As First Published By Hospitality Insights
The Annual Hotel Conference was held October 8th – in line with the overarching theme of ‘re-shaping’, ‘re-generating, and ‘re-inventing’, delegates were able to participate in an interactive roundtable discussion focused on professional development opportunities. The conversation centred around identifying and securing one’s next career step.
The intimate setting provided a confidential platform for participants to share their difficulties in, and concerns centred around, continuing their career path within the hospitality industry, and securing the next step amidst a global pandemic. The group shared insights on common obstacles encountered during the job search but also discussed proactive and tangible ways to tackle those. Displaying a non-defeatist attitude, insights were shared on how best to ‘sniff out’ opportunities before they come to the market, which functions are ‘hot’ right now, and which sub-segments show activity and growth.
“Sometimes, we are the biggest obstacles to our own success” – on the importance of staying in the right frame of mind…
Recognising that the current labour market is defined by a significant lower number of firms actively expanding their teams, and a considerably higher number of executives ‘on the market’, the roundtable participants quickly focused on what lies within their area of control. Yes, these are challenging times, but the group was united in its view that staying optimistic and motivated throughout one’s job search is vital to successfully securing the next position. Top tips to boost one’s confidence, and to not lose the sense of control, were the following:
- Firstly, ask yourself, “What are employers looking for right now?” and, in a vital next step, “How do my experiences, skill sets and personal abilities speak to what is being sought?” – the group acknowledged it is easy to get frustrated and to lose motivation if one is unsuccessful in one’s first attempts to secure the next role. To keep morale up, it helps to identify what employers are valuing the most and what competencies they need to help them be successful during, and in the aftermath of, this crisis. In a subsequent step, one should then try and link one’s own background to those traits and skills, with a view to then have very specific and highly relevant talking points when getting in front of potential employers.
- Secondly, ask yourself, “What are the compromises that I am willing to accept?” and, as important, “What are my priorities right now and in the mid to long-term?” – the group agreed that re-evaluating, and re-affirming, one’s own priorities and risk appetite is crucial in keeping the sense of control throughout the job search. By consciously re-assuring oneself of the choices that one is willing to explore (e.g., accepting a pay cut or a lower position, moving into a different industry sub-segment, joining a start-up or enrolling in further education programs), one is able to speak with greater conviction and confidence when it comes to exploring career opportunities with potential employers that might ‘deviate’ from one’s original career path.
“The mindset of a champion”
Agreeing that a ‘stable inner core’ and a strong self-confidence can help oneself to ‘keep going’, the group equally acknowledged that ‘getting the foot into the door’ was yet another matter. Often, it is here where many executives receive the much-dreaded rejection – in particular in times where organisations looking to expand their teams are inundated with a very large number of applicants. Understanding the target audience and being mindful of one’s own competition is one thing; it is another to ensure to stand out from the crowd. Much of this is common sense, but the group boiled it down to two best practices:
- Firstly, it was acknowledged that one absolutely has to make approaches customised and targeted. Sending out standardised applications is a complete waste of time and effort and only feeds one thing – the number of rejections. Having gone through the first exercise as outlined in the previous section helps in identifying the key areas which one should focus on to help make applications highly relevant. In fact, ‘relevance’ is hereby as much of a success factor as ‘succinctness’ – in other words, the ability to provide condensed yet pertinent information to the potential employer. Make sure to show them that you have done your research, that you have understood where they want to go, with a view to help them make a quick judgement call as to whether or not you should form part of the next round of interviews.
- Secondly, it was agreed that a key success factor in securing the next job is often tied to having the ‘perfect timing’ – in other words, chances of getting that desired next position are higher if one gets in early. ‘Sniffing out’ opportunities before they come to the market is thus crucial and easier than one thinks – it is about leveraging one’s network, consisting not only of former colleagues, associates and friends but also of industry bodies and, for example, headhunters. The key point, though, when communicating with your network is not to ‘sell’ yourself – instead, the focus should be on asking the right questions. For example, use your network to inquire about their views on your own competencies and skills. Have they witnessed others with a comparable background successfully move into a different position or industry segment? Which firms have they heard are expanding their teams? ….
Reality check – “In the midst of every crisis, there lies opportunity”
Despite the optimistic tone of the roundtable discussion, one question was raised which displayed and articulated the concern of many – does one need to consider leaving the industry to be able to secure a stable position and income. What started off as a sobering conversation turned, however, into one where participants shared the opportunities which are still out there within the hospitality sector. The industry has lived through many crises, and yes, 2020 has thrown up one which has shaken it to its very core – yet, whilst the challenges are great, so are the opportunities. Specifically, the group saw growth in, for example, the hotel alternative space – in other words, companies focused on extended stay, co-living, student accommodation as well as senior living or, for example, hybrid models (all of which have proven to be more resilient than the traditional lodging space). However, the group also talked about the benefits of being focused on the extreme ends of the sector – in other words, it saw more activity with platforms focused on very clear and highly defined segments, mostly in the leisure space and either at the budget end of the spectrum or the high-end luxury resort market. Finance, or financing institutions were equally reported to have picked up recruitment activity – mostly in anticipation of heighted M&A activity towards the end of this year / beginning of next year. The group did, however, also highlight technology platforms which have shown strong interest in picking up talent from the sector for business development or product development functions. In fact, commercial roles such as eCommerce or digital marketing are in heightened demand, as are senior finance and technology functions.