Working Hospitably: By Erin Annis, Recruitment Consultant

What led you to the hospitality career path?

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I remember being in 9th grade, sitting with my Dad at a downtown restaurant that had new ownership and had changed drastically since the last time we’d been there.  The topic of hospitality came up…and that there actually was a degree in the field of hospitality management!  

I thought that was such an intriguing and unique concept.  On family vacations, the hotel was always my ‘happy place’.  So, contributing to someone else’s experience of such joy – combined with the opportunity for travel – seemed the most rewarding career choice that I could imagine!  

So, I studied Hospitality Management at the University of Guelph.  During my co-op placement, I landed an amazing opportunity in Human Resources with one of the Starwood Hotels. That experience doubly confirmed that this was definitely the path I wanted to follow.  My co-op teacher visited me at my placement and said something along the lines of “Wow, I have never seen someone so happy to be at work!”  She even decided to feature me in an article in our high school newsletter (a mini-work story, if you will!)

More specifically, what led you to hospitality recruitment?

The University of Guelph does an amazing job of highlighting how widespread the hospitality industry really is.  Courses range from Hotels to Restaurants to Airlines to Casinos to Property Management   – Hospitality is a multi-faceted industry!  I’ve always considered myself a "people person” as well, so the appeal of Human Resources was always there. Combining my passion for both Hospitality and Human Resources was the best of both worlds for me.  After graduating from Guelph, I knew I would come to a fork-in-the-road situation, since Corporate Recruitment roles, as with many roles, are extremely competitive.  I knew that I would have to take a few career steps before landing a role like that.  I could go either the Operations route in the hotel sector – and work my way up through the Front Desk ranks ­ – or I could get my foot in the door with recruitment in general.  

After graduation, I landed a Recruitment Internship with a recruitment company focusing on the legal sector.  Definitely not where I envisioned I’d be, but it played a major part in my career growth.  I took a leap out of my comfort zone into an environment where two great supervisors took me under their wings and showed me the recruitment ropes in an agency setting. Agency recruitment is closely linked to sales (as opposed to HR) and it involves  lots of prospecting and cold calling.  So this choice was especially surprising, since anyone who knew me growing up knows that I was the shyest kid ever!   However, I truly think that being in the hospitality industry and working in it since high school ­ – everything from McDonald’s to serving to working as a Reservation Agent ­ – has helped bring me out of my shell and improved my ability to think on my feet. 

For over a year now, I have been working as a Recruiter at Global Hospitality Inc, a hospitality recruitment company.  Every day is different…thinking on my feet, being personable, and understanding in-depth what motivate others.  These are all musts! 

Most rewarding parts of the job?  

There are several rewarding aspects of my job. What stands out to me is its variety and unconventionality – being exposed to the full spectrum of hospitality, working on roles ranging from Line Cook to CEO, and for a wide range of respected companies across North America! 

One of the accomplishments I’m very proud of is getting to work on a search for a high-profile restaurant opening before it was released to the public, and placing the General Manager there. I never thought at the age of 22 I’d be able to say that I’ve done that. 

Another would be the overall feeling that comes with any successful placement, when you know you have made a great match for the candidate and the client.  There are a lot of moving parts that go into a successful  placement  – after all, these are peoples’ careers we are dealing with and things are never taken lightly.  It is always great when you hear that your candidate is happy as the job goes on.  I've received lovely thank-you notes and Christmas cards and I keep them on the desk to remind myself of my accomplishments.

Biggest job challenge?

When I began recruiting and was working on more junior early-career roles, I thought I would have a way easier time connecting with those younger candidates since I’m younger myself.  What I quickly realized was pretty blatantly clear – there are a lot of older people who are currently employed who still have no idea what they want to do! There is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.  However, when you are a recruiter representing a candidate who cannot commit to an interview or the idea of a new job, it can b e challenging.  This has made me greatly value transparency and clear communication at work  ­– and this  carries over to everyday life as well. 

Best advice to anyone entering the workforce?

How I got my first “real” job out of university was by proactively reaching out to companies that I wanted to work for.  After completing my internship, I knew  that I wanted my permanent full-time role to be a step into hospitality.  So, I reached out to a few hospitality-specific recruitment companies and landed this role!  That was purely from conducting my own research on what’s out there, then connecting and expressing interest.  

Advice to anyone starting out in the workforce …?

  • Make a list of some places you’ve always wanted to work.  
  • Do a search of companies that fall into a similar realm – and send an email expressing your interest in working there!  Whether there is a job opening or not, they will know your name and most likely remember you when a suitable opening does come up.  
  • Do anything you can to expand your network.  Research companies, attend events, even just talking to people in your own network about your career goals could lead somewhere

It never hurts to be proactive!

 

Living Every Day to The Fullest: Grad Turns Life Lessons into Consulting Business, Advocacy Efforts

Story by Rob O’Flanagan

   
  
    
  
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    His dog , Sawyer, in the lead, Drew Cumpson motors down the back  roads near his home, with personal support worker Matt Crosgrove alongside.

His dog , Sawyer, in the lead, Drew Cumpson motors down the back  roads near his home, with personal support worker Matt Crosgrove alongside.

Drew Cumpson books it on the back roads of Loyalist Township in his power wheelchair, an Invacare TDX SP model loaded with features. He steers, brakes and guns it with subtle movements of his head and neck. His T-shirt reads “Eat. Sleep. Travel” – the slogan of his former school at the University of Guelph.

