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Is Hospitality Your Calling?

In the early 1990’s I was engaged by a global hospitality organization that had changed hands a few years earlier, to create a series of interview-driven videos that spoke to the brand’s perception around the world. From Belgium to Borneo and numerous destinations around the globe, I talked with hotel owners, general managers, chefs, bartenders, front-of-house, back-of-house, entry-level staff members, travel agents, you name it, and what I learned from that experience forever changed my own perceptions of the hospitality industry and the intrinsic value of a brand.

Originally an American chain of hotels, the new owners had transformed the company into an internationally recognized brand…problem was, when travelers from other countries booked their stays at the US properties, based on their experience of the brand abroad, they were frequently disappointed. Conversely, the video crew and I were blown away by level of service and the elevated brand of hospitality we consistently experienced abroad.

women in hospitality - is hospitality your calling?

One of the most glaring differences I discovered on this project was in the attitudes depending on where we were around the globe. I so vividly remember the enthusiasm of a young woman in Hong Kong who viewed her entry-level position as the first step on a career path in hospitality. And she was not alone—this same spark of excitement about the industry burned brightly in nearly every country we visited. Until we came home… where, for the most part, working at a hotel was considered simply a job…a way to make money until something better came along. And that contrast in attitude made a palpable difference to the guest experience.

Please keep in mind that I am not generalizing here––this was my experience with one hotel brand. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, I was brought in to work with another American-based organization that understood the link between happy, engaged employees and satisfied guests.

Nancy Mendelson

In all fairness, the notion of having a career in hospitality is a relatively new concept here in the United States. This really came home to roost when I taught a graduate course in the Marketing of Destinations at NYU to students who were studying for their Master’s in Hospitality and Tourism. Most of the students in my class were International and came with an inherent understanding of the value that hospitality and tourism brought to their economies. While the American students told me that they had to explain the value to their parents. Happily, that perception is changing.

Hey, I have had my fair share of jobs I took to support myself, so no judgement there. At the very least, I learned what I didn’t want and pointed me toward the right path for me. It was all part of the process.

In an article for Forbes, "Job, Career or Calling – What’s the Difference?" writer Melody Wilding shares:

Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor at Yale School of Management, has spent her career researching how individuals identify with their work. She has established three different, defined contexts of work: job, career, and calling:

  • Job: A job provides you with pay, benefits, and perhaps some social perks. It’s primarily about earning that paycheck. People in this category are typically more invested in their lives outside of the office. Work is merely the way they afford to do the things they love. They focus on their family, friends, and hobbies more than their professional pursuits. If you no longer see your job as a place to learn, gain experience or increase your connections, it could be a sign that you have a “Job” orientation toward your work.

  • Career: A job you do for others, while a career is what you do for yourself. Career professionals are also working for the paycheck (let’s be honest, who isn’t?), but they are more driven to seek out opportunities for advancement in the workplace. These individuals tend to strive for the next promotion, look for more training, and generally aim to impress. People with a career orientation tend to have a long-term vision for their professional future, set goals, and enjoy healthy competition with colleagues.

  • Calling: Those who experience their work as a calling are most likely to feel a deep alignment between their vocation and who they are as a person. They feel a personal and emotional connection to their work. They are enthusiastic, have a sense of purpose, and are willing to work harder and longer to make a contribution. Unsurprisingly, this group is often the most satisfied with their professional situation.

This article also offers up tips to transform your Job into a Career or Calling…so worth a read, especially if you find yourself feeling “stuck” in a job.

On the flip side, I am delighted to share this excerpt from a LinkedIn post by Maria Jose Velez Arango, Resort Assistant Manager Four Seasons Whistler, who has clearly found her calling.

“If we think about it, hotels without employees are just beautiful buildings without a soul. It is each and every one of us who are able to transform thousands of bricks into a property that smiles, one that welcomes guests back or wishes them farewell, one that anticipates needs, one that prepares their coffee with the exact add-ons they prefer without even asking for it, one that listens, but ultimately, one that touches a guest heart in whatever way possible.❤️”


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