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Ask Our Alumni

Casual Conversations with Hospitality Alumni

Students, are you interested in learning more about the hospitality industry? Do you have brief question that an experienced hospitality professional can answer? Are you curious about different career paths in the industry? Our Hospitality Business Alumni Board can help you!

On the following page we have listed a number of our Alumni who are managers and executives in the industry. They have volunteered to answer questions from students.

Question: What is it that you get out of each day of work that makes you come back the next day? What is it that I have to look forward to as a casino rep.? And what is the best thing that has ever happened to you while at your workplace?

Answer: 1. What brings me back each day?
Response: I loved the challenge of dealing/managing staff/solving problems/meeting the public (in my earlier careers)/managing large budgets/mentoring new staff members/appreciating increasing responsibilities and challenges (eventually corporate-wide).

2. Role of a casino rep?
Response: There are MANY positions in a casino and a challenge for you is to find the one that meets YOUR interests.

My early years (the first 7 years) were at the property level of hotels and then I was promoted to the World HQ of Holiday Inns and then Holiday Inns expanded into Hampton Inns, Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites. Then Holiday Inns bought Harrah’s Casinos in 1980. Eventually we (Holiday Inns, Inc.) sold off Holiday Inns, spun off the remaining hotels (Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites), and expanded the casino side of our business by contracting to manage 3 Indian casinos, open a large casino in Atlantic City and Laughlin, Nevada, a series of riverboat casinos, opened a large casino in New Orleans, and bought several casino brands.

I am suggesting you think a little more broadly in the casino/hospitality area because it is such a huge area and can be very financially rewarding in the long run to explore a broader image. I ended up going for a Masters of Business Administration with my major in the Hospitality Business. One of the best bits of advice I every received when I was asking others, “Should I go ahead and enroll in the MBA program?” and the deciding advice was, “They can never take it away from you”. As I started out as a switchboard operator at a Holiday Inn in East Lansing while I was attending MSU, my ‘goal’ was to be a GM at a Holiday Inn, not that different that what you are looking for. But with the MSU education and the opportunity to work for a premier company, the upside was limitless. And I am suggesting you also think about it this way. Prepare yourself to take advantage of the broadening posibilities when they present themselves to you.
That being said, let’s focus, for now, on event planning.

This is an area that requires long hours, skills in dealing with staff/details/ promotion/dealing with the public/great people skills and a desire to meet the customers’ expectations. The public can/is fickle and you have to be flexible in meeting their expectations. Once you have been successful, it is an exhilarating feeling and you want more of it! It makes the long hours agreeable since many events are from 6pm to ????.

3. Best thing that happened to me in the work place?
Response: Making my customers happy/ making my employees happy and feeling good about themselves/ and making money for my company.

Question: What is the best way to get your foot in the door in regards to internships and future careers for students interested in Real Estate?

Answer: The Specialization is a great platform as some of the course work can actually serve as good experience/education on a resume. As far internships, getting them in the Real Estate and Development sector of the hotel industry is sometimes a bit challenging, but not impossible. As a starting point, I would suggest trying to link up with someone on the SHB Real Estate and Development Advisory Council to serve as a mentor – sort of in a Spartan Sponsor capacity. The alumni in the industry are your best resource to try and tap possible internship opportunities in the field as well. While internship opportunities in this career path are generally more open to Juniors and Seniors, I would focus on getting good hotel operations experience – that’s something that every organization values within the industry. As for additional higher education, it’s not necessary but can aid in proving your intellect and commitment to education. I personally do not have a masters or MBA; however, many of my colleagues in the industry do. That said, The School is well known in the industry for producing extremely hard-working, highly educated and passionate individuals, so there should be immediate credibility given your education. In short, when you enter into this industry – as an intern or in an entry level capacity – you’re going to have to prove your worth through hard work and commitment to continued learning.

As a recommendation, focus on taking the extra steps to expand your finance and real estate knowledge and you won’t regret it. Read publications like Hotel Business, Lodging Hospitality and Real Estate Forum to help you get up to speed on what’s going on in the industry; and reach out to others on the Board for their thoughts as well. Finally, organizations like HREC Investment Advisors and Jones Lang Lasalle offer good internship opportunities for Juniors and Seniors, primarily because they want an intern they could potentially hire in the near future.

