Hospitality Career Ladders: Three phases of growth
What does it really mean when we say that hospitality careers are growing fast? Overall, the industry is growing steadily, about 4% per year and will offer nearly 350 million jobs by 2024, but that doesn’t mean that hospitality graduates go from graduation to a GM position straight away.
While the hospitality industry is an ideal environment for fast career growth, the career paths of many professionals show that most hospitality careers progress steadily, in small leaps and bounds. By examining the career paths of some of our alumni, from graduation to executive positions, we’ve seen that the trajectories are as diverse as the people. But one thing does stand out: there is a three-phase pattern of career growth among hospitality school graduates and it is both encouraging and inspiring.
Management Training and Entry-Level Management Roles
According to our own recent graduate employment statistics, approximately half of our hospitality graduates enter management training (MT) programs directly after graduation. These MT programs are the coveted gateways into corporate careers with industry heavyweights such as Four Seasons, Hyatt, and Marriott and the competition for these positions is high among hospitality students.
The purpose of management training programs is to expose trainees to many departments within the hotel and allow them to assimilate the company standards and brand philosophy. Sometimes these programs lead to management positions within the company, sometimes they don’t. At the very least, they give young professionals a good experience to take with them into a new company and position. Either way, these training programs offer recent graduates a chance to show what they are made of, it’s a tremendous opportunity to shine and refine skills within a structured corporate environment.
The minimum entry requirements for most MT positions include: strong soft skills for working and learning, a bachelor degree in hospitality or business, one year of work experience, fluency in English and one other language, and leadership potential. Overall, the Glion bachelor degree curriculum prepares students to meet all of these criteria. They leave Glion with a bachelor degree from a top-ranking hotel school, one year of work experience, they are fluent in English, plus they have the cultural knowledge and leadership skills for a global workplace.
For those who don’t seek, or obtain, MT positions, there are many other entry-level positions that international companies seek to fill with hospitality graduates. Take the example of Jannick Repgen ’13, who went back to Starwood Hotels where he completed a marketing internship, to start as a sales executive straight after graduation. “As I approached graduation, I had offers to work in different places around the world including London, Vienna, Barcelona, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and even so far as the Maldives. In the end, I chose Dubai to return to Starwood Hotels as a Sales Executive and be part of the massive development of hospitality in this part of the world where hotels are opening every month,” Jannick said.
Whether they start in a MT program, or another type of entry-level position, our alumni testimonials show that many graduates receive one major promotion and/or a location change within their first 2 years of employment.
This first rung of the career ladder is often just a short stop on the way up. These supervisory and administrative positions are where graduates exercise their soft skills and prove themselves as dedicated workers, often taking care of daily administration, operations, staff schedules, and project work.
The following diagram from Hyatt shows some detailed examples of the career stages for the food & beverage departments of their hotels. Although the chart shows the very bottom entry-level positions, these are not usually taken by hospitality graduates who have the experience and skills to start in the second category:
Reaching Middle Management
According to the Glion Alumni Association’s 2015 Survey, 50% of our alumni have reached at least the stage of “middle management” within 5 years of graduation; this includes positions such as directors and department managers or owners, and entrepreneurs.
During the middle management phase, many hospitality professionals experience both lateral and vertical shifts in responsibility. A lateral shift may include relocating to another department, or location, such as for a pre-opening assignment; whereas a vertical promotion would suggest moving up within one’s department. It’s also not uncommon for workers to switch companies between entry- and mid-level management positions. In fact, most hospitality professionals will change companies several times during their career, especially if these changes come with an opportunity to work in a new location and a higher-paid position. 
The middle-management phase of a hospitality career often spans several years, the time needed to move around and explore different types of properties (i.e. luxury resorts, city hotels, cruise liners) and departments (food & beverage, rooms division, communications/marketing, real estate, finance, etc.). This is a hard-working time in the career ladder where positions change less frequently, and the career path narrows to an area of expertise and passion, or a particular brand. This building of experience and refining of career preferences sets the stage for the next big leap to executive positions, consultancy roles, and even entrepreneurship.
The career progress of Engin Bulut ’07, a graduate of the postgraduate diploma in hospitality management, shows this stage of middle management well. After completing his hospitality management courses, Engin did the required internship and was hired for the opening of the Hotel Bosphorus in Istanbul. “Following the hotel’s opening, I stayed on as a front office supervisor and team leader. Then, I received a promotion and a transfer at the same time. It was really difficult; I became the Assistant Front Office Manager at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut. It was a great opportunity to work in the Middle East and to work with a team composed of some 25 nationalities working in the same hotel. For one year I stayed there, and then I got the promotion to Night Manager at the Four Seasons in Istanbul,” Engin said.
Executive and Corporate Career Stages
The coveted General Manager position is a good example of a position that hospitality professionals reach in the third phase of an international hospitality career. At this stage, a smart hospitality professional will be looking for the right company and the right opportunity to start the next phase of their career. Remarkably, many hospitality graduates seem to hit this mark of career maturity well before ten years after graduation. This relatively short ascension to upper-management positions can be seen in the 63% of Glion graduates who are in “executive level or managerial functions” if they graduated between 2000 and 2010; whereas only 41% of the graduates from 2010 to present have reached that level.
In 2010, Glion began offering an Online MBA in International Hospitality and Service Industries Management. This degree, like many graduate programs, is designed to help students make the jump from middle-management to executive level positions. Graduate degrees are often seen as a solution for career stagnation when sharpening and up-dating some skill sets may be necessary to keep up with the fast-paced development of technology and consumer trends within the hospitality industry.
As a marketing communications manager for the Wyndham Hotel Group, with eleven years of experience in the hospitality industry, Glion Online MBA student Pugeneswary Mudukasan says, “The hospitality industry is becoming extremely competitive, I feel it is vital for me to equip myself in both areas; professionally and academically, not only to remain compatible with the rapid changes, but also to rise through the ranks and to exceed the expectations of my future employer.” He adds, “My main objective is to develop a broader vision and greater managerial competencies which will add value to my current working experience, and eventually prepare myself for greater challenge. As I am currently exploring every possibility of entering the international/ overseas scene, I am confident that the MBA will be one of my biggest assets and will definitely benefit me in many ways.”
The Inspiring Careers of Glion Alumni
Although no two careers can be alike, the progression of our alumni through these three phases of career growth seems relatively common. However, as we can’t possibly show all of the amazing trajectories of our globe-trotting, high-flying alumni who have made their careers into a truly spectacular life experience, this summary of three phases leaves much to be desired. To offer a more complete perspective on how our hospitality alumni progress in their careers, we’ve collected their testimonials on our blog.