Name: Elijah B.
Position: Front Desk Agent
Hotel: Aloft Providence Downtown
Dream destination: I would love to work in Barcelona. I had a chance to visit Barcelona during my study abroad experience and after a few days there, the culture and the vibe was amazing. I see myself working there and making my mark.
Drink or treat of choice: Pina Colada
Some people are drawn to hospitality because they love to work with people from all over the world, some come for the fast pace and opportunities to grow, and some come to make other people’s dreams come true. That is the case for Elijah, a front desk agent at the Aloft Providence Downtown and a Johnson & Wales University student who had his career-path epiphany while working at Chick-fil-A his senior year of high school.
Every morning at the drive-thru restaurant, a woman in a blue sedan used to stop there for breakfast in a perennially “grumpy” mood. Regardless of her response, every morning Elijah would greet her with a “Until next time! My name is Eli and you’ve made it to the finish line. God bless you!” even though it didn’t seem to have an impact on her.
Sometime later, the woman stopped by the restaurant and called him over. “I ran over, and she said ‘Eli, Eli, I’m getting a raise on my job and I’m moving to Tampa to become a homeowner! I just want to say thank you because your smile gave me hope. I don’t know when I’ll see you again, but thank you, because you gave me hope,’ he recalls.
“Ever since then I knew the hospitality industry was going to be for me.”
Elijah left his native state of Florida for college in Rhode Island — becoming the first person in his family to do so — and works at hotels to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Everybody has a dream to see that family member that they haven’t seen in a while, go to that amusement park, cruise, or to see their favorite artist and us in the [hospitality] industry make dreams like that happen by creating memories that can last a lifetime,” he says.
Turns out, the Aloft’s front desk has proven to be the best place to leave his mark.
Recently Elijah received an unexpected letter from his managers in recognition of his contagious energy and enthusiasm. Elijah was so proud he shared the letter on his LinkedIn.
Today, Elijah, who is getting his bachelor’s in Hotel & Resort Management, is responsible for making sure the guests have an unforgettable experience at the hotel.
“From when I say hello to the guest until we have to part ways, my job is to maintain the high energy level throughout the guest’s stay,” he says.
Learn all about Elijah’s Marriott journey in his own words, below —and remember this front desk agent, because he’s going places.
What made you want to work for Marriott?
I wanted to get a degree in law and work my way up to eventually work in Washington DC to be a Supreme Court Justice. Then, my freshman year of high school, I started a job at McDonald’s. I became the youngest manager at McDonald’s and then picked up a job at Chick-fil-A. After doing that throughout my high school years, I realized I love taking care of people. I knew I wanted to work in hotels because you can take care of guests in many ways.
Fresh out of high school, I became the first one in my family to go to college — all the way to Providence, Rhode Island, from Florida. I learned about Marriott in my hospitality class at Johnson & Wales University. My professor was teaching me about Marriott, and I was amazed, just learning about the international opportunities, their values and hearing about the other opportunities from my other professors; it inspired me to join a company with such a reputation and to see where Marriott can take me.
How would you describe your experience as a college student working at Marriott?
It’s been great! Taking hotel classes at Johnson & Wales and then working as an agent helps me understand and pick up things quickly. Half of my management team are Johnson & Wales Alumni so it helps because I can relate to them on so many levels. I’m not going to lie, I was part of the opening team for the Aloft Providence Downtown, and in the beginning, I know my management team can say I was a little rough around the edges. I would like to thank my assistant general manager Brian, who was so patient with me while I was learning the system.
What were some challenges you had to overcome having no previous experience in hospitality?
I came from fast food to a hotel job, so it was a whole new world but over time I got the hang of it. With the right training I really enjoyed learning the check-in and reservation system and interacting with the guests. After a year of opening, I became employee of the year for the hotel with the addition of getting recognized within the state of Rhode Island for my service for the hotel. Now I will be a junior in college, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world!
How did you get your first chance at Marriott?
Marriott has an excellent relationship with Johnson & Wales. The school hosts career fairs throughout the school year and they always have a presence at those, so I had the chance to network with a lot of people in the industry. The highlight of my experience is I had the chance to meet Bill Marriott’s granddaughter at a career fair!
What was your Marriott interview process like, and do you have any tips for candidates who want a role like yours?
My Marriott interview process was so much fun! My general manager, Michael, is such a cool guy. The interview felt like I was having a normal conversation. I always say to achieve things in life you have to believe in yourself! If you don’t believe, then you will never achieve. So, I was just being myself and having confidence. Confidence is really the key. To all my introverts out there, I always say it is okay to be shy but don’t let that shyness stop you from opening doors, networking, and making friends. The door of opportunity is waiting to be opened. If you don’t open it, then someone else will.
How did your recent feedback motivate or inspire you?
Feedback inspires us to grow, to learn and even pushes us to go for big positions that we didn’t even think we were qualified for. Positive feedback is excellent for an employee because it lets us breathe easy and help us not to be hard on ourselves. It keeps us going and with that positive feedback we can encourage our co-workers to be better as well. Also, to get recognized from the state of Rhode Island for my service to my general manager —big boss— sending me a personal letter is something I never imagined [would happen]. It was like winning the lottery for me. That letter reminded me you never know who is watching!
How would you describe Aloft and Marriott’s culture?
I love the Aloft brand because I feel like I can be myself here. Marriott culture is diverse, with ever-growing opportunities and just fun.
Favorite part of working at Marriott?
Oh, that is a hard one! There are so many benefits to working for Marriott! I would say the traveling opportunities to grow your career. I want to do international hospitality and I see that Marriott has internships for students outside the United States. That is my favorite part because it allows students a chance to step into an environment that is unfamiliar to us, learn a new culture and how hospitality runs in different countries.
Describe a moment you felt supported at Marriott.
When I got a chance to study abroad in Italy, my hotel GM told me “Go and experience the world, and we will have your spot when you come back.” That felt good, especially as a college student studying hospitality. I think every hospitality student would love to travel to see how the industry works. Now that I am about to be a junior in college too, my management team works with my school schedule, and they understand mental health days. I really appreciate my management team at the Aloft Providence Downtown.
What is next for you at Marriott?
Starting next January, I will be a Rooms & Operations intern at the The Ritz Carlton, Dubai until mid-July. I’m excited.
Some of us college students in the U.S. want to experience international hospitality but [don’t do it], sometimes due to limited resources or because of doubting ourselves for it being out of the country. I was so shocked when I made it through my interviews and got the offer letter! It’s like I am conquering my dreams while in college. It is unbelievable.
How have you used the Marriott Explore Rate?
Thank God for the discount! I think the travel discount makes things easier to travel, especially as a college student. I love hotels. I love traveling to see the architecture of the building, the design layout, the rooms, and I love talking to employees like me to hear their backstory. I love hearing about people’s personal journeys and what made them choose the hotel industry. I got a chance to visit Boston Marriott Long Wharf and it was the best experience I ever had. I saw the R&B group New Edition at the TD Garden area in Boston. Long Wharf is such a beautiful property and can’t wait to stay again!