What does it take to move to a new country and relaunch your life? In Career Relaunch Episode 21, Manuel Chilet shares his unique story of transplanting himself from Valencia, Spain to London, UK, shifting from Sales to the Hospitality industry. He now works on the concierge team at the W Hotel in London. During the episode, Manuel shares some useful tips on the impact a positive attitude can have on your career prospects, how to recreate your life and career in a new country, and a glimpse into the world of hotel hospitality. In the Mental Fuel® segment, I’ll answer a listener question about how to manage having lots of different career interests.
Key Career Insights
- Societal norms often put pressure on us to build lives that may look good from the outside, but can leave you feeling unsatisfied within.
- Being comfortable with your life can and often does make it much more difficult to make a change, even if you know that change can bring you much more happiness
- Just like when you’re in a new city, you have to be open to exploring new paths in your career because you might be surprised about what ends up resonating with you.
Tweetables to Share
- Career Relaunch has been named as one of the Top 10 Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs by AllBusiness. Check out the full list of Top 10 podcasts.
- Learn more about connecting with people outside our immediate network with marketer turned interior designer Noz Nozawa in Career Relaunch Episode 6
- This idea of exploring a few different areas simultaneously is something we talked about back in Career Relaunch Episode 9 with the cosmetics export manager turned naturopath Audrey Lemargue
- The concept of pursuing different career paths in sequence is something we talked about in Career Relaunch Episode 20 with the sniper turned magician Julian Mather.
At the end of this episode’s Mental Fuel® segment, I alluded to the idea of surrounding yourself with people who make you happy. My challenge to you find one person this week who makes you feel good when you’re around them—either a colleague or friend–who makes you feel energized, and you haven’t talked to in a while, and take the initiative to reconnect with them. Who will you plan to reconnect with? I’m actually planning to reconnect with Manuel when his episode airs!
About Manuel Chilet
Manuel Chilet was born in Spain and moved to London, England eight years ago. He decided to change his relatively comfortable life as a sales coordinator in Spain to start a career in hospitality in London. After relaunching his life in London, he eventually went on to become part of the concierge team at the W Hotel in Leicester Square London.
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Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): I was hungry for learning the language. I was hungry for meeting people. I was hungry for having a sort of life. Within less than a year, I was already calling London my home.
Joseph: Manuel, it’s great to talk to you again. Thank you so much for taking time to join me here on Career Relaunch.
Manuel: Hi, Joseph. Thank you very much for inviting me to share my humble experience. Thank you.
Joseph: I was wondering if you could start off by telling us what you’re focused right now on in your professional and your personal life.
Manuel: I’m actually in Spain taking care of mom. She’s going through cancer. The company allowed me to take a couple of months and be here taking care of her while the treatment is going on. I might be back in London within a few weeks because we are getting really good results with the treatment and chemotherapy. Everything is going fine here back home. As soon as every one of the steps are in place, I’ll be back in London because that’s the place to be.
Joseph: I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today because I know that your mother’s been going through a tough time. At the same time, it sounds like the chemo is going well so far, so that’s really good to hear.
Just to talk a little bit about your life back in London—because that’s where we first crossed paths. I know you’re back right now in Valencia for the time being—can you tell us a little bit about your life in London and what you do?
Manuel: I’m working in hospitality at the W Hotel in Leicester Square. At the moment, I’m part of the concierge department where I work as a concierge. I’m involved in the departmental training program. It’s pretty much my intention to keep going with Starwood because we’ve got many properties. Now that Marriott is taking over the company, we might be even bigger than we are. I like the company. I think that the environment is perfect, and it’s a great place to develop a career.
Joseph: I’ve been there myself in the W Hotel, and I know you definitely bring a lot of energy to your role, which is how we first met. Before you were at the W Hotel and working for Starwood and working in hospitality, I know you were working in a very different line of work before that. Can you take us back to what you were doing before because I know it involved a little bit of sales if I’m correct?
Manuel: My background was mainly in sales. I started working in a tiny company back in Spain, selling water treatments like fountains and stuff. That was my introduction to the sales world. Then I jumped to office depot where we were selling stationery and products for the office and all kinds of stuff, a huge catalogue. Then my path went to newspaper. I started selling advertisement, which was at the moment by far, a fantastic, fantastic experience because it was not just about selling the stuff, but I’m also involved in marketing and events, and I was running key accounts. It’s a really, really interesting world. Then I changed my life.
Joseph: I know that after that, there was a pretty major leap. Before we get to that, what was it like for you in the sales world? How much were you enjoying it? What was the experience of working in sales?
Manuel: What I loved about sales was that it’s a really active world. You spend most of your time interacting with different, so many kinds of people. Every day is a new day with new challenges and new faces, and you’ve got your clients. Some of them you know for many years, but then you’ve got also to build new clients every day. That was really, really interesting. That was the part of the business I enjoyed. Of course, there is the other part of targets and budgets and forecasts that were not that enjoyable, but I have to say that the atmosphere was great, and I enjoyed a lot.
Joseph: It sounds like things were going well. At the same time, you then decided to make a pretty major change. Can you take us through what happened next for you?
