Our advice for students and young professionals who are joining the hotel industry at a challenging moment.
By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
“What advice would you give to a smart, driven hospitality student about to graduate?”
It’s an interesting moment to be asking that question. Over the last year, we’ve watched as our talent situation has been turned inside-out — from having too many positions and not enough people to fill them, to widespread layoffs and furloughs pushing qualified professionals to leave hospitality for other industries. Is now really the time to tell our students how to build a career in hospitality?
Absolutely. In this uncertain environment, with recovery on its way but the timeline still unclear, it’s more important than ever to let students know that hospitality is a viable and vibrant career path, with options and opportunities they won’t find anywhere else — and to help them navigate it with informed advice reflecting how the pandemic has (and hasn’t) changed the industry. This is part of the ongoing work of the HSMAI Foundation, which late last year hosted a global series of Executive Roundtable programs for hotel human resources executives; see the Foundation’s new white paper for key takeaways.
Dovetailing with that, HSMAI posed the question at the top of this article to participants in our most recent series of Executive Roundtables for sales, marketing, revenue, digital, and loyalty executives. They had a lot of advice to share, grouped in eight main areas:
1. Diversify your skillset and cross-train. This includes everything from learning about data analytics, to becoming familiar with every department and function, to making sure to work on-property at some point.
2. Be open to different opportunities to get your foot in the door. That means being humble, working hard, and being willing to start in whatever position and at whatever level you can.
3. Be flexible and get comfortable with change. Understand that most careers are nonlinear, so be willing to jump into roles and projects that you hadn’t anticipated.
4. Be patient. Especially as the pandemic continues to play itself out, it’s important to adjust your expectations, play the long game — and believe that hospitality will bounce back stronger than ever.
5. Be curious. Stay open to learning by asking questions and gaining experiences from everyone you work with, including team members working at the front desk or in housekeeping.
6. Seize the day. If you jump in headfirst and say yes to everything, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of opportunities to grow and advance.
7. Never give up. Stay focused, stay positive, and stay strong.
8. Speak up and contribute. Focus on the issues and pain points that need solving, and be prepared to contribute your opinions and ideas.
This is good advice for just about any professional working in any industry, but particularly relevant to someone who is looking to join hospitality while it’s still feeling the effects of a devastating crisis. Because we want our students to look forward to the role they have to play in helping us recover.