Carlie Smith, currently a student at The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, is drawn to the hospitality industry “because I love the challenges of business as well as the excitement of personally working with guests. In such a dynamic field there is never a dull moment!”
She’s been surprised that, “Every professional I’ve spoken with has had several different positions within the industry. It’s incredible that someone can go from a housekeeper to a general manger of a hotel or an in-room dining server to the head event planner!”
The Laingsburg, Michigan native has been employed in the industry for the past four years, in positions varying from a restaurant hostess and server, a cashier and in-room dining attendant for a hotel, and a sales consultant for a prom and wedding gown salon. Many mentors have inspired her.
“My most notable mentor is a former coworker from a bridal salon. She worked as a consultant in the bridal department while I spent most of my time in the store’s prom department. I admire her tremendously because of her compassion for her clients. Implementing her passion for excellent customer service into being an incredibly attentive and creative consultant is really what sets her apart. She makes every bride she works with feel like she is the queen of the world. She always knows what to say or do. I’ve seen her handle very stressful situations (for example, a gown in an incorrect size arriving days before the wedding) with grace. Her presence in a room itself is simply so calming and delightful! Whenever I am faced with a tricky customer situation, I always consider what she would do. She has taught me how sincere, quality service produces loyal customers, and I aspire to build strong customer relationships the way she has.”
Carlie expects to graduate in May of 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality business. “I hope to work in the western part of the U.S. I could see myself in a food and beverage position or possibly a sales and marketing job. I may consider applying for grad school; who knows?! My dream is to be a mentor for college students like myself. I aspire to be a leader who propels forward with a company and can share and inspire the upcoming industry professionals. I want to be the person who comes in to speak to a class and settles all of their fears about the hospitality and event industry because I’ve excited them so much with all of the opportunities available!”
Her proudest accomplishment so far “is being the only woman team member to contribute to Lansing Community College ranking internationally at the American Marketing Association’s SABRE Marketing Simulation Competition in New Orleans last spring,” she said.
Carlie is active in her PCMA student chapter, participating in many volunteer events such as event set-up for the Lansing Bridal Association and event support for Red Frog’s Warrior Dash. “This coming weekend I will volunteer at the East Lansing Film Festival. Each volunteer opportunity grants me access to industry professionals and is great hands on experience. I’ve also participated in fundraisers that raised money to send my chapter to Convening Leaders in Boston. I look forward to attending! My chapter traveled to Illinois in the fall, where we attended the Greater Midwest Chapter meeting and toured new White Lodging properties in downtown Chicago. Coming up, I have the opportunity to tour conference space at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.” She remarked that, “Riding in the car to various events and staying in hotel rooms with new people from across the world has been my favorite experience thus far. I’ve been placed in situations where I’m able to get to know my fellow PCMA peers and I’ve had such a blast getting to do so!”
She explained how she has benefitted from PCMA membership. “As a transfer student, getting involved in PCMA was a great way to meet other students who shared my interests and to make some new friends at my new school. The networking PCMA offers is incredible! As a matter of fact, networking at the Greater Midwest Chapter meeting is what granted me the opportunity to be showcased here! The speakers I’ve encountered through PCMA all offered great insight and genuinely care about helping students. GMC can assist in establishing and growing students’ careers by providing us with compassionate industry leaders to connect with.”
Carlie advises other student members to “Dive in! This organization has the perfect combination of professional and social benefits for students. The event world is smaller than we think, and networking and building relationships now while we are in college can only help us further down the road! These connections aren’t just with industry professionals, but with other student members, too.”