Jason Rabidoux

Question: When you get to a high enough position, is it possible to maintain fairly regular/normal work schedule? In your experience, have you found that you can you get evenings/weekends off if that is what you prefer? Do you think it is that way for most higher-up positions in hotels and resorts? Thank you!

Answer: I think in regards to hours, it depends on what part of the business you want to get into. I started in operations, specifically food and beverage. In this case, yes there were some longer hours including weekends and holidays. If you look at the sales & marketing side of the business, there may be more “normal” hours. As I gained experience and worked at higher levels of organizations, the hours became less odd and maybe more normal. However, please note the following:

1. No matter what line of work you get into, your success will depend on how much you put into it. I’ve seen a lot of sales & marketing people work weekends too.
2. Early in my career before marriage and family, I put in a lot of hours. Did I “need” to be there as much, maybe not, but I liked what I was doing and the more time I put in, the better I got.
3. There are Wall Street people (high up) who are not in the hospitality business that put in many more hours than we do, so don’t believe that it’s just our industry.
4. If you like the hospitality business, don’t let the hours scare you. Even though I work in the corporate office and have somewhat normal hours, my best memories were working in operations along side a great group of people. The hours were not what I remember, it was the teamwork and camaraderie that I will always take away from those experiences.

Good Luck

Hans Desai

Question:What is a typical day like for you and how did getting a degree from The School of Hospitality Business help you.

Answer: What I love about my job and a great reason to go into the hospitality field is that a “typical day” doesn’t exist in our industry. Unlike many professions that could detail down to the hour what they do each day, for me every day brings a new adventure. The only things that are certain in my day are that I get to work around 11AM, open our doors to the restaurant at 5PM, and close them at 10PM. The things that make up the in between time are why I chose this field. Each day I am challenged with unique guests, employee situations, managing food quality and consistency, financial accountability, and above all ensuring that we are providing the best experience possible for our guests.

Now to the degree question. A degree is only a piece of paper, it doesn’t mean much in the fact that nobody will hire you for a degree alone. What is most important is what you make of your degree. The unique thing about The School is that the opportunities for real world experience during your four years of college are endless. Join a student club, gain a leadership position, see the world through study abroad TWICE, go to every alumni event possible, take advantage of opportunities outside the college to enrich your experience! Then when it comes time to explain to a recruiter why you are the best candidate for the job it won’t be because you have a fancy sheet of paper but because you squeezed every bit out of MSU!

Question: When working within the independent restaurant industry what do you find is the most difficult part of the job?

Answer: The hardest part of working for an independent restaurant would be competing with the chains. They have large marketing budgets and greater purchasing power. Independent allows us to do what we want, when we want and suffer the consequences. We don’t have to deal with the sameness of the corporate philosophy.

Question: I’m looking to pursue a career in hospitality business, but because it is so broad, I’m unsure of what exactly I’d like to do. I really enjoy several aspects of bookkeeping and would like to work with front office operations or in a hotel; however, I have only had experience with food and beverage. Can you tell me what it’s like working in the segment of hotel financing and what your job entails? With today’s economy and many hotels undergoing bankruptcy, how is it affecting your company and work, in addition to employment within the hospitality industry?

Answer: My area is Revenue Management which is optimizing top line sales for hotels. The hotels must generate the sales and then my discipline helps make the most of that demand. That is a simplistic explanation but hopefully it gives you the idea. I regularly monitor the Occupancy, ADR and RevPAR performance of 10 to 15 hotels and make recommendations on how to improve. My communications are primarily with hotel general managers and owners on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and my role is that of a consultant. I am able to serve as a subject matter expert in the area of revenue management in a cost effective manner because my time is shared between so many hotels.

The economy is putting virtually all hotels under severe financial stress. Many are having trouble with their debt and having to consider chapter 11 because they are financed based on revenue streams of the past not the present. Average rates AND occupancy have both declined substantially in this downturn. This is a “double whammy” to the bottom line.

This situation can be compared to an individual getting a job and then buying an expensive car. They are not worried about the payments because they feel like they are making enough money to keep up with the payments. However, something happens and suddenly the person is forced to take a pay cut. They still have the same car payment but, now they have less income to pay it with. Depending on how high their payment is and/or how much their pay cut was, they may be forced to default on the loan.

