by Emma Norbury, graduate of QHotels Foundation Degree and events and reservations supervisor at The Midland Hotel, Manchester
If my first-hand experience has taught me anything, it’s that traditional university isn’t for everyone.
I’d always wanted to get a degree and I did well in A-Levels too, so why not?
When the time came to start my new life as a student, I was excited. The thought of being independent and self-sufficient was amazing, but the reality was different.
I soon realised that my student loan didn’t cover my rent, let alone other living costs, so I’d need to get a (well-paid) part-time job to work around my studies.
It was near impossible to find paid work in any position that related to my studies.
After much deliberation, I decided that it just wasn’t working for me. I dropped out of university, moved back home and ended up working full-time at a local hotel. I enjoyed some of the aspects of my job, the hospitality and events management side of the business had always interested me, but I wasn’t sure how to progress from my role as a receptionist.
An opportunity with QHotels caught my eye. It was a development programme, working and studying at its conference and events dedicated hotels to gain paid experience and a bespoke foundation degree in professional hospitality operations management within two years.
It was the first qualification of its kind to be offered by a UK hotel group so I’d be one of the first people to get such a degree!
I left my job and moved to my new position at The Midland in Manchester.
It took me a while to get used to the fast-paced lifestyle, but the only time I had second thoughts was when I ran to replace a delegate’s missing fork and sent a whole service station crashing down over myself with 400 conference attendees staring. (It was OK, we laughed it off.)
Moving from team to team had major benefits. I gained a greater understanding of how the hotel worked as a whole and the practicalities of each role. This led to a permanent position in events and reservations, and a focus on that area in my degree.
The two most obvious benefits were apparent right away:
1. I had a full-time income. ‘Earning while learning’ means you don’t need to get into debt and you can rely on your own hard work to pay your bills.
2. I was learning practical things on the job. How to manage events and the planning process in real life.
I think I’m one of the few people I know that actually uses their degree at work. This combination of knowledge and experience is what made me so confident in my role.
I also had the support of the educational development team at QHotels.
Fast-forward two years and I’ve been promoted to from management trainee to reservations and events supervisor after graduating.
I love my role at QHotels, meaning I already have my job secured, which is more than can be said for most graduates.
The main challenges include getting used to working and studying at the same time, so never underestimate the importance of time management a skill you need in events and hospitality!