Sales Professionals’ Advice to College Grads

By Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, Vice President of Global Sales, RLH Corporation, and Chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

This year’s college graduates are entering the workforce during one of the worst financial crises since the Great Depression. HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board members had some advice to pass on to this year’s grads just starting their careers in hospitality on a call on May 14. Here is some of their advice for being successful in the industry, especially during this turbulent time — presented in their own words:

On growing your career:

  • “Make sure you work in as many different departments as you can, to really understand the industry. What I find when I speak at some of these hospitality schools is that they want to just jump right into being a manager when they’ve never even worked at a hotel. So, I think that anybody that is going through right now has a great opportunity to find various different jobs and get some great practical experience. This is going to be an excellent opportunity to learn more about our industry from a hands-on perspective. There are salespeople now who are making beds, cleaning toilets, and checking people in. And you can’t get any more knowledge about how to take care of somebody than to really understand those cleanliness standards and service standards from a grassroots perspective.”
  • “It’s really not a ladder anymore. I think it’s more about working horizontally and kind of learning across all the different scenarios. And if you chase titles and bonuses and pay, you’re actually going to grow slower than if you take the time to learn all the pieces; then you’ll wind up as you get older in your career growing faster because you’ll have more experiences.”
  • “When we all had to make the decisions in our sales departments of who to keep and/or who to lay off or furlough, we had to look at the diversity of their experience. And if they had experience at the front desk, or if they had experience in F&B, they suddenly became the more valuable salesperson to keep around. Because in many of our hotels, salespeople are also covering some shifts.”

On continuous learning:

  • “I’ve advised a few graduates I’m mentoring that, if their circumstances allow, look at continuing education, getting an MBA, looking to get a minor, and potentially working part time with a hotel, but while getting some additional education. Because right now, obviously things are turbulent, and you can increase your marketability with more education if your financial situation allows. And then when the job market is a little bit more vibrant, you are actually better positioned for growth models in the industry.”
  • “Always ask questions. And find a mentor to help you with them. Find somebody that you can lean on when you have questions. You need someone that you can go to because, while it’s a very diverse industry and you can learn so many things, sometimes you need someone to point you in the right direction.”
  • “Data science — I’m not kidding about that. Find a way to layer that into whatever you’re learning, because it brings a lot of value. It’s going to be in demand in years to come in the hotel business and elsewhere.”
  • “Young people have to show they are coachable, which they’ve already accomplished by going to college. I don’t think it’s a bad time for those folks to just get their foot in the door and let the hotel groom them into the kind of team member that they want to have and teach them what they need to know.”

On things you can’t teach:  

  • “Love what you do and have fun doing it. Those are intangibles that you can’t put into someone. I’d rather have someone with passion than the smartest person in the room.”
  • “If you at least explore business intelligence and see if it’s interesting, you might learn that you have an interest in it. But you have to have passion. If you hate it, don’t pursue it, because it’s not for you, and that applies to anything.”
  • “You need business acumen. If you’re thinking like a businessperson, you can form a career for yourself in many industries, but you’ll really bring a perspective to hospitality that is useful.”
  • “We have a saying that we’re leaning on heavily right now: ‘Don’t be successful, be valuable.’ If you’re valuable, you become successful. We constantly say to all of our folks that are still around, ‘What are you doing to be valuable right now?’ And especially those that maybe don’t have a full plate of work, they’ve got to jump in and find ways to be valuable to justify keeping them around.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles