• Gustavo Serbia


Leslie writes:

I am a front desk agent. This upcoming May I will be graduating and receiving my associate’s degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. I would like some advice on how I can apply for a management position with my company, even though I do not possess any management title experience. I have supervised and trained people, I just never had that supervisor position or title officially. I decided to get my degree in this industry to back up the years of experience that I possess. I am looking forward to hearing any advice that you may have to give me.

Hello Leslie,

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! This is a significant accomplishment and an important step to growing your career.

From our email, I can see the following questions or concerns:

  1. How to apply for a management role with your company, now that you will have a degree?

  2. How can you be considered when you have not held a management position in the past?

  3. How can you demonstrate you have prior experience even though you did not officially hold the title of manager?

These are questions many college students and recent graduates frequently ask me. So, let me provide you with a few answers.

How to apply for a management role with your company, now that you will have a degree?

Don't think of your diploma as the reason why you will or should get the job. Getting to become a manager, particularly in hospitality, has little to do with your diploma. I know this is hard to hear due to the time you have invested and the money you have spent. However, hospitality is known for growing the career of many without a degree in virtually all functions within a hotel. Same is true in other industries, although the extent to which a diploma is required varies.

Now, this does not mean you have wasted your money. Like you, I have and continue to pursue higher education. Learning, through a school or other means, free or at a cost, can help you increase your knowledge and gain valuable skills you can transfer to the workplace.

The point I am making is that having the degree may not be required for the position you seek and may not land you a manager role just because you have one. What I suggest is you think of the diploma as a step you took to increase your marketability, your knowledge, and skill set. Now you need to articulate to others what you learned and how you can apply these to the benefit of the employer and to increase your chances of becoming a manager. In plain English; don’t make the diploma the central piece. Make what you learned that could be put into practice the leading actor.

How can you be considered when you have not held a management role in the past? How can you demonstrate you have prior experience even though you did not officially hold the title of manager?

A CEO was not always a CEO. A director was not always a director. Everyone who ends up being a manager was a first-time manager without prior experience, just like you.

When you have not been a manager previously, you have a greater chance of becoming one if:

  1. You can communicate to others the experiences (and skills and knowledge) you have related to getting things done

  2. You can communicate to others what you know and have done about managing others

  3. If your overall performance as a non-manager is visibly higher or better than others

Communicating you can get things done

Managers are responsible for ensuring the standards and processes in place are completed accurately and as expected (or better). This part of being a manager focuses on “things” rather than people. What employers are looking for related to this is your ability to demonstrate you have the knowledge to get projects, tasks, or processes completed. Be prepared to highlight:

  • the projects you completed in school or in the jobs you have held,

  • the events you organized as part of a club or association,

  • the tasks your manager assigned you that you completed without much supervision or direction,

  • the instances you handled upset or discerning guests,

  • your knowledge and understanding of the department’s role and purpose, including what are the standards and processes that impact the operation,

  • the instances you exercised good decision making,

  • and the ways to combine what you learned in school with the job you have and the work you perform.

Ensure you update your resume to reflect what you want to showcase related to these.

Communicating you can manage others

Managers are also responsible for supervising others. As a first time or newly appointed manager, you may be given some leeway initially. What employers are interested in knowing is if you have qualities to be able to get others to complete the necessary work, if you can have positive interactions with others, influence them to follow what is required, and get them to contribute to the organization. Be prepared to highlight:

  • the projects you lead in school or in the jobs you have held,

  • the events you lead as part of a club or association,

  • the instances you had conflicts with others and how you addressed them with a positive result,

  • and the situations you influenced or motivated others to contribute.

This is where you include the experiences supervising and training others you said you have. Again, ensure you update your resume to reflect what you want to showcase related to these.

Your overall performance as a non-manager is visibly higher or better than others

When your performance is better than others, you set yourself apart and increase your chances of landing a manager role. This is particularly important when you don’t have prior management experience. However, how do you set yourself apart? Consider these and assess where you stand:

  • are you showing up on time and as scheduled, so you are seen as reliable?

