We shine our spotlight on Jessica Munt AIH, recent winner of the Young Guns 2020 Hospitality Student of the Year competition. Jessica shares her career ambitions and explains why she would recommend IoH membership to other graduates.
What was it that attracted you to the hospitality industry?
When I was 16, I started working at my local country pub as a waitress and I remember being so excited to finally have a job because it gave me a real sense of independence and maturity. However, I never thought that I’d turn that part time job into a career. I just absolutely fell in love with it, with the people, the atmosphere, the sense of belonging and with the guarantee that no two days would be the same. That’s when I really started to consider a career in this industry. There’s never been any doubt that I am a people person and that I always try and go above and beyond to make people happy, so why not turn that passion into my career?
To me, the hospitality industry offers opportunity, experience and growth in more ways than any other… I have travelled, experienced incredible things and met even more incredible people and that is all thanks to this industry.
Who has inspired you the most in your career or whilst studying?
I have been lucky enough to have some incredible experiences both in industry, nationally and internationally and throughout my education. I have worked with so many different individuals that have influenced me and my life that I feel grateful for. One person that will always stand out to me in terms of my career was my first General Manager, Andrew. He was such an important role model for me, someone who encouraged me to grow both personally and professionally. He always made me feel like I could achieve anything I put my mind to. He was driven and motivated and always held the right balance between fair yet stern and I certainly looked up to him and saw him as a mentor.
In terms of my education, I have friends at University that have taken it upon themselves to set up pop-up restaurants and businesses. As their passion for it is so strong, they have motivated me all the way through my studies to always work towards what I really want to achieve! Also, Sheffield Hallam have tutors that have vast amounts of experience in industry, so just having a basic conversation with them motivates you to explore the industry as much as possible and see that the possibilities really are endless! They are all such a great networking and support network to have. They continuously share their knowledge and experiences with us as students and are always there to guide us.
Tell us about your experience of winning the Young Guns 2020 competition.
I still can’t believe that I won! I felt so lucky to even have made it to the final and to have met the fellow finalists and judges and to win just really topped off the whole experience! I was nervous to enter this competition because I knew how amazing the rewards were for being involved and it’s something that I had been interested in since hearing about it at the start of our academic year. I had a selection of draft ideas in my head of how to approach the application and ultimately decided to just simply be honest and express how I felt about the industry and to share my experiences.
The final lunch was an excellent experience. The location at The RAF Club London was beautiful and the hosts were so welcoming. It was a great way to meet with professionals from the industry and hear their experiences of their careers in the industry. Winning the competition really motivated me and made me even more excited to start applying for graduate roles as well as providing me with a selection of connections from people within the industry.
What would you say to someone considering having a career in hospitality?
Just take every opportunity that comes your way. It is such a fun and welcoming industry to become a part of and I’ve never held a position where it doesn’t feel like one big family. The industry is made up of so many sub-sectors that there is bound to be something for everyone and I would never judge the whole industry off of one experience, explore all the different sectors that it has to offer and widen your understanding of the whole industry.
What are you up to currently?
Currently, I am completing my degree in International Hospitality Business Management with Conference and Events from Sheffield Hallam University. Alongside this I am looking at taking on my first post-education role, ideally in the events sector and using my free time to attend webinars provided by the Institute of Hospitality. I feel that the webinars are the perfect way to continue learning even after completing my degree.
What would be your dream job in hospitality?
My dream job would be within the events sector of the industry in a managerial role however, I would like to explore different avenues of the events sector even if it meant I held a selection of roles whilst doing so. I would like to experience working at exhibitions, festivals and sporting events as-well as areas I have already worked such as weddings, events and conferences. My overall career aspiration after spending time in industry and completing further education is to become a hospitality/event lecturer. I love the idea of teaching and motivating the next generation of hospitality students and helping them to find where they fit into this industry.
What elements of being a member of the Institute of Hospitality do you enjoy the most?
The Institute provides a variety of benefits for those involved! Currently I am really enjoying attending the webinars that are provided by them as they give me the opportunity to learn new things and gain professional opinions on certain subjects.
Additionally, the mentoring scheme that they provide is great, I requested a mentor and within a few days we had connected personally. At first, I felt nervous about this scheme as it was something that I had not participated in before however, my mentor is extremely lovely and I can already tell that he is a really positive role model to have around me especially when starting my career. He offered me guidance on applying for jobs and told me that I could contact him at any point if I needed advice. It’s great to know that you can get such a high level of support from this membership.
Would you recommend Institute of Hospitality membership to other graduates?
I would highly recommend a membership to other graduates even if they just use it to keep up to date with what is happening in the industry. The institute provides monthly newsletters and articles covering important factors that impact the industry and its great to have that knowledge and know that it will be communicated to you each month.
Moreover, graduates can use the mentoring scheme if they feel overwhelmed or unsure about entering the industry and just need a bit more guidance from an industry professional. The extra online courses are also a great resource for anybody that wants to continue with their learning for example I am currently working on the fine dining and wine modules as I feel that I would benefit from understanding these more.