We had the pleasure of speaking to Jane Odhiambo, who took us through her career progression as an Emirates Cabin Crew.
Here are the career notes we took from Jane
How did you get to this position?
I was working at a nightclub in Abu Dhabi, my work was very close to Etihad Airline’s plaza, I used to meet Etihad cabin crew inside our club and supermarkets around our area, I decided why not give it a shot, I applied filled in the application online and got an ‘Unfortunately you did not succeed this time’ ouch’, so since I had the application and I had nothing to lose, I open and logged onto Emirates Airlines cabin crew online application, they had similar questions I just copy-pasted my answers from the Etihad application, I made it, got invited for the interview and passed. There were 60 of us, only 10 made it to the final interview and only 5 of us got the Job.
What is/was your favorite part of your job?
- Traveling to a destination for the first time.
- Meeting people from all over the world, am talking about Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, people from Catalonia who correct you when you think they are from Spain.
- Working with Crew from all over the world and meeting the new crew on every single flight.
- Experiencing different cuisine from different countries, our ‘palate’ is well developed.
- Sleeping in amazing 5-star hotels, Hello Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai 🙌.
What do/ did you do at work on a daily basis?
In general what is common to all cabin crew and a bit about my day as a First class crew.
- We receive our roster for the month, so we know the flights we will be doing in advance. On the day of the flight just like passengers, we are required to be at work 2 hours before departure time.
- At the headquarters we check in just like our own mini airport port, sign in to get the baggage tag and information on your brief, this is where our relevant documents, yellow fever, vaccines, etc are checked and verified. Then we prepare for boarding.
- For the first-class crew, we welcome customers by introducing ourselves to each one of them, take their jackets, show them the seat functions, highlight the shower if on A380, offer them a welcome drink usually champagne Dom Perignon 2005, (you have to say Dom Perignon 2005) or was it 2002 mmh. If they don’t want that you offer them a drink of their choice. Later we will offer Arabic coffee and dates, hot towels, and menus for them to order.
- Once we take off, this is where the show begins, we offer the passenger their drinks, with nuts, canapés, olives, or crisps While they are enjoying drinks, someone will be taking their shower reservations, we ask them if they would like us to make their beds if they would like to eat now or later, dim lights if needed.
The first-class service dines on demand so they eat anytime and in whatever order, if they want to have soup and dessert it’s ok. Their menu is extensive and has a lot of options.
Of course, we prepare to disembark by collecting the key items, and once we all disembark we are off to the 5-star hotel 😎. And the next day repeat.
What’s the best thing about your job?
- The routine mixed with spontaneity
What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
- Start saving from the first salary and don’t slack
- Set small achievable goals to keep you focused and not waste your money
- Set long-term goals so you know what’s your endgame, if you don’t know your destination, where are you going?
- Learn to balance your life, enjoy it to the fullest, pamper yourself but everything with a limit
- The best advice my friend gave me was if you are not sure what to do with your money save it, avoid rushing into businesses and deals
- If planning to start a business in Kenya while in Dubai remember you can never run a successful business in absentia
- More money, more problems don’t think now that you are earning a tax-free salary, with accommodation and transportation provided that you cannot end up in debt and loans that will destroy you
- Do not keep up with the joneses especially people from other cultures. Some countries have a backup plan for their unemployed citizens so when those citizens are in Dubai they can eat all their salary and spend it all on clothes and parties and not save a single cent
- Balance; live as if you will die tomorrow and also like you will live forever always think of the end game because nothing is permanent
- Try new things as your salary will afford you, don’t focus on family and investments, and forget to live; eat that lunch in Burj Al Arab at least once in your life
- You came alone, you will leave alone, take the rules of the company seriously, and don’t allow peer pressure to get you doing unacceptable things
What hard skills should someone in your field have?
Luckily all that’s required for this job is a secondary school certificate, and to be English speaking
What soft skills should someone in your field have?
- Radiate positive energy, you know that person people are naturally drawn to, that’s what they are looking for someone their customers will not feel intimidated by
- Communication skills
- Time management skills
- Not taking things personally
- Being calm under pressure
- Adaptability: Ability to switch from one role to another seamlessly, you are a waiter, firefighter, bomb mover, first aider, ‘midwife’, security, host, conflict resolution, restrainer, etc and you will need to bounce from one or another on every flight
How long have you worked in this industry?
What drew you to this field?
I feel people pushed me to research it and then I applied, before I was a flight attendant I was a model, and a lot of people used to ask me if I was a flight attendant, after my research I decided to go for it, also the traveling attracted me to the job.
Where did you go to school?
Ofafa Jericho Primary School
Parklands Arya Girls High School
Institute of Community Development
Nairobi University(didn’t finish my degree)
Currently hopeful to start studying at the University in Southampton, UK
What did you study?
