October 9, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Paul Smith's College of Arts & Sciences
Kansas State University
Missouri State University
University of Central Florida
Florida International University
Missouri State University
Casino Careers Division of Hospitality Online
Kennesaw State University
University of New Orleans
Paul Smith's College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Business & Hospitality
Joe Conto: The skills that stand out on a resume remain the same as they did prior to the pandemic; critical thinking, problem-solving, active listening, and working independently. However, simply "listing" these under the Skills section of a resume is not enough. A good hiring agent or human resources professional is going to look for supporting information for these claims in the experience, interests, and activities sections of the same resume. Therefore, a claim of skill only stands out if it is supported elsewhere in the resume.
Joe Conto: Critical thinking, empathy, and problem-solving are the three most important soft skills an employee can possess. In developing these skills, many other soft skills are automatically embedded; active listening, emotional intelligence, and collaboration, for instance, are all aspects of the umbrella of "soft skills." Having employees who possess other soft skills associated with strong customer service (friendliness, positive thinking, and language skills, for instance) are not effective if these larger overall skills are not present.
Joe Conto: As a hiring manager in high-end hotels and country clubs, I paid little attention to most technical skills. If an applicant possesses the soft skills outlined above, I was typically certain that training could provide the necessary technical skills. Therefore, I always advise students to "work on purpose" during internships and other work experiences in order to not only learn hard skills but also develop the soft skills listed above.
Joe Conto: Without a doubt, financial management is the skill that leads to earning potential. Simply put, those who can create revenue and maintain profit are the ones who will profit themselves monetarily. For many students, the opportunity to truly develop financial management is in the classroom as opposed to during work experiences and extra-curricular activities. Courses like financial and managerial accounting, finance, and financial decision-making are invaluable (yet often less popular) in this skill development. That said, a strong understanding of marketing management is also vitally important, again due to the fact that it assists in the development and diversification of revenue.
Brett Horton Ph.D.: With restaurants the change will not be as substantial as with hotels. Food service operations have done an amazing job of pivoting and although the operations as well as employees have been hurt many have kept some hours. When the economy opens back up these employees will be much busier.
Hotels, especially convention hotels, are in the most challenging position as many of their teams have been substantially reduced. These hotels and event centers will be faced with the unprecedented task of logistically reopening multiple properties across the country and around the world to the pre Covid levels of demand. With so many employees no longer working it will strain many systems to ramp back up. Once busy hotels have only skeleton staffs and it will require hiring, training, and enculturating and entire new team.
Brett Horton Ph.D.: The skills that employers are looking for will be to have team members who can offer excellence in experiential hospitality. The ideas behind running operating systems, managing events, creating food and space that wows the guest who so desires to partake of this amazing industry will require employees who are amazingly flexible and passionately hospitable.
Operating a large hotel is like managing a small city. All the technical skills from accounting and finance to personal management and facilities are needed. The key will be finding the team as conventions are soon booked back into these large hotels.
Brett Horton Ph.D.: We do not know at this juncture what is going to happen to salaries and wages. For the employees who went to work in other industries and may be being paid more the hospitality industry will need to up their pay to compete. The housekeeping staff or front desk staff who are now working for Amazon or Target for $15/hour may find that their original job may not offer some of the same luster as it once did. At least in Kansas City it will be interesting to see where hotels find exceptional employees. The market was extremely tight prior to Covid and based on some anecdotal evidence some employers are already finding it difficult to hire seasoned hospitality employees to work in culinary positions.
The next few months will provide an opportunity to hire, train, and develop a new team and it will create a unique opportunity for the talented leadership to shine when it comes to putting their best efforts into their number one asset: their team.
Dr. Stephanie Hein: With the COVID-19 vaccine is more easily accessible, we anticipate the hospitality industry will see a significant increase in consumer demand in a relatively short amount of time. The quick rebound will most likely put added pressure on the labor market. Those employees that were furloughed due to COVID may have found new jobs outside of the hospitality industry, thereby decreasing the experienced talent pool. The supply of talent will likely not keep up with demand. This may prove to advantageous for soon to be graduates looking for their first professional position in the hospitality industry.
Dr. Stephanie Hein: Now, more than ever, graduates need to possess strong communication skills, adaptability, creative thinking, and the ability to work collaboratively with others in both a face-to-face and digital environment.
Dr. Stephanie Hein: Salaries for hospitality professionals have continued to climb particularly as the skill set needed to succeed becomes more complex. Additionally, the short supply of talent has also been a contributing factor in the increase of salary ranges.
