to come with me. I couldn’t wait. The class was at 21C Hotel Museum in Bentonville, about 30 minutes North of Fayetteville. I had been to this hotel and museum before for a luncheon, and I was excited to see the Green Penguins.

My friend and I planned the entire day – starting with a trip to Target for a cute notebook and pens, which conveniently had a Starbucks inside. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Starbucks is the way to my heart, but when you combine Starbucks and Target, it’s even better. When we were leaving Target, a kiddo around the age of 3  was screaming that he didn’t want to leave. We felt that on so many levels. After getting our caffeine, we drove to lunch at Big Orange in Rogers. Their menu has gluten-free buns, which makes a gluten-intolerant person like myself very happy.

After lunch, we drove to 21c, arriving early to get the best seats. Dale gave two presentations: Portraiture & Composition and Camera Settings. He touched on aperture, f-stop, shutter speed, iso, and exposure. We learned what effects adding flash creates. Dale talked about the best angles to take photos, leading lines, framing, repeating backgrounds, foreground vs. background, sizing, and more. As he went through the presentations, I realized that some of the elements he mentioned, I naturally incorporate into pictures.

Overall, I learned a lot from the entire day. I downloaded and discovered more with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, on my computer and phone. But something that happened after this photography class – almost completely unrelated to photography – is that I gained confidence to actually start blogging regularly.

A long time ago, I thought about what motivates me. What impact do I want to leave? I still don’t know exactly. What I do know is that I want to live a life of altruistic hospitality. I want to always serve others, and welcome them into my life in the kindest way that I am able. What I do know is that when I spend time with my grandparents, I love hearing about when they were children, young adults, newlyweds, or before they had grandchildren. I love reminiscing with them, and one day I want to do that with my own family. I take pictures all the time, and I enjoy documenting my life on social media. I love to document memories. But I love to write. And I want to write more – about my life, my job, my family, my travel, my dog, and everything in between. So what motivates me? I said something one day to a friend of mine, and it’s always stuck with me…

Document everything. Someday you will be embarrassed, laughing, crying, or smiling, and remembering how you didn’t take that moment for granted.

XO – MC

WHAT’S IN MY BAG?

When I was in New York, I carried around a Longchamp Le Pliage backpack, and it was the best thing to happen to me on the trip. For the daily 20+ mile walk each day in New York City, I felt the need to be efficient and prepared, since carrying a purse would get tiring and we were only in our hotel at the start and end of our days. A few of my friends asked me about what I would carry around in it before I left, as did my family when I landed in New York. Funny enough, I actually get this question a lot, because I am always carrying around a large purse or bag.

So. What are the essentials in my New York City backpack?

Let’s start with the most obvious – my iPhone. Yes, I’m definitely an iPhone user. We used our phones for navigation, communication with each other, photography, social media, music, etc. My phone even had subway routes mapped – it was so much easier to get around than the time I came to New York in 2011.

With that being said, I also brought extra portable power-banks and charging cords. Not only did I need an additional charge in the late afternoon, but several people in my family did too and they didn’t think ahead like I did. Using our phones all day really killed the batteries. My favorite one-charge power-banks are the Onn brand 6,700mAh, and my favorite all-time power-bank is the SHARKK brand 15,000mAh dual USB. The higher the mAh, the more “full” charges it has to give.

Of course I also brought a wallet. I chose a smaller version of my typical wallet – a navy Kate Spade cardholderIt’s my go-to for going out, going on trips, etc. so that I don’t have to carry around everything. I wanted to keep my debit card, ID, hotel key, and metro card on me at all times. I also felt the need to keep a little cash on me – just in case.

While we were in SoHo one day, I purchased a 9 oz. Swell bottle that could fit in my backpack. One thing that I forgot about on our first two days in NYC was to STAY HYDRATED. A lot of places offer free water, including Starbucks (and there is a Starbucks on just about every corner of New York City). I should have taken advantage of that sooner, especially by using a refillable bottle that keeps water cold for hours at a time. At the same time, being in the hospitality industry, I don’t like going into places for free water without buying something. So if I went into Starbucks, I would time it to buy a cake pop or a snack, and also ask for a (free) water.

It’s been a goal of mine to read more, and a perfect time to kickoff that goal was on the subway in NYC. So rather than a bulky book, and having to worry about finishing one and not having a second to start, I brought my Kindle Paperwhite. It’s honestly the best, and I’m so glad that I’ve invested in the Paperwhite over the other e-readers in the market, including the Kindle Fire, or even reading on my iPhone/iPad. The backlighting is adjustable, so your eyes don’t hurt and it looks like you’re reading an actual book. I also bought a Kindle-brand smart cover that keeps the screen protected from potential scratches.

Pens are one of my favorite items. I have a preference of pens for particular tasks, but those have changed overtime. For example, now my planner/notebooks are typically all written with a Bic Atlantis black pen and my leads at work are written in Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Marker Pens. So of course, I had a few pens in my bag. You know, just in case.

I regularly carry around a few beauty and hygiene essentials, so I added these to my NYC backpack too. Glossier’s Balm Dotcom is my first go-to. I have almost every flavor. I also keep a roll-on perfume, because walking about 20 miles away in the heat of summer, can definitely wear off the perfume I put on in the morning. Gum is not really my thing, so I keep some extra mints on me at all times. I mean, I wasn’t going to brush my teeth in the restaurant’s bathroom.

Lastly, my AirPods were a lifesaver when walking the 20+ miles around the streets of NYC each day. I had a Spotify playlist going almost always, and the navigation on my phone would speak through it – so if I did get lost, I didn’t look like a tourist staring at my phone or spinning around in circles for directions.

I’ll always vary what I carry with me, based on where I’m going or what I’m doing, but those are some of my essentials that I keep pretty consistent in whatever bag I carry!

XO – MC

EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE

People are constantly saying that your 20s are for “finding yourself”. We typically start our 20s while in college, have our first legal drinks at 21, fall in and out of friendships and relationships, pick up and quit hobbies, and soon enough we’re a quarter of a century old.

In the first 3 and a half years of my 20s, I was in a serious, long-distance relationship with someone who I believed to be the love of my life. He was younger than me, though not by much. As I watched my classmates get engaged, married, and start to have kids, I knew that I was ready for the serious decisions in life. He was not. As time progressed and he made less-than-serious decisions, we went our separate ways.  Maybe one day I’ll tell my story in another post, but today is not that day.

I realized soon enough that time is relative. Healing is relative. It may take 1 week, 3 months, or 1 year for someone to tell you that they love you. And it may take 1 week, 3 months, or 1 year for a broken heart to heal. A broken heart may never completely heal, because we’re human and we’re flawed. But it’s how we strengthen ourselves after the broken heart that really matters and eventually that defines who we are.

I’m not completely sure what this blog will be about yet. I’ve heard sometimes it just comes to you as you go. I don’t want it to be “just another blog” that blends in with others and is eventually neglected. It will be about confidence, growth, and discovery. For now, I’m going to use it as an outlet. I might talk about my job, traveling, my family, falling in and out of more friendships and relationships, and those hobbies that I decide to pick up. I can’t wait to share how I figure out life with you, and look back on this one day as a time-capsule of memories that I want to treasure forever.

XO – MC