Social Work, Community development, Public relations, and marketing
Which has been more valuable in your career, your education, or your experience?
Hands down my experience, I found myself in a Healthcare role working in a hospital in England – currently as a supervisor. This is mainly because of my experience with Emirates.
What I have discovered is that proper education is required in a lot of jobs and you earn more depending on your level of education, that’s why I’m going back to school.
What are your hobbies?
What was your first job?
The first paid activity was when I started modeling and hostessing at events. Emirates was my first permanent job.
What’s the best job decision you ever made?
Due to Covid I feel the best decision I ever made was to leave Emirates before it left me, I left just 5 months before covid hit and I’ve seen many colleagues lose their jobs without warning, with loans, and debts, with no money. I’m glad I had time to plan my exit.
What’s the worst job decision you ever made?
I can’t think of any at the moment
What is your greatest career strength?
- Interpersonal skills
- Sharp awareness of surrounding
- Strong work ethic, I take every task whether minor or major, volunteering or paid seriously.
- Cultural awareness, you can’t pay for that
- Prioritizing tasks, this is a cabin crew superpower to organize workflow in your head and execute with precision
- Teamwork mixed with independence is another superpower, working alone while working as a team
- Ability to follow instructions
What is your greatest career weakness?
- Doubting my strengths and abilities, I have serious imposter syndrome.
What are your long-term career goals?
Work in Social Work or in Sociology. I wouldn’t mind starting my own business probably something to do with fashion.
What are your next career steps?
Get my degree in Social Work
What mistakes did you make early in your career?
- Trying to blend in instead of standing out. Being afraid to be so visible
How do you handle workplace disappointment?
- Manage expectations, am I the only one fighting for me. Don’t expect anything from anyone
- Focus on the big picture, this is just the means to the end
- Remember there’s something to learn in every situation, derive the lesson from the disappointment
- Don’t make rash decisions
- Take time to reflect on what happened and what going to happen next before speaking
Was there a career setback you faced which you later realized was an advantage?
Lack of funds to join University while young, I didn’t start university until I was 25 and I dropped out to pursue work in Abu Dhabi and then to Dubai in Emirates which ended up having the biggest impact of my life to date. If I chose University at that time. I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
What would you do differently if you could go back in time?
- Volunteer more in different environments, it’s the quickest way to get free education. It’s a powerful subliminal added advantage when included in a CV
- Be more hopeful of a brighter future, used to have fear of poverty and fear of uncertainty
- Stand out more and accept challenges, if I fail I learn if I succeed it’s good for my confidence
- I wouldn’t wait for people to believe in me. I believed in myself, people pushed me to modeling and to cabin crew.
What should I be doing to improve my career prospects
- Diversify, have different hobbies, and interact with people in circles you wouldn’t normally be in. Have friends and acquaintances from all levels of life. This will increase your 6 degrees of separation, where it takes you six steps/people to connect you to what you are looking for. For example, If you want an astronaut you should be able to find one with 6 steps/people.
- Be curious, ask people what they do for a living, what are their goals, are they living their dreams, these conversations open your world up to all the possibilities that can be.
- A wide range of knowledge and friends will help you to always find a connection point with anyone. Travel has done it for me, I can at least find a connection through knowledge of someone’s culture, food, music, city.
- Read, stay learning, if you hear something you don’t know Google it, find out what’s A. I? What is quantum physics? , read books, articles, fiction, non-fiction, scientific, astrology, psychology peruse in the least if you cannot read all, listen to podcasts, Google talks, engage, watch documentaries about anything.
General knowledge is crucial, not to seem smart and knowledgeable when speaking but more so not to ask stupid questions, and to contribute meaningfully with relevance.
- Network, maintain loose ties and acquaintances, don’t let quality people fall off your radar because you don’t see them often, a small message here and there, comment on their social media.
More than 60% of the time your help comes from people you don’t necessarily interact with on a daily basis, it’s your former Primary school classmate, it’s the nurse who looked after your sick child for weeks, it’s your University lecturer, your first boss.
- Try different things, you may think you are destined for one thing only to discover new interests just from trying, in the same breath change something in your usual routine, job, etc, walk in a different direction than usual, leave home earlier or later, try new twists on your usual recipes, dress a little different than you usually do, remove color add color, eat something you have never eaten before. etc…
Everything is connected and can be applied in every aspect of your life, the skills required for your careers you can practice them and implement them in your own life, that teamwork is you and your spouse working together Monday morning to get your kids ready and out in time.
Planning is organizing your friend’s baby shower from invitations to catering to cake to dress code and calling and making it spectacular.
Interpersonal skills are always having a small chat with the security of your building or the fruit salad vendor, knowing you are not better than anybody and no one is better than you.
Customer service and marketing are you recommending your friends, family business and always ensuring the referral is successful and following up on both sides.
Finally with one of my favorite quotes, “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far go together”
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