Gisele Canova: The biggest job market trend in hospitality is the availability of employment in secluded destinations, including luxury beach and mountain resorts. A current trend in major cities that are seeing a spike in business such as Orlando for example, is the immediate need of qualified professionals willing to be flexible to work with a limited workforce. After dramatic cuts last year, we are seeing upper, entry-level management and hourly positions opening in Orlando but until the staffing levels reach the pre-covid era, managers and staff are wearing many hats to run the operations.
Gisele Canova: Not certificates but skills: Emotional intelligence, team building/leading.
Gisele Canova: Entry-level management positions in hotels and restaurants increased from an average of $35K/year to $50-70K/year in the past three years, according to our Professional Internships and Career Services department that collects information from recruiters and graduating students. Another change to highlight is the commitment from many companies, including Disney to offer a $15/HR minimum wage.
Florida International University
Career Development Department
Lourdes Torres: Currently, a number of partners/employers are expressing a need for students with the skillsets and availability to work remotely. The permanent rise in remote work is an increasing trend I see not only for now, but for the foreseeable future. In addition, there will also be an increased wave of requests for students who are open to experimentation and innovation regarding flexible/hybrid work roles.
Lourdes Torres: I would say the top skills that students should try to enhance and are being requested from our corporate partners are:
-Creativity and innovation
-Project management skills
FIU students can learn more about these areas by taking courses through a platform called 'LinkedIn Learning.' LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform that enables FIU faculty, staff, and students to discover and develop skills through an online library of high-quality expert-led videos. It is free for all students and they can login and register through their FIU accounts. I do, however, encourage graduates if they can to pursue taking online courses/certifications. There are many free and paid resources available online.
Lourdes Torres: I would tell graduates to be open to change, keep moving forward, and prepare for your future!
Missouri State University
Dr. Jerry Masterson Ph.D.: Moving online and global.
Dr. Jerry Masterson Ph.D.: Our students get a leadership perspective from multiple disciplines. Business, psychology, communication, computer science, professional writing. This perspective might allow them to work with most anyone as they will understand the language of the discipline.
Dr. Jerry Masterson Ph.D.: This is not a particular field. Our Interdisciplinary programs allow for focus areas in a multitude of areas. So to pinpoint one location would be impossible. We work with sports management, hospitality, applied communication, environmental sampling, project management, to name a few. So generally when a students come to our program they are looking for advancement in their field of work or additional skills so they can move on. The program builds upon past work experience and allows participants to expand their knowledge base, abilities, and skills, which can lead to enhanced administrative roles within organizations.
Beth Deighan: 1. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing in a succinct, coherent manner.
2. Be empathetic with co-workers, supervisors, and subordinates and develop trusting, supportive relationships.
3. Be able to navigate the Internet and possess knowledge of technology and devices to increase mobility and efficiency of operations for both employees and clients.
4. Be a self-starter and not require constant monitoring or specific direction to perform all responsibilities effectively.
5. Be organized to increase efficiency and use technology to make processes easier & faster and meet deadlines.
6. Be proactive - anticipate that business practices and procedures may have to change to adapt to the environment, client needs, and demand.
7. Think outside the box - be creative and a cautious risk-taker. Don't be afraid to take an innovative approach.
8. Be flexible and receptive to new ideas like changing your work schedule to learn business operations on different shifts/days to learn the volume, clientele, and business procedures at different times of the day.
9. Be strategic, but work with others to ensure those with different perspectives assist in the development of operational/marketing strategies to retain existing clientele and attract new clientele.
10. Use technology to analyze and assess information to determine which products, services, and practices generate revenue or are not profitable or beneficial to the operation or staff.
Steve Hood: Hospitality and tourism graduates of 2020 are faced with a similar challenge as hotels in the current COVID situation. Many are having to think outside the box and reinvent themselves. It may mean looking at different chains, different locations, and different roles, but there are still opportunities.
Melih Madanoglu: Some forecasts show that it may take approximately three years for the demand for hospitality services to return to its pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, some graduates may temporarily face difficulties in finding internships and securing full-time employment, upon graduation. Historically, the hospitality industry has demonstrated, time and time again, its resilient nature. The tragic events of September 11, SARS in Asia, terrorist acts across the globe were some of the significant events that had a negative impact on the industry. Yet, the industry was able to emerge out of these crises even stronger. While the industry is not expected to experience a "V-shape" recovery, students who just began pursuing their degrees in that field should "keep an even keel" and look into the future.
