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Why Work Experience is NOT Important in the Hospitality Industry

 Do you ever think this about your work experience?

“I must get the relevant internship during my hospitality degree so that I can then get the right job after graduation”

“If I want to work in hotels, all other experience is irrelevant, so I will only do internships in hotels”

“I cannot learn things I need to know in my future hospitality career if I do an internship in another industry or field”

Well, you’re not alone.

Most hospitality management students think that there is “more relevant” and “irrelevant” experience. It’s ok if you do too, it’s not your fault, you only think so because you have been told so.

Your professors are telling you that. Your career counsellors are telling you that.

But they are all wrong.

Why? Because they are far too removed from the day to day real world of the industry. Because they have been professors for the last 10, 15, or 20 years and things have changed in the hiring and employment processes since then. They just didn’t get the memo.

Let me explain to you how work experience works in the hospitality industry so I can put you at ease and show you ways you can leverage any experience you already have.

How experience works in the hospitality industry

All of your professional experience and internships during your hospitality management degree do not have to directly be “relevant” to whatever you see yourself doing in the future after graduation.

And the simple reason why is because that from any experience, you will learn something.

From all of your work experiences and internships, you will gain new skills, learn more about an area, a business, a field, about yourself, and about other people. Working with people and finding your new ways of working in a new environment is no different in hospitality than it is in other fields.

Testing your skills in new environments and see what you like is part of the process.

Transferable skills

In the hospitality industry, many transferable skills are essential regardless of role or department. Look at these 11 hospitality industry sectors, do you think the commonalities?

If you gain your customer service skills in restaurants, you can apply them in a hotel and you can apply them to the customer service centre of a hospitality tech company.

If you learned to think on your feet while volunteering at an event, you can now do that in independent event companies and hotels, as well as on cruise ships.

Check out this list of 99 skills and how to apply them and present them on your CV. Don’t forget, each company has its preferred terminology so make sure that your CV reflects that for a higher success rate.

Technical hospitality skills

These are skills that are more specific to the hospitality industry and each sector has a few of their own as well.

In hotels, for example, it is the reservation system and the Property Management System (PMS). It takes some time to learn how to use new software and how to deal with guests at the same time as getting the procedures right.

In restaurants, it is probably going to be the Poing of Sale (POS) system and the way that they place orders and do inventory.

In a travel agent, it is likely to be the Global Distribution System (GDS) and any other internal tools and processes.

These are present across any job in any hospitality sector and across any company in any field.

All of these are technical skills and the easiest to teach and to learn. You cannot teach integrity, passion, desire to learn, or any of the other things that really matter when it comes to doing a good job.

Unfortunately, in my own experience and others, we often get declined a chance at a job because of the lack of these technical hospitality skills. That is not your fault, keep looking for one that is willing to invest in you and you will find a place that cares about you as a person, which is not common.

How you should use your experience to serve you better

If you lack experience and not sure what to put on your CV don’t forget that they are hiring you as a person, not just your work experience, so talk more about other bits of your life.

There are a few examples of what you can expand on your CV to fill that one (1) page:

  • Add your key study courses under your degree

  • Provide a detailed account of your volunteering contributions and impact. If you’ve done more than one project, make sure to outline them

  • Talk about your hobbies in detail, explain why you are passionate about them, show your personality and let them see your drive and enthusiasm

  • List all and any additional training or courses you have taken, especially if it is extra to what you are already doing (online like on LinkedIn, Google, Youtube, Lynda etc)

  • Add reference contact details at the end, just ask your professor if you have no work references

Most importantly, make sure that you use keywords in your CV. Keywords are those 3-5 things that the employer is looking for when they are scanning your CV.

Keywords could be: proactive, initiative, hard-working, team-player, independent, driven.

For entry-level roles and internship, they tend to look for things like taking the initiative and being proactive (everyone loves this, at every level of your career). If you can describe clearly examples of delivering the skills they are looking for, you will score an interview.

Tip: See if a skills-based CV format is more suitable for you as you are starting your career or want to pivot from your previous experience into hospitality.

Dare to experiment and explore

As you begin gaining work experience in the hospitality industry, dare to experiment. Be open-minded. Take every opportunity to gain new experiences and learn something new.

Help yourself identify what you like and what you don’t like. What are your trade-offs?

Don’t think about getting only “the right” or “relevant” experience.

Think where you can learn something new about hospitality, take that opportunity to see if that is something for you.

Don’t be the person that only knows one thing like Hotels, Restaurants, or Revenue. Be the person that knows a bit about all of them and has chosen to focus on Events because it really excites you.

The varied experience will give you different ways to deal with similar issues and you will be able to choose the best way when an issue happens. Don’t limit yourself to one viewpoint.


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