Protecting Your Training Career from the Next Recession

March 30, 2019 | 1907 Views

Protecting Your Training Career from the Next Recession

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

2018 turned out to be another great year in a string of great years for the United States economy as 2.6 million new jobs were created, which was a healthy increase from the 2.2 million jobs created in 2017 and the 2.3 million created in 2016. Even better, this growth was steady throughout 2018, as at least 100,000 jobs were added during each month, which is only the second time since 2000 that this level was consistently achieved across an entire calendar year. 

But as the old saying goes, “This too shall pass.” An economic downturn will be coming eventually (with predictions ranging from “very soon” to “within the next few years”), and for those of you who weren’t yet working in the industry during the last one a decade ago, there were some pretty brutal headcount and budget cuts in hospitality training departments. It was quite noticeable in our CHART attendance, too, as the registration total for the summer 2008 conference topped 300, but by summer 2009 we only had 165. 

What can you do to help protect your career as a trainer before the next recession hits? Here are a few preventative measures you should consider: 

·        Promote your successes – Operations and marketing are usually very good at taking the credit for improvements in productivity and profitability, but training professionals need to stake their claim as well. If you’re not doing it already, make sure to track key metrics and achievements for your various training programs AND that your boss and the C-suite executives are getting this information on a regular basis. If the top brass doesn’t understand how your daily activities are contributing to increases in productivity, profitability, or cost savings, there’s a stronger chance that you and the rest of the training team will be some of the first ones to feel the cuts when the economy does slow down. 

·        Don’t pigeonhole yourself – You may work in the training department, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to limit your role to just training activities. When your schedule allows, reach out to other departments, offer to partner on various projects, and ask about any opportunities to expand your skillset. The more versatile and adaptable you become within an organization, the more valuable an asset you will be. 

·        Be a positive force – This one isn’t usually too difficult for many hospitality professionals in the field, as we are conditioned to showcase our positive outlook when working with customers, whether they are external (guests who visit our hotels or restaurants) or internal (new employees we may be training). But this advice should be followed at the office as well, where positivity is just as critical. Any personal interactions, from quick conversations to long meetings, afford opportunities to look up from your smartphone, enthusiastically engage with others, and develop stronger relationships, especially with those executives who will be making budget decisions during the next downturn. 

Now even if you do these tasks and do them well, there’s no guarantee that you still won’t hit a professional speed bump. If the recession hits your area particularly hard and your company suffers significant setbacks, even the most successful trainer might be let go, so here are a few suggestions to hopefully shorten any period of unemployment: 

·        Update your resume – When was the last time you dusted off your resume or re-read what you posted in your LinkedIn profile – 3 years ago? 5 years? 10? If it’s been a while, take a little time to review your experience and qualifications and add any recent projects, promotions, or activities such as joining the board of a non-profit organization. While you’re at it, if your resume still reads like one written in 1990, with a simple list of jobs you’ve held and their responsibilities, consider revamping it to focus more on what you’ve been able to achieve at your different jobs. Similar to how you asserted those same successes to your boss in the first bullet point above, find some space on the page to brag about any increases in productivity, profitability, or cost savings that you spearheaded. 

·        Invest in your professional development – While you’ve still got the budget to do so, now is the time to seek out opportunities to continue your development as a trainer and leader that could make you a more attractive candidate for future positions. CHART provides multiple avenues to accomplish this goal, but there also might be resources in your area that could help, including community college courses or programs available through your city or public library. If there are areas in which you desire to improve professionally, don’t wait until the money runs out to pay for the training; talk to your boss, get the budget approved, and make that investment now! 

·        Network – If you do have to look for another hospitality training position, having a strong and supportive network of friends and colleagues will be one of the best ways to help you learn about and secure a new job, so it’s important to make time in your schedule now to make those connections. There is no better organization for that purpose than the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers, of course, as we have 500+ members that can be ready, willing, and able to lend a hand, but it’s not your only option. You can meet other professionals in the industry at local or state hospitality associations meetings, through the Chamber of Commerce, or by starting your own get-togethers and inviting HR or training folks from nearby hotels and restaurants to your business for a casual lunch. It doesn’t matter where this safety net comes from, but it is important to get it set up. 

Regarding this last point, “networking with others” is always the highest-rated aspect listed by attendees at our hospitality training conferences, and because of that we always provide ample opportunities at these events to connect with fellow trainers, both during our educational sessions and informally at meals and the hospitality suite each evening (which is why I said CHART was the best place to achieve this goal!). If you haven’t checked out the agenda for our upcoming CHART 98 conference, take a few minutes to review it with your boss so that you can hopefully join us and network with the best and brightest minds in the industry this summer in Nashville.

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