How do you choose what hotel to work at or start your career at? If you are at the beginning of your career and are looking for your next internship or your first full-time employer you are probably thinking about the “right” brand to work for, the more luxurious the better.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
Why? Because while the brand of the hotel plays a role in your image, but matters less when it comes to getting the most valuable experience to build your career on.
I am going to tell you how to select the right hotel for your career.
Before we get into that, I want to tell you why it doesn’t matter what brand the hotel is and that in fact, the more luxurious is not better for your career.
It doesn’t matter what brand the hotel is
Effectively, the work is the same in all hotels in the same category, a Crowne Plaza does not operate dramatically different from a Hilton or Marriott. The guests in these hotels probably stay at all three brands when they travel and can’t even tell the difference between them. It’s a world of sameness.
Don’t believe me?
Can you tell which brands these rooms belong to?
No one can - because there is no differentiator.
Same goes for your career at these brands and hotels. It doesn’t matter if it is one or the other, because ultimately what will make or break your career is you and the people you work with - not the brand of the hotel you work at.
The hotel level doesn’t matter either
You’re probably thinking: “Managers must be better at luxury hotels”. Why do you think so? Because it is harder to work at luxury hotels? You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, I will tell you the opposite is true: managers are better in mid and low scale hotels than upscale or luxury.
Managers at luxury hotels tend to forget the reason they work in hospitality once they reach or are about to reach a certain level in the hierarchy (and pay). Not true for every single one of them, but I am willing to bet on this to be true for most hotels.
Yet, in the hotels where management is closer to the guest due to lack of the abovementioned hierarchy, tend to have more personalised and connected guest service and happier employees.
This is why it doesn’t matter what brand or what level of hotel you choose to start your career. Because the people you will encounter are those that will make the biggest impact on your life and your career development.
It is the people that matter
The people development infrastructures are pretty similar across the big brands as they belong to large international organisations that try to drive their employee retention, recognition and development to improve their reporting and image. They don’t actually care about you and your individual career, that’s the truth.
Apart from you, the people that are actually going to have an impact on your career development are your colleagues and managers that you encounter.
How much responsibility you get and how much you get continuously exposed to new things is all in the hands of your manager. Your colleagues are the people that are going to support you in stressful moments and you will need to rely on each other.
Whether or not you get a good manager at your first job is pure luck, you won’t be able to tell if they are good or not until you get to see them in action. Once you’ve seen them in action, you will pretty quickly be able to tell a manager that cares about the people from a manager that only cares about him/herself.
How should you choose the right hotel for you?
If you are in a position to make that choice, firstly: kudos! Most of us rarely get a choice but have to take things as they come. To make the right choice for you, here are a few things you should think about:
The management structure
The hotel type and its guests
Reviews and employee feedback
The management structure
By management structure I mean whether the property is Franchised or Managed. The difference is the ultimate boss. Without making it sound like a game, it is effectively who pays the bills.
Managed properties are big brand hotels like Hilton and Marriott that report up to their respective corporate offices and are part of their financial reporting. These hotels are directly reporting to the owner of the brand and hence the brand is more interested in the hotel’s performance (financially).
Franchised properties are granted a franchise from Hilton and Marriott corporate to carry their brand names of the hotel, but they report back up to an owner that is a third party in this situation. The owner, in this case, is the one that tracks the financial performance.
The difference matters because in managed hotels, you effectively work for the corporate group that owns the brand and you are part of their company. This means you have access to their resources, development schemes, training, and just more information and opportunities to learn about the industry. In franchised hotels, you will have access to the same of the owner group and will be limited by their resources and their scope.
Hotel type and its guests
It is important to consider the type of hotel that you want to work at. Consider these categories: conference, meetings, leisure, business, airport, resort, boutique, independent, hostel, city centre, or a motel.
The hotel type will influence the guest type and will hence influence what your job will look like and how much room for growth you may have.
For example, an airport hotel is unlikely to see many guests staying longer than 2 nights, purely based on their location and purpose to host airport guests that are likely to leave the next morning. While a resort hotel will likely never have a guest that stays shorter than 3 nights, for the same reason: its location and purpose is designed for that.
These guests are not the same: we people do not behave the same nor do we want the same things if we are visiting an airport and a resort hotel, so what you do on a day to day will reflect that.
Which category do your choices fit into? What would you rather choose? It’s a lifestyle choice, so you much choose wisely.
I already mentioned the role location plays above, but consider this separately as well. How does the hotel location score in relation to your location? Is it a long commute? Do you need to get a car to get there?
You are going to need to get to and from work at all kinds of hours, so think about the daily logistics of it.
Reviews and feedback
Last but not least, do your research on the internet and find out what people say about working for that hotel or that owner group or the manager. Have a look at what guests say about the hotel. If you cannot find any polarising explicit opinions one way or another, you will at least get a general view that can help prepare you for your first few weeks.
There is no telling in advance if your first job is going to work out. You could be blessed with a great manager and a supportive team that will help you develop in those first few years of your career or you could end my switching a few times before you meet someone that you can work well with.
When applying for a job and considering an offer, don’t be blinded by the brand and don’t think that the fancier the better for your career long term. Starting at a luxury property might sound cool, but will you get as much personal contact with guests and be given authority to make decisions on your own as at a lower-tier hotel?
What works for you, might not work for the next guy, so take the time to figure it out. You are, after all, responsible for your own career, not anyone else.
Let me know if you’ve found this advise useful and if you are currently looking for an internship or a job. What are you struggling with in the job search?