Employment in the hospitality industry encompasses a vast variety of options. It includes jobs working in hotels, restaurants, casinos, cruise lines, theme parks and many other fields you may have never even considered. Many of the jobs are customer-facing, but there are also countless opportunities behind the scenes. In the hospitality industry, entry-level jobs can often be the starting point for exceptional career growth.

Anthony Melchiorri’s journey through the hospitality industry and hotel management began more than 20 years ago. Today, he is the host of the very successful Travel Channel program “Hotel Impossible,” head of his own consulting firm, Argeo Hospitality, and a sought-after public and corporate speaker. Through his unique blend of personal stories, philosophies and business insights, he has inspired and transformed a wide variety of corporations, businesses and individual lives.

Building Your Personal Brand

“I know a lot of people that make a good living doing something they hate, but I’ve never met someone who followed their passion and didn’t make a good living doing it.”

Melchiorri believes that each of us has unlimited potential when we take responsibility for our own professional journey and set about building our own personal brand. But what exactly is a personal brand for someone who is just getting started? Melchiorri is quick to respond, “Your personal brand is your authentic you.”

The idea is a simple one — have a very clear idea of who you are, what you have to offer and what you stand for. Are you the go-getter? Are you the creative problem-solver? Are you the most eager to learn and grow? Even at the beginning of your career, you need to know who you are.

“How do you show up in the world? What do you want to present?” Melchiorri asked. As for himself? “I’m a hotel management expert that does what he says he’s gonna do.” But a successful career, he added, often hinges on finding the right match for your brand.

"Whether you work at the Marriott, The Four Seasons or McDonald’s, as a good employee, you need to faithfully represent that brand, but don’t lose sight of your own brand," Melchiorri said. “Do what you do. Be authentic to who you are, and your brand will shine and sell. It may not sell in that company, but it may sell in this company."

Hiring Potential

Melchiorri is also a big believer in promoting potential. He doesn’t hire people based on the companies they’ve worked for, their job titles or the salaries they’ve earned in the past. “If people hired me based on my experience, I would have never been a general manager, I would never have worked at Tishman’s, and I never would have had a TV show.”

In his consultations and public speaking engagements, Melchiorri likes to offer corporations and smaller enterprises one of his favorite pieces of advice. “Stop hiring experience and start hiring potential.” He tells the story of a man he hired whose only professional experience was working at McDonald’s for 7 years. But Melchiorri liked what he saw and hired him to be a bellman at the Plaza Hotel. Today, Melchiorri said with a smile, “He’s the best bellman I’ve ever had!”

The Right Avenue for You

So, how can a young person just starting out find the path that’s right for them? Melchiorri thought for a moment and then leaned in. “I would say go to a quiet place, go to a place that gives you solitude. Close your eyes and think of what, when you were a kid — if you could get to do anything — what would you do for the rest of your life? It could be being an artist, it could be being a juggler, it could be being a dolphin trainer. Well, guess what? Every one of those careers, you can find in a hotel.”

Melchiorri said it all comes down to passion. In fact, that’s one of his mottos. “Passion changes everything.” He knows that working for a living can be a drag. It’s hard, and not everybody finds the perfect job right out of the chute. But he also believes a good living is a happy living. “I know a lot of people that make a good living doing something they hate, but I’ve never met someone who followed their passion and didn’t make a good living doing it.”

The Bottom Line

There is a dizzying array of professional possibilities in the hospitality industry. But you must understand, develop and embrace the idea of branding yourself. Ask Anthony Melchiorri what he’s looking for in those first few minutes when meeting a prospective employee, and he will tell you:

“Focus, and eye contact, and just overall appearance and paying attention. I don’t really care what you’ve done, what you think you can do. Are you here with me? Are you here? Were you prepared? Are you dressed appropriately? How do you show up?”

That’s your brand.