So you want to be a hotel manager. Great. You’ve made a good choice—it’s a pretty awesome career.
When you work in a hotel, you can make a person’s day just by anticipating their needs or by going above and beyond to put a smile on their face.
It also gives you the opportunity to see the world and experience new things. After all, a hospitality career is transferable to just about anywhere in the world. If you want to take your experience and find a job in the Bahamas or Singapore, you could do that.
And then there’s the pay. Hotel managers can earn a pretty nice salary.
But just how do you actually break into this industry and work your way toward that dream job in hotel management?
I’ve done some research and come up with four steps you can follow to get started right away to eventually managing your own hotel.
1. Start at the bottom
The hospitality industry values someone who has actually worked the entry-level jobs and understands the front end of the business. So if you want to be a hotel manager, the best way to do that is to start at the bottom of the ladder.
That’s because if you’re going to manage a hotel, you’ve got to understand what goes into making a hotel great. The housekeepers that make the rooms immaculate before a guest ever sets foot inside, the bellhop that whisks the luggage upstairs with a smile, the person at the front desk who greets the guests and puts a key in their hands within minutes of walking through the door—all are absolutely critical to a good guest experience.
And if you’ve worked those jobs, you are much better able to manage them.
If you’ve got your eyes on the hotel manager position, you need to grab whatever job you can in a hotel. If that means taking a job as a dishwasher, do it. If it’s part-time work or a summer internship, take it. It’s about getting your foot in the door at this stage.
2. Look for opportunities to go above and beyond
Just like any business, you’ll get ahead in a hotel by going above and beyond your day-to-day tasks. A manager must oversee all the aspects of running a hotel, so look for opportunities to help out in other areas.
For example: If you’re working as a bellhop, try to find out little details about guests’ wants and desires as you take them to their room, and then report back to the manager to figure out some way to make their stay special.
Maybe a couple admired their view of the bay and remarked about how it would nice to go jet skiing. Come back in an hour, after they’ve settled in, with a detailed list of where they can go to rent a jet ski, and maybe even offer them a lift in the hotel shuttle to get there.
This extra effort not only helps you understand your customers better, which is invaluable to being a good hotel manager, but will also impress management, who might decide to take advantage of your enthusiasm and give you some extra responsibilities.
There are plenty of other ways to show that you hope to climb the ladder. You might also take an interest in the back end operations, and ask to learn the software system the hotel uses. The more industry skills you develop, the more valuable you are.
One hotel manager said in an interview with Lifehacker:
“I moved up by having a no BS policy and being hardworking, reliable, persistent, respectful, professional and willing to volunteer for tasks that are outside of my job description. I’ve always been willing to help the housekeepers make beds, do laundry, mop up a spill, clean the pool, change a lightbulb or anything as long as it serves the best interest of the hotel. It’s a longer road than some other ways of moving up but it’s more satisfying.”
3. Seek help within
Going the extra mile can include directly asking the current management if you can become an apprentice, or if they provide some form of leadership training.
Management will love seeing that you want to make the hotel better and will more than likely try to accommodate you.
Some hotel chains are being proactive about this. Hilton Worldwide, for example, offers an apprenticeship program that lasts six months and helps interested employees learn every aspect of the business, from housekeeping to security to the front office.
The apprentices complete a six-week rotation through each department in a hotel, and then they choose a department to focus on for about four months. After the apprenticeship ends, they make a presentation to the executive committee at Hilton, and even receive a certificate that is recognized across the industry.
4. Get a degree—maybe
Some people think hospitality degrees are worth it, while others say don’t bother. You should consider a few important factors before sinking a lot of money into a hospitality degree.
However, for some of the most coveted hotel management jobs, a degree might be necessary to separate yourself from the pack.
Plenty of colleges offer courses in hotel management programs such as hotel administration, marketing, management, catering, and others. The best way to find out what type of degree your hotel values the most is to simply ask. They may also have a relationship with a college that has produced hotel managers for them in the past.
What questions do you have about hotel management?
Nothing beats hearing from people who’ve actually climbed the ladder about how to get there. What questions do you have about what it takes to get ahead in this business? Ask us in the comments below, and if you’re a successful hotel manager, please help them out by sharing your real-life experiences in the industry.