“Google knows everything, so why should I bother to learn new stuff when I can Google things and watch YouTube tutorials on how to do things?” Having trained Butlers for over a decade, I have been asked this question more than once.
Since starting my career over 25 years ago, the internet has undoubtedly made information more accessible. If used correctly, it can be an invaluable asset for any position in private service. Gone are the days when we had to figure out how to get our hands on the newest gadgets our principal desired or write a letter to a company to get a replacement manual for an older appliance.
But even so, with a world of information at our fingertips, nothing beats learning through courses, research, and experience. Often, there is not enough time to Google or watch the latest YouTube video. Specific knowledge required for your position is a must, and general knowledge in a broad sense will give you an advantage over your competition.
Where and how can we begin to build our knowledge?
For starters begin reading the news on a regular basis.
But careful, there are a few things to be aware of:
- You must read the article!
Headlines and short descriptions are often misleading. Headlines do not give you information; they create traffic for the news outlet. If you truly want to know what is going on in the world, you must read the entire article, as the headlines often get relativized in the articles they represent.
- Verify your sources!
One problem in today’s world is that you are fed the information you want to hear. Google knows so much about you that you get presented search results that most likely appeal to your interests, political orientation, and personal preferences.
- Therefore, it is important to also read (or listen) to news from sources you are most likely not in agreement with. Keep an open mind, do not condemn information you don’t like; the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of all the different opinions.
Today, you are not fed with news, but with opinions!
- The on-air personalities at CNN or Fox News are not traditional journalists. They curate their programing around newsworthy events, but those events are presented with opinions that align with the company’s agenda rather than unbiased truth. Try to filter out where the news stops, and the opinions begin.
Now that you are on top of the news, begin to build upon your general knowledge:
- At one time, Wikipedia was a great source of all kinds of knowledge. Unfortunately, with the shift in society that “truth is no longer highly valued,” one must be careful with Wikipedia, as it is now riddled with false information. This change is likely due to the fact that anyone can submit edit requests, and wrong information is often accepted and used as facts. Wikipedia can still be a quick source for research information, but please use caution and verify what you read with multiple sources before accepting them as the truth.
- Another example lies with PR agencies. Many deliberately spin or outright falsify information to boost the agenda of their clients.
- An old set of encyclopedias is still, to this day, a great source of information. Besides providing a wealth of knowledge, they also look great on your bookshelf.
Well, now it is time to build upon your industry specific knowledge:
Butler / Household Management Schools
- Sure, as the CEO of The International Butler Academy, I should tell you that you must attend such a school. However, if you participate in one of the multiple live-training options on the market, you will never receive complete training. The International Butler Academy, for example, teaches a solid foundation of information for those entering the private service industry. And we help experienced PSPs hone and perfect their skills. But be aware that no matter what a school promises to teach you, you will always have to continue learning on your own after completing any training.
- Online training is a great way to extend your knowledge of specific topics. But they have their limitations, especially when talking about practical issues; online training reaches their limits pretty fast. While you may be able to learn how to iron a shirt on your computer, it is a whole different story when you hold a hot iron in your hands.
Read Job Advertisements
- Job advertisements are a great way to find out what skills you should focus on improving. In 2021, we found that many Principals were looking for Butlers with knowledge or experience in wardrobe management. If you plan to change positions, start looking at advertisements to learn what skills you should work on to succeed. (Hint: trendy skill sets often vary by region.)
- If you want to improve your skills in flower arrangements, have a look around in your neighborhood to see if there is someone that offers such a course. Alternately, you could pay a visit to a favorite florist and ask if they might be willing to teach you the basics of their craft. It is always best to learn from a specialist.
- Call me old-fashioned, but, as I mentioned, books are still a great way to learn new skills. Even though audiobooks are very convenient, I would not recommend them for learning, as people tend not to pay attention fully. Also, if you would like to go back to a specific topic or passage for reference, it is harder to find the correct point in the audiobook.
No matter what methods you choose, the important thing is never to stop learning.
As my late grandfather used to say: Once you stop learning, you become old and useless.
The International Butler Academy
Thomas Kaufmann is a trained private butler with over twenty-five years of experience in private service. He also has many years of experience in training butlers and hospitality service staff in hotels, real estate companies, restaurants in China and Southeast Asia. His expertise provides intuitive service, improves guest experiences, and presents lessons on service styles. After establishing The International Butler Academy in China, Mr. Kaufmann is now CEO at The International Butler Academy in the Netherlands.