FOH Manager in Corporate US Law Firm gives her back-story
In charge of 4 receptionists and a catering team, we hear their advice on career development through Front of House.
I was 40 when I first worked as a receptionist. I was mid-divorce with three young children, so could no longer continue with my freelance work in Public Relations. This sounds harsh, but I needed reliable work that would pay me a reasonable salary, even if I was ill, and pay out if I was unfortunate enough to die, so that my children would still have a roof over their heads! The pension, private health and attractive work environment were a huge bonus.
A previous PR role had been for a recruitment company dealing with City law firms and the Director put me forward for a receptionist role at a US firm. I had left school with nine O-levels, two A-levels and joined Marks & Spencer on their Management Training Scheme, eventually becoming a Press Officer. I had no experience of reception work! However, I did have masses of experience of dealing with all types of people – talking to them, making them feel welcome, along with an eye for detail. This is key, and so began a 10 year span in reception.
I started as one of just two receptionists. I looked at ways to improve our service, to move it forward. After 12 months, I was promoted to Reception Coordinator. I was able to employ a switchboard operator before we moved offices and increased our client space considerably, leading to the recruitment of a further two receptionists. I now managed a team of five and dealt with client events as well as various internal office events – frequently lugging in props from home on the train, including a garden bench, though this was voluntary, I hasten to add! I also managed our catering and florist accounts. It was interesting work, no two days were the same and we were a close team who supported each other.
After 9 years, I moved to another US law firm and, after 3 years, an office move, a doubling of the team and the introduction of an on site catering team, I still have oversight of Reception but now work as a Conference Services Specialist on a global team. My manager is based in our New York office and I spent time this summer in New York and Boston, training and meeting my colleagues.
So, there is career movement in Reception work if you want it! My advice would be to literally stand up and be seen actively managing those rooms and that floor. Don’t just sit behind a big desk! Speak to everyone, be friendly, be helpful, be positive. If you can’t give them precisely what they want, always offer an alternative. Treat all your customers, both internal and external, as VIP clients. Look ahead, alert people to busy days when there’s little availability for new bookings. You will soon become known as a trusted and safe pair of hands and people will naturally turn to you. Care about the people who work on your team, support them, always give them credit for the work they do and never ask them to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. They will then support you when you need their help. If things go wrong, look into it, and follow up on it, putting procedures in place to try to prevent it happening again.
If you are able to spare the time, try to attend those office drinks and parties – it’s a good way to mix with people across all the teams in your firm, to get to know them and for them to see you as a valuable colleague that they most definitely need.
For more advice on career progression and developing into your perfect reception role, speak to us at FOH, the bespoke Receptionist Agency.
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