Monday, May 11, 2015

In Demand... 20 and Traveling, Hospitality is King

The world is in turmoil. Since the Global Financial Crisis, we've slowly started to recover as a global economy, but there's still a way to go. Jobs are finally being created, but for many people in my age bracket (The Millennials), it still seems to be a daunting task to join the work force. For many of us, we did what our parents and our teachers told us and got our degrees, only to find out post-graduation, we were either shit out of luck, or had to do something completely unrelated to our field.

That's where I was four years ago after receiving my B.S. degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Central Florida. Upon graduation I actually had quite a few opportunities to begin a career in my field, but my problem was, broadcast news no longer interested me. Unfortunatley it took me 5 years, and a bit of student loan debt to figure that out, but ultimately I realized I had to find something else that was right for me, I had officially become an "inbetweener". In the mean time I was working full-time at a booming bar, and within the next two years I had moved up to a management role. Like so many of my friends who were struggling to figure out their next step in life, I depended on hospitality to keep me afloat while I figure out exactly what it was I wanted to do with my life. It  wasn't until I finally quit that job, fearful that hospitality would become my career, and I started to travel that I realized something. While hospitality may not be what I, or many of my Millenial peers want to do with the rest of our lives, it does offer us a unique opportunity while we do figure that out. 

I can get a job anywhere in the world, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. That's not an overstatement. In a world with countless doctors, lawyers, accountants etc. out of work, I have the ability to move to any country in the world and get work, quickly. Now bartending may not be the most glamorous work in the world, but it pays the bills, and at some points can be quite lucrative for a 20-something finding their way. What I quickly realized after moving abroad was, one, my skills are always in demand, because people always want to eat and drink, and two, I should've done this years ago! It's because of what I've learned that I wanted to spread the word and share some helpful tips with those who may be in a similar position to where I was last year. If you're just biding your time at a bar or restaurant, why not do it overseas? Do the same thing you'd be doing anyways, but do it somewhere exotic, and while you figure out what you want to do with your life, experience some of what life has to offer. 

It's with that in mind that I present to you four reasons you should move overseas if you're a hospitality inbetweener.

4. While we may lack "real job" skills, we have something that's always in demand.

When you start to travel you meet a lot of amazing people and hear a lot of amazing stories that brought people to a particular point in their life. I've met countless people while traveling who have awesome stories about quitting a six-figure income to travel the world and find themselves. But what many of these people find is it's pretty hard for them to find work when traveling. Unless you apply for overseas jobs in advance and gain a multi-year visa ahead of time, most companies in your professional field won't give you the time of day. It doesn't matter how qualified you are, if you only have 6-months left on your visa and you plan on traveling after it's up, it's gonna be pretty hard to find a job at an accounting firm. The vast majority of work for travelers is hospitality based, because those of us with experience take minimal training, and westerners are known for their superior hospitality work ethic (mostly because we work for tips). That means if you've spent a couple of years in hospitality, even at the most basic level, you have an advantage over probably 70% of the rest of the travelers you meet, who are either teenagers (with no skills), or people with professional skills, but no hospitality experience. It's not often you can go into an interview with a brain surgeon as your main competition and walk out on the winning end of an interview. Yes, Dr. Oz can remove a brain tumor, but I can make ten cocktails in five minutes, I know the difference between, Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch, and I can tell you how much 4 Jaeger boms, 3 Coronas and a Mojito cost, faster than the POS can.  

3. Even if you've only worked for a few months, you're still "over-qualified"
Hospitality overseas is a joke. In any place I've gone to eat or drink the only time you get decent service (while most of the time), is when you're being served by a Westerner. It's not totally the fault of the foreign countries it's just a difference in culture. In Italy it's perfectly common to have a dinner that last four hours, but in the U.S. we expect five drinks and three courses in 59 minutes or less. It's because of this that Westerner's pay so much more attention to detail, and have a sense of urgency when they work that many parts of the world simply don't. This is also why so many places are desperate to hire Americans, or Canadiens, or Brits, or basically anyone who knows what it means to work for tips. Tourists, as we know from waiting tables back home, are impatient and fussy, and it takes a certain level of experience dealing with customer bullshit to make an establishment successful. Obviously, the more experience you have, the more qualified you are, but in foreign English speaking countries, if English is your first language, you already are more qualified than 90% of applicants. I worked in an extremely busy restaurant/bar in Melbourne, basically a 1,500 square foot bar and patio that on the weekend was doing well over $100,000 in business, straight pumping. It was amazing all the applicants we would turn away who were extremely qualified, but spoke broken english, in favor of people with little to no experience, whom English was their primary language. It simply makes business sense in a busy environment to have people who can actually understand and convey orders. 

