What You Need to Know About Hospitality Careers
Sarah Brodsky / FEBRUARY 10 2021

The pros

For many hospitality professionals, the advantages of working in the industry make it a very worthwhile career. People have fun at work, form close connections with coworkers and mentors, and get to develop themselves and reach their goals. 

Working in hospitality can be a fulfilling choice for these reasons:

  • There are opportunities for all levels of experience and qualifications. Whether you are fresh out of school or are a seasoned veteran, there is a place for you in the industry. And at just about any time, a look at open positions reveals opportunities for high school graduates, college graduates, and those with professional degrees or certificates.
  • You can work your way up. Hospitality is an industry where it’s still possible to get your foot in the door with hourly work, improve your skills, and move up into more challenging and lucrative roles. According to the AHLA, more than half of hotel department managers got their start in entry-level jobs.
  • You meet people from all over the world. On a given day, you might talk to tourists from Japan who’ve come to see the sights, business people from Argentina on their way to a conference, and students from Greece on an educational trip—all at the same property. Working in hospitality allows you to experience the interconnectedness of the world in a tangible way that isn’t always possible in other sectors.
  • Many employers offer great benefits. You might get a free meal on the job, or discounted or free access to on-site amenities like a gym. And particularly if you work for a large company, you could qualify for benefits like parental leavehealth and vision insurance, a retirement plan, tuition reimbursement, or an employee travel discount
  • You make lots of friends. You’re part of a team, and you get to enjoy the camaraderie that results from working closely together to create an amazing guest experience. 
  • You always have the chance to learn more and gain new abilities. Whether you’re preparing for AHLEI or ServSafe certifications, studying for a concierge or sommelier exam, or just picking up new information informally, you can add to your knowledge every day.
  • You can spend every workday in destinations others dream of visiting. Some hospitality jobs are located in glamorous beachside resorts, scenic mountain top lodges, or iconic urban properties. Whether you choose to work in a laid-back retreat or in the center of a bustling city, you can be a part of what makes those places magical.

What to be aware of

There are many roles to choose from in hospitality, so before accepting a particular position, you want to make sure it’s a good fit for you. Here are some considerations that you’ll want to be aware of.

  • The hospitality world is fast-paced. There isn’t a lot of downtime if you’re interacting with guests, getting rooms ready, or preparing food. Someone who’s energetic and who views the whirlwind of activity as a fun challenge is more likely to be comfortable in this environment.
  • Some roles are tipped. If you’re a bellhop, server, or bartender, tips might make up a large share of your pay. That can be a good thing if you regularly wow guests or if you encounter generous tippers, but it also means your compensation can suffer if someone isn’t happy with your work. 
  • Some roles have long shifts or require work overnight, on weekends, or on holidays. Guests spend plenty of time in hotels and restaurants outside of regular business hours, so it follows that employees need to be at work to keep properties staffed around the clock. Although employers are becoming increasingly aware of the need for work-life balance, you can expect that your days off may not be two consecutive days each weekend as would be standard in some industries. 
  • Employment can fluctuate based on the season or events that are out of your control. A surf instructor may only have work for the summer months, or a ski resort might hire temporary staff for the winter. And catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic can reduce travel and lead to furloughs, although disruptions on that scale are very rare. 
  • Entry-level jobs may be repetitive. If you work as a front desk attendant, for example, you’re going to be implementing the same check-in procedure numerous times each shift. A housekeeper is going to make all the beds to an identical standard, and a cook might prepare the same dish for several different guests. 

While hospitality careers have features in common, keep in mind that each job also has unique characteristics. The diversity of available paths is one of the hospitality industry’s strengths. If you decide that a career in hospitality might be right for you, there are lots of possible trajectories to explore