If a hotel is actually able to hold on to it’s occupancy, it can only do it by sacrificing average rate which impacts revenue and profit because many expenses are accounted for on a per occupied room basis. In other words, it is good that they are selling more rooms however; the more they sell, the more they must spend and in addition, they are getting less for each room sold because the rates have declined.

Of course, as a result of this pressure on revenue and profit, hotels are not able to offer as many employment opportunities. They have been forced to find new ways to do more with less. That includes less staff.

On the bright side though, the industry seems to be through the worst of it and there are continuing signs of improvement in the pace of bookings. As business gradually begins to loosen the purse strings on travel, things will get much better.

The advice I would give to you is to explore all aspects of our business to find what feels right for you. Internships and work experiences are an ideal mechanism to do this because they are temporary. If your experience does not work out or you do not like it, there is no harm done.

One of the great things about the Hospitality Industry is the vast diversity in opportunity that it offers. One overriding quality that I think is necessary though is having a strong desire to help people in a spirit of hospitality. No matter what area you are in, you will be expected to be hospitable. Your customers may be internal or external but they will all expect to be served with hospitality.

I do hope this is helpful. Good luck and GO GREEN!

Question: Do you have any tips on how to secure an internship at a Hotel & Resort, seeing that you have experience in the field?

Answer: My suggestions are to be flexible and open to whatever position they have open.Once you are there, you’ll be able to identify other areas that may be more suited for you as you become familiar with the different parts of the resort.

Offer to help out in any area! Ask lots of questions. Align yourself with a manager and learn their job. Day in the life kind of thing.

Question: I am really interested in being an event planner, what did you find was most beneficial in preparing for this field?

Answer: I found that my Sales class and my Meeting Planning class in the School of HB were helpful. Most beneficial were the School Events that I participated in-I was the Executive Director of Career Expo and I assisted with the other events. This was hands on experience that really allowed me to apply my class-learned skills. Getting involved is the best way to learn!

Question: How can I prepare myself to have a very successful interview? What is the most important thing for the interviewers to select people?

Answer: Study the company online and try to learn what the company ideals and styles are. By this I mean determining if the company is more based around fun or based around professionalism.

The most important thing that helps when I am selecting a candidate is a complete answer to an interview question. What was the situation, what did you specifically do in the situation, and what was the end result. And I also look for an enthusiastic smile and personality.

Question: What is the most beneficial job that you have had to help you get the career you have now? And why was that job so helpful?

Answer: I am currently approaching forty years in the hospitality industry and for the last eighteen years I have been involved in the hotel development and franchising side of the industry. My current position title is Senior Vice President of Franchise Development for Grandstay Hospitality, LLC. I seem to enjoy the challenge of starting new midscale hotel brands especially during challenging economic times. My past two most challenging assignments have been with Super 8 and AmericInn where both chains had tremendous success in franchise growth. I think my most beneficial job that I had that helped me the most in franchise development today was an early career three year stint as an operations manager combined with a director of sales and catering position opening a new 250 unit hotel with large banquet space in Duluth,MN. This hotel was connected to the Duluth Arena Convention Center by skywalks and therefore we had the opportunity to market to multiple state, regional, and national convention groups. Over a three year period we were able to grow the city convention trade from an annual number of 30 conventions to 160 during the third year. The skills I learned in selling to the association executives helped me understand the sales process, tenacity and durability one needs today to sell a hotel franchise. I learned how to communicate on a professional level at an early age, I learned the people skills needed to negotiate relationships. I learned pricing and program models and I learned how to service groups from start to finish with a very positive attitude. Please feel free to contact me with any other questions. Good luck on your plans!

Question: Which area is the most important part in your restaurant? What kind of person do you prefer to work in your restaurant?

Answer: What many restaurant managers don’t seem to understand is that there is not a most important part of our restaurant. I have worked with managers unable to get to the next level because of their inability to focus on the big picture. What ends up happening is that if your focus is too narrow you end up spending the majority of your time “putting out fires” in the sense that something always is going wrong and you are never able to maintain what you have.

