NCC hospitality students network for their future
Graduates of the hospitality program at NCC spoke to a room full of current students of the program during the #GotHospitality? event held on both the Monroe and Bethlehem campuses on March 25 and April 1. The events had students eager to soak in as much advice and knowledge from the field as possible.
Brianna Peiffer, accounting specialist for Hotel Bethlehem, Robert van Thiel, beverage director for Molinari’s, and Allyssa Yannuzzi, event manager at Fun-Nominal Events and Marketing, all graduates of the program, were alumni panelists on Bethlehem Campus.
On Monroe’s Campus, alumni panelists and graduates of the program were Robert Jones, front house manager of Barley Creek Brewing Company and Distillery, Quetcy Dueno, special events coordinator at Camelback Lodge and Aquatopia, and Barbara Johnson, rooms division manager at Kalahari Resort.
Panelists said that hospitality workers need time management and organization to succeed, particularly when many jobs in the industry can go over a 40-hour work week. They stressed a work/life balance to the students.
Another important skill panelists stressed is for students to learn to be accommodating. Alumni say they keep calm and collected and listen to customers. Learn what you can do for the guests, and be patient when getting them what they need. The panelists emphasized that the goal of hospitality is to provide a happy and positive experience for people, which in turn, should make you feel good for making someone’s day.
Van Thiel mentioned that no industry professional is without mistakes. “You need to reflect back on your decisions to see where it went wrong or right. Tailor how you might change the way to handle a situation moving forward,” said van Thiel.
When asked what they took away from their experience at NCC, one panelist shouted, “Everything!,” but the biggest thing, they all agreed, is that networking is key. Yannuzzi said, “I learned how to carry myself with pride and confidence, and I was taught to follow-up with people I meet."
Students even had the chance to do Speed Networking and build their own confidence in their ambition and goals. As they went around to the different networking tables, they had the opportunity to talk with fellow students, industry professionals, alumni and NCC staff to find more useful information on getting started in their field or internship of choice.
“Take every opportunity you can. Even if it's a two-month internship. Take one in every area of hospitality. It will help you gain necessary experience and learn what you like and what you don’t like," said Peiffer. Domenic Lombardo, owner of The Mint Gastropub, echoed and added to that sentiment:“I didn’t choose hospitality as a kid. I wanted to be an architect. You can be in love with a thing, but that doesn't mean you'll pursue it unless you know all the aspects of it.”
When students go for that internship, or get their career started, Jennifer Napierkowski and Barbara Markwalter in Career Services at NCC can help. "Consider an internship like a working interview and an opportunity to network. Keep a portfolio of what you do there,” was Napierkowski’s advice. Markwalter and Mary Popovich, vice president of Human Resources at Camelback Resort said you have 30 seconds before you lose an employer’s attention on a resume. You want to tailor the resume to that position.
Another crucial element to getting hired is your social media presence. Hospitality Professor at NCC, Gwendolyn Capers-Wilson, discussed LinkedIn as a tool that functions as an online resume when employers search for you online.
The all-important Emeril’s Externship, a chance for culinary and hospitality students to work in Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans restaurants, came up. “Should you apply,” was the question from a student. Van Thiel, who was selected to participate in the experience, said, “Apply. It’s in the hospitality Mecca, NOLA, and seeing the inner workings of Emeril’s sites was inspiring. It revitalized and reinforced my passion for the industry.”
The biggest take away for when the students graduate was to keep learning. Whether it's in the form of reading the latest industry trends in blogs, news or seeking other sources of information, this research will help a professional progress as the industry changes.
Something Lombardo said that anyone can find useful in any industry was that, "You can find facts through research. What will set you apart, is your creativity or free thinking. You bring something unique to the table that no one else has. Harness that, and let it make you stand out from the rest.”