A server holding a menu

How to Start a Career in Hospitality

Hospitality careers can be extremely rewarding, as well as lucrative, for those who are drawn to the industry.

“A hospitality career demands dedication, hard work and a genuine love for serving others,” says Fabio Pari-di-Monriva, Hospitality and Hotel Management Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education's New York campus. “The world of food and beverage hospitality [specifically] offers a dynamic and rewarding career path for those who have a passion for culinary arts, customer service and creating memorable experiences.”

“There is no best way to begin a career in hospitality, as every person is different and so are their career goals,” ICE's Director of Online Education and Dean of Hospitality Management Katie Chamberlain says, which is good news since there are so many possibilities.

Whether you are just beginning your working life, or considering a career change, here are some important things to know if you are thinking about how to start a career in hospitality.

What is Hospitality?

Hospitality is an industry that encompasses a number of different sectors, all of which relate to the care of guests or visitors: food and beverage, lodging, event planning, travel and tourism, and recreation and entertainment. Regardless of what sector you begin your hospitality career in, many facets of the hospitality industry are transferable between segments.

“You don’t have to restrict where you begin your career,” Instructor of Hospitality and Hotel Management Nancy Vatcharasoontorn says. “You may begin in restaurants but end up being a general manager in a hotel.”

You may learn over time what aspects of the industry you are most drawn to, and where your particular skills are best suited. The impulse to want to take care of people and anticipate guests’ needs underscores all aspects of the hospitality industry. 

Related reading: Should I Go to Culinary School?

What Skills are Important for a Hospitality Career?

Beyond the actual mechanics of any given role in hospitality, there are many “soft skills” required for hospitality careers that can be developed inside or outside of a classroom, and also in a number of different circumstances.

“Effective communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem-solving and customer service skills are essential in hospitality,” Mr. Pari-di-Monriva says. “[You need to] cultivate these soft skills to excel in a fast-paced, people-centric environment.”

In terms of organizational, operational or business skills, those may be learned either on the job, in a formal education program, or a combination of both.

Can You Work Your Way Up in Hospitality?

It is very possible to work your way up in the field of hospitality, beginning with an entry-level position. Throughout the industry, there are numerous tales of prominent people who began their hospitality careers without formal training, beginning as line cooks, back waiters or porters and becoming head chefs, sommeliers or general managers.

“Hospitality is a field where you can progressively advance,” Ms. Chamberlain says. “Starting from entry-level positions, you can climb the ranks by demonstrating dedication, enhancing skills and taking on more responsibilities.”

Mr. Pari-di-Monriva adds “The hospitality industry is well-known for providing opportunities to work your way up and build a successful career. This industry is unique in that it often values practical experience, dedication and a strong work ethic as much as formal education.” 

Should You Consider Formal Education for a Career in Hospitality?

Formal education or training, such as the Institute of Culinary Education's Hospitality and Hotel Management diploma program, can certainly give you a leg up if you are just starting a career in hospitality, or looking to advance your current career.

“Training and education play a significant role in building a successful and well-rounded career in the hospitality industry,” Mr. Pari-di-Monriva says. “While hands-on experience is crucial, formal training and education can provide you with a strong foundation, specialized knowledge and a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving field.” 

Hospitality programs also typically include externships or apprenticeships, which are a significant part of being able to begin your hospitality career, exposing you to people who are connected to top-tier restaurants or organizations.

“Formal education equips you with historical knowledge, while practical training offers hands-on experience and insight into the industry's workings,” Ms. Chamberlain says. “Both elements are crucial for a successful career in hospitality.”

What’s more is, even if you already have a hospitality career, the Institute of Culinary Education's Hospitality Management program may help you advance.

“Ongoing learning helps you stay current,” Ms. Chamberlain adds. “And soft skills gained through education contribute to excellent customer service.” 

Formal education in hospitality can range from classes and seminars to diploma programs such as the one at ICE. Which is right for you might be a matter not only of your particular hospitality goals but your resources as you begin.

According to Mr. Pari-di-Monriva, “By combining your passion with strategic planning and continuous learning, anyone can forge a fulfilling and successful journey in this exciting industry.”

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