The people I prefer to work with will work harder than everyone around them. What I have learned through failure is that the best way to gain respect in our industry is to work harder than everyone around you. As a general manager I will wash dishes if in need to, clean the floor if it is dirty, fix the toilet if it is clogged. It’s not glamorous but after doing it myself it is much easier to ask someone else to. I enjoy working with energetic passionate people who have a vision for where they want to take our business.

Question: What is a typical day for you and how has a degree from The School of Hospitality Business Helped you?

Answer: What I love about my job and a great reason to go into the hospitality field is that a “typical day” doesn’t exist in our industry. Unlike many professions that could detail down to the hour what they do each day, for me every day brings a new adventure. The only things that are certain in my day are that I get to work around 11AM, open our doors to the restaurant at 5PM, and close them at 10PM. The things that make up the in between time are why I chose this field. Each day I am challenged with unique guests, employee situations, managing food quality and consistency, financial accountability, and above all ensuring that we are providing the best experience possible for our guests.

Now to the degree question. A degree is only a piece of paper, it doesn’t mean much in the fact that nobody will hire you for a degree alone. What is most important is what you make of your degree. The unique thing about The School is that the opportunities for real world experience during your four years of college are endless. Join a student club, gain a leadership position, see the world through study abroad TWICE, go to every alumni event possible, take advantage of opportunities outside the college to enrich your experience! Then when it comes time to explain to a recruiter why you are the best candidate for the job it won’t be because you have a fancy sheet of paper but because you squeezed every bit out of MSU!

Question: What’s the difference between hotel real estate development and pure real estate development?

Answer: Hotels are a unique form of real estate in that the return on your investment (development) and underlying value is going to be created by the quality of your brand, market and operation. You can have a great full-service structure in a bad market with decent franchise affiliation, but if the property is losing $3 million a year as a hotel your value is nominal. More so than any other form of commercial investment, a majority of a hotel’s value is derived from its operating revenues and NOI.

In short, it’s the form of commercial real estate that has the most value tied to how well it’s operating.

Question: How would you describe the quality of work life?

Answer: First, in my current job of President of Park Management Group, I have 95%+ freedom to do whatever I choose to do, whenever I choose to do it. Except meeting with our Chairman and/or investors and/or auditors, I have great flexibility.

That said, I do believe that working harder than the the next person is one of the many keys to success. In my case, I work more days and longer hours than pretty much anyone that I know of…but I absolutely LOVE what I do and so it really isn’t like working. It is more of like a game or a hobby and I strive to be the BEST. Sooooo, my recommendation is to find something you’re truly passionate about and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Back in 1977-1981, while going to MSU, I worked as a waiter at Oakland Hills Country Club (Birmingham, MI) for 2 summers and as a cashier at the Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. The Club Manager would usually work until at least midnight due to the dinner and bar crowd – especially on weekends. That turned me off to F&B. At the hotel, I worked late shifts but this was a career that as you move up you have much more control of your specific work hours. Still, either in restaurants or hotels…the boss has to be there when it is peak time or peak season. Visibility is very important.

Question: What do you think are the biggest differences between training for hospitality organizations and training for companies of other business? Is training in hospitality industry more challenging or not? And why?

Answer: Thanks for your question — a very good one.

There are many similarities between corporate and hospitality training, though as you would expect, there are significant differences. Off the top of my head, here are a few:

The corporate world is much less forgiving towards lack of results. Many people in hospitality can hide behind poor or mediocre numbers for awhile and keep their jobs, as opposed to the corporate world. The time to hide got shorter in the recession, but it’s still there.

Trends in the hospitality world are typically 6 months behind the rest of the world. That includes financial, too, as the effects of a good or a bad economy take a while to filter through to travel & meetings.

People who come into hospitality are not typically schooled in it — I was one of the few HRI graduates that I ran into in my hotel days — as opposed to corporate, where you generally need some technical or specific experience to get a top job.

Question: When working within the independent restaurant industry what do you find is the most difficult part of the job?

Answer: Probably competing with the chains. They have large marketing budgets and greater purchasing power. Would I want to work for a chain? “No way” as the name indicates we are independent allowing us to do what we want, when we want and suffer the consequences. But at least we don’t have to deal with the sameness of the corporate philosophy.

Question: How was your experience in position advancement working for an independent restaurant? Do you feel there would have been differences in your current status if you worked for a large chain or franchise?

