Twenty-nine-year-old Unathi Kave’s career in hospitality started unconventionally – and impressively. Kave became the first South African sign-language interpreter within the industry employed specifically to provide services to deaf team members.
Currently, Kave works as an HR officer and hotel trainer at Cape Town’s impressive Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence. Situated in the centre of the CBD, the venue offers cityscape-backdropped spaces including the Ghibili Bar and pool terrace – a fab spot for after-work sundowners!
Kave shares her tips on making it in the world of hospitality and HR.
So, what does your job involve?
As the HR officer and hotel trainer, I deal with adminstrative HR duties. These include training of staff – my favourite part of my job! – and tasks such as administering pay roll.
I’m the senior trainer on two of our courses – Responsible Business and Adding Colour to Lives – and I also do staff induction sessions. It’s a lot of contact and interaction with people!
What training did you do and how did you fund it?
My interpreter qualification was funded through the Deaf Federation of South Africa in partnership with the SETA (Skills Education Training Authorities). My hotel training was funded by Park Inn by Radisson (Newlands, Cape Town) and my current employer, Hotel Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence.
For my HR-specific qualifications, I am providing my own funding. I’m a firm believer that when you have resources available to you (in my case, a full-time job) empowering yourself to become an example to the next generation is vital.
Other ways of funding/supplementing training are to apply for funding with SETA and to be on the lookout for internships supplied by government organisations like DEDAT (Department of Economic Development and Tourism).
What does it take to make it in your industry?
Hard work, determination and being a go-getter! Those are absolute musts in this industry. In terms of experience, I had none in the industry itself. However, the passion to learn is needed. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (the company that owns Radisson as a brand) has this saying: ‘We hire for personality, not skills’. This means that skills can be trained, but your personality is who you are and that determines whether you will be the right fit.
And the main skills needed?
Due to the nature of the industry, hosting and service skills are critical. Strong communication skills are a must. Personality traits that are important include being confident, adaptable and trustworthy. You should also be interested in travelling, different cultures and entertaining.
I’m still in school – what should I be doing to get into the industry in the future?
Many high-school students embark on job-shadow programmes from Grade 11 – so get a job shadow in a hotel to get insight into what it’s like to work in the industry. Generally, you should take part in as many shadowing programmes in as many different fields as possible. It’s so helpful and provides great experience! The younger you start, the better your chances are of establishing exactly what it is that you are really interested in.
Volunteer your services during school holidays. It gives you an edge. Take hospitality-related courses like business management, tourism and administration.
Hard work over talent?
Hard work beats talent every time! You can be naturally talented at something, but if you’re not willing to put in the amount of work required to refine that talent and make sure it takes you places, then you may as well have no talent.
Success is determined not by how many times you have failed and fallen, but by how many times you are willing to get up and try again. And in the words of Les Brown: ‘Anything that’s worth doing right is worth doing badly until you learn how to do it right.’