Break into the Hospitality Industry
“People looking to break into the hospitality industry need to know there are two sides of it, one is the operational side -- which is really front-line work -- and the other side is corporate,” says Jonathan Galaviz, chief economist for Galaviz & Company, a Las Vegas-based travel and leisure consulting firm. Though most of us think of food service, meeting/event planning and guest services when we think of hospitality jobs, there’s plenty of opportunity on the business side, too. “On the corporate side, there are tremendous opportunities to get involved with international expansion, market analysis and strategy work,” Galaviz says.
No matter what side of the industry interests you, here are some expert tips for breaking into hospitality.
“The mentality of hiring managers is that everyone is or can be competent at entry-level tasks,” says Brian Meissner, owner/operator of El Diablo Tranquilo, a boutique hostel and restaurant in Punta Diablo, Uruguay, that recruits internationally to fill 24 seasonal internships and rotating management positions. “Sell yourself. Know what sets you apart, what makes you worth bringing into the fold. People who describe their travels with fire, people who are foodies and remember a special dish -- those are people whose own experiences resonate.”
You’ll also stand out if you have a vision for your hospitality career. “The biggest mistake candidates make is that they don't clearly define what their long-term objectives are,” Galaviz says. “For some reason, many new professionals enter the hospitality industry because they think it will be fun, but in reality, it’s a very serious business behind the scenes. A long-term strategic plan for what they want to be and how to get there is critical.”
Understand the Ladder
Most people who rise to top hospitality management positions started out in entry-level jobs like dishwashing, technical support or accounts payable. “These entry-level positions are important because they build character and give you an opportunity to see the business from the ground up,” says Lara Weiss, global director of sales for K Hotels International, a Los Angeles-based marketing and sales organization for independent hotels and inns worldwide.
Megan Arellano entered the industry as a guest-services coordinator at the Houstonian hotel in Houston. Within six months, she was promoted to group sales supervisor. Today, she’s the assistant manager of Trellis, the hotel’s spa. Each step gave her the experience to reach the management level. “For any position, always know that there is more to a job than what you see on the surface,” she says.
If you’re short on experience, you’re not necessarily out of the running for hospitality jobs, Weiss says. “Prior experience is dependent upon what type of work and division you want to go into,” she says. “Hotels, in particular larger brands, will spend the time necessary to get you trained and set you on a path, mainly because of the large infrastructure. If you are joining a smaller boutique-type organization, having experience is really important. Because it is smaller, you may be thrown in and expected to do a number of tasks and wear a lot of hats.”
So why not get started on your hospitality career? “Employment in the sector is doing well and most companies are hiring for many positions,” says Claudia Castillo, assistant director and adjunct instructor at Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “There are many places to go and many areas to grow in.”
Learn more about hospitality careers.
Learn more about travel careers.