At school we are told that most skills we learn are transferable, and that it is therefore always worth learning something new, or saying “Yes” to all opportunities, as we never know where they might lead.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t always fully heed this advice, and although I tried to learn something new with each job, it took me a while to realise that I was generally writing the same thing for each application: my previous job required excellent attention to detail, so does this new one; my previous job required excellent communication skills, so does this new one; my previous job required an excellent multitasker, so does this new one.
I worked in the hospitality industry for seven years in a wide variety of roles, ranging from food and beverage to reception, and pretty much everything in between. Each required a similar skillset – with a few changes here and there – and by the end of my seven years, my skills were interchangeable and transferable for use in any department.
Then I decided to leave the industry, for a variety of reasons, and start a new career. Lockdown helped, as I was furloughed and therefore able to explore my options at my leisure. I took a Proofreading and Copy-Writing course with the College of Media and Publishing, and on completion, decided to set up a freelance business, and see where it took me. Whether that was a good idea in the midst of a pandemic and the start of an economic slump; well, that’s a story for another time!
Even though I wondered whether the skills I did possess would be suitable enough for this new path, I was pleasantly surprised to discover just how similar the skillset was between the two industries, which I will explore below. As with anything, I have my strengths and weaknesses, but as humans we are always changing, learning and adapting, and each day I have learnt something new about the industry or the job itself. I am loving this opportunity to develop myself, my skills and my business.
Even though similar skills are required for both proofreading and copy-editing, I will explore their main features in comparison with the hospitality industry separately.
PROOFREADING VERSUS HOSPITALITY:
- Unhurried manner: As stated in my course, “Although proofreaders may sometimes need to work quickly, they must never be hasty and slapdash”. In order to be as accurate as possible, proofreaders need to work slowly and steadily, without rushing, so they don’t end up making a mistake. In a similar way, hotel receptionists need to work calmly and efficiently in order to remain professional, as well as treating each guest as their only one – which is extremely difficult to do when the queue starts to build up! Furthermore, an unhurried manner also ensures that mistakes are not made, such as the wrong information given.
- Meticulous attention to detail: As proofreading is checking copy for the smallest mistakes that are usually easy to miss, especially to the untrained eye, having meticulous attention to detail is an absolute vital part of the role. Similarly, as hotels are part of the leisure industry guests expect high standards, and housekeepers especially need to ensure nothing is out of place. Moreover, hotel receptionists need to make sure their emails or other documents are free of errors, and that everything is neat and tidy in the reception and lounge areas.
- Sensitivity: As the course put it: “A proofreader is not being asked to correct the author’s writing style, or their language, and should not attempt to, even when they want to.” Proofreaders consequently need to show sensitivity towards the author, and only correct what the job requires. Furthermore, they need to be polite and sensitive in their comments, remarks and corrections, so as not to make the author feel upset, uncomfortable or attacked. Likewise, hotel receptionists need to treat each guest with politeness, patience and respect – even when they are not getting any in return! They also deal with personal and sensitive information, such as card or address details, and they therefore need to be trustworthy, personable and empathetic.
- Strong sense of priorities: Proofreaders may be working on a variety of projects at one time, and may even have a multitude of deadlines to meet. They therefore need to be able to prioritise their workload, focusing on the documents with the closest deadlines first. In parallel to this, hotel receptionists juggle an assortment of tasks, and need to be able to keep on top of everything each day, as well as looking after in-house guests. They consequently also need to be able to prioritise, focusing on the most urgent or pressing tasks first.
COPY-EDITING VERSUS HOSPITALITY:
- Listens carefully to instructions: Copy-editors need to listen carefully to what their clients tell them (whether given written or spoken instructions) in order to make sure their work meets the standards and original vision of the client. In a similar way, it is essential hotel receptionists listen to the needs of the guests, in order to make their stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible – for example, by remembering something the guest mentioned in passing, and asking about it a few days later.
- Edit text according to the reader: The purpose of the copy-editor is to make sure that the copy is written in the correct voice, with a certain audience or reader in mind. This means that the language needs to be tailored to appeal to them, making them want to buy or use the product or service on offer. This may mean that copy-editors need to produce several different documents, in order to appeal to each target market. Similarly, hotel workers in general need to tailor their service to suit each guest – whether that is reading subtle clues about how chatty to be (or not to be); knowing when to offer to help someone with their bags; or even knowing when to step in and refill their wine glasses!
- Has good up-to-date general knowledge: Copy-editors need to be aware of current trends, the news, and what is happening in the publishing industry, to name a few. This not only makes them more employable, but ensures that they spend less time researching various facts or comments, cutting down on their turnaround time. Likewise, hotel receptionists need to be aware of what is happening in the local area – or sometimes further – such as events, road or facility closures, best places to go on rainy days, restaurant opening and closing times, as well as whether they have any child-free or vegan options.
- Copes well with stress: Copy-editors may be working on many projects at once, and therefore communicating with a variety of clients, all with different needs. Furthermore, they may also have to deal with clients constantly changing their mind, or not responding quickly enough, as well as any number of last-minute issues, such as printing or other technological issues. In amongst all this, copy-editors need to stay calm and in control, and be able to deal with everything as it happens. In parallel to this, hotel receptionists also need to remain calm and professional under pressure whilst they juggle their multitude of tasks, which could include dealing with enquiries, complaints, check-ins and luggage, as well as keeping on top of their paperwork, emails and any incoming phone calls.
In conclusion, as you can see there are plenty of skills that are transferable between working in hospitality, and my new career as a proofreader and copy-editor. There are many more comparisons I could make here between the skillset required, such as accuracy, working well in a team, excellent communication skills and being adaptable. I feel lucky to have possessed most of these skills from the start, making the transition between the two industries that little bit easier.
Charlotte Cooke, freelance proofreader and copy-editor (www.proofreadingbycharlotte.co.uk)