The Best Way to Start a Career in a Hotel: Key to Success

The Best Way to Start a Career in a Hotel: Key to Success

A career in hotels in certainly not an easy one but apart from the working hours and interactions with hotel guests, you chose the hospitality industry because you love it and because you want to build your career in it.

Do not forget the work it takes to build a career.

In this article, I will focus on the key element of building your hotel career: leading yourself.

What should you expect after graduation? Let me set your expectations right.

What does leading yourself mean when starting a career in a hotel? Let me give you some examples.

University/college world

You are studying for a degree at a university and you have been given a class schedule to follow. So you know where you need to be and when.

As part of your classes, you know what assignments are expected of you and what course objectives are, so you just need to learn the information.

Within your university or your degree, you probably have a study counselor or a career adviser to go to. You can always approach your professors if you have a question about their class or assignments.

That is a wonderfully organised and supported environment that allows you to focus on course information, writing your assignments, learning, and enjoying yourself. You always have someone to reach out to for support.

The real world is not like that. In fact, it’s the complete opposite.

The real world

Once you graduate and enter the workforce, you are on your own.

Your manager will not have an endless amount of patience and will not have “open office hours” where you can come and ask questions.

Your manager will show you how to do your job, where things are, they will make sure you complete any virtual or face to face mandatory training and set you free.

After that, all they really care about is that you are doing your job.

They care that you are following expected standards and operating procedures, making hotel guests happy, not messing up in clerical duties, and are on time.

They do not care whether you think you have fulfilled your career potential, or if you are bored at work. Can you take on more responsibility without a pay increase or a promotion? That’s what they care about.

No, not all managers are like that. Yes, this is a generalization. But it doesn’t make it less true.

You will probably have a manager like that and likely more than once. You also probably will meet a great manager that will genuinely care about you. No, there is no way you can tell in advance.

Better that you prepare for the worst and be pleasantly surprised later on.

As I discussed in this article on How to Choose the Right Hotel to Start Your Career, your initial career kick off does not depend on the brand or category of the hotel you choose, it depends on the people you meet.

This is why you cannot rely on others to lead you and your career for you, you need to lead yourself.

Let me tell you what it means.

Leading yourself

While you are most certainly already practicing the leadership skill/s in your group assignments and other social engagements, in a hotel environment it takes another form. That is accountability, honesty, trust, and professionalism.

Most importantly, leading yourself is about being accountable.

Firstly, you need to be accountable to yourself. And secondly, showing accountability to your colleagues and managers.

Truth is, the kind of leadership roles you have right now at university, you will not have when you start your career in hotels. You will need to work your way up to the responsibility.

Here are things you can do to show yourself as a desirable employee:

> Be proactive, raise your hand and volunteer to join projects, even if they are out of your job scope.

> Ask questions. If you are worried about asking questions in group settings, find time with a supervisor, colleagues or your manager and ask individually.

> Stay updated with the industry news and trends.

> Schedule 1-2-1 meetings with your manager on a regular basis to check-in.

> Schedule meetings with other departments to learn what they do so that you can build a holistic image of the business, start connecting the dots and building relationships.

Doing at least these things should be a regular activity for you. Decide on the frequency and your goals of each and work towards that each month.

Your monthly goals could look like this:

  • Join one initiative at the hotel that allows me to learn something new and engage with new colleagues.
  • Read global and local industry news once a week on a Sunday.
  • Have two 1-2-1 meeting with your direct supervisor and discuss your development, progress towards your goals, and how your other initiatives are going (give you’ve joined one).
  • Speak to two people outside of my department and find out what they do, note what interests you and how you could improve your current professional relationship.

This is a tricky topic because it is all about you and I know it can be hard to keep ourselves in check. I personally have always found it hard to follow up on promises to myself, so this requires stamina and focus that goes beyond motivation.

I thought it would be helpful to gauge any questions you may have with a Q&A.


Q: What is a 1-2-1 meeting?

A: A 1-2-1 is a meeting between yourself and your manager where you have an interrupted period of time together. This is a time you should have your managers full attention so that you can seek advice and show them that you are working hard, developing, and want to move forward.

Q: How often should you schedule your 1-2-1’s?

A: This will depend a lot on the type of role you have. If you are a front desk clerk, I think 30/45 min every two weeks is suitable. If you are in the back office of the hotel, for example in marketing or finance, you can make these more frequent. Make sure that you schedule these in advance and that your manager is on board with the idea. Some managers may be reluctant to commit to time so you need to take the initiative and lead the discussion.

Q: What should I talk about in the 1-2-1’s?

A: The time is dedicated to discussing things that are going on at work, things that are going well and not so well in your responsibilities, what you can do to improve that and how your manager can help, your long term and short term goals, opportunities to grow, etc. Anything that is on your mind related to work you should be able to discuss with your manager in a professional manner.

Q: Will I seem annoying and needy if I constantly ask for my manager’s attention?

A: If all you want is their attention, yes you will seem annoying. What you should want is their time so that you can learn from them, seek advice, improve yourself as a colleague and improve your work so you can be more efficient. This is a time you should take seriously and come prepared for.

Q: What does it mean to lead your yourself?

A: If you are still a bit on the edge of what leading yourself mean here is the essence: you are responsible for your own career and life, no one is going to give you things on a silver platter because you want them, you need to work hard for things you want. If you do not make yourself a priority in your own life, no will make you a priority in theirs.

Q: What do you mean, “no one cares”? My company says they are actively investing in their talent.

A: So does my company and my friends’ companies, but saying one thing publicly does not always equal action internally. I have personally seen talented, skills, motivated people leave and be made redundant, people that wanted to stay and that were excited about the company. So no matter what the company says publicly, they are not interested in you, that is your job.

Picture of Charrie Mae

Charrie Mae

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A career in hotels in certainly not an easy one but apart from the working hours and interactions with hotel guests, you chose the hospitality industry because you love it and because you want to build your career in it.

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