by Chazz Pratt

As a weary business traveler, I often see things that make me wonder about missed opportunities. For example, a recent hotel check-in prompted me to collect a conversation and share it with you.

On my previous late-night arrivals at this particular hotel, the front desk clerk appeared to be a student by day and hotel worker by night. As evidenced in his constant downward glances toward a smartphone and the stack of over-sized college textbooks placed neatly by the keycard machine, I'm convinced this clerk has plenty of work to do — social media or otherwise.

Month after month, I witnessed this same scenario: As the motion detector sensed my approach to the automatic doors of the lobby, a page turned or a pen got wedged between the pages of a book to serve as a temporary bookmark. Each time I entered, the front desk clerk popped up and welcomed me to the hotel. We exchanged pleasantries and commenced with the registration routine. I thanked the clerk and headed toward the elevator, ready to get settled in for the night. The whole lobby has a library vibe to it. The conditions were set for a great study session.

I admire anyone who can hold down a job while attending school. It's tough. Even though it's been many years since I worked 30 hours a week while taking 18+ hours of courses per semester, I can't help but think this hotel lobby scene is "well played." For the front desk clerk, it adds up to a commendable maximum use of those 24-hours available to all of us.

So, during my most recent trip to the front desk I decided to find out a little more about this student's journey through academia. I learned that with senior year approaching, worries of finding a job presented cause for concern. The leap from hotel clerk into a career in finance seemed daunting and uncertain for him.

I made a point to mention a few things as I received my room keys. Here's the rest of the story:

  • Chazz Pratt III (CP3): You have nearly 100 rooms at this hotel and you sometimes have no vacancies or stay very close to full-capacity. That's a lot of people, right?
  • Front Desk Clerk (FDC): Yes! We stay busy.
  • CP3: With so many business travelers staying here, have you ever thought about asking them about the companies they work for?
  • FDC: I've thought about it.
  • CP3: But, have you asked them?
  • FDC: No, not yet. I'm a little afraid to ask.
  • CP3: OK, so here's something you can try. You know how when people check-in, you always ask for their I.D. and credit card? Most business travelers have corporate credit cards with the company name printed just below their name. (As I say this, we both nod in agreement to the blinding flash of the obvious!). All you have to do is say, "You work for Company X? What does Company X do?"
  • FDC: What do I do next?
  • CP3: Just listen. People like to talk about their companies. You can ask what they do and learn more about them and their work. And, since you're looking for a position in finance, you can ask specifically what role finance plays at Company X. Maybe you can find out if they have any internship programs you can participate in. You might be one step closer to getting hired.
  • FDC: Thank you! I was wondering how to approach people about this. I'm going to start asking!
  • CP3: You'll do fine. Let me know how it goes!

Sometimes opportunities are right before you. Don't be afraid to take the first step. Please share your success story on how you discovered one.