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Thursday, November 26, 2020
Waiter wearing protective face mask while disinfecting tables at outdoor cafe.
Tips & Training

Hospitality workers in transition have exciting career story to share

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently announced that over 60% of the country’s food services businesses may fail by year end. Behind each of those businesses are tens or hundreds of employees who will find themselves out of work. It’s a staggering statistic, with a staggering amount of career transition still to come. It can be overwhelming and terrifying for some, especially for those individuals who have been in hospitality all of their adult lives – some of whom got their start waiting tables or doing dishes at their family’s restaurant when they were teens. This impact is being felt across small– to medium-sized businesses – not just those in hospitality.

I’ve recently worked with a few clients in food services who saw the proverbial writing on the wall and were proactively looking to get out before it was too late. Reinventing yourself is a daunting task and clients may not know where to start, not to mention the fear of exploring possibilities in a new field. The good news: people working in hospitality have developed a number of valuable transferrable skills that will serve them well in their next career. And they have an exciting career story to tell. You can help them to articulate and market this story.

The steps in the transformational process

This pandemic has initiated job loss, and also a healthy dose of reflection by individuals looking to change careers. These people also include small business owners, teachers and retail professionals. So, how can you help a client who is looking to move out of one industry (such as hospitality) to another? Here are some steps to get them going:

  • Take stock of what is important in a job and a company: This pandemic has provided us with opportunities to reflect and hit the “pause button” on our careers. Clients can give some thought to questions such as “What work gives you energy?”, “What have you wanted to do in your work but haven’t yet?”, “What is the profile of a company that believes what you believe?”, “What are your non-negotiables?” and “What is important to you that you would be willing to compromise on for the right fit?”
  • Tally up the transferrable skills: Have your client think about their skills that are portable to other roles and other industries. For example, a restaurant owner has developed skills such as client service, sales, relationship management, negotiation, event/project leadership, recruiting, training and contractor management – to list a few. This individual would have the skills to look at roles in project leadership, client service, business development and operations. A server can showcase his ability to gain a deep understanding of client needs and recommend menu selections that meet those needs, in addition to generating revenue through up-selling. A hotel front desk worker can outline how she is known for promptly resolving customer issues and creating an exceptional customer service experience.
  • Transform the resume: Help the client shift their resume from chronological to skills-based. A chronological resume will pigeonhole the client for a specific type of role and industry; a skills-based resume can help them be seen as marketable for new work. Create a profile summary that tells a career story full of value and impact, and showcases your client’s career legacy to date.
  • Reach out and network: if your client has been in one industry for a long time, they likely have a supportive network to draw on. Encourage them to look “through” their network versus “at” their network. Each person they know (even if their network is closely tied to their industry) likely knows hundreds of people – and any one of those people can help. This principle is especially important to action when applying for jobs. Their network can help get your client’s resume into the right hands, which may possibly land them an interview. It can also provide valuable assistance to explore possibilities with companies of interest and to identify job leads.
Finding hope in a “closed door”

COVID-19 has dished up plenty of loss, including job loss. Because our jobs are tied so closely to our identity, we may grieve this lost job, especially when it wasn’t our choice. Your clients looking to leave industries and professions they practically grew up in are likely feeling the same way. You can offer them a lot of hope and ways to find new work. One of my clients sold his restaurant (a family legacy) and has found new work in a role that excites him, with a company that believes what he believes and in an industry that offered him his non-negotiables – the things deeply important to him. The next chapter in his career journey is off to an exciting start. Your clients can find that same path, with your help.


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Michelle Schafer is an ICF-certified coach and facilitator, specializing in career transition and leadership. She is the owner and founder of Michelle Schafer Coaching, empowering people to achieve career fulfillment. Michelle is passionate about people and inspired by their progress, working with clients at all levels of an organization and across sectors including federal and municipal government, high tech, not-for-profit and financial services. Michelle offers coaching 1:1, in groups and most recently was certified in the foundations of team coaching with the Global Team Coaching Institute.
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Michelle Schafer is an ICF-certified coach and facilitator, specializing in career transition and leadership. She is the owner and founder of Michelle Schafer Coaching, empowering people to achieve career fulfillment. Michelle is passionate about people and inspired by their progress, working with clients at all levels of an organization and across sectors including federal and municipal government, high tech, not-for-profit and financial services. Michelle offers coaching 1:1, in groups and most recently was certified in the foundations of team coaching with the Global Team Coaching Institute.