ASK Blog: “Career in Hospitality: A Practical Application of the Psychology Major”

I graduated from Stony Brook University with a B.S. in psychology. Reflecting back over my last seven years as General Manager at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

A General Manager oversees the daily operations of a business.  I started out in an entry level hospitality position.  I was eager and willing to learn all aspects of the industry.  Along with a lot of hard work and training, I was promoted in the sales department and advanced to a management position before being offered the role of General Manager.    As General Manager, it’s vital to have strong organizational skills, to take things as they come along, and to not procrastinate — as situations will arise unexpectedly and require immediate attention.

Being in the hospitality industry, I learned some simple things early on in my career: Greet everyone within ten feet of you with a smile. Say hello to everyone within five feet of you.  Go the extra mile to exceed expectations.  Be genuine. These things usually take very little effort, but are what your guests will remember most.

Psychology majors have a wide range of practical and professional skills applicable to the hospitality/tourism industry.  We can operate on a macro-level to analyze a situation, apply different strategies and approaches to understand it, and identify the practical steps to implementing a rational solution.  Additionally, psychology majors have:

  • Strong interpersonal skills: Having learned about social communication, we are familiar with nonverbal signals and social appropriateness. This awareness can make a considerable difference for someone dealing with everyday guest situations
  • Tourism skills: Looking at consumer behavior in a number of sectors, including tour operations, visitor attractions and tourist destination, psychology majors are able to discuss and evaluate the various decision-making processes behind destination choice and travel behavior.
  • Problem solving skills: The ability to tackle a broad range of different problems is probably one of the most distinctive characteristics of psychology graduates.
  • Environmental awareness skills: Knowledge of how a person’s environment can influence their behavior can be applied to a variety of guest encounters, helping us to understand people at work as well as at leisure.
  • Numeracy: Psychology graduates are trained to interpret data and understand probability; this is useful for budgeting and forecasting.
  • Computer literacy: We are familiar with using computers for word processing and statistical analysis, which is useful for property management system procedures.

As you can see, a psychology degree involves a considerable number of skills that are useful in the hospitality/tourism industry.

Obtaining the Career YOU Want: Develop a Positive Mindset!

If you’re not sure what career direction to go in or you’re feeling stuck in your current situation, explore your options. Build on your core values.  Do what you enjoy, and give your personal best.  Follow your passion and you’ll be amazed at what can surface in your life. For me it was a passion to create a work environment I enjoyed, a place I looked forward to going each morning.     

Lessons learned:

  • What you focus on becomes your reality; be proactive and positive!
  • Be prepared, and willing to accept change along the way
  • Strong interpersonal skills lead to career success

One of the most impactful quotes that’s helped me through my journey:

“Your mind can handle only one thought at a time; make it a positive and constructive one.” – Anonymous

Go on, believe in yourself.  Believe in who you are and what you want to be known for.

— Denean Lane ’96

DeneanLaneDenean Lane received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Stony Brook University. Her professional training includes Intercontinental Hotels Group Journey to Brand Manager Professional Development Certification and IHG Revenue Management Essentials Certification.  Denean has been General Manager for the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook since 2007.  She resides on Long Island with her husband and son.  Feel free to email her at

ASK Blog
The views expressed by ASK guest bloggers are those of the authors and do no reflect those of Stony Brook University or the Stony Brook Alumni Association.

Making educated career decisions can be difficult at any stage of career development. The ASK (Alumni Sharing Knowledge) Blog is intended for Stony Brook University students and alumni to learn career knowledge and get advice from experienced alumni, working in various career fields, about lessons learned from their career experiences.


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