Hospitality Management Career – Can You Handle Hotel Work?
Hotel work is unique when compared to almost any other industry. The non-stop work environment, the industry’s focus upon guest service, and the turnover rate found in most hotels, all make the industry stand out among others as one that requires a special type of person to fill its ranks. Some employees thrive in the industry, living off the excitement, continual change, and guest interaction, while others find the organized chaos a hectic and exhausting work environment. Therefore, if you are thinking of choosing a degree in hospitality management with the idea of working in the hotel business, it is best to determine first if you are right for the work.
The extended or odd hours required of many hotel positions can be one of the greatest detractors of working in the business. While some positions have set working schedules, and almost all employees will work a specific shift (either first, second, or third) there are times when schedules must be modified to meet occupancy needs. While the occupancy of a hotel will hit the front desk, food and beverage, and housekeeping departments the hardest, almost all departments will somehow be affected by a full house or low occupancy.
You see, when a hotel is sold out, it means there are more rooms to clean for housekeeping, more questions to answer and people to check in and out for the front desk, and more catered events and people to feed for the food and beverage department. Property operations might not be able to do any major repairs in rooms, so they will most likely be taking more calls for clogged toilets, ill-functioning televisions, or HVAC issues. Meanwhile, accounting will be handling credit card issues, and preparing billing for groups, while sales will be meeting with group contacts to see how their stay is progressing. Some managers might work six or seven days straight to meet the needs of a large group or conference, and there might be plenty of overtime for line-level employees.
Meanwhile, in a low occupancy situation, hours might be cut and managers might take waylaid holidays or personal days since revenue is decreased. There is no reason to have a bunch of employees hanging around with nothing to do. Management positions will likely still have work to do (possibly filling gaps of those employees who are at home) but they might not be working at the same gung-ho level as during a sold out week.
Therefore, work in the hotel business ebbs and flows with the tides of occupancy. Certain times of year will often determine how busy a hotel is. Occupancy might also be determined by the location of the hotel (urban, suburban, rural), certain group schedules or conferences, as well as the rates or specials the hotel offers. Urban locations can be hit especially hard when big conferences are in town or certain citywide events are taking place. Just because you are in management at those times, don’t expect to be working a 40-hour workweek. You might even see the general manager working over a particularly busy or important weekend.
So now that you’ve been informed about the hours of many hotel jobs, it’s time to issue fair warning regarding guests to those who are considering entering the hotel business. Hotel guests can be your best friend or your worst enemy. How you view guests, and how they view you, is largely determined by your attitude, although you must have some kind of people skills to succeed within the hotel business, otherwise you’ll find your work exhaustive and unrewarding.
Many larger hotels and hotel chains live and die by the guest service score sword. Therefore, whether you enjoy dealing with particularly annoying or overbearing guests or not, it is your job to do all you can to satisfy their needs. The success of the hotel, its employees, and many times the ownership, will hang in the balance of guests leaving with a good impression of the hotel and the service they received. Much of the time, a large portion of management and employee bonuses are based upon the scores the hotel receives from these guests, so be sure the general manager will constantly be emphasizing guest service. If being friendly, problem solving, and listening to complaints aren’t your particular strong points then hotel work might not be the right career choice.
Depending on your outlook and position, career advancement within the hotel industry can be a blessing or a real problem. For those new to the business and looking to make their way into hotel management, the high rate of turnover within hotels can lead to a variety of opportunities for quick and easy advancement. The reason turnover in the business is typically high is due to ease of transferring between chain or brand hotels, and unfortunately, the often competitive salaries of other industries. While this can be a wonderful advantage for the career minded opportunist, it can be a killer as a department head or manager. Trying continuously to keep the ranks filled with talented individuals can seem like a never-ending process. If you reach the level of department head or better within a hotel, it is important to ensure you let your top performers know they are appreciate and reward them for their hard work.