Maya Angelou has rightly said “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The feeling after a relaxing vacation or a good meal, isn’t always just about the product or the food. It’s about how happy or excited it made you feel. The biggest asset that the hospitality industry has, is making the guests feel comfortable by catering to their specific demands and preferences. From connected rooms that can be controlled through the guests’ smartphones or virtual reality property tours, the industry is employing cutting-edge technologies to deliver a better experience. The services extend beyond the hotel property to include all aspects of guests’ experience from travel to recreation and entertainment. These changes are creating a diverse array of job opportunities for fresh hospitality graduates.
Hospitality Management Degree
Hospitality management graduates, can explore an array of specialised options and garner diverse industry experience. Hospitality grads today have the opportunity to combine business and hospitality degrees like the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) in Hospitality Management offered at Daniels College of Business. Such degrees combine core business functionalities like Accounting, Finance and Analytics with hospitality courses like food and beverage management or lodging management for a holistic management education. Graduates can later specialise in a field of their choice and grow from traditional hospitality roles to specialised hybrids including hospitality law, hospitality finance or revenue management. A hospitality career, right from theoretical learning at school to on-the-job experiences and work, can help you develop a variety of functional and transferable skills for your future.
Skill Building through Hospitality Degrees
The billion dollar hospitality industry stands on the quality of service provided to consumers and the ability of its employees in creating a comfortable and memorable experience for guests. Employers therefore, are searching for employees not just with functional qualifications but those with a basket of soft skills for effective relationship management with customers. The very nature of the job and need for client communications, requires employees to have top-notch interpersonal skills. Communicative efficiency does not just entail written or verbal skills but also the ability to judge the requirements of the diverse demographics that the organization caters to and create personalized experiences. The biggest challenge for the hospitality industry is that every guest has different perceptions about the services offered. What is value for money for one guest might be luxury for another, leading to increased expectations about service quality. Employees should therefore understand the diversity in perspectives and be quick on their feet to resolve guest issues, even the seemingly difficult and near-impossible requests, politely and at the earliest. Whether it is through delivering quality food from the kitchen or organising utility functions like laundry and taxi services, a hospitality organization functions as a team to serve its guests efficiently and promptly. Employees must therefore be thorough with the interplay of functions that make up a hospitality organization and coordinate among different departments and cross-functional teams.
Hospitality can be a very tricky industry because its efficiency depends entirely on the situational needs and wants of the consumers. The industry serves a vast demographic and a standard set of rules cannot be applied to the entire clientele. Employees must therefore, learn to modify their services depending upon the guests being attended to. Most prospective hospitality professionals, in their early years, therefore aspire to work for industry heavyweights like Four Seasons, Hyatt or Marriott. These institutions have set a certain benchmark for the quality of service and the luxurious experience they provide. When Hyatt is propagating a message like “Feel the Hyatt touch,” they are not only claiming the best quality service but also delivering it. Such ethics and workplace structure, heightens an individual’s training or work experience and ensures that they are delivering services to the best of their abilities.
Moving Ahead in your Hospitality Career
The career track for a hospitality student usually begins with entry level field positions in hospitality organizations, for instance a club or a hotel. Students usually enrol into management training (MT) programs which enable them to experience the different departments within the organization. Young professionals get a varied exposure into functions like front-office, kitchen operations, accounting, housekeeping etc. which enables them to truly understand the detailed inner workings of the organization so that it is easier for them to coordinate between various departments when they progress to leadership roles. Apart from MT positions, some students also opt for non-field office positions like sales, legal, finance or marketing, depending upon their majors. Graduates usually serve 3-5 years at entry-level positions, such as F&B servers before progressing to mid-level positions like that of assistant restaurant or stewarding managers. “I began my career with Hyatt in 2010 as part of the opening team for Andaz 5th Avenue. I was hired as a steward and 3 years later I’m now running the department. The thing I enjoy the most about Hyatt is being able to be exposed and involved in every department throughout the hotel.” says Ronald- stewarding manager at Hyatt, Andaz 5th Avenue.
The middle management level provides essential practical exposure into specialised functions or particular technical areas of expertise. For instance, Assistant Beverage Manager will only specifically be responsible for managing vendors for beverages, procuring ingredients and serve ware, curating the drinks menu via-a-vis a Senior Restaurant Manager who has to oversee the functioning of the entire restaurant right from food and beverages to the setup and entertainment. Employees usually go through multiple lateral and vertical shifts through this period. Employees may shift laterally to different departments, locations or projects or even different companies, or they may get promoted into higher positions within the same function. This level is the most crucial aspect of an individual’s hospitality career as it defines the specialisations that employees would move into as senior managers, consultants or even entrepreneurs.
Usually, after 10-15 years into the career graph, individuals step into senior managerial roles like the most coveted ‘General Manager’ position or Director of Food and Beverage. Even though most hospitality careers are open to aspirants from all fields, senior positions are mostly given to candidates with certain standards of academic qualification or professional experience. According to experts at Hyatt, “it is common for career paths that begin in Food & Beverage to cross over into the Rooms Operation. Many leaders take on roles that include both Food & Beverage and Rooms Operational experiences.” It is essential for senior managers to have first-hand knowledge or experience of all functions and all levels within the organization, to be able to efficiently set policies, operational plans, create and maintain budgets, and supervise lower management and employees. Apart from general administration, senior managers are also responsible for fostering valuable industry and professional networks and creating unique value propositions for expanding organizational revenues. As they work their way up from entry, to mid, to senior level positions, managers garner enough professional and functional knowledge to manage the finer details of the organization’s functions that help build the foundations for a great organization.
The hospitality industry is expanding every day and the opportunities for aspirants are increasing manifold along with the increasing competition. Employers who earlier hardly paid attention to experience levels and professional hospitality degree certifications, are now seeking applicants with specific qualifications and experiences to create the highest value for their customers. A formal hospitality degree provides a strong theoretical foundation for functional and transferable skills that students can build though work experiences and internship. The career trajectory for hospitality careers though not very well defined, requires a certain degree of academic or professional expertise to traverse. The Marketing Communications Manager at Sofitel Kuala Lumpur, Pugeneswary Mudukasan, feels “The hospitality industry is becoming extremely competitive, I feel it is vital for me to equip myself in both areas; professionally and academically, not only to remain compatible with the rapid changes, but also to rise through the ranks and to exceed the expectations of my future employer.”