Hospitality students get career tips from successful alumni

2011-03-06T21:40:00Z Hospitality students get career tips from successful alumniBy UW-STOUT NEWS BUREAU | For THE NEWS Chippewa Herald

Three successful University of Wisconsin-Stout alumni recently gave current students a variety of tips on getting started in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry and then realizing their dreams.

Their talk, “Six Figures in Six Years,” was the Executive Workshop portion of the fifth annual Hospitality Career Conference. Recruiters from about 40 companies attended the conference and met informally with students at booths in Micheels Hall.

All three alumni graduated in hotel and restaurant management in the 1980s. Today, the degree is called hotel, restaurant and tourism management.

Tom Wingert, a 1985 graduate, told students to get out their electronic phone calendar — if they had one — and enter their long-term goals for happiness, health and finance as weekly recurring events for the next five years. By doing that, they would be reminded regularly of their goals.

“These goals get into your subconscious,” said Wingert, who founded Tecom, a Florida telecommunications company.

When he was advised to try the same exercise years ago, Wingert thought it was just busywork. He has reached many of his goals, including having a great family and career, his own plane and a second home.

“Love what you do and you’ll never have to work again,” said Wingert, who started working in cell phone sales on the ground floor in the late 1980s and now has a multimillion dollar company.

Wingert, who went on to get a master’s in business administration, told students to keep investing in their education. “It’s the single best thing you can do in life. It’s an investment in yourself. One dollar spent on education will return $1,500 in the bank.”

John Cantele, a 1983 UW-Stout graduate, is senior vice president of LodgeWorks, which owns a chain of hotel brands. He told students not to rely on their resumes to get a job.

“What matters most is how you present yourself. The biggest turnoff I have is someone who tries to over-impress me. Be yourself, be genuine and always project a positive attitude,” Cantele said.

Scott Samuels, a 1985 graduate, founded Horizon Hospitality Associates, a Kansas City-based executive search and consulting firm for restaurants, hotels and golf clubs. He told students to do their homework on a company before interviewing.

“The industry is so much more vast than when we got out of college,” Samuels said, citing at least 20 hotel, restaurant and tourism industry sectors. “It’s important to understand all the opportunities you have.”

Companies represented at the fifth annual conference included national restaurant chains, resorts, golf courses, hotels, gaming management companies, property management firms and entertainment complexes.

One student, senior Briana Wyzlic of Ironwood, Mich., planned to visit about a half-dozen employer booths.

“This is a great opportunity for students. I hope to make some new contacts, do some networking and possibly get a full-time job,” Wyzlic said.

The School of Hospitality Leadership at UW-Stout offers bachelor’s degree programs in hotel, restaurant and tourism management; golf enterprise management; and property management. They are the only such degrees offered in the UW System. The school also offers professional development certificates in gaming management and event and meeting management.

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