HOMEWARD BOUND-ISH

In my previous post, I mentioned that my mom recommended I look into a company based out of St. Louis. And though I didn’t find a position that I qualified for right away, I did the next morning. After cancelling my plans that day, redesigning my resume, creating a cover letter, and submitting before the day was over, I had applied for my dream job.

There weren’t many details about the interview process within the application. So if I were to even receive an interview, I didn’t know when that would happen. Even though it was the weekend, I was so excited about this potential job, that I checked my email the next morning (Sunday). And the next day. And the next day. Which happened to be Tuesday.

And that Tuesday morning, I received an email from the company requesting to schedule an initial interview with me. I was that much closer to my dream. I wanted to schedule my interview on the very next day, but I knew that I would be too eager, and I needed time to do additional research about the position and prepare for the interview.

The first interview went well. I had some help from friends finding a quiet, noise-free location away from work to take the phone call. The interview was fairly standard, filled with situational questions based on my past experience. I am grateful that I took the extra time to research and prepare, because I was able to anticipate questions while answering them confidently. By the end of the interview, I didn’t know if I was moving forward, but my interviewer made me aware that I would know if I moved to the next round of interviews or not, by the middle of the month.

Just as I checked my email every day after I submitted my resume, I checked my email every day waiting to hear hopefully good news. It only took a week to get the next email. I was invited to a second, in-person interview. I scheduled the interview for a Monday after a weekend I would be in St. Louis, though the company did offer to fly me to the interview. (WHAT?!)

I worked hard to prepare for this interview – more than I had ever prepared for an interview. I researched the company on Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and I discovered 20+ potential interview questions, with suggested answers. I adjusted the answers to fit my experience, and gained confidence as I answered the practice questions.

The day of the interview came, and I arrived about 30 minutes early (to the parking lot). I walked in at the recommended 15 minutes prior to the interview, and signed in at the security desk. Soon enough, I was interviewing for the position. This interview went similarly, fairly standard questions as they applied to the events industry, with the implication that situational answers were needed. It began with two managers within the operations team, followed by a separate meeting with the vice president. The first portion went well, though I was nervous, I felt that there was a smooth ebb and flow to the interview. The second half with the VP, was the most nerve-wracking interview I’ve ever had, and I walked away feeling… okay.

I felt just about all of the feels throughout this interview process. Nervous, excited, happy, anxious. When I saw the original job posting, I had a feeling that this was just “meant to be”. Each time I saw an email, I had the same feeling. I couldn’t shake that feeling. The day before I found the job posting, I discovered that I wanted to travel and that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis sooner rather than later. And here was this job, that required travel 2/3 of the year, moving back to St. Louis, and let me continue to work in events. It almost felt too perfect.

Just as I did after the first interview, and on the advice of a kind family member, I sent my thank you cards to those who interviewed me during the second round, and waited patiently. (And checked my email multiple times a day.) I waited for almost TWO WEEKS. But it was worth the wait.

I got the job.

That feeling was real. It was meant to be. I was moving home. (Though I will be traveling throughout the world 250+ days out of the year.) I have my dream job. It’s happening. I’m homeward bound-ish.

XO – MC

DISCOVERY

This past February, I was in the process of interviewing for a job that would completely change my career path in hospitality. I was asked to interview for the position, which was a huge honor considering the field it was in and my lack of experience in said field. However exciting it sounded, I wasn’t sold on the potential of this new position. After all, I have been living and breathing hospitality for several years now, and I thought I had found what I was meant to do.

The interview process was extensive and I am grateful it was for a few reasons. It taught me about what I want looking into my personal and career-driven future. I hadn’t been seriously asked what I want my future to look like from someone outside of my current organization. Those who did ask, usually asked rhetorical questions or questions that had generic answers. I knew that eventually I wanted to move back home (to St. Louis) and have a family of my own one day, with maybe a job that at times, would allow me to work from home. But there was no real timeline, and there was no clear path of a career (even if it was in hospitality) that I wanted to follow.

This interview process taught me to rely on friends and family, and who to rely on, ensuring that the friends and family that I surrounded myself with would lead me to success. Making life-changing decisions is scary idea, and without support from those who surround you, you are making those decisions alone. So surrounding yourself with those who have strength and faith in you, is key to successful change. I believe that Matthew Kelly said it best,

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.”

This interview made me think about how my friends and family would fit into my life as I tackle the new job. And as I talked to friends and family, I discovered those who challenged me to become the best version of myself, and those who didn’t. Those who encouraged me to become the best version of myself supported me, but they knew how to ask me the tough questions.

