This article is reposted with permission of the National Association of Career Colleges. The original article appeared in the 2019/20 edition of their Career Connections Magazine. You can find the original article on page 24 and 25 of the magazine.
Andrea Guzman has known for many years that hospitality would be her career. She even changed countries in pursuit of it.
Most people can tell right away that Guzman’s buoyant and genuine personality would make her a natural in a customer service setting, but the Mexican-born newcomer to Canada can also thank her strong work ethic for a highly successful career college experience and now a promising position as a guest service agent in the hotel industry.
“Two of her best qualities are that she is always willing to learn and handles criticism well,” says Danny Freestone, Guzman’s manager in her job at the Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto.
“She is always trying to improve and look for more challenging opportunities.”
Guzman certainly embraced challenges when tackling what’s known as the hospitality “double diploma” program offered at Greystone College Business and Technology – Toronto. She simultaneously earned a co-op diploma in tourism and hospitality management as well as a highly respected certification from the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI).
The AHLEI is a standard-setter around the world, and its educational content is tightly integrated with the Greystone academic program.
Thomas Dean, Guzman’s main instructor at Greystone, was not at all surprised that she was up to the educational task. “Along with her good-natured attitude, she had – and continues to have – a determination,” says Dean.
“She was always on top of the subject matter,” Dean adds. “She took the double diploma program seriously. Given that the average day in class ran from 9 a.m to 4 p.m., 30 hours per week, students really need to have motivation and drive to complete all modules.”
In Guzman’s case, that motivation dates back to her decision to leave her homeland. “I decided to move to Canada for a different industry environment,” Guzman explains, but not before she had attained a solid schooling foundation in her native Mexico.
Challenges paid off
Guzman began by earning a bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management along with a diploma at Cordon Bleu from Anahuac University in Cancun, Mexico, the city that she calls “the Latin American Mecca of hospitality.” Aspiring to broaden her skills even further and attain certification, Guzman moved to Canada in 2017, ready to enrol at Greystone.
“I really liked Greystone’s curriculum and the impact it had in comparison to other colleges,” says Guzman. “When I graduated, I felt very prepared to work in the industry here in Canada.”
Freestone agrees that the challenges of Greystone really paid off for Guzman.
“Greystone prepared Andrea by teaching her the fundamentals about hotel operations, specifically in the Canadian market,” says Freestone. “She had a good understanding of the Toronto hotel market before I hired her.
That same Toronto hotel market, as Guzman found out, is currently a great place to launch a career. “Hotels are 24/7 operations with a lot of employee rotation,” says Guzman. “Most of the year you can find opportunities to build your career and increase your experience and even start your career from entry-level positions.”
“Toronto is booming at the moment for tourism and therefore the hotels are always hiring,” Freestone adds.
Besides the monetary compensation and competitive employee benefits, career mobility is one of the lesser-known advantages of the industry, says Freestone.
“Hospitality is a close-knit industry where you can easily move from hotel to hotel, city to city, or even country to country, advancing your career,” Freestone says. “You work with people from all over the world and get to learn different cultures.”
As a guest service agent, Guzman’s time is split between various sections of the front desk, including reception, airline desk, the hotel’s 1865 membership desk, e-Club Lounge and tour desk. She’s grateful that her program at Greystone left her well-prepared to take on virtually any task that the job might throw at her.
“Being AHLEI-certified was important for me,” says Guzman, “as it teaches you the most important details you need to know about every area in a hotel.”
Aside from her willingness to work hard and learn on the job, Guzman’s people skills are fundamental to her success.
“Andrea is pleasant, polite and genuine in her desire to help guests,” says Freestone.
“Those are traits that cannot be taught. The computers and operating procedures can be taught, but customer service traits need to be natural – and Guzman’s definitely are.”
“In my experience,” says Guzman, “when you can go the extra mile to make a guest happy, it’s the best feeling.”
Are you interested in a career in the hospitality industry? Learn more about the hospitality programs available at Greystone College Canada.