Why work experience could be the key to a successful career in hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism
There has been a lot of negative talk in the media recently regarding work experience, but getting solid experience in a field that is relevant to the career you are hoping to pursue is still one of the most effective ways to impress a future employer.
Whilst the majority of work experience placements are unpaid, if you can afford to spend a few weeks gaining an insight in to your chosen industry, and getting a taste of what skills and attributes are most valued, it may well pay dividends in the end.
The diversity of work experience opportunities available in the hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism (HLTT) sector is a reflection of what a varied industry it is, with everything from front of house to entertainment and events roles up for grabs. Even a few days of on-the-job experience should be enough to give you a sense of what’s involved, and help you decide which route might be best for you. Some placements – in a hotel or holiday park, for example – may even offer you the option to try several different roles within the same organisation, giving you a fantastic overview of how the business works and what areas are of most interest to you.
Whatever role you are interested in, one of the most crucial skills for people working in the HLTT industry is customer service, so any work experience that offers you the opportunity to develop your skills in this area should be invaluable. Customer service is one of the key areas where HLTT businesses struggle to find skilled staff (64% report that the customer service skills in their current workforce need improving*) which makes it particularly important to emphasise your experience in this area. Other ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to work in a team and communicate well at all levels are also highly prized in HLTT and it will be important to show that you have experience of putting these in to practice successfully when interviewing for a job.
Another great thing about getting work experience under your belt in the HLTT industries is that many of the skills you will pick up are transferable to other sectors, such as the ability to think on your feet, deal with the public and provide a high level of service. These might seem like quite basic skills, but employers from all fields of work will be looking for candidates who have a proven track record in demonstrating practical skills as well as academic qualifications.
Those with experience in most areas of HLTT will also be able to demonstrate a flexible attitude to work, as many roles in hospitality require you to work irregular shifts, over weekends and holidays, and to take on additional shifts if necessary. Experience of working in this fast-moving environment will demonstrate an awareness of the realities and demands of the industry, and will underline your commitment to employers.
While there are obviously no guarantees that a work experience placement will immediately lead to paid work, the contacts you make along the way could be extremely useful in helping to introduce you to others in the industry, or recommending you for jobs in a similar company. Be sure to take advantage of any networking opportunities whilst in your placement - you never know when these contacts may be prove valuable further on in your career.
Above all, the right work experience placement will give you the opportunity to ‘test the waters’ of a new career and ensure you are pursuing the right path before committing. It also shows an enthusiasm for the industry and a willingness to learn that could set you apart from other candidates in this competitive job market.
For more information about job opportunities and work experience in HLTT, visit UKSP.co.uk
*Statistics taken from the People 1st State of the Nation report 2011.