Cumpson’s dog, Sawyer, takes the lead as Cumpson motors down the blacktop, alongside hayfields north of Amherstview, in the rolling landscape upcountry from Lake Ontario’s northeastern shore.

The young man’s personal support workers have trouble keeping up. One lags well behind, preserving her energy, while another quicksteps alongside. The chair goes just fast enough to give Sawyer a workout and Cumpson a breeze.

A graduate of the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management, Cumpson, 26, is a determined, stubborn and resilient person who is on a mission to live life to the fullest. As a quadriplegic, he wants to help others with disabilities do the same.

His life over the last six years, he says, has been one big learning curve – a difficult process of learning to live well after suddenly losing the use of his arms and legs. He has lots of experiential learning to share.

Earlier this year, Cumpson launched his website www.drewcumpson.com, the centrepiece of his H & D (Hospitality and Disability) Consulting business. He advises restaurants, hotels and airlines on improving accessibility, while coaching people with disabilities in everything from travel planning to obtaining post-secondary education to maintaining a healthy attitude.

He also advocates for better health services for people with disabilities, and for changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program so it provides more support for those wanting to get o the program, earn a living or start a business.

“Yes, my life has changed,” he says, sitting in the open-space living room of the rural home built specially for him by his family, close to the medical services he needs in nearby Kingston.

“I cannot do all the same things that I used to do, but I try to do as many of those things as possible, in order to continue living a life that is comparable to what I would be doing if I did not have my accident. I have to go forward in life, no matter what. I am not giving up.”

A few days before the 2011 swimming accident that altered his life, Cumpson was looking out over Peru’s Andes Mountains from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, among the seven wonders of the world. He vowed then to visit the remaining six. It was one of his last experiences on foot.

Unaccustomed to world travel as a person with a disability, he nevertheless visited Mexico’s Chichen Itza in early 2016, another of the world’s wonders. He did it because he promised himself he would.

He encountered many obstacles and inaccessible places. It inspired him to work to make travel easier for those with a disability.

“I’ve always been someone who, once something is in my mind, I am going to focus on completing that task, no matter what.”

In May 2011, Cumpson was part of a University of Guelph humanitarian trip to Peru, helping to improve the lives of local people living in poverty.

On the last day of the volunteer trip, he was swimming in the Pacific Ocean. One especially powerful wave drove him headfirst into the rocky ocean floor. The impact fractured the fourth cervical vertebra in his spine.

“I don’t really recall the first two or three weeks after the accident,” he says.

Paralyzed from the armpits down, he spent 16 months in intensive care at Kingston General Hospital. There were many complications. He was transferred to the former St. Mary’s of the Lake facility for complex continuing care, where he spent three years.

Now, Cumpson lives at home in a decidedly non-clinical setting. He requires round-the-clock care. Medical specialists monitor his health. He needs a ventilator to breathe and a pacemaker to ensure his heart rate remains above 60 beats per minute.

It was at St. Mary’s that he decided to resume his studies at U of G. He had been away for ve semes- ters. The option of transferring to Queen’s University in Kingston was suggested, but he said no. He would stick with what he called U of G’s “best in the nation” hospitality program.

“I wanted to show that even though you have a disability, you can still do everything from an educational perspective,” says Cumpson, whose tattoo of a leaping Moby Dick on his left bicep is a symbol of his own story of strength and survival.

After starting back at the University in January 2013, he learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She fought a strong battle, he says, but died on July 17 that year.

Cumpson persevered. He took all the distance education classes he could. Skype allowed him to attend further courses remotely. Other students took notes for him. Faculty and sta did whatever was necessary to make it happen. “They were just amazing,” Cumpson says.

Mike von Massow, now a professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, was teaching in the College of Business and Economics when Cumpson made his return to his studies.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” says von Massow. “His commitment to finishing the program – and the support he got from other students – was admirable. It really was amazing. It was inspira- tional when he came across the stage to graduate.”

Cumpson’s body is confined, but his mind is unconstrained. It darts and dashes, keeping him awake at night.

“My brain never shuts off,” he says. “It does not shut off at all.”

He is bombarded by thoughts about his future, his consulting business, the challenges he faces and how best to overcome them. There is a connecting thread of optimism running through it all.

   
  
    
  
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    Cumpson’s optimism, and his smile, shines through.

Cumpson’s optimism, and his smile, shines through.

 “I’ve honestly never seen him have a negative day,” says Madison Simmons, a best friend. “He’s always positive. He’s just so driven. When he sets his mind to something, he has to see it through.”

Before his accident, Cumpson had no idea of the challenges facing people with disabilities. “As someone who went from being able-bodied to disabled in an instant, I realized very quickly how inaccessible it is, and how many barriers there are in this world for people living with disabilities of any kind.”

Yet Cumpson doesn’t think of himself as disabled. “In terms of my disability, I look at it more as not really a disability, but something along the lines of just having different abilities now than what I had before. My abilities in life have changed, but I still have these other abilities to push forever and work through in life.”

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in The University of Guelph’s Portico Magazine. 

H & D Consulting, Cumpson’s consulting practice offers practical guidance for people with disabilities on

  • the dos and don’ts of world travel
  • the pursuit of higher education
  • the art of self advocacy
  • sex and relationships