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An Open Letter to Hospitality Students in their Junior Year

Or Thoughts on how to prepare for Graduation

by Dr. John Hogan, April 7, 2010

The motivation for this column comes from the questions I have been receiving from recent hospitality graduates with increasing frequency lately.  The title of the article focuses on students in their 3rd year of traditional university study – the year prior to graduation. 

Below are three sample email inquiries I have recently received from students or recent graduates, who became familiar with me because of columns or pieces I have written:

1. Hi, Mr. Hogan, my name is GB from New York. I just graduated from _________ with a Hospitality Management degree and am ready to acquire a job.  I would like to use my education and work experience in Turkey, since originally I am from Istanbul.  I want to accomplish as much in this industry as I can, just like you. I have some experience at housekeeping and front desk at the management level. 

I would like to get your opinion in which department I should aim for first when I am looking for a job in Turkey, and all other cautionary advice or areas of concern I can get from you. Thank you so much for reading my email, Mr. Hogan. 

Best regards,    GB    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

2.  My name is AB, and one year ago, you helped me with an independent study that I completed for the University of _______ for my Master’s program. I am now going to start a PhD program in Hospitality and Tourism Administration.   I am a continuous follower of your work and thinking, and I am now reading your book. 

I truly admire your work and need your advice.  I want to know the best way to start a consulting firm, and what literature you may recommend for reading, as this is very important for me. One day I am going to attend to one of your conferences and it will be my pleasure to meet you in person. 

I am very thankful for having your responses in the past and would appreciate your thoughts about what ways to take to be successful in the Consulting field. 

Have a wonderful day   AB    Master in Hospitality and Tourism Management 

3. Dear Mr. Hogan  I have just read and enjoyed your article "A Bakers Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors.

I have just returned from Bermuda where I worked in Food & Beverage for over 2 years and before that, I worked for ______ Cruise Lines in service positions.

I truly need some advice, because I have been offered the position of F&B Manager in a large resort in ____. 

I do my best to respond to reader emails on a timely basis. 

For background, let me share with my readers that for much of my career in hospitality, I have interacted with students and faculty in hotel schools and academic programs in major colleges and universities. 

• As an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst, I was a teaching assistant for two years for the department head, Dr. Donald Lundberg. 
• As a practicing hotelier, I served as an adjunct professor for twenty years at three different institutions (Belmont University and Volunteer State CC) in Tennessee and Newbury University in New England. 
• As a corporate educator, I worked with education, training industry advisory committees for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA). 
• As a corporate member of the Council of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Educators (CHRIE), I was an active member of two related groups collaborating with both two and four years programs in hospitality on accreditation best practices and guidelines.
• As a consultant supporting the industry of the whole, I have had the privilege of working with several institutions seeking to initiate, evaluate or stimulate their hospitality academic programs.  I continue to serve on the Educational Institute’s (EI) Certification Commission, with an EI affiliation of more than 20 years as a seminar developer/presenter, certification reviewer or contributor as a specialist in a number of topics.
Back to the three emails mentioned above:

It is challenging to offer counsel to very specific inquiries like these, as I do not know the individuals, their strengths, their goals and I do not want to offer incomplete options. 

I am therefore writing this Open letter to Hospitality Students in their Junior Year.

First, it is addressed to Juniors because they can see graduation in their line of vision.  Freshman, Sophomores and Seniors might also gather some insights, but I am focusing on Juniors because they have the right amount of time to adjust their classes and their focus should they need or want to.

Graduation is an exciting accomplishment and the people who have earned their success by completed commitments should feel a sense of achievement!   Those who are still undergraduates have to complete academic and other requirements to obtain the degree, but there is much more than the diploma.

The world is changing at an ever-increasing speed and the hospitality market is both shrinking and enlarging, depending on one’s perspective.  Travel is more affordable and accessible for more people globally than ever before and the choices for types of tourism continue to expand.  The competition for profitable employment is constantly growing globally as well, as more hospitality, culinary and hotel management programs are evolving regularly

If I were to offer counsel to today’s undergraduates, it would include some questions of my own for them:

1. What kinds of courses have you enjoyed most so far? What was it about them that drew your attention?   What kinds of career opportunities might these courses prepare you for?  Why did you appreciate these classes more than the other subject matters?

2. What was your learning experience in your internships?  Apprentice assignments and internships, if properly applied, can have a huge impact on career successes.  Were your internships beneficial in that they taught real world scenarios of dealing with challenges and opportunities, or were they “good paying, easy” summer jobs mainly waiting tables or tending bar?  If your final internship needs to be re-evaluated to provide you with exposure to those realistic situations and problems of the marketplace after graduation, then now is the time to act.

