In the hospitality industry, work experience is usually valued higher than academic achievements. Paradoxically, academical achievements are often necessary to get the foot in the door or to get that promotion. (Caveat, it depends on where in the industry and what your employer values.)
Work experience in hospitality management degrees
To support graduates entering the workforce after graduation and ensure that their graduates get jobs, universities have put in place mandatory work experience as part of the degree (statistically, if most of the graduates get jobs, it reflects positively on the university).
This forces the university students to get out there and look for an internship, making them question what it is they want to do after they graduate. Most universities that provide degrees in Hospitality Management will require either two/three short internships or one long internship. (Varies in each degree and university.)
Not required in your university? Do it anyway.
If you are doing a degree that does not require you to complete work experience, you should go out and find some for yourself anyway. Not only will it be a good experience, but it will also show that you are proactive and driven about your own career and development.
Top 5 tips for finding that hospitality internship
1. Keep an open mind, don’t focus on one thing only
The hospitality industry is big and there are so many sectors and various jobs out there. There is no way you know now, at the start of your degree, what you want to do exactly after graduation.
In fact, I am willing to bet, that in the first 5 years after graduation, you are going to have at least one job that you didn’t know existed (or that doesn’t even exist today).
Explore ALL of your options. Check out hotels, restaurants, tour bureaus, meetings and events spaces, transportation companies, bars, and whatever else floats your boat. Do not fall into the trap of “I know what I want to do, so I will just do that”. You will only lose.
2. Don’t be fooled by the glitter
Another trap you should not fall into is thinking that the most luxurious restaurants and hotels are the best places to do internships. I will argue that they are not the best, and most of the time actually much worse for learning than all other non-luxurious hotels and restaurants.
I go in-depth into the reasons why I think so in this article, but consider this: your internship is a place for you to learn, develop new skills, and to gradually gain more responsibilities. What kind of establishment will trust a noobie important things, a luxury hotel or a boutique one?
3. Do your research, make a list
Don’t be lazy and just google a few places, email them, and expect them to get back to you the next day. That’s not how it works.
If you want to land an internship in the right place, the kind that will teach you everything you want to know and give you the best employable skills, you need to be worth hiring in the first place. (aka, someone that actually wants the job)
So do your research, find 3-5 places you would love to work at across 3-5 categories and contact them proactively, even if there is no open role. Which brings us to the next point, don’t just email and wait.
4. Don’t just email, call and follow up
It’s super difficult to stand out in the recruitment process today as is, so don’t leave yourself out to dry by doing the minimum work required.
If you send out your application into the rabbit hole that is firstname.lastname@example.org and expect them to get back to you, you will be disappointed.
Calling the company and asking to speak to the manager, introducing yourself and telling them why you want to work with them shows not only that you are proactive but that you are leading the charge of your own career and life.
Leading yourself is key. Managers like people that take charge and don’t wait for things to happen.
Mini tip: Get the personal email of the manager on the phone if you can, but always send them a thank you follow up and once again share your CV and application with them.
5. Don’t wait, start today
And finally, don’t wait for someone to remind you, for your university to have a seminar about it, or for the “right alignment of the sun and the stars”.
Start today. Start now.
Do your research, prepare your CV, and start contacting and talking to companies. They are far more likely to be open for discussion if you show that you are interested, motivated, and prepared.
Find the courage to step outside your comfort zone
It’s scary to just call up a business and ask to speak to the manager. Especially if you are more introverted. I was the same way and still am oftentimes, when it comes to my own career. But the times that I did take the plunge, it has always paid off.
I personally find the first call the most challenging mental hurdle, so when you do your calls, put them in order so that your most wanted place is not first and you feel comfortable enough to have an easygoing conversation.
Preparation, preparation, and a lot of work. Sorry if this sounds like something you’ve heard before, it just works. The work you put in will yield an equivalent result on the other side.
In my experience, I can now say retrospectively, that I should have done more things like that myself. I was far too trusting in other people to “do the right thing” that I didn’t realise to see it from their perspective.
Check out my article on How To Get The Most Out Of Your First Internship once you’ve put together your list and are working through it so that you can prepare yourself accordingly.