Melih Madanoglu: Particularly with the restrictions related to major meetings, events, and conventions, the job opportunities in hotels that cater to business travelers may be limited until most of the world's population is vaccinated. Hence, locations around national parks, some small to mid-size towns may offer better employment prospects in the short run. For example, in the Southeast United States, areas around Gatlinburg and Chattanooga in Tennessee, Asheville, NC, Helen, and Savannah in Georgia may offer work opportunities due to guests' preferences for destinations with outdoor activities.
Melih Madanoglu: The technology is expected to have a profound impact on the hospitality business, both for firms and guests. In hotels, robots may be handling most of the housekeeping tasks, with some supervision and programming by humans. Contactless payments through retina recognition technology etc. may become commonplace in hotels and restaurants. Some hotels, restaurants, and airlines may indeed implement various operating modes such as regular, pre-crisis, and crisis. Based on these operating modes, the technology may replace some of the tasks handled by humans. Once the business returns to normal, the technology can switch the entire operation to the regular mode, which may include scheduling, operating procedures, guest communication, etc. In other words, the mode of operation can be both implemented and facilitated by technology.
University of New Orleans
Lester E. Kabacoff School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration
Markus Schuckert: Currently, graduates are trying to delay graduation and are looking into upgrading their skills, enrolling in graduate or postgraduate programs. With the reopening of the industry and markets, graduates are in a good position because companies can hire well-trained young talents with the latest know-how and skills. Depending on the degree of recovery, I don't expect an enduring impact on graduates.
Markus Schuckert: Yes, high-density tourism destinations, like New Orleans, are potentially good places to find work. The industry is able to hire fast if the demand picks up. A part-time job can be rolled over into full-time if needed. Usually, there is an excess supply of jobs in the hospitality and tourism industry, as it is in the service sector in general.
Markus Schuckert: Technology will help the industry to maintain a business in a different environment. Under Covid19, the old formula of "high tech - high touch" in hospitality does not work anymore without rethinking it. The new paradigm is high tech - low touch approach to maintain high service and delivery standards but minimizing contact where possible. This is, at least for the time being. Trends to come can be seen by the restaurant of tomorrow's approach of Burger King, for example. High tech - high touch will return or remain with a premium, based on low volume and increased safety and hygiene protocols. Technology will support that in terms of communication, tracking, and big data. Especially business optimizing software, and visitor/customer management systems will be needed to run businesses differently. On the revenue management side, new revenue and pricing models need to be developed to stay in business successfully. This closes the loop to question 1: new graduates come with the latest technological knowledge and the power of ideas of the young (next) generation.
Lindsey Lee Ph.D.: I believe there will be a positive, lasting impact of the pandemic on our graduates. They are more agile and experienced with crises-they were able to adapt and innovate at a very fast pace, and future employers should keep their eyes open for recent graduates that have not only endured the pandemic but are able to put book knowledge into practice.
Lindsey Lee Ph.D.: While local, state, and government regulations are still changing and updating on a daily basis, in my opinion, graduates should not limit themselves to one place in the United States. The hospitality and tourism industry has an ebb and flow, and the best part of the industry is the freedom and flexibility to work in a variety of locations. Although certain locations seem to be further along in the re-opening process and this may be an advantage for the job market, there is always a need for great employees to provide quality customer service for our guests regardless of location.
Lindsey Lee Ph.D.: Although there was a major shift to technology during the pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industry is still a human interaction and human touch industry. The tangible products between competitors are essentially the same-a bed for hotels, a meal for restaurants, a flight for airlines-but the intangible, customer-service product of the industry is what differentiates one organization from its competitor. I believe that while customer service may look different in a post-COVID world, there is still going to be a need for human interactions and the human aspects of the hospitality and tourism industry that technology might not provide.
Department of Hospitality,Tourism & Events Management
Donna Albano: The enduring impact will be on the Hospitality & Tourism Industry, as it is speculated that recovery to pre-COVID-19 levels could take up until 2023. Our most recent graduates were most effected when career fairs and internships were canceled during the spring 2020 semester. However, they are also the first in line for partial and full employment as the industry begins to recover.
Donna Albano: New Jersey has always been a fertile employment landscape for hospitality graduates due to its rich hospitality and tourism industry. Because hospitality & tourism is a global employment opportunity, this answer is currently tied to how different states recover from COVID-19. Graduates can work anywhere in the world, in a plethora of industry segments.
Donna Albano: The hospitality industry has undoubtedly accelerated new technologies as a result of COVID-19. What used to be technological conveniences are now necessities in many aspects of industry operations. These include scannable QR codes for menus or hotel information and apps for bookings and mobile rooms keys. Customers will continue to expect touchless payments and remote access to services through live chat or chatbot options. Customer expectations are increased during these times due to heightened hygiene standards and the need for improved communication about safety protocols and policies.