3. What are your leanings or preferences so far in the field?  There is not a “correct or best answer” for anyone but you.  Do you gravitate towards the creativity of Culinary Arts?  Do you like the expansiveness of marketing?  Do you gain a sense of accomplishment with technology and computers?  Are you a planner and enjoy the research associated with strategic planning or design projects?

4. Do you prefer to work with people more?  There is a never-ending need for people skills in Human Resources and training.  The Sales functions have many faces including the Front Desk, reservations, retail, spas, F&B service, concierge and other guest contact positions.  Systems offer a range of technology options in reservations, marketing, engineering, purchasing, accounting, and more behind the scenes scenarios.

5. What kind hospitality businesses have you seriously looked at? There are tremendous differences between large convention hotels and boutique properties, and each offers its own rewards and potential.  Casinos are dramatically busier than roadside inns, but there are lifestyle and location advantages of both. Country inns provide a noticeable difference in clientele than resorts, yet the potential of ownership can be achieved quicker if that is a goal.

6. What size organization do you want to be affiliated with? Family businesses often provide a stable environment, but one realizes the family members will always make the final decisions.  Large brands can offer travel, the potential of promotions and multiple assignments, yet there are political realities involved with every large organization.  Many smaller brands and management companies present diverse experiences.

Several of the email messages said the senders wanted to use their education and experience in their home country or a certain location.  What do those markets need?  How can you contribute effectively and profitably for all?

Academic degrees have measurable value, but reality also demonstrates that formal education alone is usually not enough to guarantee success in the real world.  Case studies, internships and course work are all beneficial to assessing potential approaches to real problems and issues but are seldom the total answer to successfully responding to actual crises.

To answer the questions posed by these three individual who are seeking direction without knowing the answers to the points just mentioned would limit what I might think or possibly offer.  One of the individuals mentioned  some experience in front desk and housekeeping management, which is excellent.  Excelling at both of these is essential, regardless of your career choice, as one represents  the largest staff and payroll and the other represents the essential guest contact and point of "moments of truth."

Starting a consulting firm with only advanced degrees is a difficult task.  While there are resources and associations of similar minded individuals, there are clear advantages in setting  goals to spending a certain number of years as an associate with a consulting group that has services that appeal to you.  Finding out what works and learning  from that group and their clients will provide a much deeper understanding on what you face as an independent. 

The second part of this column is titled “Thoughts on how to prepare for Graduation”. Steven Covey created his legacy with his work “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.”  Each of the Seven Habits is important, but FIRST THINGS FIRST and BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND are both critical to the person entering a very competitive industry.  Learning to prioritize and to “think” beyond today are essential keys to success in hospitality.

In my career, I became very familiar with the wisdom of the Chinese Proverb “Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.”  If we do not consistently improve, we will fall behind. 

The technology of today provides instant communication and information.  The future of hospitality remains in blending the sophistication of continually improving technology with the consistency of service and hospitality delivered with sincerity. 
Your future will depend on the positive action steps that you take, beginning right now.

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. 
They make mistakes, but they don't quit.”
Conrad Hilton (American Hotelier, 1887-1979)

What actions are you taking today?

Keys to Success Hospitality Tip of the Week:
Starting this week, read a book  about people in hospitality and/or business who have become successful in the area of your choice.  Read at least one similar book per month for the next six months and see how your perspectives have grown. 

KEYS TO SUCCESS is the umbrella title for my new 2010 programs, hospitality services and columns. This year’s writings will focus on a wide variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my "HOW TO" articles and HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS. My segments Lessons from the Field, Hotel Common Sense and Principles for Success will be featured at appropriate times in the year as well.

Feel free to share an idea for a column at anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops, speaking engagements …………. 

And remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES are available from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE,  and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.   The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication 

John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE

Also See: Where Is Your Desk? - In the Lobby… Where it's Been Since 1991 / John Hogan & Richard Harris / March 2010
Keys to Success - A Fresh Look at the 4 Ps of Marketing or An Unlikely Salute to Collin Raye / Dr John Hogan / March 2010
Hospitality Conversations: Property Improvement Plans or PIPS / Dr John Hogan / March 2010
Managing the Intricate Challenge of Today's Hospitality Leadership / Dr John Hogan / March 2010
Hospitality Conversations: Selling Your Hotel In a Sluggish Economy / Dr. John Hogan / February 2010


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