And while I was being interviewed with questions from the potential new employer (and my friends), I also learned to ask the right questions for myself. As I mentioned before, I considered what my future would like, but I also learned to ask about where and what hours I would be working. This helped me discover what I wanted from my work/life balance, and my comfort in my office space.

This interview was a truly positive experience. Two months into the process, I was offered the position. I asked the company for the weekend to consider the offer, because as silly as it sounds, I didn’t “feel it” when I received the offer. After work that day, I went to get food with a friend who helped me weigh the pros and cons scribbled in crayon on the back of a placemat. We eventually determined that the cons outweighed the pros, not necessarily about the job or the company, but the results from accepting the job and how it lined up with my goals. I learned that I wanted to begin the process of moving back to St. Louis. I learned that I wanted to travel, much like my family has/will have the chance to with my dad being in Europe. And I learned that I wasn’t ready to give up on hospitality.

That night, I talked to my mom who told me to research a company based out of St. Louis. I did, and I didn’t find anything that I qualified for related to hospitality. I felt very discouraged, because I was ready to grow in my career elsewhere, preferably taking a step towards moving home. The next morning, I had a weird instinct to check again. So I looked at LinkedIn. And I found something that I qualified for, that would allow for travel, and that would keep me in events. I immediately cancelled my plans for the day, redesigned my entire resume, created a cover letter in the same design, and submitted it all before the day was over. I took a chance on something that gave me “that feeling”, even after I just simply read the job description.

On Monday, I declined the offer to the other job. It was hard, but I thanked the company for their time and for teaching me a lot about myself. I had to follow “that feeling”. Ultimately, this interview taught me that though I wasn’t meant for a career in law, I was meant to stay in hospitality. I wouldn’t say I doubted my place in hospitality throughout this process, since hospitality is present in almost any industry, but I was unsure how it would fit in with my personal goals.

My biggest piece of advice after this experience is to take the interview. You’ll learn more about yourself than you thought was possible, even if you don’t take the job.

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

FAYETTEVILLE TOWN CENTER

I received a promotion today! This is my second promotion at Fayetteville Town Center, a convention center in Downtown Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville Town Center is an organization within the umbrella of the Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission, as is the Visitor’s Bureau, Experience Fayetteville.

In March of 2017, I started at Fayetteville Town Center with the title of “Event Coordinator”. Within my first month, our Facility Director (essentially a General Manager) and Senior Event Manager submitted their resignations, in addition to the other two Event Coordinators. That left our staff with an Event Manager, a Director of Sales, and myself. We had an external set-up crew that also handled some maintenance of the facility, but other than that, it was just the three of us. To say it was rough, would be an understatement. But we made it work – because that’s the event world and we couldn’t sacrifice our client experiences.

In June, I was promoted to the role of Event Manager, taking on clients of my own. I couldn’t have asked for a better first 100 days at Fayetteville Town Center. I didn’t learn through a Training Manual, I just did what I could. I made mistakes, as I still continue to do, but I learned from them. And usually, whatever I did, worked. By August, the Executive Director of our parent organization had hired a General Manager to fulfill the role that the “Facility Director” left. A lot began to change after Jordan started. He quickly promoted the other Event Manager, Monica, to the role of Director of Event Services, and changed my title to Event Services Manager. Our Director of Sales left the organization in October, and we had to figure out how to sell our venue to new clients, on top of retaining our current clients. Our Director of Sales also had most of the knowledge of our internal booking system, so we had to learn that too. I took that as an opportunity to teach myself everything I could about it, through studying, trial, and error.

By the beginning of December, we brought on a new Director of Sales, Tina, and a Facility Manager, Josh. The Facility Manager’s role would be different than the previous Facility Director position that was replaced by our General Manager. Josh would be responsible for the upkeep of the facility, from the paint colors to the A/C units to the on-site resources. He would also inherit the upkeep of Experience Fayetteville, and the two other properties within the umbrella of the A&P Commission, the Walker-Stone House and the Clinton House Museum.

Right after Josh was hired, we all went on a team retreat in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was great for building our new team, and beginning to discuss our plans for the future of Fayetteville Town Center. Monica and I proposed the creation of a Training Manual for operations, Jordan helped us brainstorm new core values and a new mission statement. Tina discussed her plans to bring in more business. And Josh sought improvements that he could facilitate. We had some fun too, and even made a friend on one of the evenings we spent in Hot Springs.

Since that retreat, our team has grown immensely and a lot has changed. We hired new Event Services Coordinators, and continued to update the Training Manual. We renovated our offices into additional breakout space, and rented a new office space. We repainted our lobby, and then our entire venue, and replaced the carpet in some areas. We transformed our linen room into a hospitality suite, and transformed our maintenance junk room into an A/V and linen room. We created a liquor room from a file room, while also increasing our liquor profit margin by over 50%. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always easy to execute the change, but every change has been worth it.