Answer: In my case our family owned the independent restaurant. We do have many key managers who are not family members that were able to advance based on their abilities and asperations. Starting out, many students work for a chain that gives them structure and good management practices, but after 5years I would guess that 50% would like to own their own independent restaurant. Hope this helps.

Question: I was wondering if you liked working at a large company or smaller one. On a more personal note, when you started in the HB field did you expect to be working where you are now, and was it your goal when you graduated?

Answer: I really didn’t know what to expect when I graduated from MSU. Initially I worked in operations and thought that working my way up through the ranks to GM would be my ultimate goal. After doing that, however I wanted more and decided to try to better understand the development side of the business which I find challenging and stimulating as well. I spent 25 years in operations which gave me a good background for my corporate responsibilities. I like working for a large company. I think you can learn a lot and it gives you a good platform to grow.

Question: Being a hotel manager, you have to supervise several employees at very different levels and backgrounds from you. How do you effectively communicate with them? Do you appear to be a strict manager that shows authority, or are you a friendly and easy-going manager that can talk to everyone?

Answer: Good Morning. I’m happy to respond (you did not offer your name) to your question. I think the answer lies in between the two extremes you’ve cited. You can be easy going and talk to everyone but also hold people accountable (are you being strict then?). Successful managers take a more nuanced approached to communicating and probably fail if they are too easy going or too strict. I hope this helps.

Questions: How has being a graduate from The School of Hospitality Business preapared you for working in the higher scale hotel industry? What is one lesson that you learned from MSU that you have carried with you through your career?

How can you make the hotel money?
Start with your area/department
How can you improve scores (guest engagement, employee engagement, etc)?
Learn from fellow managers and employees
Listen and be a sponge
Give back to campus
Foster alumni
Be the first…bring change
Make “you” hard to be replaced
Have integrity, help others grow and develop
Learn nothing is black or white, there are many grey areas
“Policies are nothing more than guidelines to be broken for the benefit of our guests, period.
Develop your team to make decisions on own and later revisit them.
Praise constantly, focus on strengths rather than weaknesses
Tough love or constant, gentle pressure
The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled
In our business, is not about eliminating the problems but rather in the art of creative, profitable problem solving.
Infectious attitude
Breath fire
TIPS from Daniel Meyers book: Setting the Table
Leadership is not measured just by what you’ve accomplished but rather, by how other people you depend on feel in the process of accomplishing things
Overall, integrity and self-awareness are the most important core emotional skills for managers. Strong technical skills are usually the reason most people get their first or second promotion. But the higher you climb the ladder of power, the less technical skills count and the more significant emotional skills become. “Character”
For most people, it’s far more important to feel heard than to be agreed with
HB 105
First, a discussion and overview of the outstanding customer service polices of the Ritz Carlton as well as the Malcoml Baldridge Awards and other national recognitions. Second, how you use customer service management in your daily job and how employee training fits into the delivery of quality service. Finally, how great customer service affects the bottom line of your organization.

Question: I was wondering how the job outlook is currently looking for the private club industry and how it is projected to be in the years to come?

Answer: The club industry is getting hit because basically they are trying to keep their share of disposable income. Many families and/or companies are deciding to give up the club as a perk or are downgrading their memberships. My suggestion to you is to make yourself known as an above average employee, learn as much as you can about all the areas: f&b, golf, tennis athletics, banquet, accounting, etc and go for your CCM. The more you know the more valuable you are. Get involved with CMAA to find out what the trends are in city, athletic and country clubs. They all attract a different type of club member. The industry outlook also depends on what part of the country you are looking at.

Question: I was wondering what your opinion is on event planning companies? Would you suggest pursuing a job at one of these companies or gaining experience elsewhere first (like a hotel or country club)? Also, what are the top three most important qualities and/or things to know for an event planner?

Answer: My experience with Event Planning Companies is that there is a wide variance in quality and consistency, thus the quality of training and experiences you have could also vary greatly. If you go that route, my recommendation would be to do a lot of homework on your prospective employer, including their clientele, as well as the career path of previous employees.

Event Planning Companies seem to be more entrepreneurial in nature, thus could be a good training ground if you think that someday you’d like to strike out on your own. While every company is different, with many EPCs you will also get involved with the sale in addition to your planning responsibilities — good experience to have if you are at all inclined toward sales.

