Chapter 13. Careers and Work Experience
The final career planning element we’ll explore in this chapter involves integrating your education and work experience. By applying classroom learning to the field, and then bringing lessons from your workplace back to the classroom, you can see key concepts in action.
Research Organizational Culture and Social Norms
Each organization has its own culture and social norms. refers to “the customs, rituals, and values shared by the members of an organization that have to be accepted by new members” (Collins English Dictionary, 2012), and is expressed through its mission statement, vision, beliefs, language systems, and processes. Social norms refer to the way individuals in the organization interact, communicate, and generally behave with each other.
You will want to understand the culture of an organization before applying for a job there to ensure your values are congruent. Find out what’s important to the organization by researching the business. How does it present its public face?
Asking questions of a potential employer about the organization’s culture will help you assess whether it is a good fit for you. You can do this by asking employees in the organization during the informational interview; or alternatively, in a formal job interview.
Performance on the Job
This is your time to shine — no matter what role you’ve been assigned. In addition to respecting and working within a company’s culture, once you start your position, it’s time for you to show initiative (Iannarino, n.d.). Demonstrate an interest in learning and contributing to the organization’s goals and objectives and you will stand out from other employees.
Act without waiting to be told what to do and persistently follow through on work responsibilities, regardless of the obstacles. Think about ways to improve operations, and come up with new ideas, while presenting these in a way that shows you respect management’s expertise. It’s up to you to signal to your employer that you’re someone who can be counted on and you have leadership potential. Some ways of showing initiative include:
- Asking to observe a meeting
- Asking to shadow a manager in another department
- Reading through company policies and plans, and asking questions about them
- Offering to bring your skills to the table to make a difference, such as setting up a social media account for the company or creating a training manual for future students in your position
Often, you’ll be able to take advantage of project work at school to accomplish some of the above.
Practise Conflict Management and Resolution
The majority of tourism and hospitality employers stress that is an essential skill in this customer-service driven industry (LinkBC, 2014). It’s up to you to practise these skills at your workplace.
In most conflicts, the ultimate goal must be to find a resolution. Avoiding or ignoring conflict is not an effective strategy. While resolving conflict can be uncomfortable, unresolved conflict actually makes the situation worse. Generally, conflicts have more than one cause. How you choose to resolve conflicts will ultimately demonstrate your ability to be professional and move upward in your career.
Consider the following three steps to resolving conflicts both at work and in the classroom.
If at all possible, try not to take the situation or comments personally. Do not make assumptions about people’s motivations. Jumping to conclusions adds to the conflict and creates more tension and issues to work though.
Consider that if there is a conflict, you might not have fully understood the issue or your part in it. While you may not like the style or approach of the person you’re interacting with, set the goal of listening with acceptance with the intent to resolve the conflict. Convey that you are listening respectfully through your body language and tone of voice, and don’t interrupt. If there are several people involved, let everyone have a chance to speak.
Reflect and Summarize
If you need to, silently count to 10 in your head to give yourself the time to respond appropriately. Acknowledge your commitment to resolving the conflict, and clarify how the other person is feeling about it. When people feel listened to, they are often willing to take the first step toward trust, which then creates willingness to work through the issue. Summarizing what the other person has said allows you to ensure that you’ve fully captured his or her position.
Focus on appreciating what the other person is saying and thinking to understand the source of conflict. Ask what the other person believes would resolve the conflict. Focus the conversation on mutually resolving the issue.
Allow each person the opportunity to explore solutions equally. Take a break from the process if you need to, and come back to the conflict when you feel refreshed. Often the solution is through compromise, because no one is all wrong or all right in any given situation. Each time you’re given the chance to respond, do your best to keep language neutral.
By maturely moving through the process of listening, reflecting, summarizing, and responding (and sometimes going back to the start again), you’ll not only demonstrate your workplace potential, but gain valuable skills for your personal life.
While adapting to organizational culture, demonstrating strong on-the-job performance, and practising conflict resolution are important, there are many skills to be learned in the workplace. Others include the ability to apply critical thinking, acting as a global citizen, and working as part of a team. With this in mind, let’s have a look at success stories in our industry — graduates who possess these skills and attributes, and have used them to propel their careers forward.
Figure 13.4 long description: A woman in a West Coast Sightseeing jacket speaks to two students. They stand by a sign saying, “Snowbus: Vancouver to Whistler Blackcomb, 7 days a week, all season long!” [Return to Figure 13.4]
Ways of acting, values, and beliefs shared within an organization.
The practice of being able to identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly, and efficiently.