Today, I received a promotion for Event Services Manager to Sales Manager. This position was created and posted at the beginning of this year, because sales are growing significantly. I will be responsible for gaining and retaining business within the “SMERF” market (social, military, education, religious, and fraternal). This will take some of the pressure off Tina, our Director of Sales, from all of the leads that come to FTC. In addition to this market, I will retain some of the responsibilities that I inherited throughout my time as Event Services Manager, i.e. accepting payments, maintaining the knowledge of outstanding balances, etc. I will be responsible for the social media and marketing for the organization, including (but not limited to) Facebook, Instagram, and Wedding Wire. I am so excited for this opportunity, to learn directly from Tina, and to see where I can grow from here.

XO – MC

FAYETTEVILLE ROOTS FESTIVAL

For about 4 days in August every year, Fayetteville Town Center serves as MainStage for an intimate, urban music and food festival. Fayetteville Roots Festival features over 10 music stages, several culinary stages, and events throughout the week of the event, pairing national and local, undiscovered talent. From Folk, to Blues, to Bluegrass, to Jazz, to Country, and more, Fayetteville Roots Festival showcases diverse musical styles. Supporting local farmers, chefs, and restaurants is another focus of the festival. Its name intentionally is used to pay tribute to what makes where Northwest Arkansas lies in the Ozarks region unique.

Fayetteville Roots Festival is a staple within the Northwest Arkansas community, and even more specifically, Fayetteville. The community that collectively gathers in support of this festival is incredible. And the enjoyment that attendees have in hearing the music and tasting the food, is just as great. The environment is never overwhelming, and the event teams from Fayetteville Town Center and Fayetteville Roots Festival work together to ensure a smooth event.

It’s hard to say which part of Roots is my favorite. I have my own traditions, as this wasn’t my first annual festival. First, I raid the t-shirts because they are some of the softest that I’ve ever owned, and they have creative designs. The food is another outstanding part. With locally grown, organic food, everything on the menu is worth trying. The end of the night usually ends with a sweet treat, usually sorbet.

In 2018, Fayetteville Roots Festival hosted Parks and Recreation celebrity, Nick Offerman, who performed a comedy bit during his time on stage. (Don’t worry, I had a serious talk with him about his Cubs hat, which he was not permitted to wear in our photo.) This year, Turnpike Troubadours was supposed to come, but due to illness, they were not able to perform. However, as the community of Northwest Arkansas does, national and local musicians came together on stage to create a magnificent performance to replace the headliner. That’s the event world too. It’s ever-changing, and it requires being consistently adaptable to adjustments in timeline, production, catering, etc. I am always inspired by events that result in community collaborating to effective execute a seamless event, as if it should have happened that way in the first place. That feeling, of watching people come together to create, being a part of a team that supports that creation, it’s indescribable.

XO – MC

UPSIDE DOWN ROSES

I love what I do. As the Event Services Manager at Fayetteville Town Center, I get to work with varying clients in the event world – from corporate to non-profits, University of Arkansas events to weddings. With respect to each individual client, my involvement varies. With corporate clients, I usually handle everything from audio/visual to catering. Weddings and non-profit galas on the other hand, can involve vendors in production, photobooths and photography, catering (cake included), serveware and décor rentals, etc. and they all must adhere to a strict timeline. A timeline that was created by the external event planner that specializes in weddings, one who also organized all of the other vendors.

One of these external event planners is Buzz Events, local to Northwest Arkansas, specializing in extravagant events. Buzz Events owner, Bartus Taylor, and his Executive Assistant, Brandi Moore, are the dynamic duo that create stunning visuals for brides. This wedding, created and executed by Buzz Events, was no different. It was amazing.

I don’t think that any words could do it justice. So let me show you…

See what I mean? (Did you see the upside down roses?!) How cool is it – that I get to work with vendors like these to collaboratively create something as spectacular as this? They can take an empty, blank space into something that continues surprising you. Because of events like this wedding, I am inspired to work harder and be more creative, to continuously build on client’s experience with our venue.

As I should, here is credit to the vendors that worked countless hours to create such a magical evening:
Venue: Fayetteville Town Center
Event Design: Buzz Events
Florals: Buzz Events
Rentals: Buzz Events & Eventures Party Rentals
Lighting: Lightworks Events
Linens: LaTavola Linen
Catering: Elite Catering
Cake: Shelby Lynn’s Cake Shoppe

XO – MC