The number one rule in selecting internships while studying hospitality management or tourism degree is this:
Get as much experience as you can in as many different areas as you can before you graduate.
There are three reasons why you should not specialize when studying hospitality management:
- Competitive advantage
- Understanding the whole industry
- More experiences
Let’s get straight into the good stuff.
It is common within the hospitality industry to think that a hospitality student needs to specialize on a certain (very specific) area of the industry, such as events, fine dining restaurants, hotel operations, revenue management, bar-tending, etc.
Sound familiar? Have someone encouraged you to pick an area and stick to it?
Well, they are wrong to think that this is the best way to start building a successful career in the industry.
Being uber specialized does NOT have the competitive advantages of having a diverse experience background.
Having a range of diverse experiences actually brings you a lot more value long term than being specialized.
The reason why having several different experiences is a competitive advantage is because it teaches you how things work in more areas of the industry, how the same things are done differently in different companies, and it gives you more experience to talk about.
You want to be the candidate that gets invited for an interview and picked for that role right? Well, the competition is only going to be harder going forward, with more people wanting a job than jobs being available.
Then you need to start getting that competitive advantage by diversifying your experiences today.
Understanding the whole industry
I always say this and will say this again, the hospitality industry is so big! How could you possibly want to niche down to something specific before trying as many things as possible?
If you are super into event management and would love to make a career out of it, then you should most certainly find an internship in events. And if you have more than one internship opportunity during your degree, do the other in another area of the industry to expand your understanding of the whole industry.
Because the event industry is not an island isolated from the rest of the industry, it is as closely connected to all other sectors of the industry as any other.
So if you have three internships in total that you need to do during your degree and your first one is in event management at a large events hotels or a convention center, then your two others could be in some of these areas:
- Destination weddings
- The local tourism office
- Human Resources
Those are just some examples and in doing three different things you will understand more areas of the industry and begin to connect the dots and understanding the whole industry – opening your mind to a bigger world of possibilities.
Yes, you should do different things simply just to have different experiences.
Different experiences open our minds and help us see the world in a new light. Working for two different companies doing the same or similar job you will realise there are several ways of doing the same thing.
And once you learn a few things like that you will understand what kind of things you like doing more than others and how you prefer to do them.
It’s like working in two different restaurants, in one you get a certain structure where you work together with a colleague on a set group of tables while in another you are required to cater to all tables at the same time. You will ultimately prefer one of the other.
And while you enjoy your work in restaurants, how could you know what else you might enjoy doing if you never try it?
So try all the things!
Try things and use the testing ground at the beginning of your career and the security of your university to get into new areas.
No future employer is going to look down on you for that because as I said above, you will probably be more valuable to them than those of your mates that are set in their ways (and don’t know anything else outside of that).