Behind the scenes: AAHOA Summer Internship Program

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by Natalee Bloss

AAHOA has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the hotel business and have always had an interest, but it wasn’t until I went on a delegation trip in 2013 with them that I decided this was the industry I wanted to be in. The next year I decided to pursue a career in hospitality, and I enrolled in the Hospitality School at UNLV. Throughout my career thus far, AAHOA has always been a part of my journey, so I wanted to learn first-hand from the best. It has been incredible to see the idea we had come to life this summer, and to be able to play an important role in establishing a formal internship program for the association.

The past 10 weeks have taught me more than I could have ever imagined-not only about the industry, but about myself. AAHOA gave me a chance to be independent, to take risks, and to step outside of my comfort zone. I learned that it’s okay to not always know the answer and to make mistakes. I had to put myself out there to see where I fit in with the company’s culture. AAHOA has taught me that this business is about people. With the networking opportunities AAHOA has to offer, and the annually changing leadership, it provides a very diverse and broadened opportunity to meet people from all over the world. As a college student and a woman in a previously male-dominated industry, I loved seeing AAHOA’s efforts to engage their young professionals and women hoteliers with special events designed just for them, and being able to join AAHOA just before Jagruti Panwala becomes the first Chairwoman. AAHOA is built on entrepreneurship, and they truly embody that in their day-to-day operations. It is the perfect example of how hospitality is everywhere, and anyone can find their place and succeed.

As I approach my college graduation, I’ve realized that there is a huge difference between what you learn in the classroom and what you learn on the job. I’ve learned about politics in school, but I never thought that it would matter in my career, let alone that I would ever be having a meeting with my state Senator. I witnessed the powerful presence AAHOA has in Washington, D.C., and the opportunity our members have to make a difference and advocate through our Political Action Committee. I was provided the opportunity to lead a delegation meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss issues relevant to our industry with our nation’s leaders. This instilled in me a new interest and confidence that I would not have found otherwise.

I’ve learned that this industry is small. You never know who you are going to come across. Throughout my summer I noticed how many key hospitality executives visited the office and how strong AAHOA’s relationship with these hospitality brands is. I’ve always heard the saying that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” But this internship has shown me that it’s also about who knows you, and small things like having a business card or writing a thank you note can make a big impact on somebody.

Ultimately my internship with AAHOA has taught me that in the hospitality industry, relationships and who you surround yourself with are so important. AAHOA has given me the tools I need to succeed, and a strong foundation of knowledge and experience to shape me into the person and the leader that I want to be.

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