Backpacks to Briefcases

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On Nov. 16, 20 MPI PHL members and myself had the pleasure of engaging with Temple and Drexel Hospitality and Tourism students in an information filled speed networking hour, aptly named Backpacks to Briefcases.

Launched last year, MPI PHL (formerly known as PAMPI) wanted to work with the regional university students to help them uncover the various paths that the exciting meetings/events/hospitality and tourism industry brings. Students and MPI PHL members sat with each other for five minutes sharing backgrounds. (MPI members all have various experiences, giving the students a diverse cross section of this exciting industry.)

The students told us what year they were in (most were juniors and seniors, with a few sophomores), which track they were on and what area they think they are interested in based on a combination of internships they had completed and where their passion lies. Due to time constraints, we unfortunately did not meet with all of the 21 students who attended, however among the students I met with; one wants to own a B&B and has been interning with one, but understands, “I know I can’t graduate and just buy a B&B, one because I don’t have the money and two because I need the experience!’ Her enthusiasm and definitive interest in doing something she clearly loves right out of college is refreshing. Another student loved her front-of-house internships and desired to excel in a FOH Managerial role. Her comments were very insightful as she said “I want to make the guests feel wonderful as soon as they check in, and if there was the unfortunate occurrence of a problem, I want to know that I can help rectify it so they can leave the property with the positive experience they arrived with.”

Another young man, in his senior year, had his internship lined up for his final semester, which he said more often than not turns directly into a job offer. His area of interest? Hotel sales. This interest in sales was twofold he said, one to pay off his student loans and two because he knows you can make a good salary in the sales arena—when you’re good at it. As we shook hands after our five minutes were up I assured him his path seemed like a perfect fit for him and that he will no doubt be extremely successful. He just had that je ne sais quoi.

I was extremely impressed by the student’s ambitions and interest in their careers—even the sophomores were focused. When I think back to my time in college 30 years ago, career goals were honestly not on my radar, my goal after college was to save money then go backpacking through Europe, so a briefcase wasn’t happening until I returned from my trek! (I did reach my goal and spent almost three months riding the rails throughout Europe and Scandinavia during the fall of 87.)

This was the second time that MPI MP hosted the Backpacks to Briefcase event and they found it to be so well received both on the student and member side that they are now looking to do it bi-annually instead of annually. It’s a great initiative that MPI and all the other industry associations should continue to build upon if they haven’t already.

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