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Starting a Hospitality Career

Aug 17, 2007
To start out on a realistic note, working as a professional in the hospitality industry is no easy living. You are going to work long hours around the clock. You will most likely work weekends and holidays, because that's the busiest times. And, even though most people are at least pleasant, there are those guests who are so rude that they give the others a bad name.

It takes an iron will to face all this and more. You'll need to have a selfless, sacrificing nature to see your kith and kin have the time of their life holidaying while you slog to please others. And you'll be expected to never be without a perpetual smile on your face. But the offered perks, the potential for good tips or attaining a high-ranking position, and the benefit of working in a recession-free industry draws potential workforce towards it. If you have all that, you can set up a pretty nice life for yourself.

Enjoying being among people is the first and foremost requirement to be able to chart a course of success in the hospitality industry. The job of a person serving in this field requires one to be people-friendly, adaptable, and energetic. Other traits that will come in handy include the ability to work in a team, problem-solving capabilities, and working in a customer-centric atmosphere. If the smiles on your guests' satisfied faces make you forget all your difficulties - including the pressure of working on your feet for late hours without the weekends for yourself - you are probably tailor-made to suit this profession. On the contrary, a reclusive, introverted personality who likes keeping to themselves, working in a cubicle for a stress-free job, or likes a typical office-hours shift is a complete misfit.

If you know your calling in life lies in the hotel and hospitality industry, you need to take a path that will provide you an edge over the others as far as employment is concerned. You could go in for any of many educational paths to take your plans forward.

Though not always necessary, enrolling for a full-time course is an option. Identify your area of interest and enroll for a full time program affiliated to a specific industry. Choose a program depending upon the eligibility and the time you wish to spend on your education. Chefs, especially, will need some form of culinary school, and those aiming for management will probably be best served by a simple business degree.

Another option is a company-sponsored training program. Join a program that is conducted by an employer or an agency that is associated with employers in your target hospitality industry. Such programs are generally the blend of theory or off-site training at a community college or institution, and practical or on-the-job training at affiliated businesses, similar to an internship.

Finally, you find an employer who will hire a first-timer. This is your 'break-in' period, and it's wise to remember the old Chinese saying, "The temptation to quit will be strongest just before you succeed." The first year will arm you with the necessary and invaluable experience.

Though it has been recognized as a full fledged industry relatively late in history, the hospitality trade is as old as scriptural times. The current trend of globalization, coupled with the exponentially rising spending power of the new world economy is at the core of the boom that the hospitality trade has received in the past few years. But, people who are short-sighted about the many dimensions of the trade fail to see the myriad hues that this industry offers its workforce.

A mere mention of the hospitality industry brings to our mind the images of chefs with high white hats, or pleasant, tidy front desk executives and alert, courteous waiters. It is helpful to be aware of the deluge of other opportunities that await a young hospitality industry graduate. Amusement parks, resorts, golf courses, spas, gyms, retreats, bed and breakfasts, and casinos all fit under the wide umbrella of the hospitality industry.

You might not think of working in a restaurant waiting tables sounds like a fun career, but have you been to Disneyland and seen that restaurant they have inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? Or perhaps you've thought of working your way up to head hostess at Ceasar's Palace? Or have you figured how much a wine steward at a South American beach resort makes, all under the warm equatorial sun and drenched in the ocean breeze all day? See, there's more options available than just slinging hash in a truck stop!

Contrary to the common perception, hospitality most definitely does not pertain merely to hotels. We tend to overlook the fact that hospitality has entered our lives in more ways than we can think of. Small and big eateries, coffee shops, ice-cream parlors, lodges, cinemas, workplace canteens, and event management agencies are as much a part of the hospitality industry as hotels and restaurants.

A qualified hospitality professional might have a choice of working as a hotel manager, concierge, front desk manager, food and beverage manager, housekeeping manager and sales and marketing professional. Apart from this, openings in restaurant management, catering, event planning, consulting, and research firms beckon the trained graduates with a modest run of experience.

A common question that comes up: What matters more in the hospitality trade, qualifications or personality? Since employers believe that success in the hospitality industry isn't always related to the qualifications that you have, personality and charisma is more of a score over the list of qualifications of a prospective employee. Outgoing people focused on business goals are always the most sought after. Qualifications are definitely a value addition, but not a must-have. Some believe in the credibility provided by these qualifications but nonetheless fervently advocate the performance-oriented nature of the industry, since you can always pick up an extra certificate while you're working.

But really, a winning attitude, a positive personality, and excellent people skills are most important, and in many cases will be all you need. And what school could teach those? You're either born with it or you aren't. If you were born with it, it's yours to put to work for you.
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Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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