There was a time not so long ago when being hospitality professional meant one thing: You worked at a hotel.
In recent decades, hospitality has branched into fields such as gaming, entertainment, spas, and golf. Shaped by global events and trends, the industry continues to reinvent itself and offer innovative employment opportunities. And although the COVID-19 pandemic pumped the brakes on tourism, hospitality professionals remain more creative than ever when it comes to their careers.
From local radio disc jockey to recruiter for Google, Harrah College of Hospitality alumni run the gamut of professions. Learn how some are getting the most out of their hospitality degree.
Did you plan to have this career or was it serendipitous?
J.C. Fernandez, radio co-host of “Mercedes in the Morning,” on KMXB-FM: Before attending UNLV, I worked at an inn in New Jersey, and that’s where I fell in love with hospitality. My plan was to go back after graduation and become the general manager, but I also had a curiosity for radio. I told my parents I would try radio for a year, and here we are 24 years later.
Jennifer Levine, senior director of employee relations and compliance, Las Vegas Raiders: I decided I wanted to work in human resources my freshman year at UNLV — yes, I was one of those kids who just knew. Most don’t, and that’s OK.
Lovell Walker, vice president of business development, Penn National Gaming: It was both. I wanted to be in a strategic role where I could have an entrepreneurial mindset and a hyper-focus on growth. I started building my brand around that ethos, and over time the job found me.
What inspired you to pursue this path?
Jasmin Jones, human resources coordinator at Google, Signature Consultants: I always wanted to work for Google and knew studying and networking at UNLV was a way in, so I pursued something relevant to my studies in hospitality management and got into recruiting coordinating.
Levine: It was a desire to help others love what they do at work while showing care, compassion, and dignity, even during tough situations. I love the rules, the law, and serving others.
Walker: The casino industry has been ripe for disruption for many years. I'm drawn to what the next phase of the gaming industry will be.
Do you use your hospitality training in your job?
Fernandez: Every day. When working at the hotel, I would try to exceed the customer’s expectations. I still try to do the same for listeners and clients.
Jones: Yes, absolutely. I use the analytical skills developed from hospitality law, as well as leadership, business writing, communications, and so much more.
What advice do you have for students concerned about the industry coming out of the pandemic?
Fernandez: I’m a firm believer that life happens for you. The pandemic is going to make the younger generation stronger. If they can adapt to the past year, they can adapt to anything.
Jones: Be open-minded and stay curious. Don’t be afraid to express your true passions to recruiters, because they may extend an opportunity you didn’t expect.
Levine: Hospitality skills are transferable to most industries outside of the field. Employers are looking for the transferable skills from industry to industry and know many people have been impacted by the pandemic. Remember: you can teach technical skills, but you can’t teach the right attitude.
Walker: Be an aggressive learner post-college, and heavily invest in your self-development. Opportunities will come and go. There is power in being ready under any condition.