On any given day during peak season, British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos manager Millie Jarrett and her staff of five serve as many as 1,000 tourists who seek travel tips, maps or souvenirs. “If that’s not enough, we have inventories to maintain, including 400 brochures that must be replenished weekly, plus we’re an agent for Greyhound,” she says. “We also do accommodation and attraction bookings provincewide. So to say we’re deluged with work would be an understatement.”
But far from feeling harried, Jarrett, 50, is in her element. The more visitors who come through her doors, the more energetic she becomes. The more challenges thrown at her, the happier she gets. “I’ve always been that way,” she says. “I first realized I loved serving the public when I was a kid working at a fast food joint. At 16 I became a bus girl for the Westin hotel chain because I wanted to move up the ladder into managerial positions, where the real challenges of providing good customer service are.”
Jarrett left the food and beverage sector only two years ago to become a visitor information counsellor in Osoyoos, and shortly after she obtained her emerit Supervisor certification last October she was promoted to her current position as BCVC @ Osoyoos manager. “I wanted to excel in this new sector, and although I already had over 30 years of people experience under my belt, the emerit online learning program opened my eyes to new ways of doing things,” she says.
Jarrett’s enthusiasm for new horizons hearkens back to her childhood. “My mom Lillian was a factory worker who raised four kids on her own, and she passed onto me two crucial attributes: a great work ethic and the ability to focus,” she says. “So when I discovered my love for serving the public and that the prime consideration of any food and beverage managerial position is customer service, I focused all my energy on that.”
Jarrett’s formal education ended after Grade 12, but she considers herself to be a life-long learner, and this attitude propelled her to restaurant management positions in BC and Alberta, an 18-year stint at the Glencoe Golf and Country club in Calgary (with the bulk of her time spent as food and beverage manager), and then a brief stint as a restaurant operator in Osoyoos. “The restaurant gig ended after my marriage fell apart, but I loved Osoyoos so much that I wanted to stay,” she says. “So when Destination Osoyoos advertised for a visitor information counsellor position in 2008, I switched careers.”
Armed with her Supervisor certification (which took her three months of after-hours study to obtain) and inundated with a daily stream of tourists, Jarrett is excited about her future. “emerit really got me pumped and refreshed, and its teachings were so consistent and useful that I came out of the course with the notion that I can pursue any avenue of my tourism career and master its intricacies,” she says.
Not surprisingly, Jarrett’s can-do attitude has been passed along to her 22-year-old son, Nevin, and 16-year-old daughter Haley. “Nevin has followed in my footsteps,” she says proudly. “He’s currently a sous-chef in Calgary, and Haley is a dance instructor.” Jarrett pauses a beat before adding, “I suspect that if my mom were still alive today, she would be proud of us.”