CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., July 27, 2015 –Josh Sellers of Jackson, Missouri, enjoys caring for people’s needs. A hospitality management major at Southeast Missouri State University, he’s found his niche this summer, enhancing his skills in hotel management and expanding his cultural horizons in an internship at the Westin Canal Palace in New Orleans.
“New Orleans is a city whose identity is synonymous with hospitality itself,” Sellers said. “It was in this city that I realized the ultimate potential of my part-time job that I had worked at during both high school and college.”
His internship has offered him the opportunity to rotate through the various departments of the hotel’s property — the front desk, housekeeping, room sales/revenue, and food and beverage.
He has learned much, he says, including about the flow of guests, employees, services and resources. He says he has learned how to solve guest issues, such as where guests should leave or find their luggage upon arrival or departure, how to call valet to send down a guest’s vehicle, and how to ensure guests’ room are clean before he checks them into their designated room. He says these things may seem like simple things, but they are fundamental to understanding how a hotel operates properly. Also, he has learned hotels must always be preparing and strategizing to generate future business in a competitive market.
“Moving to a new city was certainly something to look forward to as there’s always something new to check out, especially a city filled with all sorts of dives and hidden gems like New Orleans. But moreso, having a working opportunity at this level of the industry was what I have looked forward to the most overall,” he said.
Recently, he says he witnessed a Hindu wedding, which was a new experience for him.
“During my first weekend on the job, our hotel was hosting the wedding ceremonies for a couple from India as well as lodging their families. The wedding itself consisted of two different and very extravagant ceremonies over the course of two days of celebration. A traditional Hindu wedding is definitely not something you see every day, but never before have I seen a more vibrant and beautiful display of culture and unity,” Sellers said.
He also enjoys experiencing the different cultures and festivals available to him in New Orleans.
“I’ve never heard of a city that holds so many festivals every year,” Sellers said. “I moved to New Orleans at the end of May, and the city was hosting its annual Oyster Fest right next to the French Quarter. It’s a weekend of music from local bands that play as various restaurants each have vending booths set up where they serve their most popular oyster-related dishes and drinks. I love oysters, so I got really excited when I heard that I was going to be in town for it this year. I went to that my first weekend in the city, and it was a great way to start off a summer of living well and working hard.”
Sellers’ uncle, who lived in New Orleans, helped him discover the Westin Canal Palace.
Sellers said he first became interested in hospitality management as a teenager cooking in and later managing a restaurant. There, he discovered he wanted to work in hospitality, helping people and addressing their needs.
Sellers is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in human environmental studies with an emphasis in hospitality management from Southeast.
For his internship, he must log a minimum of 420 work hours. He also has to complete University-related assignments, discuss his experiences and analyze the hotel’s operations through a management perspective.
The hotel industry is a new experience for him. Armed with knowledge from his classes, he headed to New Orleans.
“Finally applying that information to real time scenarios gives me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment,” Sellers said. “It’s an amazing feeling as I watch myself finally developing a professional career from what I learned in the classroom. Also, integrating my studies from my marketing, management and law classes into my job is a great opportunity as well.”
Sellers plans to pursue a career in management. As a manager at Tractors Classic American Bar and Grill in Jackson, Missouri, he learned that having a deep understanding of an organization’s operations and of how they function are bpth important to experiencing successes in any type of management.
“There’s a lot of promise, opportunity and job security in this field. Also, many of us in hospitality take being ‘people persons’ to a whole new level. We love our jobs, and we love to take care of people even more. Hospitality is a universal virtue shared by many cultures. With how crazy the world can be today, I find that the results of my work can mean much more than just my own paycheck – it can make a very positive impact in someone else’s life as well,” Sellers said.
After he graduates, he hopes to secure a position at the Westin St. Louis or Busch Stadium to remain close to his friends, family and girlfriend.
“I would strongly advise students in my own department at Southeast to try to get a hospitality- related job before you graduate, just to know for certain that it’s really something that you want to do to support your livelihood,” Sellers said. “Growing up we were taught that having a job you enjoy doing is one of the most important things to have so forgetting that has its consequences.
“Also don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if they look scary at first. The butterflies I felt in my stomach as I drove into New Orleans reminded me of the same feeling I had working my very first kitchen shift six years ago. Overcoming those initial fears has great rewards waiting on the other side,” Sellers said.