The phrase, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ seems to be a recurring response from Griffith alumni when asked about how they secured a job following graduation. Given that a university is largely focused on the ‘what’, how then can we ensure students are also getting the ‘who’?
The Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sport Management are doing just that with their Work Integrated Learning (WIL) framework and have recently seen two outstanding students return from a wonderful opportunity offered by the Sofitel Brisbane, General Manager (GM) for a Day.

The program is the brainchild of Mr Tony Chisholm, the current GM at the Sofitel, and Griffith Senior Lecturer Dr Lisa Beesley, having previously had success running a similar opportunity together in Vietnam. The application process was rigorous and students had to make it through a number of cuts before Mr Chisholm was presented with a fine group of students to choose from. The two lucky winners were Isabelle Debnam and Alexandra Michel (picture with Tony Chisolm), representing the Gold Coast and Nathan campuses respectively.

One of the key questions they were asked was ‘If you were GM for a day what is the one change you would most like to implement’. Given that the Sofitel Brisbane is one of most luxurious and successful brands in the Accor Group, this is something that I’m sure most students undertaking our Tourism or Hotel Management majors have only ever dreamed about.

Mr Chisholm was impressed with the level of sincerity and creativity in the girls’ responses but was also looking for evidence of corporate responsibility, clarity in expression and the overall presentation and professionalism of the applications. It’s always nice to see industry expectations aligning with the Griffith Graduate Attributes, providing confirmation that we’re all on the same page when it comes to preparing students for a successful career.

Alex and Isabelle’s applications outshone the rest and their reward – being GM of the Sofitel Brisbane. Each girl spent a day shadowing Tony Chisholm, leaving both gushing with praise for the hotel, the GM and the experience. Alex simply describing the day as ‘magnifique’, with Isabelle outlining the level of ‘insight into the daily activities and responsibilities of a General Manager’ the day offered. Both girls were in agreement that the opportunity provided affirmation of their career interests and the chance to ‘observe the practical application of theories’ they’ve been learning about in their studies.

The program offers students the opportunity to make connections between education and industry, not to mention networking connections that will undoubtedly enhance their job prospects when it comes time for graduation. As Alex explains, it also provides a ‘platform for career development’ and a benchmark to judge future opportunities. She hopes to find a workplace with the same supportive and dynamic culture that she was exposed to at the Sofitel Brisbane.

Tony mirrors both Alex and Isabelle’s enthusiasm about the success of the engagement and the Sofitel GM is resigned to the fact that he may find himself reporting to one of them someday. This wonderful success story has presented all parties involved with a high level of satisfaction in the success of the WIL framework and the necessity for students to be exposed to industry throughout their degree in order to prepare them fully for life after university.

The Department of Tourism, Leisure, Hotel and Sport Management is committed to continuing the strong relationship between Griffith University and Sofitel Brisbane and believe in the unequivocal benefits that both sides have received by our students becoming the GM for a Day.