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Ajay Kumar Krishna: Retrofit your qualifications

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Ajay Kumar Krishna, Dean, School of Hospitality Management, Chitkara University, Himachal Pradesh, recommends how hospitality students can use the lockdown pause to upgrade their knowledge skills and ultimately their CVs

“Greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests” – Epictetus

The year 2020 started in a way that even the pessimists had not imagined. Whether it was SARS, Swine Flu or Nipah, it remained localised to a particular region and there was a similar expectation about the pandemic situation spreading across the world, that India as a country will not be overtly affected. Now half way through the calendar year, everyone is in for a long haul. Enough has been discussed and speculated about the new normal. It is time to start living in the new normal and prepare for the future.

Hospitality and tourism industry will open up, and people will step out and move around as restrictions eases. However, business will take time to get back on track. The general populace must feel confident that it is safe to travel and there is a safe place to stay, other than their homes. Home Away from Home – isn’t this how hotels are described?

When hit by the pandemic, many professionals cruising in their careers had to slow down and job offers received by students got revoked. In this scenario, any person is bound to get anxious and frustrated. To change the status quo, it is necessary to accept the situation and start strategising to be at the right time and right place, with the right profile and skill sets when the industry opens up.

Understanding the situation

By the end of the academic programme, a student is usually clear on their department of choice, viz. Food Production / Culinary, Sales & Marketing, Front Office, etc. However, being a single department centric person will not help when the industry opens up.

The mindset of the think-tank managing a business on a recovery mode is similar to the mindset of a Formula I racer, who had to take a pit-stop in between the race to fix a sudden technical fault. They will want to catch-up on the lost time, stay relevant in the race, and win it. In short, they will want resources who can deliver from the word “GO”. The industry is at a crossroad, on the path it will take from here, it will need talents who are multi-faceted and can seamlessly step into any role that requires them to apply knowledge beyond their area of core competency.

Fresh graduates and hospitality students lack notable experience but they can use this temporary pause in the industry to scale up their knowledge. It is imperative for the industry to find out what the student did whilst waiting for the right opportunity. The interview panellists will review how the students used their time.

Optimum utilisation of time  

There are many options that a student can exercise during this static scenario. Their objective should be to broaden their knowledge base, enough to contribute in a multi-functional role. As mentioned earlier, the industry would always prefer a person who can support in multiple areas than a person who can contribute in a single department.

Few suggestions:

  1. Enrol for a certificate course in a foreign language – Spanish, German or French, working knowledge of a foreign language should not be undermined by a hospitality student.
  2. Revisit core subjects, viz. Food Production, Food & Beverage, Housekeeping and Front Office. To shoulder multiple functions, basics need to be strong.
  3. In the times ahead, marketing using online platforms will gain more momentum. An online course in digital marketing will be helpful to understand its nuances.
  4. Management of facilities will become more relevant with the consciousness about hygiene and sanitation increasing. A logical subject to be explored.
  5. Accounting and Finance is an enigma, however, a business runs on finances and the person who can manage finance will manage the business. An online course in accounting can be considered as an option to explore.
  6. There are two skills that the student must have by default – command in English communication and their ability to use Microsoft office programmes like Word, Excel, etc.

Alternatively, even an online course on Retail Management can be considered. Hospitality is an element found across transactions in the retail industry too.

There are a few online learning platforms that offer courses, developed and administered by universities from world-over, including courses on language. The courses offered range from certificate programmes to specialisation courses in a variety of streams. All online courses can be completed at the pace of the learner, which is an advantage and one can choose a course that suits individual budgets.

“The best preparation for the future, is a well-spent today” – John Dewey

Technology savvy does not mean the ability to play online games, it is the ability to use technology to improve productivity and gain knowledge. Faculty and mentors must go that extra mile to counsel students, encourage them to prepare for the future. Make every minute waiting for the right opportunity count by enhancing knowledge or acquiring a new skill. Keep the momentum of learning continuous.

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