5 Proven Strategies for Taking Your Hospitality Career to the Next Level

For Candidates, Hospitality

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Hospitality is consistently among, not just the largest global industries, but also the fastest-growing. The American Hotel & Lodging Association projects that demand for lodging will surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, but finding staff to meet those consumer demands remains a challenge. The 2.09 million people employed by U.S. hotels in 2023 is about 300,000 short of 2019 employment, even while occupancy and revenue have continued to increase. 

In short, there are more jobs to fill in hospitality than there are people to fill them, and that means ample opportunities for hospitality professionals to advance their career. Even so, taking a strategic approach to finding your next hospitality role can help you make sure you’re choosing the right position for your skills and needs. Whether you’re a recent graduate who’s just entering the workplace or a seasoned professional considering new horizons, the strategies in this article can help you maintain forward momentum in your career trajectory. 

Identifying your hospitality career goals

Hospitality is a broad sector that includes a wide variety of different professionals, work environments, and career paths. Knowing what you ultimately hope to achieve in your hospitality career can help you take the right steps and choose positions that will move you further down your chosen career path in the field. 

Of course, before you can decide where you want your career to go, you need to know what options are available. Take some time to research the industry and the top-level positions that professionals often target. If you’re fairly new to hospitality, it can help to attend conferences and seminars that can give you a broader picture of the industry than what you see in your day-to-day workplace. 

Keep in mind, too, that career goals aren’t always static. What you want out of your career may change over time as you gain experience in new roles or develop new skills. Once you’ve set your career goals, revisit them every few months to check in on your progress and verify that they’re still what you hope to achieve in your professional life. 

1. Proactively grow your professional network.

Networking and developing professional relationships is a great way to make career progress in any industry, and that’s true of the hospitality sector, as well. Connecting with other hospitality professionals has a number of benefits. You’ll be more likely to hear about open jobs and other opportunities, for one thing. It’s also another way to keep your skills and knowledge current as you share tips, news, and conversation with others who are active in the hospitality industry. 

Social media is one valuable tool when you’re aiming to expand or utilize your professional network. Following or subscribing to industry publications and leaders can help you stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends. Many businesses also share job postings on their social media channels, so following the accounts of hotels, restaurants, or other places you want to work can be one way to find your next opportunity. 

Taking part in industry events is another excellent way to meet people in the hospitality industry and form connections that can lead to future opportunities. These events are often organized by professional organizations. While you often don’t need to be a member to attend, becoming a member can ensure you know when conferences, trade fairs, and similar events are taking place in your area. Membership also often comes with other benefits, like access to an internal list of job opportunities, career development programs that are offered by the organization, or other industry insights sent to members through a newsletter or other publication.

There are quite a few professional organizations for the hospitality industry. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has a fairly comprehensive list of hospitality-related associations around the world, including organizations in the areas of food service, tourism, lodging, and other niches within the broader hospitality sector. 

2. Obtain a degree or professional certification in your area of specialization.

One unique thing about hospitality careers is that a college degree often isn’t among the qualifications required for roles. That doesn’t mean an education is without value, though. Having a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or a related field can give you an edge with employers, particularly as you move into leadership positions or other roles with more advanced responsibilities. 

If a 4-year degree program isn’t feasible for your life, obtaining a professional certification is a faster, more affordable way to access advanced training that will prepare you for faster career advancement. These continuing education and training programs often focus on specific aspects of the industry and are a way to verify for potential employers that you have the skills and expertise needed to step into a more advanced role. 

The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) offers a number of highly-regarded certifications, including:

  • Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS) – This designation is for individuals who currently hold a supervising role and actively oversee employees. Among the topics covered in the test are leadership, time management, employee motivation, communication, and other managerial and people skills required to thrive as a hotel supervisor. 
  • Certified Hospitality Revenue Manager (CHRM) – For professionals on the financial side of the hospitality sector, CHRM certification verifies your finance skills and industry knowledge. It recognizes the test-taker’s ability to plot price points and manage revenue for hotel success. 
  • Certified Hospitality Sales Professional (CHSP) – For professionals in the sales and marketing department, CHSP certification tests your marketing skills, sales skills, and revenue management abilities.
  • Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) – Designed for general managers and hospitality executives, this prestigious certification recognizes leadership skills in the hospitality industry, in addition to covering topics such as human resources, financial and revenue management, and hotel marketing.

The AHLEI also offers both line-level and department head certifications for kitchen staff, food and beverage executives, housekeeping, front desk, and security professionals. 

3. Gain leadership or managerial experience.

As with other industries, advancement in hospitality often starts by transitioning from an individual contributor into a managerial position. To do this, you’ll need to develop your leadership and management skills along with your industry knowledge. 

Communication skills are critical for leaders in the hospitality sector. Those in customer service roles get a chance to practice their communication on a day-to-day basis while they provide an exceptional guest experience. For kitchen staff or those in back office roles you may want to seek out professional development opportunities to build your communication skills to the level you’ll need in management positions. 

On some properties, leadership roles may not be equally available across departments. It could be beneficial to shift to a different area of the hotel in order to access the job roles that can lead to future advancement. For example, if you currently work in housekeeping, consider applying for a role at the front desk if one becomes available. Working in a new environment will also give you deeper insights into the overall management of the property that can be beneficial for landing and excelling in more advanced positions down the line. 

4. Find a mentor in your field.

Having a mentor can be very beneficial for your career advancement. The best mentors are people who hold the position you want to reach, but anyone who has leadership experience in the hospitality industry can help you gain the skills and knowledge you need for career growth. 

The main value of mentors is that they’ve already walked the path you’re hoping to follow. They know what steps to take to advance your career because they’ve already taken them, and you can learn from their story, both their successes and the mistakes they’ve made along the way. They also provide encouragement and serve as a knowledge resource when you have questions or need advice. Since mentors are established in the industry, they’re also likely to have connections you lack, which can open up pathways for advancement you may not be able to access on your own. 

The same advice given above for growing your professional network can also be useful in connecting with mentors. You can also look for mentors closer to home within the restaurant or hotel management where you already work. It’s common for people to have different mentors at different stages of their career, so keep an open mind when you’re looking for mentorship opportunities. A mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be older or more experienced than you are to be valuable. The main thing you want is someone who has skills and knowledge you lack and is willing to share them. 

5. Develop your personal brand.

People are the heart of the hospitality industry, and this makes developing your personal brand especially important as you advance your career. A strong personal brand enables you to make the right first impression on guests, colleagues, and potential employers.

In today’s employment landscape, your personal brand will often start on social media. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and target the information listed there to your chosen niche within the industry. Consider what values, skills, or traits you want to be known for and emphasize those across your online presence. Having your own personal website or blog can also help to establish you as an expert in your field. 

Your pathway to advancement

There are a range of opportunities within the hospitality industry, and each has its own requirements and ideal path for advancement. Using the five strategies outlined above, combined with thinking critically about your ultimate professional goals, can help you to choose and make your next big career move

Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 55 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; CBD; Facility and Concession; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Healthcare; Hotel and Resort; Nonprofit; Restaurant and Foodservice; and Travel, Tourism, and Attraction industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

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