Manuel: I’m sure that you all know about the situation. When Spain starts with the recession and crisis, and the economic situation started being not as nice as it was previously, the retirement was something that people were not really keen to spend money on. The situation started being a bit difficult from management and even the relations with the clients because when you’ve been through a difficult situation, like it could be dismissing people or firing people, people started being a different person, absolutely different.
The sales was not fun anymore. There was not much joy by meeting clients because all of them were pretty much in the same delicate situation. There was no money to spend, and management was still trying to push, push, push. There was something really uncomfortable in that situation.
Joseph: You decided to leave sales then at that point. Is that when you decided to move to the UK?
Manuel: Yeah, everything was pretty much. At the same time, I was having coffee with a friend. That friend of mine have been living in Amsterdam in London. At one point, we were in that conversation talking about leaving outside this comfort zone or this area that you’ve been living in for your entire life. Since I was a student, I was really, really interested in traveling and learning different language and everything, but life was taking me through a different process. I met someone, I got married, I have my life sorted, everything was settled, and the plan was going according to the society – getting married, looking for kids but never came. Everything was more or less settled until there was a radical change.
Joseph: What was that radical change?
Manuel: Within a few months, after I got divorced, I found myself in a point where I had to change some other things in my life. I took the decision of working for a company that I would be happy to work for and being surrounded with people that I would love to be with them, not just my colleagues but also my friends and to put something in my life far from pressure and far from this kind of situation that sometimes we get comfortable in a place where we are not 100% happy or where we are not 100% ourselves. That was my main decision.
Joseph: How much did the divorce have an impact on your decision to make the move away from Spain or did it?
Manuel: It’s possible that when I had the decision to get divorced, I started a different way of seeing life. I understood that I could take control over my life. From then, I was a little bit more concerned about my happiness than some other aspects of life, like society’s opinion or even parents’ or friends’. I started taking the decisions just looking for my wellbeing and my happiness.
Joseph: Then you moved to London, and then what happens next for you?
Manuel: London was a fantastic challenge. I was feeling really positive although I was scared absolutely because it was the first time ever I was living somewhere rather than Spain, and my English was not good at all. At least not good enough to start working in sales. Then it happened that I found a job in hospitality. I understood that hospitality was somehow similar to sales, because at the end of the day, I was trying to fulfill the client’s expectations. Before in sales, it was selling my products. Now in hospitality, it’s by giving my service.
Joseph: When I think about people relaunching their careers, I think about five ways they could do it. They could change their role, their function, their company, their industry, or their geography. In this case, you changed all five at once. Can you just explain how you managed to pull that off? How did you land in London and then go about finding this job?
Manuel: I believe that my attitude was really positive. When your attitude is positive, the companies can see that attitude. My intention was, first of all, find a job that could give me some money to survive. The first thing I have in London was just a room, and that’s it. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any kind of contact where I could knock a door or pull a string and find a job. I went to a place, a Spanish restaurant, and the manager asked me, ‘When did you arrive?’ I said, ‘I arrived a week ago.’ ‘What’s your intention?’ I said, ‘I want to work. It’s the only thing I want.’ Again, my English was really, really bad at that point. Again, the change of places, field, everything, because even language was different, was in a way easier than I was expecting from outside.
Joseph: What do you think was surprising about the transition?
Manuel: With that attitude, I could find a job quite easily, even changing jobs and houses. I remember that in the first three months, I moved three times from my place to another place in terms of home. In the first six months, I had to change two or three times because the first one was a restaurant and then was a pub and then was another restaurant. This restaurant was part of a chain, and I changed to another one. Then I just started to work in a big hotel, in a five-star hotel within six months.
Everything was really just happening in a way. I believe it’s all part of that I was hungry for learning the language. I was hungry for meeting people. I was hungry for having a sort of life. Before I was even realizing, the things were happening, and I was finding myself, I’m not going to say settled, but within less than a year, I was already calling London my home.
Joseph: One of the things I guess that struck me when I first met you was just how positive of a person you are and how magnetic of a personality you have. That seems like what you’re talking about is that that attitude and that personality has really served you really well and helped you get these opportunities. I’m just wondering, how do you keep that up? Because I talk to people, and they want to restart their careers, and the first few months, just like you mentioned, it can be really bumpy. How did you manage to keep your positive sentiment up during those times when you had to keep moving flats and you had to keep looking for a job? What was that like?
Manuel: I was quite sure that everything would be okay in no time. I was trying to push myself to work every day for something, like first, I was trying find schools where I could improve my English, because I knew that as soon as I start speaking better English, I could find a better job. It happened that one of my colleagues was the one who introduced me to the five-star hotel. With my first interview, I was going just with a smile with no experience, with no English. I was there, myself, and all my willingness to learn and all my hunger for life maybe.
Joseph: What do you think was the hardest part of recreating your life in a different country?
Manuel: The people. Here in Spain, it’s really easy. You can go to any bar, and you can start a conversation with someone sitting right beside you at the bar, and in no time, you’re talking about really personal things. In London, I found it really, really difficult because of maybe my open-mindedness or the way that I approach friendship. I like to have many, many, many close friends. It’s something that, in London, for me, was a little bit of a challenge.
