How to Know Which Internship is Right for You, with Gemma Sagué, Responsible for Student Counseling

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Career Paths, How to Hosco, Job Hunting

The internship is a rite of passage for every aspiring hospitality professional. Not only does it give you a leg up when it comes to securing quality jobs, but it also helps you pause, reassess, and refine their career goals as needed. For first-time interns, several questions are likely to come up - what kind of internship will give you the best exposure? What mindset do you need to cultivate to ace the experience? And how do international internships prepare students for the fast-paced hospitality work environment? 

Gemma Sague, Responsible for Students’ Counselling, Professional Development, and International Internships Coordinator and Workplacement Academic Tutor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), weighs in with her thoughts on how to choose the perfect internship for your hospitality career goals. 

What key factors should students consider when choosing an internship in the hospitality industry?

Before applying for any internship, the first step is to help students understand just how important an internship is. It isn’t just about professional growth — internships are key to self-awareness and having a strong sense of purpose as they step into the fast-paced work environment. Reaching this understanding calls for them to invest time and effort into understanding what motivates them, what their dreams are, and where their talents lie. Having the support of professionals will help them through this process.

How can students identify their specific career interests and goals to help guide their hospitality internship selection?

I like to tell my students that finding their dream job is a lot like finding a partner. There are many options out there that look great, but students will only be happy if they find “the one”. The first step in this pursuit of “the one” is understanding who you are. This requires a lot of vulnerability - you need to be true to yourself and to accept that mistakes are going to happen along the way. Then, it’s time for the student to work with their career counsellor to design a plan that helps them develop the clearest possible idea of which career path they will follow once they have graduated.

How can students assess whether an internship aligns with their values and interests?

In the Western world, we tend to make decisions using our mind alone. We take lots of time to consider our options, analyse the pros and cons, and see what’s in it for us. This is perfectly fine — but my personal approach will always include the “inner voice”. In addition to analysing things, take the time to pause and feel what your inner self has to say about the option you’re considering. It is this combination of analysis and “inner voice” perspective that makes for truly conscious decisions — a skill that is becoming a requisite for 21st century leaders. That’s why I always encourage my students to practise a mind-heart approach to decision-making as they embark on their internships.

What advice would you give to students who need clarification on the department they can join for an internship?

As a prerequisite, students should gain an understanding of the main duties they’ll be required to perform and ask any questions necessary about the extent of their responsibilities. In addition, they need to understand that not every company runs the same way. For instance, a Front Office position at a multinational branded hotel is not the same as one at an independent property. It’s also important to consider long-term career goals as well as personality when making a choice. So, if there are two students seeking to be mixologists, it may be more rewarding for one to work at a luxury hotel cocktail bar as a mixologist, while the other might do better to join the team of a gastronomic restaurant. 

How important is it for students to consider the internship's location when making their decision?

Hospitality and tourism students today are fortunate — there are options for career development all over the world, in countries big and small. As the International Internships Coordinator, I always encourage students to go abroad, and preferably to a country that’s substantially different from their own. There are challenges that arise as a result of having to adapt to different cultures and being far from home. It makes you feel vulnerable and pushes you to learn through experiments and mistakes, which is a crucial part of shaping your attitude towards your life and career. And it’s an excellent way to develop understanding and respect for people of all kinds, which is essential, given that they will have to interact with tourists from all around the world.

Can you provide examples of how internships have helped students gain valuable industry insights and clarify their career paths? 

Last summer, by coincidence, a group of students took up their internship in Brussels. They had different interests and goals, which meant that none of them were at the same hotel. Some chose independent hotels, others chose multinational chains, while the rest picked well-established European groups. 

All of them started from a similar point, with similar education and career guidance — the results, however, were extremely different. Some students realised that they preferred to work at smaller family-owned hotels in their country of origin. Others decided they wanted to become hotel managers, and some realised they wanted to continue working full-time at the same hotels they were interns at. It was our job as their guides to show them that all these goals were valid, and that the only true goal for us was to ensure they got to do whatever made them happy.

About Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

UAB is a public university that has been the seat of groundbreaking research and scholarly achievement for over 50 years. Ranked the best university in Spain and among the 200 best universities in the world, UAB offers a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, such as a bachelor’s degree in tourism, as well as diplomas and PhD programmes. The university is considered a “disruptor” in that it nurtures an innovative spirit and doesn’t fear taking risks related to research and knowledge transfer. UAB is also known for its green campus and commitment to sustainability.



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