How to create your personal brand when searching for a job in hospitality
In the age of social media, it’s not who you know, but who knows you, that is increasingly impacting the job search for today’s hospitality workers.
Separating your personal life from that of the professional image you wish to portray to employer prospects was a core topic at a recent Career Strategies workshop at the HX: Hotel Experience Conference this past November in New York City. A full crowd of college students and recent graduates of hospitality degree programs attended the, “Building a Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media,” session held here.
“Your entire career may come down to a single hashtag, so use it to your advantage,” said Shannon Rinella, senior director, learning and career development for Interstate Hotels & Resorts.
Knowing the kind of impression you are making on potential employers is key to landing work, agreed Tracy Arthur, marketing manager for Hcareers.com
“If you’re a boss, you have to hire someone to manage your hotel. Between equally skilled people, where do you go to check them out further? Social Media. Would you hire someone with a photo of themselves on a beach in a swimsuit? The scary part is that this is a real-life example of a job-seeker who is on Hcareers.com now. A woman posted it, not realizing that a future employer may see it. It’s not just who you are on a resume. It’s your presence online and off,” said Arthur.
To aid today’s tech-savvy hospitality employers in their due diligence process, Hcareers is beta testing a new tool that aggregates a candidate’s social data to provide, “A holistic look at you as a hospitality candidate,” said Arthur. “They (employers) don’t have to check individual social networks – it’s all conveniently together in one place.”
For job seekers, Arthur recommends using an online tool called Photofeeler to gauge others perception of you online.
“It’s really difficult to see yourself the way others see you. With this tool, you can upload a photo of yourself to learn how others are likely to judge you,” she said. “Words are used to describe your impression. How do “silly” and “crazy” compare with the words you’d like your boss to describe you, such as “competent,” “likeable” or “influential,” said Arthur.
Choosing a bland email address was another tip offered by Arthur, as opposed to communicating using, "SexyChef@hotmail.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org" she said.
To clean up your online profile, “Make a list of every social media handle you have and consider the story you’re going to tell across platforms. Curate what is online. You have to be able to explain it. Does your polished, LinkedIn profile match up with the casual one you share on Facebook? Examine with a hard, critical eye. Clean it up or lock it down. If you doubt it, don’t post it. Ensure that your security settings are where they should be in terms of what is being shared,” said Rinella.
Facing a 6.8 percent unemployment rate ( one of the lowest in 14 years), said Rinella, “The hospitality industry is full of very loyal people. Fifty-percent of the people have 10 years or more in it.”
This is good news and bad for new college grads, said Rinella, as “Those who don’t have jobs, will have to work that much harder to beat out the next guy,” she said. “Your competition will likely be more educated than you, know your job better than you, and be able to talk circles around you. There will always be someone more than you. The key is how do you showcase your more and add value to an organization?”
Consistency is a trait high in demand, said Rinella. “You can show this by how long you’ve held certain jobs. This speaks to your commitment, too. If two candidates are equally skilled and one demonstrates a commitment to the industry – that candidate will get the job.”
When it comes to background credentials and education, “Our industry trumps experience over academics,” said Rinella.
Before ever making an investment in higher education, “Understand the return on your investment. There’s no reason to spend $300,000 on a college degree if it’s not going to get you a payback,” said Rinella.
And if you’re currently enrolled in college, “What are you doing now to demonstrate accountability, leadership and expertise necessary to be successful? … During your time there, have you held a leadership or project management position? Do you organize recruitment for your sorority? Have you done any non-profit work? These traits talk more about who you are,” said Rinella.
When considering your dream job, “Think of the skills you already have, and those that the industry’s looking for – not just when you graduate, but fifteen years down the road,” advised Rinella. “Want to be a hotel general manager? In the long term, front desk experience alone will not get you there. You’ll need expertise in other area.”
If you need to sharpen your business finance sense, “An MBA may be the right path for you. If you want to teach long term, you have pursue a Master’s and maybe a PhD. There is a wealth of certificate programs, too. When I had a lot of casino clients, I enrolled in a Casino Management Certification Program online, which was beneficial,” said Rinella.
“Our industry has so many great certifications,” echoed Arthur. “F&B, finance, human resources, meeting planning, sommeliers and bartending. The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute offers 26 different certification programs.”
Staying informed on the hotel industry is imperative, said Arthur, as is committing to becoming more competitive.
“Read more and be aware of what’s happening,” she said. “Read what others in your industry are reading.”