Hotel Jobs: Does size matter?
Job seekers poised for a position in the hotel industry need to answer an important question that could affect their entire career path: choose a small boutique hotel or a large national branded hotel? Some job seekers perform better in one or the other environment, while others can easily make the switch from one type of hotel to another. The answer to the question of whether size matters depends on your personality as well as your ambitions.
Eunice Keirstead, an executive housekeeping manager, moved from a large hotel environment - the 223-room Delta - to the 54-room Great George Hotel. She has found that smaller is definitely better for her.
Keirstead was looking for a more flexible job where she didn't have to work weekends and holidays, she could spend more time with her family, and she could work seasonally. "When I told them I didn't want to work holidays and weekends, the owners were fine with that. With a small hotel, they're much more understanding. At a small hotel, they're very accommodating. You can ask them if you want to leave early. You just make sure you have enough staff to cover the jobs. This hotel is the perfect fit for me."
Guy Bittner, on the other hand, has worked only for large, prestigious chain hotel banners and wouldn't have it any other way. Marriott, Hilton, and Fairmont are a few of the chains where he's risen through the ranks to become food and beverage manager. "I like to work in a larger scale operation, with many different outlets and restaurants and a very big banquet operation. These types of operations strengthen your career." Next stop for Bittner might very well be general manager of a large hotel.
"It's all about lifestyle," says Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada. "At the end of the day, you must examine yourself. What excites you? What motivates you? What are you good at? Where do you want to go? What are your career goals?"
Big Versus Boutique Hotels
"At different ages in your career, you're looking for different things," says Jordan Romoff, vice president of Lecours Wolfson, a North American recruiter of hospitality executives, managers and chefs. "The question is aligning the expectations of the person with the career at the hotel."
The typical big hotel experience
- Greater resources providing support to help you do your job.
- Assignment to one function.
- Higher compensation, benefits, with a guarantee you'll receive rewards.
- Set hours of employment.
- Greater opportunity for career advancement and relocation.
- More exposure to off-site training and skills upgrading.
- A corporate environment with a more traditional corporate hierarchy.
- Consistent service and experience attached to the brand.
The boutique hotel experience
- Personal expression more appreciated. Room for personality, uniqueness, less conformity to the consistent brand message. The "quirkiness" becomes the hotel's brand.
- Potential to handle a variety and multitude of tasks, from check-in to food and beverage operations to helping out with engineering.
- More on-the-job training.
- Greater personal, first-name exposure to the guests.
- Ability to effect change more quickly.
- More readily recognized.
- A "family" atmosphere.
- Closer contact with management because of a smaller organizational chart.
Says Peter Shrive, partner with Cambridge Management Planning, "Your day-to-day performance is completely obvious to the decision-maker because there are fewer management layers involved."
How do you Decide?
Your first choice, says Shrive, is always to talk to someone who's doing the hotel job you're interested in. Your second choice is to talk to someone teaching about it. "Most colleges offer hotel management/foodservice courses. If nothing else, take the course and talk to the professor." Attending job fairs and taking coop placements are also helpful in making your decision. Your third choice is to talk to someone who's hiring people to do the hotel job that interests you and "interview" them. But, warns Shrive, "Don't go hat in hand, asking to be hired. Go with resume in hand, expecting to learn as much as you can about the business."
Once you've learned more about working in a large versus boutique hotel, the best experience is trying both options to see which environment better suits your temperament. Shrive uses this analogy: "Once you've eaten surf and turf, you know which you prefer!"