During our stay in Playa del Carmen I had the sudden impulse to try and volunteer in one of the top 5 luxury resorts. Simply because they’re nice on the eye. Yes, I like beautiful things and happy faces 😁 But most of all, I like to always challenge myself and learn new skills, meet new people. So, I set out on a tour of the main 5-star hotels and, like everyone else, was welcomed at the “casita de los Recursos Humanos” – a guard house on which all the vacancies are posted.
First challenge: explaining to the guard I wasn’t interested in an ‘actual job’ like all the other applicants, but that I was a highly qualified tourist wanting to gain experience and an insider view of the hotel and tourism industry. “My husband’s here diving for another month and I’d really like to put my skills at your service for free to learn and grow, that’s all”. My little speech was met with frowns and highly interrogative faces. Clearly, this wasn’t going to do it. “I speak 6 languages fluently and Spanish isn’t one of them”, I said in (very good) Spanish, with a smile. The guard finally deigned taking up the phone and dialling the Human Resources number. Which after a short dialogue between the guard and the person on the other end either resulted in a direct “no, doesn’t interest them, sorry” response or a clueless “I’ll pass you the phone so you can explain the situation”.
The two only times I actually got to speak with someone from HR they listened, but only to respond: “sorry, but we don’t do volunteers / internships. And anyway, you’d need a work VISA”. OK, but as I tried explaining, I don’t want to be paaaaaaid. Argh, frustrating! So they don’t even want me to work for free? “Quite degrading”, thought my ego.
Long story short, this rather peculiar experience taught me several things:
- Lots of fancy European degrees with distinctions, years of study and being fluent in 6 languages don’t make you any more than anyone else (in another hotel my CV actually got put at the bottom of the pile until there were no more Mexicans to interview, so they had to ‘face me’…). New country, new rules. And my profile was worthless to them.
- Here are some skills that will actually get you somewhere in life, as opposed to conventional criteria such as diplomas, distinctions and what not:
- Your attitude (posture, confidence, manners, energy, professionalism)
- Your communication skills (are you capable of speaking to everybody and make friends with anyone? Can you really relate to people, listen and interact in a meaningful way? And yes, the more languages you speak, the better). If these topics interest you, definitely read Dale Carnegie’s “How to win Friends and Influence People” – it’s a masterpiece.
- Your mindset (perseverance, positive thinking, focus and determination)
- Your resourcefulness & creativity, especially in the face of adversity (how can I stand out? What’s the back door entrance if they don’t let me in the front door?)
- Your values (ok these are not really ‘skills’ but they’re definitely on the list): generosity, adaptability, bravery, confidence, creativity, passion, honestly… only to name a few of course.
To be honest my friends, that’s pretty much it. Want another truth? Other than the language part (and the professionalism/manners part I’ve got covered), the rest is an ongoing and everyday learning process for me! Pretty meagre outcome, come to think of it, no? 🤨 For 12 years at an international school and 5 years of tough, stressful and life-sucking studies… for a bunch of “internationally renowned” diplomas which, when you want to expand your horizons, don’t get you as far as the promise goes.
Now I’m not spitting on my upbringing and I am deeply grateful for all the experiences I have had the privilege to witness! All I am saying is: it’s time to re-evaluate what we teach our children – if not in school (don’t get me started on the ‘traditional’ school curricula…), then at the very least at home. To me, it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach their children essential values and skills so they become confident, joyful, open-minded and generous human beings. Because that, my friends, are the magic keys that will help them open the closed doors they’ll encounter on their path.
Human skills and profound values can never be trumped by any paper or title whatsoever. BE more, DO less!