Joseph: When you started working at the hotel, what was that like for you to suddenly be thrown into an environment where you were doing something totally new in a totally new environment, totally new geography, speaking a totally different language?
Manuel: W is a different kind of hotel, and the atmosphere, it’s totally different. I found that place in hospitality where I could be myself. As soon as I started improving my language and interacting with people from all over the world, either colleagues or hotel guests, I found myself being happy delivering service, being happy interacting with people, fulfilling expectations and demands. It’s fantastic.
Joseph: Is there anything that you have learned during this process that you’d like to share with others that could be helpful to them?
Manuel: Try to avoid opinions because the most important opinion is your opinion for yourself because you know exactly why you’re taking a decision. I could hear many people telling me, “That’s a crazy situation,’ or, ‘The situation over there in England is not much better than it is in Spain,’ or, ‘You do not speak the language. Where are you going to go?’ and this and that. I always kept being positive. If whenever you go there, the situation is not as nice as you’re expecting or you cannot find your way over there, you can just come back. I was really open to make it happen and to give 150%, 200% of myself to make it work.
Joseph: When you look back on your career change, what’s something that you wished you had known that you now know?
Manuel: I wish I had a little bit more of self-confidence because like this, I would have made my change even earlier than I did. For the last year and a half working here in Spain in sales and the situation, I was not happy. I was in a really, really tough working environment. I would love to go back in time and push myself and fill myself up with self-confidence and tell myself, ‘Listen, you are able to do anything you want, so take the decision. Just take this stuff and move.’ Then I would save some precious time of my life.
Joseph: What do you think was the main thing that was holding you back from making the leap earlier?
Manuel: From outside, my life was quite good. I had a really nice apartment in a really nice area in Valencia. My car, my motorbike, my holidays, my friends, but the working environment was giving me such a pressure and such a tough life that, for one and a half years, I was not being myself. I have material things, but my life was not complete for those 9 to 10 hours that was dedicated to my work. I was not happy. That’s half of my life, and I’m counting the time I’m sleeping. For me, it was a really, really great decision to change.
Joseph: What do you think kept you from doing it sooner?
Manuel: In that situation, you have to be looking for a job, you have to be looking for a partner, you have to be looking for kids, you have to be looking for mortgage and change everything. Jumping to UK was just going against everything that the society expects you to do. Probably family and close friends were not 100% giving me that push to do it.
Joseph: I want to wrap up today by just talking a little bit more about what you’re working on right now. Can you, first of all, give us a glimpse into your life as a concierge at the W? I understand you’re also developing some new skills over there right now.
Manuel: For us as the concierge department, we are there to make sure that the guests find within the city, not just the hotel, everything that they are expecting and even more because we are the ones that send them to restaurants and shows and prepare for them a whole schedule over their stay in London. That’s really fulfilling, and I love to do that.
A couple of years ago, I started getting involved in the departmental training and brand standards and saying hello to the new people coming to work with us. I was able to share with them all the passion and trying to show them that this is a different company here. Here, you can work as a human being, as a person, and love what you do. That’s something that the departmental training brings perfectly for me in my life.
Joseph: I also can’t let you get away without getting a little bit of an insight or tip from you. Do you have any tips for anyone who wants to get on the good side of a hotel concierge?
Manuel: Something that I like in the relation is whenever people come to ask for a plan, for me, it’s really important for the people to be open. As you said, the concierge is the insider. We know a lot about the area. You have to let the concierge surprise you and give you local tips and give you advice and suggestions that no tour guides are going to give you. There are no other places where you can get them, and that’s really important.
I believe that to be open-minded, it’s really important. It’s not just in this situation but also within your professional life. Be open. Maybe you never tried to do something, and you think, ‘I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to like it,’ but why don’t you try? That’s the way to find new things and enjoy.
Joseph: What do you think keeps people from just trying something out?
Manuel: Sometimes, we are afraid to fail, and we give too much of importance to the fact that, ‘I could fail.’ What if you fail? What’s wrong? It’s not a problem. I could try to work in sales now in England, and I could fail, but if I don’t try, I would never know if I’m able to do it or not. It’s not about failing and not being able to be a human being anymore. It’s just failing, realizing what you’re doing okay or why you are not good to do that, and then changing. There are so many things, professions, or there are so many activities that we can try to do, but we always stay within the ones that we feel comfortable with. There’s a lot to see, and there’s a lot to experience if you are just a little bit courageous.
Joseph: It sounds like one of the tips there is to not let yourself stay down for too long and to just move along. If people want to learn a little bit more about you or if they want to get in touch with you, where can they go?
Manuel: It’s really easy. They only have to come to W Hotel. I would be more than happy to share my experience over coffee.
Joseph: Manuel, first of all, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us and share your story. You talked about a lot of really interesting things related to the power of positivity, how you recreated your life in London and also just how you deal with failure, which is also very helpful. I really appreciate your time, and I hope your mother has a really smooth recovery.
Manuel: Thank you very much, Joseph. What you are doing with this podcast is fantastic.
Joseph: Thanks a lot. Good to talk to you.