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Navigating Early Hospitality Careers: Insights from Margie Ferree Jones

Featuring: Margie Ferree Jones, Dean of The Collins College of Hospitality Management

September 5, 2023

Navigating Early Hospitality Careers: Insights from Margie Ferree Jones

Charting Your Path: Navigating the Early Stages of a Hospitality Career

With its vast opportunities and dynamic nature, the hospitality industry offers a rewarding career path for many. As Margie Ferree Jones, the dean of the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, aptly puts it, "The hospitality industry is not just about serving; it's about understanding the nuances of human interactions and creating memorable experiences." With decades of experience under her belt, Dr. Jones provides invaluable insights that can guide newcomers on how to navigate the initial hurdles and set the foundation for a successful career.


The Importance of Continuous Learning

The hospitality sector thrives on innovation and change. To stay relevant and excel, professionals must proactively update their knowledge and skills. This not only ensures top-notch service delivery but also positions individuals as valuable assets in their establishments. In today's digital age, with the rise of online platforms and tools, staying updated with the latest technologies is equally crucial. Embracing digital tools can enhance guest experiences and streamline operations. Moreover, with the global nature of hospitality, understanding cultural nuances and global trends can set you apart from the competition.

  • Actionable Tip: Dedicate a few hours each week to read industry publications, attend online workshops, or enroll in relevant courses. This continuous learning will not only enhance your skills but also keep you ahead of the curve.


Seeking Mentorship for Growth

The journey in hospitality, while exciting, can also be filled with uncertainties. Having a mentor provides a roadmap, offering insights from their experiences, mistakes, and successes. Dr. Jones emphasizes, "Mentorship played a pivotal role in my journey. It's not just about guidance; it's about understanding the broader perspective of the industry." A mentor can also introduce you to their professional network, opening doors to new opportunities and collaborations. Furthermore, mentors can provide feedback, helping you refine your skills and approach.


  • Actionable Tip: Identify industry veterans or colleagues you admire and approach them for mentorship. Regularly meet with them to discuss your progress and challenges.


Embracing Hands-on Experience

Theoretical knowledge lays the foundation, but hands-on experience truly shapes a professional. Engaging in real-world scenarios allows one to apply their knowledge, adapt to challenges, and truly understand the pulse of the industry. Whether it's handling a difficult customer, managing a team during a busy shift, or organizing a large event, these experiences are invaluable. Additionally, hands-on experiences can often lead to unexpected opportunities and learning moments that can't be found in a classroom.


  • Actionable Tip: Seek internships, part-time roles, or even volunteer opportunities in various hospitality settings. These experiences will give you a holistic view of the industry and its operations.


Networking: Building Valuable Connections

In hospitality, relationships are everything. From finding new opportunities to understanding industry shifts, a strong network can be a game-changer. It's not just about quantity, but the quality of connections that truly makes a difference. Networking isn't limited to professional events; joining online forums, participating in webinars, and engaging in community service can also expand your network. Building a diverse network can also provide different perspectives, enriching your understanding of the industry.


  • Actionable Tip: Attend industry events, join hospitality associations, and be active on professional networking platforms. Remember, genuine relationship-building trumps transactional interactions every time.


Setting Clear Career Goals

A ship without a destination is bound to drift aimlessly. Similarly, professionals without clear goals might find themselves stagnating. Setting clear objectives provides direction, motivation, and a sense of purpose. Dr. Jones advises, "Adapting to change is crucial in our field. The industry is evolving, and we must evolve with it to stay relevant and provide the best service." Regularly revisiting and refining your goals ensures you stay aligned with your career aspirations. It's also essential to be flexible and adapt your goals based on the changing landscape of the industry.

  • Actionable Tip: Set short-term and long-term goals. Regularly review and adjust them based on your experiences and the evolving industry landscape.


The early stages of a hospitality career, though challenging, are filled with learning opportunities. Margie Ferree Jones offers a profound insight, emphasizing, "It's essential to be adaptable, to listen, and to be open to feedback. This industry is about people, and understanding their needs and preferences is the key to success." By embracing continuous learning, seeking mentorship, gaining hands-on experience, building a strong network, and setting clear goals, you can chart a successful path in this vibrant industry. Remember, every hospitality expert started somewhere. With passion, dedication, and the right guidance, you too can make your mark.



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