“Sometimes when you’re looking into the future it can be hard to see where you’re going, but when you look back it kind of all makes sense how you got there.” – Mari Kam
It’s everywhere. You see it as you scroll through your Instagram feed. It’s there in the hundreds of images you pin to your Pinterest boards. It’s even flooding your Tumblr dashboard.
What is it that I’m talking about?
The message that in order to be happy, you have to follow your dreams. Seriously, think about how many quotes and photographs and comments you see daily, all promoting this idea.
Now, before I get attacked by every twentysomething out there, I’m not saying that I disagree with this philosophy. I think it’s great. Be passionate. You should chase your dreams. But I also think that the extreme focus we put on it can be dangerous. Sometimes, in the process of encouraging someone to realize their aspirations, I think we forget that dreams can change.
This is something we have to be careful to keep in mind. Our paths in life are often not going to be straightforward and this is a fact we should embrace. Just because you don’t end up where you planned, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t living your dream.
This was the case for Mari Kam, strategic marketing manager for the Halekulani Corporation.
There were two things that really interested Mari: Food and Travel. The future she saw for herself was owning and managing her own restaurant or food truck.
She left her home in Hawaii to attend the University of Redlands in 2003 and chose to double major in Creative Writing and Business, Managerial Studies.
At the same time, she got placed by the work study program into the school’s public relations department. She stayed with this department for all four of her undergraduate years.
Back in 2003, social media was not taken very seriously. Mari didn’t care. She saw its potential and worked to create the Redlands Facebook page, Twitter page, and YouTube channel. It was obvious that online marketing was something she was good at.
After she graduated in 2007 she was hired on to stay with the department and was even promoted to Web Content Editor. From 2008 to 2010, Mari used her creative writing and business degrees to edit the Redlands newsletter, write press releases, and compose content for the “Och Tamale” (the University’s magazine) as well as the school’s website.
Wait, but what about her dream to work with food?
I didn’t forget about that. Neither did Mari.
Although Mari was employed and making use of both her majors, she wasn’t really interested in what she was writing about. She was still drawn to food and travel.
So what did she do?
She enrolled in Cornell University’s hospitality program.
While studying at Cornell, she began to work toward her original goal of owning/managing some sort of restaurant. Still, her social media skills could not be ignored and she was asked to create the Facebook page for her Master’s program. It may seem strange to need a Facebook page for such a program, but if you’ve read our post about teaching abroad in Spain, you know how helpful it can be to have a Facebook page as a resource when trying to learn about a specific program you’re interested in.
Not only that, but to complete the program, she was asked to do an internship with a business within the hospitality industry. She applied for and was accepted to do an internship with the Halekulani Corporation back in Hawaii.
During her two weeks spent with the corporation she created and presented a personal project that showed why social media should be used by the hotel to deliver a better experience for their customers and how it could be implemented into the hotel’s marketing strategy.
When the internship was over, Mari returned to finish her Master’s at Cornell. Her experiences in the program, as well as the time spent at her internship, opened her eyes to the opportunities for online marketing within the hospitality industry. She saw how far social media and other online resources could take customer service and how much it could improve guests’ experiences with hotels, restaurants, etc.
For example, Mari mentions how she observed the use of Twitter within the LOEWS hotel. She was incredibly impressed to see how the hotel interacted with its customers through its Twitter account and allowed reservations to be made by guests through tweets with its social media managers.
Her dream had once been to manage a food establishment, but she saw how well her skills complemented an online marketing position and she realized how much she enjoyed doing it. She decided that she wanted to pursue a career on that end of the hospitality industry. Did that mean she had failed to “follow her dreams?” No. It meant that she had grown as a person and her dream had grown with her.
When her Master’s program ended, there were unfortunately no openings at the Halekulani, but Mari made sure to keep in touch with her contacts there. Not “keeping in touch” just because she wanted to eventually get a job there, but staying in touch with the people she worked with because she genuinely cared about them and their business.
She then got a job with a start-up that “web crawled” on social media sites to find mentions of brands and use that information to help them make operational decisions.
She was working remotely for that company when the Halekulani Corporation reached out to her. They had created a new online marketing position and they wanted her to apply.
She got the job.
Why Mari’s New Job is Still “Following Her Dreams”:
Mari’s new job was basically made for her. It utilizes her skills and blends them with her interests. She is in charge of everything to do with the Halekulani hotels online. And she’s good at it.
She keeps the websites up-to-date by writing about the amenities that the hotel (and surrounding Waikiki/Diamond Head areas) have to offer as well as any “specials” the hotel is featuring. That means she is still able to work with food since she gets to describe the restaurants available to guests.
She is also able to use her creativity to constantly come up with new ways to provide better customer service. There’s only one other person in the marketing department and this intimate work environment allows for all of her ideas to be heard and often realized.
She is also, of course, in charge of all of the social media accounts for both of the hotels. She gets to interact with customers and update them through these social media accounts and in doing so is building a brand which is something she has always been interested in.
And she gets to do it the right way.
Mari knows that one of the biggest mistakes that companies make is considering social media to be a “young person’s game” and passing those duties to interns or assistants. The problem with that is that interns don’t have a true understanding of the company’s “voice.”
“Customers,” Mari says, “want to interact with the brand and are disappointed when they end up talking to people who don’t really know the voice of the brand.”
She uses Halekulani Corporations as an example. There are two hotels that are under the umbrella of this corporation. One is the Halekulani and the other is the Waikiki Parc Hotel. Even though these two hotels fall under the same umbrella of management and ownership, their clientele and “brands” are very different.
The Halekulani caters mostly to an older generation; it’s for people who can afford to splurge for the luxury of the hotel. The Waikiki Parc Hotel on the other hand is for people looking to have the experience of staying in Waikiki but who don’t need the extreme luxury that would cost them a lot more.
Mari’s understanding of these differences makes her an all-star when writing content for the separate websites, working with advertisers for each hotel, creating separate email/marketing campaigns, and engaging with the different guests on social media.
Social media is influencing the world in a big way. Now when you’re planning a trip you can tweet at different hotels or restaurants and get help and information. That’s a whole new realm of customer service and Mari is prepared and excited to be involved.
“Just two years ago the industry was so far behind,” Mari says, “the timing was right for me to get the position when I did.”
But it was more than just timing. It was Mari’s ability to recognize and accept her changing aspirations. She didn’t hold onto her original goal just because it was “her dream.” She grew up, experienced different things, and followed the new dream that was created along the way.
Homework time! Feeling stressed thinking about your future? Take a moment to breathe, relax, and stay calm. Then, write down things that interest you. Try out the “mind-map” technique (we like Jenny Blake’s description and example found here.)
Afterwards, start looking into all of the different career possibilities that relate to your interests. There’s more out there than you think. Try out Explore. Use the smileys to start narrowing down your job lists. Once you find jobs that interest you, start really exploring companies that work within the realm of that field.
P.S. Want to see Mari’s work for yourself? Check out the Halekulani hotel website along with its sister hotel’s The Waikiki Parc. Don’t forget to check out the Halekulani’s Twitter account and The Waikiki Parc’s Twitter account. Those aren’t cutting it? It’s okay, Mari’s also in charge of the Halekulani Facebook and the Waikiki Parc’s Facebook. Bummed out because you currently can’t afford a trip to stay in one of these fabulous hotels (though you KNOW it’s a goal in the future)? Don’t worry. That’s what Pinterest is for. Live vicariously through other guests and the hotel’s pictures with the Halekulani Corporation’s Pinterest Account.