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Challenges Are the Greatest Opportunities to Grow Stronger

In my 30+ years of working in hospitality, I have never seen anything like what’s currently happening due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We’re dealing with rates of change never seen before across every industry. Many businesses have shut their doors, some temporarily and others unfortunately for the long-term. More than 20% of Americans employed in February have since filed for government support. Yet I believe that every situation has a silver lining.

This is an opportunity for every person--regardless of what industry they work in or where they are along their career journey--to think differently about their path ahead. How can we best position ourselves, not only during this crisis but over the long-term? “Bloom where you are planted” can be our collective motto, helping us rise to the occasion. Here are some things we can all do personally and professionally to navigate this difficult situation, regardless of where we stand:

Support Local Community

For the last few weeks, I’ve been living in Park City, Utah (more on that story to come). While I miss my family very much, especially in these uncertain times, I have been doing what I can to support my new local community. As a former Captain of a fire station, I recently sent the local fire department a hot meal that covers the entire platoon at all of the stations for one day. I’ve also been working to support local restaurants through patronage (outdoor seating, six feet apart!).

These efforts have made me feel as though I can brighten days for others--something those of us in hospitality strive for in all that we do. Supporting your community is a surefire way to stay connected, feel valued, and help others all at once. There are plenty of resources out there for ways to give back that are safe and cost nothing.

Re-calibrate and Optimize

Now could be the perfect time to revisit your purpose and vision in life. What does your resume look like? Does it need revising or sprucing up? Have you had a moment in recent years to really contemplate your professional journey and ensure it aligns with your goals? It’s easy to get caught up in work so much that you lose sight of things you want. This might be a better wage, more time with family, a higher rank or an improved skill set. You’ll do yourself – and any employer – a favor by reflecting on what you want and where you really want to go. You can bring that motivation to your current position when you return or a new position if you’re currently out of work. Embrace the waves of change. Use them to paddle faster and gain momentum to reach new heights personally and professionally.

Engage and Inspire Others

Regardless of job status or position--working remotely or out of work, team leader or team member--use your superpower to contribute to greater morale for those around you. Maybe this is your humor, your compassion or another attribute that you’re aware of. If you’re not sure what your attributes are, work to gain self-awareness and recognize what you bring to the table. In uncertain times like these, we need to step up to support, listen, empathize and always keep connecting. Some great ideas I’ve been seeing include themed virtual happy hours (i.e. tropical/beach, prom night, holiday-inspired) and “virtual office hours” using a free video conferencing solution like Zoom where colleagues or connections can drop in to ask questions and chat. It’s a great way to make yourself available as a resource to those who need it.

Last but not least, be kind to yourself. There’s no need to pretend. At times like this, we tend to hide behind the “everything’s fine” response. For 36 million Americans and counting, unemployment is now part of their story. One way we can all stay healthy and ready for what comes next is to be kind to ourselves in turbulent times and let ourselves go through the motions.

I believe things happen for a reason. I might not know what that reason is yet, but I believe it will become evident in time as we face the new reality of a post COVID-19 world. In the meantime, I’m going to continue taking in the fresh Utah air, looking out at the beautiful views and thinking about all of the possibilities that lie ahead.

For those in the hospitality community seeking resources for training or professional development during this time, here are some that I recommend:

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