As part of your hospitality bachelor degree, you are probably required to complete at least one short work placement, aka an internship.
An internship is a standard requirement for a Bachelor in Hospitality Management because, with all the theoretical knowledge in the world, work experience allows you to actually put it to practice.
Experience and education in the hospitality industry
Because you have chosen to take the path of education, you will have an advantage over those that do not have a formal education, but it will only benefit you if you use it.
In the hospitality industry, work experience is everything.
Experience is more valuable than education and most people that work in hotels, restaurants, and other sectors of the industry do not have a bachelor degree.
But don’t get me wrong, just having “some” work experience will not give you a successful career.
You need to use your internship to your advantage in the long run and get the most out of it.
You need to treat your internships as valuable learning opportunities.
Gain insight into yourself and the industry to develop a professional edge that will make you an attractive candidate.
Things you should do during your first internship:
Here are four things I think you should definitely do during your first internship to get ahead of your classmates and set your career on the right path forward. In no particular order, just as I thought of them.
Keep a diary
Yes, keep a diary and write in it after each and every one of your shifts. Write about everything and anything that happened that day. Was it a good or a bad day? Reflect on your progress so far and note the things you want to develop and focus on next.
I am not going to go into detail about the benefits of journalism but googling for “benefits of journalism” just got me almost 9 million results. I definitely recommend this for your internship.
Set goals that you aim to achieve by the end of your internship and work towards them at each shift.
Reflect on these goals regularly in your diary. Make sure that you regularly review these goals and keep them on top of your mind, so you don’t become complacent.
Sharing your goals with your manager at the beginning of your internship is a good way to set expectations and check that they are realistic. Your manager might even help you set better goals and push you to think bigger. (If you’re lucky)
You are not reading this because you want to be a waiter for the rest of your life, you are reading this because you want to have a successful career and grow in your chosen field.
Successful people don’t wait for things to happen to them, they make things happen. Successful people are well-read in their field and have a good grasp of management and leadership techniques.
You need to know everything about your field. Read industry news and subscribe to magazines that you can access.
Don’t focus just on the content relevant to your niche, think bigger and read leadership and business tips from across the board.
Do not expect the world to show up to you, you need to show up to the world.
If you need help finding an internship, reach out to a few of your professors and student advisers. Do extensive research on the areas you need help with.
If you want to leave your internship with a good recommendation and maybe even a job offer, put yourself forward to tasks and ask your manager for feedback regularly. It will show a desire to learn and develop, be prepared for negative feedback too.
Why it is important to keep notes and reflect during your first internship
Chances are, you probably don’t want to keep a diary. It might even seem silly to you, to write down thoughts and feelings to a piece of paper (physical or digital).
I was very sceptical when I started keeping a diary during my first internship, but I kept at it after every shift, even if it was as basic as “Just had another good day, nothing special happened today”. I knew it would benefit me down the line.
Once I finished my internship and had to write a report of my experience for school, I reaped the benefits of keeping the diary.
You will not forget the small things
Memory works in funny ways, you easily forget trivial things and distribute your experiences and memories into boxes. With time, you will only remember those that either had the most impact or were somehow highlighted.
What you will not remember are the small thoughts and questions you had throughout your internship and the feelings you felt during those times.
You will be able to reflect holistically
Our brain processes things and re-labels them, so the diary will help you to remember what you thought at the moment. Afterwards, it will help you to reflect on your experience holistically.
You will have an overall experience and viewpoint after the completion of the internship as well as your own first-person notes from the experience as and when it happened. This builds a valuable picture for you to reflect on.
You will realize how much more you actually accomplished
We tend to be very critical of ourselves and often diminish our own successes with time. Reflecting on those small things in your diary regularly will ensure that you have an accurate record of your own achievements.
You will get more chances to give yourself credit and recognition for the growth that you experienced. (And highlight that in your future job applications)
All that will allow you to submit a better work placement report and will show your professors that you are serious about your work, career, studies, and success.
One last secret to making your internship work for you
Before you embark on the journey of your first internship as part of your bachelor degree consider this: did you make a considered choice in selecting this internship?
If you just picked something that was easily accessible, that was the first thing you could find and is something that you feel no passion or interest for, you picked wrong.
The role of your first internship is to expose you to the industry and the environment you are considering to work in in the future. It is crucial that your first internship is something you are interested in and want to learn more about.
It is possible that you realize during that time, that it is not quite right for you, and that’s good.
It means that you honestly wanted to learn about something and see if it was a fit for you.
It is far better to get into something, realize you don’t like it and then change the path than to get into something you couldn’t care less about and stay there feeling like shit.
I have covered the topic on how to select the right hotel for starting your career if hotels are what you are interested in. Although the advice can be applied pretty universally.
Your first internship is your first experience in getting to know the industry, meeting people and building connections.
Your first internship will set you on the path for the rest of your career. Make the most of it and make it work for you.
It is important that you choose something you are interested in and want to learn more about. Even if you, later on, realize that’s not it and move on to looking for something new.
Don’t waste your time being content.
Don’t lose your opportunity to discover something new.