Veteran’s Perspective: Transitioning to a Thriving Civilian Career

Giselle Albritton is an experienced hospitality professional currently working at Hilton where she is the Director, Hotel Support for the Caribbean and Latin America region for Suites and Focused Service Brands. She has also worked in hotels in roles including General Manager and Sales Director. Prior to Hilton, she spent six years as a Mess Military Specialist where she traveled as an advanced planner to deployment locations. A graduate of the University of Alabama, she holds a Master’s Degree in Hospitality Management and a Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Administration/Management.

By Giselle Abritton, Director Hotel Support – CALA Region, Hilton

I joined the Navy in 1994, straight out of high school in Puerto Rico. During my six years in the military, I served as a Mess Management Specialist where I was responsible for the lodging and food preparation for sailors in my duty station and advance deployments. Without knowing it at the time, this was the perfect experience for my future career in hospitality. Many of the skillsets and processes – such as checking sailors in and out of military barracks, running night audit and property management systems – are similar to running a hotel.

When I separated from Active Duty, I worked at hotels starting at the front desk before being promoted to Sales Manager, followed by Assistant General Manager and General Manager. I am now a Director in Hilton’s corporate office in Memphis where I work closely with our Focused Service and All Suites hotels and owners in Latin America and the Caribbean to provide support with pre-opening, operations and training to allow each hotel to perform at its best.

Giselle with Reiner Sánchez, Brand Support Manager for the Caribbean and Latin America region. He is part of Giselle’s team.

Hospitality is a great industry for veterans and military spouses. At Hilton, there is such a strong culture and the skills you learn in the military such as communication, confidence, cultural awareness and leadership are highly valued and transferrable to hospitality. Regardless of the industry you’re interested in, here are six tips that helped me transition to a career journey and job that I love:

1. Prepare yourself for your civilian career while still on active duty. I took advantage of all the educational and training opportunities as well as college credits that were offered while I was on military duty.

2. Ready your resume. You will have enough to think about when you retire from your military career so it’s never too early to start thinking about what’s next and begin the legwork. Start working on your resume and seek out opportunities to network or connect on LinkedIn with people in the industries or companies you’re interested in.

3. Sign up for separation training. In addition to transition assistance classes offered by your base, there are many veteran service organizations that offer individual resume and interview support. It can be hard to translate many military skills – tangible as well as the intangible skills like resilience, reliability and problem solving – into a civilian resume. Some companies, such as Hilton, have dedicated military recruiters who can help you shape your resume.

4. Scan your social media: Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn and check that your other social media accounts are professional.

5. Set realistic expectations: Don’t be afraid to start at an entry-level position. When I began my civilian career I was working the front desk of a hotel. However, with my experience and passion for the industry I was able to quickly work my way up.

6. Keep your papers: This is tactical though often overlooked – make sure you keep copies of your official paperwork so you can show you served in the military.

Giselle stationed in Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico in 1997.

Last year Hilton achieved its Operation Opportunity target of hiring 30,000 veterans, military spouses and caregivers across hotels, corporate offices and work-from-home positions in the United States. It has pledged to hire 25,000 additional veterans, military spouses and caregivers by 2025. For more information about joining the #1 Best Company to Work For in the U.S. visit: jobs.hilton.com/military.

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