Five Tips for Long-term Career Success

Through the recruiting profession I have gotten to know the careers of thousands of people in every area of hospitality operations, culinary arts, and food innovation. In addition to reviewing a candidate’s past, at Strategic Hospitality Search we also examine a candidate’s future.

In doing so, we ask “What are your short-term and long-term goals, and your ultimate career goal?” Too often very skilled professionals do not have answers to these questions. If you are not asking yourself these questions, you may be headed toward a mid-career slump.

If you want to make sure the second half of your career is as successful and exciting as the first, here are five practical considerations:

Be More Patient than Your Peers

Current average job tenure is 4.4 years and Millennials are projected to have 15 to 20 jobs throughout their careers. The next 30 years promise a drastically decreasing quantity of executives who have the leadership wisdom that comes from longer job tenure.

Loyalty is proven through endurance over time – through good times and (especially) bad. If the predictions about Gen X and Gen Y prove true, you will be rightfully regarded as wise and loyal when your steadily-progressive career has a six to seven year average job tenure. Be patient: truly good things come to those who wait.

Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree

Times have changed. Used to be that having the brains and work ethic, and being at the right place at the right time could get you to the top. Not anymore. In most corporations you’d like to work for, positions at the director-level and above require a bachelor’s degree. If teaching culinary, hospitality, or food innovation seems like a great second or third career, you can’t do it at an accredited college without one.

Find a school that will work with your schedule, and make the time to get it done…now. You need to start now because it may take a few years, and that’s when you’ll need it. Don’t worry so much about the prestige of the institution. At mid-career your skills, experience, and personality are the driving factors, and holding the bachelor’s degree most often just a necessary requirement.

Keep Your Records Clean

None of the time and resources invested in the four areas above will make one bit of difference if your character comes into question. Increasingly, companies large and small are deeply credentialing candidates. Live your career and life virtuously, especially the “big four:”

  • Transitions: Whenever possible, ensure your resignations or terminations are amicable. Ask for letters of reference every time, and realize that you will need your past superiors as references in the future.
  • Criminal/Driving: If you have made mistakes, work hard at putting them far behind you. Every client we have will forgive unrepeated, non-aggravated, non-sexual crimes if they are a one-time occurrence in the candidate’s past. You don’t have to be perfect to be successful, but you do have to be someone who does not repeat their judgment errors.
  • Drug Screen: Needs no explanation…
  • Credit History: Avoid excess debt, bankruptcy, repossession and foreclosure. The Great Recession put the hurt on many of us and I have seen a lot of grace in this area, but as the economy recovers that grace is going to wear thin.

Advanced Education

If advancing into the executive ranks is a goal, then an advanced degree is a must. If you are going to track with VP’s and C-level corporate execs, then you need to learn their language.

The most common advanced degree is the MBA, and is a demonstration that the holder comprehends business administration and finance, and possibly also varied leadership structures, business models, research and analysis methods, advanced marketing and entrepreneurship. Though some see the MBA as irrelevant, the degree most certainly opens pathways within the “ivory tower.”

Executives can also be valuable specialists. Master’s and doctorate degrees in food science, nutrition, hospitality, human resources, accounting, marketing, etc. establish you as a trusted subject matter expert.

Trade Organization Involvement

Associations within your discipline are an outstanding way to stay on trend and deepen your knowledge while growing your network and making friends. After you’ve tried a few out, pick two or three and grow roots. Commit to life-long membership and get involved. You will be blessed in the long-run with career opportunities, true colleagues, and the satisfaction of giving back to the community.

You have to be proactive if you want to persevere. The corporate climate is more volatile than ever, and application of these disciplines gives you an edge for not only continued employment but also upward mobility. They will also, if you so choose,  extend your career by increasing your ability to teach and consult into your golden years.

Joseph D’Alessandro

About Joseph D’Alessandro

Joseph spent 15 years in leadership positions in hospitality operations before becoming a full-time executive recruiter in 2000. Joseph founded SHS in 2002 and has grown the business from a one-person outfit to a full team of dedicated experts.

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