2. If you're good at what you do, you'll never be out of work

Now if you meet the prerequisites of being English speaking and having at least minimal hospitality experience, you should have no problem getting a job. However, during the summer months in places like Australia, it's still EXTREMELY competitive. This is why if you are exceptional at what you do, and your spinning your wheels back home you might as well bring your talents overseas. I'm an incredible bartender, probably the best I know (at least in my own mind), and I can tell you in an industry that requires you to be cocky to survive, those of us who know we have the skills need not want for anything. Excluding the time I have taken off for traveling and holidays, while traveling Australia, I have been unemployed for a total of ZERO DAYS. That's not entirely true, I was unemployed for about 20 hours when I arrived in Perth at 9 pm on a Wednesday night. I had a job by 5 pm the following day though, so no need to panic. The reason for this, is bars overseas (at least in Australia) are very different than their Western counterparts. In the states if you get a job (even at a shitty chain restaurant) you have to go through a series of training steps before you even step foot on the floor. This includes but is not limited to, menu tests, cocktail and drink tests, instructional videos, mounds of paperwork and the like. In Australia, this couldn't be farther from how things work. Here, if you come in and pass the resume and eyeball test from management you will be giving your first shift, a, "trial shift" on the next busiest day available (usually a friday or saturday night). There is no intro to the menu, no cockatil ingredients quiz, and in my experience no familiarization with the POS system until the day of said shift. They simply throw you in, let you get your ass kicked, and see if you sink or swim, it's as simple as that. If you are good at what you do, specifically as a bartender, this is the ideal situation to prove what your made of. You're allowed to ask silly questions, because they know you don't know anything, but what matters is seeing how much you can retain and how you deal with the pressure. If you've got what it takes, all you need is that trial shift to know you've secured a job, if not, keep on looking. 

1. You're doing it anyways, you might as well let it fund an adventure

I have so many friends in hospitality back home who have told me they're jealous that I was able to leave. The truth is we all have the ability and means to do it, it's just a matter of what you're willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Hospitality is a cash business, filled with young people who love to drink and party, and have the cash to do it. We are not known as being the most financially "stable" group, and for good reason. Anyone who's been in hospitality long enough has had more than a few mornings where you wake up and cringe when you see your bank statement and empty wallet. I bought everyone shots, the whole bar?! What the fuck Logan not again!

But what we also have, almost without fail in the whole industry, is a group of extremely optimistic, fun loving people, who don't exactly know what they want in life. If you're in your 20's, trying to find yourself, and working in hospitality, you are wasting your time if you are not doing so overseas. This isn't aimed at people who are bartending to pay for night school, or got laid off and are supporting a family. This is for a very specific, but very large group of individuals who are basically biding their time. We know we want more out of life, but the money is good, the booze is cheap, and when I go out on my one Friday a month off, I'm the king of the city. But at the end of the day, us, those people, that group, we all have the same fear. That one day we'll wake up, and be 35, and still working at Bennigan's (wearing fucking 10 pieces of flair), because while we were doing this part time, we got complacent. We've all seen it, and as someone who's been in hospitality for the better part of a decade I can tell you it's still a very real fear. But I saved up and secluded myself from the parties, and the late night drinking (while most of the time), for the better part of six months. I bought a ticket, packed my bags and came overseas. The thing I was most nervous about was, "can I make money, can I support myself", and I'm here to tell you the answer is emphatically, yes, yes you can, and yes you will. 

The best part of this whole thing, is now I have figured out what I want to do. It took me five years of college and four years in a corporate bar, with a huge ceiling to realize what I've actually wanted to do all along, this. I've decided I want to be a writer (another dead end career choice I know), but in traveling and using my hospitality background to see the world, I've discovered what makes me happy. The truth is that never would've happened back home, and the same probably goes for you. So I implore you, rather than spin your wheels and live in your parents basement (no shame I did it for six months), save up some money, buy a ticket, and go figure out what you want to do with your life. In the meantime, sling some drinks, meet some amazing people, have some awesome adventures, and most importantly, get the hell out of dodge.