Interviewed By Scott Proietti
Richard Wilhelm (Pictured Above)
This week, the conversation centers around the overall importance of your personality and work ethic, and what it means to your job search. Our featured guest is Richard “Dick” Wilhelm. He is here to offer his expert career advice. Wilhelm has been a wonderful “mentor” to students in the Patton College of Education and counselor at The Career & Leadership Development Center at Ohio University, where he is known as “Coach Wilhelm” to many students he teaches and mentors.
Wilhelm’s accomplishments/work history include: CHA, CHE, and EICI, in the hospitality and real estate fields, former President/CEO of Trust Hotels & Resorts, President/Managing Director of The Plaza Hotel (New York City), Manager at the Waldorf-Astoria and the St.Regis Hotels (New York City), Executive Vice President of Fairfield Resort Communities (NYSE), President & COO of Island Outpost Hotels, CEO of Interbank-Brener , Ohio University Foundation Board Member Trustee Emeriti, and 1992 OU Alumni of the Year (honorary).
1. What’s the most important aspect of having a good personality in the workforce?
Richard Wilhelm: Career Advice- How do you appear to others? Look in a proverbial mirror and be honest with yourself. Do you exude confidence- a level of intelligence without seemingly being like a “know it all?” Are you a good team member who maintains a positive attitude even when you might feel down about some issue? In summary, how do you appear to other people, particularly your employer, prospective employer, and fellow employees? Appearance, in ALL its aspects, is very important to your success in all areas of your life. BE TRUE TO THINE OWN SELF, and then you will be true to all others. This aspect will support you to great success in your career and your over all life…and make you a happy and successful person! That is my career advice.
2. How important is having a good work ethic in the workforce?
RW: Career Advice- All the major corporate leaders/owners I worked for, all wanted one item more than any other – honesty and loyalty! And none wanted a “yes man,” but rather a manager speaking straight forward, intelligently and honestly, but politely, kind of person. And yes, it is a challenge to speak honestly and ethically, yet politely, all the time. But if you do, the rewards from your employers will be there for you.
3. From your experiences, does having a good work ethic guarantee success in the workforce?
RW: Career Advice- I am sorry to say, but fact is, no it does not guarantee success in the work force. But having a “good work ethic” is a very important part of your professional package in the employment world, today and the rest of your professional career and life. Your overall reputation, and particularly your references (those people and organizations you ask to give employment recommendations to prospective employers ) will follow you the rest of your life, particularly for your career. And that is more important than ever in today’s e-commerce world.
4. How long did you work for Donald Trump and what was your favorite moment during the time period in which you worked in New York City?
RW: I worked for Donald Trump for eight years. There were many wonderful, interesting, educational, and yes at times, stressful moments. My favorite moment was calling Donald Trump at 6 AM one day in August 1988, from a major law firms conference room in Manhattan, to tell him, “Donald, we just completed the official closing (purchase) of The Plaza Hotel, and you are now the proud owner of this great hotel. “ He asked me to stop by his office, which I did later that morning. He opened up his checkbook and he wrote me a check to thank me for “a job well done.” My reward was not only to have spent the 8 months working on the acquisition and transition of the operation of the hotel, but rather my ultimate reward was being given the opportunity to work with Donald and the Trump Organization on the complete renovation of the 21 story, 826 unit, 1.0 million sq ft building at “the cross roads of the world” at 5th Avenue and 59th street. (Central Park South, in the center of Manhattan, right on Central Park)
NOTE: While many may see Donald’s public “side” as an egotist, I know Donald very well, and know deeply his internal business operating side, and his excellence as a father. And I can tell you that he works very hard, is extremely focused, and rewards not only his employees, but his good contractors who perform for him, with bonuses. His children all graduated magna cum laude from Univ. of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, and to this day they are each disciplined, hard working, focused, and respected business people in their own right. Career Advice: Never judge a book by it’s cover..)
5. What was the best piece of expert career advice Mr. Trump ever gave to you?
RW: Career Advice: Hire the best, lead by example, let each team member lead their departments/companies, and reward them not only with financial rewards, but rewards for the team’s ethics, loyalties, class reputation, and sincere thanks to all part of the winning team. Compliment your team members in front of the business world and in front of other major industry leaders.
Also, look them in the eye, shake hands firmly, have polished shoes, and be smart and serious, but also with a pleasing personality. I have never forgotten all of that as career advice. And I recall how many employees Donald Trump hired, and many have acceded to greater positions even after leaving the Trump Organization. An excellent example is Bill Rancic, who was a Trump manager, did a good job for Trump on several projects, was always ethical, and now is a very successful entrepreneur and TV personality on his own. And Trump stills speaks very well of him to this day.
6. What is your best piece of career advice to job-seekers who have been out of the workforce for quite some time?
RW: Career Advice- Do not give up, not for one day. And do not demoralize yourself by discouragement. Each day is a new day, “the first day of the rest of your life.” And while “e-commerce “ human resource – hiring systems seem attractive out there in the internet world, and frankly are becoming more necessary in today’s world, remember that tens of thousands of other job seekers are also using this source/state. This means that tens of millions of resumes, cover letters, and job seekers are hitting the electronic waves every day and that employers are flooded with tens of millions of resumes on a regular daily basis. So my career advice is to take a step back, and plan your action steps with common sense, and DO NOT BECOME DISCOURAGED. All it takes is one job to pull you in, and you are home. But please also know, such items as contacts and mentors who may open doors for you on a “one to one” basis, to potential employers , are worth the proverbial “weight in gold.”
7. What is your career advice for an aspiring job-seeker to try to impress a potential future employer?
RW: Career Advice- First and foremost, have a mentor assist with “opening a door” for you. This means if a former professor, employer, mentor, or a business industry leader you know, writes a cover letter, and sends it with your cover letter, resume, and references- the potential employer will definitely read your package, and knowing full well that an associate or respected person in the potential employer’s world, has sent the package to him or her. Most true mentors will not pass your package on to a professional the mentor knows in the world, if the mentor does not believe that you are qualified for a certain internship or job. While many may consider this not important in today’s world, be sure to have POLISHED SHOES, CLAEN FINGERNAILS, AND GOOD BREATH. Also, make sure you are properly groomed. Don’t look like you just got out of bed, or had a rough night last night! Don’t rush, and be sure to arrive at an interview or first day on the job at least one hour ahead of time. Collect your thoughts, sip a little water, review your notes/notebook/letter and résumé you sent.
Other Career Advice: ALWAYS HAVE A NOTEBOOK AND 2 PENS, and take notes. This will impress your new employer or potential employer, but also will allow you to carry forward thoughts and comments and solid information from your meetings. I cannot tell you how often I have interviewed potential employees, and must give them a piece of paper and pen to take notes. It’s also important to have a “dress rehearsal” with yourself or with others, before you head to an interview. Finally, have a good “ice breaker” that is professional and a solid handshake, and stay cool, but don’t try to be “cool.” Be professionally polite, have a professional sense of humor, do not be corny and be a little light. When you leave your interview, thank your perspective employer. Look this person in the eye and give them a firm, but not overbearing hand shake. That same day, send this person at the minimum an e-mail professional thank you letter (have a sample in your computer for easy use), or better yet, a professionally typed WORD document letter, that you can email and USPS mail. This may seem like “overkill”, but it is not. And I always recommend sending it via USPS Priority Mail (not Express Mail). Don’t let one day drag by- get it done “TODAY”, because you also want the job offer “TODAY,” so to speak.
How do you feel about Richard Wilhelm’s career advice?