The General Manager role at a hotel is a senior role typically reserved for someone with 15 to 20 years of experience.
But, if you’re ambitious, willing to travel and hungry to learn more, then you can potentially fast track your way to the top job in just five to ten years.
What is a Hotel General Manager?
A General Manager (GM) oversees all other divisions of a hotel and is responsible for the establishment's overall functioning. They make sure guests are happy and ensure that each division is running smoothly. They also manage the big-picture areas of business, such as marketing, planning budgets, and recruiting and training staff. In a small hotel, the hotel GM may additionally manage housekeeping, food and beverage, or events.
A hotel GM needs to have a broad skill set, including soft skills, management and leadership skills, as well as knowledge across areas, such as revenue management, marketing, sales and bookkeeping.
Hotel managers are in high demand right now, with the mass shortage of skilled hospitality professionals affecting businesses in Australia and around the world. A search on job site Seek in July 2022 reveals 702 current hotel general manager positions advertised across Australia.
Five tips for fast-tracking your career to becoming a general manager
1. Get a Hotel Management degree
Despite what you may have heard about self-made hotel bosses, the majority of hotel general managers these days have at least a bachelor level of education. If you want to get to the top job fast, a degree will speed up your promotion considerably.
There are two major benefits to getting a Bachelor of Business in International Hotel and Resort Management, Master of International Hotel Management or something similar, such as a Bachelor of Business (Hospitality Management).
Firstly, there are simply things you need to know that you will learn most effectively through study.
As a general manager, you will be framing strategic goals, developing sales strategies, and managing areas of business, finance, human resources, revenue management and marketing that require theoretical knowledge and a deep understanding of the market. The sooner you learn this stuff, the sooner you can get a promotion.
Secondly, you will be able to access student and industry networks, careers services and placement programs at your educational institution.
For example, at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS), all students complete industry placements as part of their course with partner brands, such as Hilton and Marriott. This access to work placement and experience opportunities is invaluable.
2. Work part-time in a hotel while studying
If you want to speed up your career path, you need to pack as much professional development into the next few years as possible. To that end, it’s essential that you continue to work and gain industry experience while studying. Even if it’s a junior casual or part-time hotel job, it’s usually best to avoid having gaps in your resume when you graduate.
The good thing is that you get to test the knowledge you gain from the classroom straight in the workplace. Plus, the extra cash coming in is nice.
3. Be strategic and opportunistic with your employment choices
During your studies and after you graduate, it’s important to think strategically about the roles you apply for. A general manager needs to have diverse experience across a variety of divisions, in hotels at different locations around the world, and across different management roles.
Put your hand up to try new roles outside your comfort zone to challenge yourself and learn some essential new skills. Be prepared to move for work. Take promotions if they are offered. Make sure you rotate around different divisions as roles become available. Gaining experience with all areas, including customer service, payroll, human resources, rooms and finance, will help you to accumulate essential knowledge and become a better manager.
4. Take advantage of hotel leadership training programs
Most international hotel brands, including Marriott, Hilton and Accor, have in-house leadership training programs designed to funnel graduates directly into management roles within their companies. Apply for these after graduating from your degree and shave a few years off your journey to the top.
5. Apply to be a general manager at the right hotel
When you feel you’re ready for the top job, don’t apply at hotels where you know they only hire GMs who are older veterans. Some innovative brands or boutique hotels have a corporate culture that is more open to young managers than others. Some hotels in regional areas or countries with fewer trained professionals will also be more willing to accept general managers with fewer years of experience. Do your research, pick your targets and go for it.