  • are you meeting the expectations established around customer service (positive guest feedback, good handle of upset or irate guests), job knowledge (you follow procedures, you know about the services and how they work, you know the frequent travel program inside out),

  • are you collaborating or working well with others inside and outside your department?

  • are you staying away from gossip and workplace drama?

  • are you exceeding performance expectations by demonstrating initiative, taking on more responsibilities, offering solutions to problems (even if they are not implemented), and raising your hand to provide help with more complex situations or for special projects?

  • are you taking ownership when problems are brought to your attention without passing the buck?

  • are you avoiding the repetition of errors or mistakes that have come to your attention?

  • are you demonstrating good decision-making when dealing with problems, be it with guests or employees?

  • are you showing the ability to listen to feedback and adjust based on the feedback provided?

  • is your manager able to leave you alone, or with other co-workers, and trust the work is getting done with urgency, ownership, completeness, quality, and promptly?

  • are you taking ownership of your role by serving as a role model to others of how the work should be done?

If you answer yes, you will become a manager soon. However, make sure you are objective with your assessment (self-awareness). Don’t limit yourself to believing your hype. Although you must believe in yourself, you must be aware of what others think about your performance, and like it or not, about your work style and approach to working with others (interpersonal skills).

If you answer no, then you have some work to do. I recommend you seek feedback from your managers. Don’t ask if you do a good job or if they think you are a hard worker. Everyone is a hard worker, by his or her definition. Use the above questions instead, as it can help you get specifics around critical behaviors, knowledge, and characteristics needed to become a manager.

Applying with your current employer

Keep in mind that the advantage applying with your current employer is that they can see what you are capable of and how you work. So, what is the disadvantage? The same. Because they understand how you perform and behave, they may not like what they see. In the end, you cannot control everything they think, but you can influence how they see you, so focus on that.

Be proactive and engage in self-marketing

Some employees think that because they do a good job, they will be offered the opportunity of becoming a manager. Although that works, I do not recommend waiting for a tap in the shoulder that may never come. You must be willing to engage in self-marketing.

Self-marketing is about showing others your capabilities. Start by letting your managers know of your interest in becoming a manager, even discussing with them a manager vacancy and your interest in applying for it. I also suggest you spend time with them learning what they do, why they do it, and for what.

Don’t limit yourself to talking to your managers. Find out who are other individuals with influence, like the General Manager or HR, and let them know what you have been up to and of your desires.

A word of caution

Do not become a nuisance by talking to everyone and visiting every week asking for a chance or telling them how wonderful you are. This is no different from a clingy boyfriend or a self-absorbed person; not the best qualities to show. Give them space and time. Also, if you have poor performance, you have been disciplined recently, or if the gap between your current qualifications and what they are seeking (review the job posting) is too much, don’t waste their time. If you have had performance problems in the past, do not be afraid to ask for feedback so you can improve, but make sure you do improve.

One final word

Not all graduates will start as managers. Most will be performing entry level jobs without managerial or supervisory responsibilities. Do not be concerned with this. I started as a coordinator and moved my way up the ladder. If you apply the above, you will increase your chances of landing a managerial role. They key is to constantly review your performance, elevate it to a higher level, and showing interest. Stay positive and focus on the variables you can control. The rest, handle it as it comes, and do not be afraid to continue to seek advice.

Good luck!

Your journey, your career. Own it.

If you want your question answered, email me at gus@stretchthestring.com.

"The most important instrument to career development, growth, and success is you. Therefore, you must work to stretch beyond your comfort zone, fine tune what you have to offer, and must do so continuously." - Gustavo Serbia

I work in human resources. I started Stretch the String, dedicated to career development, human resources, management, and leadership. For more on my content follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or at stretchthestring.com. I will respond to your comments and feedback.

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