Mentoring Students Can Be Great Opportunity For Hotels

Every year at about this time college students well into their senior years are facing the reality that their lives are about to drastically change before too long. It’s a scary time for these young adults. For every student with post graduation plans firmly in place, there are just as many struggling to figure out what’s next. The ones lucky enough to have crossed paths with that special professor, advisor or mentor are more likely better prepared to face “what’s next” than students unable to forge such relationships.
Lifelong advice and guidance provided to protégés by mentors many times goes a long way in determining the kind of executive the student will become. Although I never had a mentor, per se, over the years I have been given a lot of business advice. In particular, three pieces of advice remain with me to this day.
One bit of advice came from Frank Norberto, a Swimming Pool Builder on Long Island, NY, for whom I worked for a few summers as a teenager. He told me, “Be sure that the employees always know that you [the boss]are as capable as anybody to get in the trenches and can do the job as well as or better than they can.”
The next piece of advice was from Murry Greenwald, president of Executive Business Media, the first trade publisher I ever worked for and the one who gave me my first job in sales. “Once you start agreeing with the reasons that you’re being turned down, it’s time to find a new line of work,” he said.
Finally, Joseph Kranz, my father-in-law—who professes to be retired because he now works only five days a week—offered me this pearl of wisdom. He said, “In business as in life, you reap what you sow.” Simply stated, “what you do comes back to you.”
On February 11, 2011, the lodging industry will participate in the National Groundhog Shadow Day, a national campaign that gives young people a new perspective on their studies through hands-on learning and a one-day mentoring experience. 
Students are paired with a mentor who they will “shadow” throughout the day to experience how the skills they learn in the classroom can be applied to the real world. This event also provides an opportunity to introduce future employees to the vast array of careers available in the lodging industry.
Here are some ideas for getting your hotel involved:
Have students shadow a general manager or executive staff member. Students get a chance to learn a great deal about hospitality by following and assisting an experienced hotel professional with their daily activities and duties. A shadow representative can teach them about the skills that are needed to succeed in the lodging business. The students may assist with reservations, customer service, meeting and conventions, daily staff agenda, etc.
Have students shadow an AH&LA partner state association executive. By letting them “shadow” directly in a lodging association environment, students will get a prime understanding of how individual lodging state associations handle their legislative, regulatory and operating practices. The state executive can have the students attend state and in-office meetings, assist with daily duties, etc.
Have students become a hotel employee for the day. Students work directly with customers and other hotel staff to become familiar with daily situations that will prepare them for future hotel job opportunities. It also teaches them the difference between non-managerial and managerial staff, and what it takes to climb the ladder of success in the lodging industry. Have the students work as non-managerial employees, such as front office clerks, bell captains, lobby porters, etc.
Teach students behind-the-scene lodging opportunities. Allowing students to get a closer look at what happens beyond the hotel lobby will prepare a new generation of powerful hotel executives. Let students watch, and assist if possible, with paying bills, vendor purchasing, creating schedules and other hidden logistics that go into running a hotel.
In the spirit of “what you do comes back to you,” what better way to give back than to be part of this worthwhile event. For more information, contact Kathryn Potter at [email protected]