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Where To Start When You Don't Know Where To Start | Hospitality Student Career Options

There are thousands of career options in the hospitality industry, where do you begin?

How do you figure out what to do? Some of us know what we want but many of us don’t.

I didn't know back when I was a student just like you.

This is for hospitality and tourism students that do not know what they want to do and don’t know where to start with trying to figure it out.

Forget about the plan

When you’re interested in a little bit of everything and don’t know what you want to do, it is really hard to know where to begin. Old school career advice isn’t helpful either.

“Decide on your 5 and 10-year career goals and make a plan to get there.”

How? How do you figure it out?

It’s helpful when you know you want something specific.

But if you’re starting from scratch, you’re young and don’t have any experience, it’s the worst career advice ever.

A 5-year plan is such an outdated concept. It only applies to a small % of people that know exactly what they want to do and doesn’t really work anymore.

Look at 2020 for example! How many career plans were shattered this year? And how many were accelerated into new territories?

4 reasons why career plans won’t work for you right now

5 or 10-year career plans are inflexible by design and hence wrong for those of us that like to keep an open mind and go with the flow of things. Especially if we don't know where we're going!

1. They do not consider future jobs don’t exist yet.

2. They do not consider an unexpected change of plans outside of our control.

3. When not fulfilled to a t, they leave you full of disappointment. Rather than excitement for other opportunities and achievements.

4. And most importantly, they do not allow you to change your mind.

Start with a blank piece of paper

We all start at a blank slate. When you are a blank piece of paper it’s hard to make decisions.

We make decisions based on previous experiences and positive or negative connections with them.

Each new experience is like a filter added to our worldview. With each new filter, we begin to narrow things down to what we like and don’t like.

Every new experience guides to towards something as well as away from something.

You are currently on a blank sheet, anything is possible.

But where do you go first? Let me help you with this important first step in your career in the hospitality industry.

Step 1: Get experience

You need to start gaining basic first experiences in the hospitality industry.

The key to this is to gain a variety of experiences across the spectrum so that you can explore different areas of interest and then base your future decisions on that.

It’s a bit like gaining skills in video games. You need to learn to run fast, jump high, and collect coins along the way before you specialise in one skill. Without the basic skills, your specialisation will not be as strong.

If you have 4 similar experiences, in restaurants only, for example, you will only restaurants. You won’t know what else you might like or be good at.

But if you have a range of 4 different experiences, you will be able to choose one of them or a mix to zoom in on. On top of that, you will have a wider network of people.

Start by getting experience in these areas

  • Events

  • Hotels

  • Human resources recruitment

Events is really an all-encompassing area where you both need to plan, replan and act quickly on your feet during the event.

In hotels, you should do your best to learn a bit of everything if you can. It will not always be possible so at the very least, get solid experience in front office guest experience.

While HR is not for everything, getting experience in recruitment is great to build perspective. You will understand what's it like to be on the other side and gain some admin office experience meanwhile.

I strongly recommend that you also get experience in Restaurants and Bars. There is nothing that teaches you about people as being behind the bar at 3 am with people wanting their “last drink”.

Whenever you can, try to get some experience with the admin side of the business. A restaurant and a kitchen are more than the service and the food they serve, don’t forget that it’s a business like any other.

Find your first experience here

The very first experience is hard to get, as we live in the world of always needing to have prior experience before starting any job.

♻️ Need experience -> to get experience ♻️ is that annoying never-ending cycle 🤦‍♀️

Here is where you can break this cycle and get experience as a beginner without prior experience:

  • Your university: events, open days, teacher admin, etc.

  • University student organisations: be part of and volunteer for either the student union or other organisations like @aiesec.

  • Volunteer for a charity of your choosing, even it the experience itself is not directly related to hospitality.

  • Unpaid work internships: contact a local business you are keen to learn from and offer them your time in exchange for them teaching you, no pay.

Step 2: Research and Contact

Starting with the above list of ideas to get your first experience, you need to research.

University & volunteering

1. Find out what events there are at your university this year, what organisations there are at university, and so on.

2. Make a big list of them all.

3. Contact the people in charge.

Contact the organisers in charge and offer your time to volunteer. This could be the teacher or student in charge of leading the event or someone that is already part of the event team.

Most important here is to seek to gain experience in different roles at different companies.

Use this volunteer experience research tracker template in my free resources to get started with your research.

Do the same with local businesses that you want to learn from. It may mean that you work for free to the purpose of experience. I have done it.

Unpaid internships

Unpaid internships are something you need to consider as a way to gain experience, especially if you are an international student.

Simply contact the companies you are interested in and ask if they are looking for an intern. Don’t need to wait for them to advertise, just ask.

If you keep waiting for them to post an intern posting, you will wait forever and end up competing with lots more people! Stand out and reach out to them yourself.

I got all of my internships that way!

That’s it, that is where you start.

With each experience you gain, your blank sheet of paper will become filled with patterns, colours and whatnot, that will eliminate the things you don’t like.

It will also highlight the think you do like and help you choose what you want to focus on next.

One day, it may even be so clear that you will be able to make a 5-year plan!

Once you get your internships and volunteer experiences, keep a record of it. I have some tips on how to keep an internship diary here.

Be a #savvyhotelier and take charge of your own future today! Maria


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