IWTA speaks with Cynthia Usui – Country Manager for LOF Hotels, Tokyo & published author
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Please meet Cynthia Usui – Country Manager for LOF Hotels, Tokyo & published author
Cynthia came into hospitality later in life, finding her first job in hospitality after 17 years of raising her daughter, moving up from working in a school cafeteria in Bangkok to managing a new hotel chain in Tokyo in the space of ten years.
Cynthia originally moved to Japan as a student and worked in a trading company, married a Japanese Diplomat and moved around the world with her husband’s career.
She didn’t work outside the home for 17 years whilst raising her daughter but when she went off to college, Cynthia started work in Bangkok, where they were stationed at the time, in the school cafeteria serving 2500 students and teachers. Quickly promoted to managing the cafeteria, she stayed 3 years before they moved to New York where she became a mature student following a restaurant management course.
Returning to Tokyo at age 52, she found it impossible to get a job until she was offered an entry-level position in catering for an expatriate club. Recognising the need to prove herself, she found a niche doing something that no one else wanted to do – organising birthday parties for children. After a year she was given the opportunity to join the ANA Intercontinental Tokyo, as events manager.
However, on the day she joined, Cynthia was asked to take over the Rooms Sales role – but didn’t even know the difference between a double and a twin room as she had never worked in a hotel. Instead of saying she couldn’t do it, she set out to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible and within a year was achieving the set targets, and more.
Cynthia believes her success was not only a question of good timing – this was in 2011 when Japan’s inbound tourism was beginning to boom, and her bilingual ability was a distinct advantage in managing international enquiries, but also her ability to produce results. She credits this to her years as a Diplomat’s wife, meeting and networking with a wide range of people, making connection and communication second nature to her.
Age, lack of confidence, and a 17-year career gap that didn’t tick the boxes HR required for vacancies. Companies could not see the potential of someone in her situation, and did not give her the opportunity of an interview. Getting an interview, and a foot in the door was by far the hardest part, and required tenacity and perseverance.
Paying it Forward
After being given the opportunity to show what she could do, and proving her worth, Cynthia began to realise the value of her life experience. At this point, she decided to help as many women return to work as she possibly could. She has not only conducted training courses for women wishing to start in hospitality, but in her current role as Country Manager for LOF Hotels is actively seeking out housewives, older women, and young mothers, and giving them the opportunity of a career based on their skills rather than their training.
She believes in hiring people with potential, rather than experience or qualifications.
Advice to Women
Don’t be afraid to start from the bottom – that is just the first step. Learn everything you can, and then move on to a new and better position – gaining experience with every change.
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