Event Planning at hotels and clubs is generally more stable (if that can be said at all about event management!). Usually much of the selling and the general parameters for the event have been established during the sales process, and you are working with the same facilities and space most of the time. There is still a lot of room for creativity with themes and special touches, as well as the ability to up-sell the client on various services.

In both cases, of course, be prepared to work weekends, holidays, etc.
In general, if it’s a time you’d normally like to party, you often will be servicing someone else’s party instead. For that reason, you’ll need to make sure this is truly where you passion lies.

Question: I am debating what kind of hotel I would like to work in. So, I was wondering if you think working in a full service hotel is hard to keep track of all the different departments? How do you keep control and make sure that everything works according to plan?

Answer: While I have a lot of faith in our managers and supervisors, that alone is not enough. Fortunately, we have many ways of getting information on how we are doing. I’m sure your great professors at MSU have talked many times about quantitative information (data that you can get from various sources) as well as qualitative data (more specific but perhaps more ‘opinionated’ feedback about how things are going). Both, of course, are essential if you are to have a good pulse on what’s happening with your business.

The quantitative could be data such as:

* guest satisfaction surveys, which we happen to conduct and receive reports on weekly
* event satisfaction surveys, also gathered weekly from our meetings and banquets
* associate opinion surveys, asking our employees about work conditions, pay, etc. (done twice annually)
* daily reports on guest problems and requests made
* operational or financial audits, which are generally scored according to a checklist
* financial information such as daily operating reports, wage progress reports, and checkbook spending to ensure costs are being managed.

Qualitative information may includes the following (and much more)

* verbatim (written) comments on the guest and event satisfaction surveys
* daily department meetings (we call them huddles) to get feedback from associates (employees)
* we hold periodic guest appreciation receptions and ask them for suggestions and ideas
* we call or e-mail guests if their surveys indicate a sub-standard experience, yet they did not tell us why

Question How have your daily task changes from entry level to where you are today?

Answer As I mentioned above, you don’t just become an event planner. Most of the time, you have to have a strong Operations background in order to understand how the event/conference will flow and how it will all come together. When first starting however, you are learning procedures and how to put an event together. As you learn more, you get assigned larger and more complex events. You are always learning though.

Question: What is the outlook for this meeting/event planning career look like? How many jobs do you think will be available in 2011?

Answer: Right now it is tough because companies are cutting down on holding meetings. However, we should be out of this economic slump by year’s end and we should be back on track by the first-second quarter of 2010. Meetings are evolutionizing and people want to get a different experience than just the typical meeting. It is important to think outside the box and not do the same that your colleagues do. If you think of an idea, run it by your boss or client and don’t be afraid to try it out. If you have an opportunity, shadow a meeting planner during an event/conference and don’t expect to get paid. On site experience is invaluable and the best way to learn. It’s very important to remember that you will not be a good meeting planner if you are not willing to spend at least 2-4 years in Operations first. Even if someone offers you the opportunity to become a junior meeting planner right after college, it will take you much longer to become a good meeting/event planner and your clients will be less patient with you if you make a mistake and don’t have the background to support it. It’s very important to remember that you must be aggressive and you have to put yourself in front of people. If you have ideas, let them be heard.

Question: A few statements on the life of a meeting planner. Here are list of questions followed by answers on the daily life of a meeting and event planner:

Answer: How is your life outside of work? Depends on whether you have a family. If you don’t, you spend a lot of time with your clients. If you don’t you try to go home as soon as meetings end and you have checked in with your client or after your reception/dinner has started.

If you have a family, how does it affect your time with them? It all depends on the location and the size of the hotel. When I worked in NYC, I did only meetings so I could go home at around 6-7pm when I had a group in house. Now, my hotel has 340,000 sq ft of meeting space and I also deal with Food and Beverage (not all meeting planners do) so I often stay until 10-11pm and have to come back in at 6am. Your family has to be understanding and it is often best if your spouse was/is in the industry, which mine is.
Do you receive much vacation time? Most companies give two weeks after the first year. I have been with Hilton for eight years so I now get three weeks plus paid holidays, birthday, anniversary, etc. I have about four weeks a year but I never get to take it at the same time. Most Meeting Planning departments will give their managers “comp” days, meaning that if they work a weekend day, they can take that day later in the week or as soon as they can take it.
What were your hours like when you first started? Pretty much the same as they are now. If you don’t like the hours or are remotely concerned about working too many hours, DO NOT stay in this industry. You will end up resenting it.

