Branding Days Connect Students to Hospitality Employers

Business students interested in entering the hospitality industry need to be proactive in determining their career paths, says Eileen Williamson (BUS ’04),  a talent acquisition specialist for Breakthru Beverage Group who recently returned to DePaul, her alma mater, to meet students from the university’s School of Hospitality Leadership. “We look for candidates who can see a path for themselves, have that entrepreneurial spirit and are able to take the lead on the direction they want to go,” she says.

Williamson was one of three recruiters representing Breakthru Beverage Group during a hospitality and tourism industry-focused Branding Day at the hospitality school’s J. Willard and Alice S.​ Marriott Foundation Center for Student Development and Engagement. Pop-up banners, branded giveaways – including water bottles, pens and lip balm – decorated the main lounge of the Marriott Center as a way for the beverage company to communicate its brand to hospitality students. During Breakthru’s campus visit, company representatives answered students’ questions about working in the industry and hospitality career opportunities. Each quarter, up to six Branding Day’s like this one are scheduled by the school.

The Branding Days, which feature a different hospitality or tourism industry company each day, began in the fall quarter to bring students closer to industry experts, a key component of the Marriott Center’s mission to provide highly customized professional opportunities for students. Recruiters represent a variety of hospitality and tourism industry segments, including food and beverage, private clubs, lodging, event management and tourism bureaus. 

“We try to create as many opportunities as possible to get students in front of companies to talk about what sort of jobs and internship opportunities there are,” says Nick Thomas, director of the Marriott Center and interim associate director of the School of Hospitality Leadership. “Historically, there’s one main time of year to do that and it is at our annual career fair in January. It’s a wonderful event, but what we’ve found for a variety of reasons is that either students can’t make it or we want to create an opportunity where a company can have a more personalized recruiting experience. This is also a great chance for students to practice their networking skills with real-world industry practitioners.” 

Recruiters also stop in various classes to welcome students and invite them to the center. Some employers also will stay on-site into the evening and other days to conduct interviews and more focused information sessions pertaining to employment opportunities.

Since students enrolled in the school’s hospitality leadership major are required to complete two internships – each from different organizations – access to internship opportunities is imperative. 

“When we do these Branding Days, we really try to encourage the companies to do things to be able to convey something that’s intangible – the culture, the emotional intelligence of the organization, so that’s a trend we’ve seen lately,” he says. 

Networking Leads to Career Opportunities

Undergraduate hospitality major Rana Zaid recently received an offer to join Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s summer management internship program after attending the school’s quarterly kickoff event. During the event, Zaid met Marc Jacobs and Jerrod Melman (BA ’05), who serve as executives-in-residence in the School of Hospitality Leadership and who each hold prominent roles at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. 
Zaid, who serves as a student ambassador for the school, says that kind of networking is what helps connect students to sought-after career opportunities. 

"Branding Days play a significant role in helping us learn more about the culture of a specific firm in a one-on-one atmosphere,” he says. “I've found the managers representing the companies are eager to engage and learn about each student as well, often highlighting areas of opportunity within hospitality industry based on those conversations."

Breakthru Beverage Group recruits students for a range of positions, but more than 60 percent of their positions are in sales. They also offer a management development program. 

Breakthru's Human Resources Manager Travis
Marcotte  says students who are studying hospitality and business have a particular advantage when it comes to working in a company like Breakthru Beverage.  

“Our sales people are basically out there trying to help our customers give the end-user a great experience,” he says. “So we’re kind of adding another layer there, but ultimately what I think you learn in a hospitality program directly ties to that and you’re still getting the satisfaction in that the end user is having an incredible experience and that’s something you’ve created.” 

DePaul hospitality students can mark their  calendars for these upcoming Branding Days:

  • Jan. 16 – White Lodging
  • Jan. 23 – Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp  
  • Feb. 6 – Four Seasons
  • Feb. 13 – SMASHOTELS
  • April 10 – Hyatt


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