I am 24 years old, I grew up in a middle class family, I graduated from high school with pretty good grades in a 500.000 people city, the industrial heart of Germany. Many of my friends study law, medicine or engineering.
I work in a hotel. Before a certain law was published last year, I often worked 12-15 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, up to 15 days in a row. I get screamed at, insulted and have to clean people’s shit (literally). For all that I get paid around 1.500€ a month (~1600 USD). During the night shift, me and my colleague are responsible for the well-being of approx. 500 guests, with no additional help or emergency button. Just a big, bright and shiny smile on our faces.
I do all this without even pretending to be happy. I am happy. That smile on my face is not faked.
My first encounter with this work was back in 2007 or 2008. While still attending school, all the pupils had to take a job for 2 weeks to have a first idea what working feels like and see if this job could be there future life. Most of us took a job which was “cool”, for example in the Hugo Boss store or in the local soccer club, some simply went to their parent’s work.
For me, both options were out of question for me. I was a rather geeky kid back then and driving my father’s taxi as a 14-year old would be a rather complicated thing to explain to the cops. However, my father played the key role for my future. During dinner, while discussing where I might go, he simply said: “Why don’t you go the Sheraton? We could see us more often”. Although being a complete introvert in my younger age, I spontaneously said “yeah, that sounds cool”.
I went to the local 5 star hotel, which was a Sheraton back then, the main spot for business men, international soccer clubs and politicians. My father knew many of the supervisors, so it wasn’t a big deal to get me in there.
First time wearing a suit, not knowing how to tie a tie, getting tips for carrying luggage, being around super friendly people. All this got me. I knew that this was the place I will earn my money. Even dropping a buttered knife into a respectable lady’s cleavage (my first near-death experience) and destroying around 20 wine glasses couldn’t hold me back. By now I should have ruined 3 dresses, dropped around 200 glasses, 50 plates, 1 gigantic flower bowl, killed 2 mice, but never dropped a wine bottle. Skill comes with practice.
I even enjoyed making other people’s beds and hoovering 7 complete floors (Which takes around 2 hours and leaves your shoulders vibrating for 3 days).
Going through all this, I finally became a supervisor at the reception of a 5 star hotel of world-wide leading company. This is basically the dream I had throughout the years.
During all these years, I always wondered why exactly I love this job.
It’s not the tips, not the meals (the cooks put all their love in the guests’ food, not in the workers’), not knowing that you serve a champagne worth three times your monthly salary, not the staff parties, not driving fancy cars, not meeting Cristiano Ronaldo and Beyoncé or pounding your girlfriend on the piano in the presidential suite.
I got the answer from one of my doormen, a guy who definitely has a more physical exhausting job than me, getting less paid than me. That guy, who is always smiling, speaking 5 languages fluently, getting along with anybody. The answer is so easy and naive, but it feels so right saying it. The answer to what makes me so happy doing my job, is to make other people happy.
If you are happy, I am happy. It doesn’t matter if you are richer than me, if you are famous, if you’re about to tip me with this 50€ note you already got prepared or if your bladder is about to explode and I show you the way to the restroom or if the restaurant I recommended is just perfect.
As long as you smile, I smile.
As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.
As long as I make your day, you make mine.
Simple as that.
Probably I could do that in some other business as well, but no place makes it so easy for me than a hotel. That’s why I work where I work and that’s why I love it.