Your holiday job is not ‘just a job’
Why choose the hospitality industry?
I coached a young postgraduate recently who was searching for his first permanent role after gaining his degree. Among other things we discussed his skills and what he could offer to an employer
Me: ‘Let’s talk about your skills. What do you see as your strengths?’
Pgrad: ‘Not sure really. I’m good at computer games and basketball but I know that’s not what you really meant! I’ve struggled with this question for a while. My problem is that I have no experience of a proper job so I’ve not learned any work skills yet.’
Me: ‘What work have you done so far?’
Pgrad: ‘I worked behind the bar at a local pub. I had a holiday job in a local restaurant as a waiter. Oh yes …. and I worked one summer at an adventure camp for children as a ropes instructor.’
Me: ‘Tell me more about the work you did in these places – let’s start with the local pub…..’
It took about 30 minutes to tease out the stories of what he’d done in these different settings. Initially he dismissed these experiences as relatively worthless. ‘I just served drinks and took cash or payment from the customer.’
But with further questioning, he told me about specific incidents that showed what he’d learned.
Like the gentleman to whom he served drinks who then realised he didn’t have his wallet with him and couldn’t pay. The customer was seriously embarrassed but my client handled the delicate situation beautifully.
Or the child who was frightened of the ropes course he supervised. He stayed with her, coaxed her and coached her until she completed the course.
Or the time a party of 40 arrived in the restaurant without a booked table because their coach had broken down.
So the holiday job that you may think is ‘just a job’ is teaching you stuff all the time. None more so that in hospitality.
Seasonal jobs on the menu in hospitality
The hospitality industry has long been a fruitful source of seasonal work. The sector is usually divided into categories like: food and beverages, travel and tourism, lodging, and recreation or entertainment.
Here’s why this kind of work is fun. Also why it’s good for your CV!
Which new experiences are you aiming for?
- The industry is evolving. It’s easy to think of travel as just getting people from one place to another. Or a restaurant as somewhere people go to eat.
Not so fast. The hospitality industry is evolving.
Only last week, Hilton Hotels announced the installation in its San Francisco hotel of an in-room gym. The hotel chain states on its website: “A guest room that combines a sleep and fully integrated fitness experience delivers an impressive new dimension of convenience and personalization – an industry first.”
Or think of eating at a modern restaurant and the behaviour of the staff. “Hi there! How’re you all doing? I’m Lesley and I’m going to be serving you today! Let me tell you first about today’s specials. We have ……”
The demands of travellers and guests are changing. People with disposable income are more likely these days to seek an ‘experience’ rather than simply a roof over their heads or a meal.
Like preparing your own meal by the table. Or a hotel room in a glass cube overlooking a city skyline.
As the industry develops new and novel ways to do old things, you can expect to get involved in some interesting activities. Instead of simply skiing on your winter break, you can now enjoy a combined skiing, yoga and wellbeing getaway!
In the leisure and hospitality industries, nothing stands still for long. Which means it can be an interesting, fun place to work.
- Even with the global economy predicted to slow down in 2020 as the USA-China trade war bites and the Eurozone expected to stutter next year, demand for tourism is predicting higher growth in 2020 than other industries. In the UK, the weaker pound will probably lead to an increase in inbound tourism.
All of which means that job opportunities will continue to be available in this industry.
- The travel, tourism, food and beverage sectors have a very multi-cultural workforce. Which means that you’ll make friends from different countries, with different stories to tell and who speak with different accents. Most people whom I’ve coached who worked in these sectors report that this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of their jobs.
- The roles you can find vary widely: as well as the traditional front-of-house, housekeeping, catering, waiting, laundry, concierge and guest relations, you can now add fitness, nutritionist, designers, yoga or pilates leader, swimming instructor and entertainer, to name a few.
- Every day is different in hospitality. You’re dealing with people who are endlessly varied. So no two days play out the same. One day you’ll help a family with a distressed child. Or unload a catering delivery at the back door. Another you might be on duty at a high powered business conference. Another you might be helping an elderly customer who just wants somebody to take time to talk to her over her cup of tea.
Infinitely varied, infinitely rewarding and infinitely challenging.
- Talk to anybody working in this sector and they’ll tell you they work really hard with long periods moving around or standing. Which to many is an attraction rather than a drawback – not being chained to a desk or a computer. So people work physically hard and tend to play hard too. Those that settle into this work usually have great fun.
- Most hospitality jobs exist in a team setting. You’ll be part of a group of people all striving to deliver great service. You’ll make some great friendships by achieving these things with others.
- Working in customer facing roles carries its own intrinsic reward. You like people? Hate working on your own? Like making people smile? If you get a buzz from ensuring that a person has a good experience, then this could be the place for you!
- You’ll learn skills in this industry that will help your long-term career because they are ‘portable’ skills. You’ll learn a lot about people and how they behave. You’ll acquire insight that is highly prized by employers. Sometimes you’ll witness people in a hurry. At others you’ll help people in distress. Or you’ll meet somebody who is dissatisfied or angry. Turning that anger into calm is a rewarding and challenging task.
Have you got what it takes?
So what skills and aptitudes do you need to work in hospitality?
Your personal qualities are more likely to matter more than your formal qualifications.
Qualities such as
- Organisation – of yourself or of events
- Communicating – written and verbal. Speaking and listening with a wide range of people.
- Working in a team – many organisations will prize this skill.
- Empathy – the capacity to relate to somebody else’s situation.
- Working under pressure – things can get really busy at times!
- Flexibility or adaptability – when the unexpected happens, you’ll learn to be agile. Like when a fire alarm sounds and the building has to be evacuated.
- Problem solving – thinking on your feet means finding novel solutions to unexpected problems.
Hospitality is a rewarding and richly varied career path in which your personality and behaviour probably matters more than your academic prowess.
So if you’re a ‘people person’ why not go for it!
If Martin has inspired you to take up seasonal work in the hospitality industry, please take a look at our current jobs!
Martin is a Career and Jobsearch Coach. He gets to help professionals who are at a crossroads in their career because:
- They’re just starting out and want to be in control of their career
- They’ve been jobseeking for some time and it’s not working
- Their confidence is low or declining
- They’ve been made unexpectedly redundant
- They are returning to their careers after a period away – perhaps to care for dependents or to take a sabbatical
- They want to make a career change