Question: What is the typical day of a meeting planner like?

Answer: Hard to tell. The most important part to LEARN is that you can never expect your day to remain calm if it starts that way because any little mishap can turn your day around. Whenever my day begins quiet, I always know it is a matter of time before something will go wrong. (This is all when I have a conference in-house). Otherwise, day-to-day while planning an event, it is mostly answering emails, phone calls, doing Banquet Event Orders (BEOs), researching how a certain event will transpire or attending meetings.

Question: Are there high pressure environments associated with meeting and event planning?

Answer: Yes. The most critical times are two weeks before the event or conference, when the clients start getting last minute details from the people that they are working with and they themselves become nervous.

Question: As a meeting and event planner what is the average salary for this position?

Answer: As with a any position, this ranges by region and responsibilities. Average I would say is about $55k. It’s important to know that you will probably not start anywhere in a Meeting Planner capacity. This position almost always requires prior operations experience.

Question: As a fellow HB Spartan is there anything you could do to help me find a job?

Answer: We are very pleased that students are interested in contacting our alumni on our new website, “Casual Conversations with Alumni”. This tool was designed to provide students an opportunity to get advice about the industry from our alumni experts. It is NOT designed as a job seeking tool. There is a note stating this on the website instructions.
While our alumni are happy to assist us, it is not practical or possible for them to find a job for each student who may ask. So, in order to be fair “Casual Conversations” was not set up to serve as a job seeking source. We hope that you will instead use it to ask question that will assist you in defining your goals, learning about the industry, and developing professionally.
SIRC (Student and Industry Resource Center)is the career service office for The School of Hospitality Business. We are more than happy to assist studetns in their job search! Please visit our office soon!
Our sincere best wishes; thank you for understanding,
Ms. Collins Hawks, SIRC DirectorAuthella Collins Hawks, M.Ed.
Student and Industry Resource Center
Career Services for The School of Hospitality Business The Eli Broad College of Business
227 Eppley Center, Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48824-1121
Phone: (517) 353-9747 Fax:
(517) 432-1170

Question: Dear Sir:
I am interested in pursuing a career in the event/meeting planning industry. What steps did you take in the job world to get where you are today? And what, in your view, is the key to being successful in this industry today? Thank you.

Answer: Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2009 12:20 AM
Subject: RE: MSU Hospitality Student Question///replyDear Student (name withheld),
Nice to hear from you. You ask good questions, big questions that require a longer conversation – and my typing abilities are limited so I’ll do my best.Reader’s Digest version – I got to where I am (which is a sole proprietor, trainer/professional speaker, plus 18 years in the hotel industry in sales and operations), by considering the advice of mentors, taking some risks, moving across the country, working hard, doing more than I was asked to do, volunteering for the tough tasks, surviving jerks as bosses, seeking to understand before I was understood, not being overly sensitive to criticism, and being flexible and open to change – whether change in my duties, departments, places of employment, etc. I know that sounds like a lot, but as a whole these are the things I did to get where I am now.I would not worry about your first post after graduation being your “dream job” – take some risks, learn something in EVERYTHING you do or as assigned to do, volunteer for the crud tasks, and do them brilliantly.

Right now in this economy, there are thousands of very qualified people who have been axed and are looking for a comparatively few number of jobs – that’s going to make it tough. So, the last thing a recruiter wants to see is a full-of-themselves college grad who will only do “certain things” in the industry. They want to see flexibility and a “let me at ’em” attitude (the eye of the tiger, so to speak), plus someone who isn’t so overly sensitive that they won’t be able to deal with turbulent change on the job- that is the hospitality and meetings business right now. Even in better times it is a wacky industry (but lots of fun, too!)

I would find some meeting and event planners and ask them if you could
“shadow” them at their event or convention, to see what a day in their life is like – to see if you really would like it.

I hope this was helpful to you – please let me know…

If you want to call me for further help, please feel free, I’m glad to help.

Gary R. Hernbroth
Chief Motivating Officer
Training for Winners

Michigan State University

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