Oh the Places you can Go! is a series highlighting the experiences and insights of Hospitality professionals across Toronto. Each month, we’ll interview one person about their career path and the valuable lessons they’ve learned along the way.
This interview is with Anita Stafford, Director of Human Resources at the International Plaza Hotel and Conference Centre.
Anita, with her niece
I’ll never forget it. On my first day as a part-time hostess on weekends at the restaurant at Valhalla Inn in Etobicoke. It was a second job for me. At the time, I was also working in insurance during the week–very corporate. I ran home from my first waitressing shift and told anyone who would listen:
Hotels are so much fun!!
I loved the ‘go-go-go’ pace of the hotel and I thrived being around so many people. I felt like I was an actress performing a very important role for guests and I loved it. I’d been working in this very straight-laced environment up until then, and Hospitality felt like just the right fit for me.
“Own your career!” A Food and Beverage Director said it to me, and I’ve always remembered and shared that advice. He meant that you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career and you’re responsible for all that you attain.
I was able to move up in Hospitality because everyone knew: “Anita’s up for anything.” And it’s true. I always am.
I’ve taken on all sorts of challenges from Food & Beverage to working with the General Manager to pioneering the HR department at my hotel. Everyone knew, I was willing to give it my full effort. I love creating, implementing and growing ideas from the ground up. I’ve always welcomed any new challenge that came my way.
It’s simple really: “Stay on the radar screen.” No matter what position you’re in. Always make sure you’re seen and heard.
Decisions get made by human beings based on the behaviour of other human beings
Join committees, attend town hall meetings, ask for a mentor. Take any opportunity to learn something new and get things under your belt. That’s what gets you noticed.
If your career was a TV show, what show would it be?
Oh, it would have to be a comedy (laughs). When you work in Hospitality, so many things happen each and every day that you have to laugh at yourself and the situations you find yourself in. I’d say I remind myself of Leah Reimini in It’s All Relative. She just gets herself into hilarious situations and has to figure her way through.
Being in Hospitality is like living in a big house with lots of other people, many of whom are strangers. People visit hotels for positive reasons and you can make a really great difference in their day. You need to stay positive and stay happy. The best way to do that is to laugh when things get a bit nutty.