Break into the hospitality industry

It’s Hospitality Month in Washington! Here’s some great advice from our partners at

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Monster Contributing Writer

Whether you’re looking for accounting jobs or event-planning jobs, there’s a place for you in 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.

Sell Yourself

“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.


Hospitality Careers Overview

Hospitality careers are for those who enjoy playing the host. Food service and lodging managers are responsible for making sure guests at restaurants and hotels have a satisfying experience with their meal or their accommodations. Both types of hospitality careers are responsible for managing the daily operations of the establishment including overseeing staff, reviewing budgets and ensuring guests’ comfort and satisfaction. The hours can be long; hotels are essentially 24-hour businesses and restaurants are often open long hours and on weekends, so don’t plan on a nine to five, 40-hour work week.

Hospitality Education

Hospitality jobs typically require at least a high school diploma and extensive on-the-job experience. Larger restaurants and hotels may require their managers to have a bachelor’s degree in business management, and some restaurants may prefer that their managers have post-secondary training in the culinary field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor’s degree in restaurant and hospitality management is now offered by many universities.

Hospitality Job Market

Although population growth is expected to increase the demand for food and lodging services, companies are consolidating supervisor and managerial positions, streamlining hospitality jobs to keep budgets under control. That’s why hospitality careers are projected to see slow growth in comparison to other jobs over the next 10 years. Food service managers are expected to only go up two percent, from 321,400 in 2012 to 326,500 by 2022, and the 50,400 lodging manager jobs reported in 2012 may only see a one percent increase to 51,100 by 2022.

Hospitality Salaries

[Nationwide] salaries in the hospitality industry are fairly good, right in the neighborhood of the upper $40,000 range. Lodging managers average $46,810 annually for their full-time work. Food service managers make just a bit more with a $47,960 median annual salary, although the BLS notes that special food services managers earn $54,210 on the average.

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