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Be professional, personable, persistent in job hunt

publication date: Jun 25, 2011
author/source: Andrew Lo

Be professional, personable, persistent in job hunt |                     By Andrew Lo

Be professional, personable, persistent in job hunt | By Andrew LoDuring 2008 and 2009, news of the economic doldrums all around the world took center stage. The start of my senior year in 2009 did not feel like a great time to be searching for any kind of job-much less one in hospitality-for which I didn't have the appropriate degree.

In Asia, several new development projects were put on hold largely for lack of financing and many hotels put hiring freezes into effect. The prospects didn't look good, so I started to think about alternatives to a career in hospitality.

Law school beckoned. I enjoy reading, writing, research and analysis-all necessary skills for the study and practice of law. Going to law school would delay entry into the job market until a more propitious moment, but it would at least keep my career options open.

I learnt in conversations with several veteran hoteliers how intricate and plentiful the legal issues are that surround hotel ownership, development and management in different jurisdictions. Looking ahead to the future of hotel development in China, I believed there would be a need for hoteliers with a background in law.

I subsequently applied to two JD programs in Hong Kong. While waiting for the law school admissions decisions, I happened across a previous e-mail exchange with Mr. Michael Shindler who, at the time, wrote a hospitality blog called "Deal Tracks" for Hotels magazine. I had asked Mr. Shindler for his thoughts on going into hospitality without any academic background, as well as his insights into the benefits of pursuing advanced degrees. He had himself gone to law school and practiced for several years before entering the hospitality industry, where he now serves as executive VP of hotels and casinos for Hard Rock International.

Mr. Shindler's reply is something that anyone looking to enter the hospitality industry should take to heart. If you really want to work in a hotel-related field, he wrote, take any job you can to get your foot in the door. Don't view an advanced degree as a means to a specific end.

"Do not assume that there is only one point of entry (into the industry)," he wrote. "Alternatively, if you desire to be on the deal side, (do not assume) operating experience is not a good starting point. Any way in is the right way."

Finding your own path

When trying to find your path, start on the routes already laid before you. Campus job fairs, for example, will give you an opportunity to get face time with hundreds of companies running the gamut from Goldman Sachs to Google to Genentech. I was able to find two hospitality companies at one particular fair during fall quarter of my senior year. One was Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley-where I first began my career search during a meeting with the property's general manager. The other was Hillstone Restaurant Group, an upscale restaurant group based in Los Angeles.

Depending on where you go to school, you might find that dress codes at job fairs vary. On the West Coast, men usually wear dress slacks and a button-down shirt. For women, a nice blouse and a skirt often do the trick. On the East Coast, it is more likely that you'll find students dressed in full business formal. What is important is that you maintain a good first impression. How you represent yourself lets employers know how serious you are about your job search. Shine your shoes. Get a haircut. Keep jewelry to a minimum.

Before attending the job fair
  • Find out what companies will be there. Research the companies and the positions they have available.

  • Sit down for a bit and come up with a few substantial questions you can ask prospective employers.

  • Print out multiple copies of your résumé and carry them in a professional Padfolio, if possible. Proofread your résumé for spelling and grammar errors. I highly recommend letting someone else take a look at it; a second pair of eyes almost always sees something you missed. Be sure that all your contact information on your résumé is current. At this stage, cover letters are nice, but not essential.

During the job fair:

  • Take the time to chat with the recruiter at the table. Talk about the new products and services the company is developing. Discuss the growth direction of the company.

  • Avoid questions such as "What does your company do?" Those answers can easily be found on the website.

  • Ask relevant questions. Say you're keen on working in brand management. Ask questions about that department, and let the recruiter know that you're interested in this particular field.

  • Though it can be tempting, resist the urge to go from booth to booth picking up all the free swag (although Bloomberg does have some real nice Rubik's cubes).

When conversing with recruiters:

  • One handy tidbit I've picked up along the way is to ask the recruiter how his or her day is going. Time and again, this encourages a smile and is a wonderful icebreaker. It's also a different question to "What's your application process like?"

  • Many students simply drop off a résumé and move to the next table. That Hyatt recruiter is not just there to pick up papers but to find individuals passionate about hospitality.

  • Find out something the recruiter and you have in common. Perhaps you both root for the Lakers, or you both enjoy bungee jumping.

  • In all your interactions with recruiters, demonstrate interest in what they have to say and maintain good manners. Be sure your handshake is firm, and maintain eye contact.

  • Get their business cards and send follow up thank you e-mails, recapping what position you're interested in and why you'll be good for it. They're more likely to remember you when they return to their offices.

Overcoming obstacles

Don't get frustrated if you encounter obstacles or detours during your job search. I quickly hit a roadblock when I discovered that both Four Seasons and Hillstone were only hiring United States citizens at the time. (I was not one.) Instead of throwing in the towel, I saw a career advisor and combed through the resources at the career development center. There wasn't much information available, unfortunately, and I began to think that maybe I should have gone to hotel school after all, or that I should start looking for some other kind of career.

Which brings me to my final piece of advice for today: If you want a career in this industry, keep trekking forward, and do not be sidetracked by circumstances. Upon reflection, I realized that law school could just as easily lead me away from hospitality as toward it. I was determined not to let the lure of other opportunities or alternatives distract me from my goal.

Andrew is a trainee in Rooms Division at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. A recent graduate of Stanford University, he majored in International Relations and minored in Economics. Despite not having gone to hotel school, Andrew has a real love for travel and hospitality. Feel free to contact him at anlo@mohg.com.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.


Email: andrewcl88@gmail.com

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