Mike Schugt, President of Teneo Hospitality Group, has an answer for Millennials new to the workforce and unsure of how to find a position in a field where they can learn, grow and achieve. Schugt, a veteran hotelier and prominent sales executive, has no regrets about his career choice and is excited and inspired by the scope of opportunities in the hotel industry today.
"This is a fantastic time to get into the hospitality business-there are so many choices," Schugt affirms, noting that the industry offers opportunities for people from a wide range of disciplines. "The hospitality industry needs people with backgrounds in technology, engineering, finance, law, sales, marketing, food and beverage services, conference management, communications, real estate, human resources, labor relations, graphic design, foreign languages and more," he says.
Most of all, the industry needs workers with strong interpersonal skills, an ability that benefits the guest, the company and the employee.
A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University's Hotel Management School, Schugt has this advice for those starting out in the wide world of hospitality.
According to Schugt, too many jobs are performed online and sometimes in isolation. Communications is computer generated and calls to customer service centers are increasingly digitized and impersonal. "Opportunities for face-to-face interactions are shrinking, and the result is a lack of authenticity in our daily outreach," says Schugt.
"This is a serious challenge for any business, service or otherwise," he asserts. When choosing a career, new graduates should look at the industry's culture and ask questions beyond pay, benefits and promotions. "Ask what kind of interactions you will have with your colleagues, managers, suppliers, the public. Will your career choice offer you a paycheck as your sole compensation, or will you reap the rich rewards that come from exposure to many different people, cultures, and belief systems that can teach valuable life lessons in leadership and human relations?" Schugt asks.
Schugt vividly remembers a lesson learned early in his career as a Front Desk Manager in a suburban Marriott hotel with a staff of 33 people reporting to him. "My first big, terrible idea was to make sure that my staff came back from their 30-minute breaks on time," he recalls. "My boss explained that we are here for the guests and team members and not here to micro-manage the staff. That was a lesson in humanity that I never forgot."
Thomas Jefferson once said, "The harder I work the luckier I seem to get," and Schugt believes in working harder - and smarter - with personal and professional goals always in mind. "Consistently ask what you need to do to get to the next step on your career path," he advises.
"Don't think that a task is beneath you," Schugt cautions. "In the hotel business, crises big and small arise. "If you can't help when there is a power failure, what are you going to do when there is a serious emergency such as an earthquake, storm, flood or a reservations system crash?" he asks.
"Accept as much responsibility as anyone will give you - take on more than what is expected of you," Schugt advises. "Don't just concentrate on finishing your current workload – raise the bar by resolving to do an exceptional job. Ask to take on new responsibilities, train in new areas and learn all you can about our complex, challenging and ever-evolving world. This is a form of leadership that will drive both personal and team performance," Schugt asserts.
According to Mike Schugt, everything is possible for those who think and dream big. "The only thing that is stopping you from doing exactly what you want is belief! Believe in yourself and believe that whatever it is that you do, you will do exceptionally well. The key is to Think Big, don't let a self-imposed boundary get in the way."
Meeting challenges, not avoiding them, is a key part of career development, in Schugt's view. "It is important to put yourself in uncomfortable situations that stretch you beyond what you thought you could do." Graduates who place themselves in challenging situations will learn a great deal about themselves and their industry. Schugt often quotes the German philosopher Friederick Nietzsche: "That what does not kill us makes us stronger".
For Schugt, a little introspection goes a long way in setting goals and building that all-important belief in oneself. "The questions that you must consistently ask are: Am I living up to my potential? Am I on the right career path, and what is missing in my life plan?"
He points to a time in his career when a weak economy appeared to block any hopes for advancement to the sales position and leadership role he had targeted. "I realized that I had to set my mind to doing what I aspired to do and anything would be possible. It's so easy to get caught up in daily routines rather than focus on how to improve skills and live up to your potential. Discipline your mind to continually reach for new and higher goals and don't accept the status quo."
Few industries demand more cultural sensitivity than hospitality and Schugt advises anyone with a serious career plan to learn a foreign language. "In a global economy, fluency in a major language is essential to effective employee and customer relations," says Schugt, who in addition to his native English speaks fluent German and Spanish.
Success in any job requires challenging work, self-examination and a willingness to take one's career to the next level. But Mike Schugt is convinced that the hospitality field will bring ample rewards to today's graduates. "Few industries offer the variety of brands, locations, positions and types of properties in which to work. You may find yourself working for an upscale urban property, in a college town, at an all-inclusive resort, a historic hotel, at a large conference center or even in a hotel in exotic and remote parts of Asia, Africa or Latin America," he says.
No one needs to fit into a specific mold in the hospitality field, according to Mike Schugt. "Some are leaders, some are entrepreneurs, others do best in support roles, some are highly guest focused, others thrive in accounting and finance. What matters is that you understand who you are and what you can do best, what motivates you and what drives you. Find your passion, set lofty goals and higher standards for yourself. Work hard to get there and believe that you can do it and then…make it happen."
Teneo Hospitality Group is the premier independent Global Group Sales Organization for the finest collection of over 300 independent and small branded hotels, resorts and Destination Management Companies (DMCs) serving the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry. Our global team is based in key geographic source markets and is an extension of its members' local and regional sales teams. We have wide-ranging knowledge of the hospitality industry and serve the meeting planning community by providing valuable expertise and acting as trusted advisors.
Teneo is a Latin word meaning to know, understand and persevere. This term represents the company's mission and its successful track record of global expansion. Since being established in 2013, Teneo has become a top-notch independent GSO. The company continues to expand its staff of hospitality sales and marketing professionals, and the services it provides the MICE marketplace as authorized by its members. www.teneohg.com