graduates with a career

Campus career development services have changed dramatically over the years. This service used to be offered to seniors before graduation but has now shifted to career counselors working with first-year students.

However, there are still plenty of graduates who don’t understand how to take what they’ve learned and build a career. This is either because of outdated information or lack of resources on campus. It could also be because they never took advantage of services offered to them. This is true in the hospitality industry, many graduates do not have practical experience leave college.

I’ve been recruiting for the hospitality industry for almost 20 years and I’ve seen an evolution of candidate requirements that are not taught in the classroom. For example, since I was a young restaurant manager, the position has changed from pencil pusher to artist, creative genius, and customer service specialist rolled into one. It’s about having hard skills such as understanding numbers and spreadsheets to softer skills like how to work the dining room like a Las Vegas performer.

One of the most frustrating things I see is a candidate who fails to reach his/her peak, and with it, the increasingly difficult task of landing – and keeping – a management job in the hospitality industry. Some challenges can be addressed by understanding some of the basics of starting out on the right career path. Below are three questions I (and most recruiters) receive almost every day!

1) I have my degree; why can’t I find a better job?

Many college graduates leave school believing they have the tools needed to build a career. What they really have is enough theory to build a skill set. Good information, but incomplete.

It’s important to distinguish between the two. Without tools, you can get stuck interning for months – or years, while you try to turn that theory into skills. Yes, you’re building a portfolio of relevant work, and there a measure of success in this path, but it’s slow and can be demoralizing. Your skills are built slowly, and are often fragmented and undesirable to employers who want well-rounded employees.

The smart thing is to volunteer (or better yet, work) in your desired career field while in college. This gives you the practical tools which can be combined with your theory. For example, working in a restaurant can be difficult – you’re expected to work long hours, be efficient in your role, have a level of expertise that contributes to guest satisfaction and profitability, and possess high accountability. Are you ready if you haven’t worked in that environment, but only learned about it in theory? Perhaps, but unlikely. Many graduates try to catch up by interning after they graduate. This is an option, but why work for free when you don’t have to?

2) Are there good jobs for recent graduates?

The short answer is, “Absolutely!” – but you need to know how to find the “good” jobs. Hospitality recruiters know about the best available positions that closely match your skills. Restaurants and hotels don’t have the time nor the people and money resources to sort through thousands of resumes when recruiters can present them with five or six of the best candidates based on their requirements.

Don’t forget, this is “candidate’s market,” and the most desirable positions can have hundreds of qualified applicants. In most cases, companies are looking for a specific skill set. Working with a recruiter can help you identify those skills that are in demand and will make your resume float to the top of the pile.

3) What should I do first?

First, find the best recruiter in your chosen career field. It’s important that they specialize in your area of interest; I can’t stress this enough! Hiring for the hospitality industry is quite different than hiring for a bank, for example. You can find a recruiting firm online or through a friend or colleague referral.

Working with a recruitment firm doesn’t cost you; there is no fee for the candidate; the client who is hiring pays all of the fees. It also doesn’t limit your options. No hospitality recruiter will tell you that you must take a specific job. Recruiters also will not force you into a niche if you’re not interested or not qualified. After all, it’s ultimately their reputation on the line.

For me, the best part about hospitality recruiting is seeing a candidate that we’ve placed grow in the industry. The best recruiters are with you for the long haul: as you build your tools and expertise, and seek new opportunities, we want you to come back to us so we can market your skills again, keeping you on the path to a successful, long career.

Robert Krzak, founder and president of Gecko Hospitality, has been in the restaurant business most of his life, starting as a young boy at his family’s restaurant on through working in full service restaurant chains after college graduation. Realizing that career restaurant management wasn’t his path – but understanding what makes a great restaurant manager – he began recruiting for the hospitality industry in 1997 with one office and a desire to build a network of franchise partners who know firsthand what it takes to run a successful hospitality team. Now, with 37 Gecko Hospitality Restaurant Recruiting franchise offices nationwide, he and his team of industry experts build high-performing teams for restaurants, hotels, casinos, country clubs, and resorts throughout North America. For more about Gecko Hospitality, visit

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