Hard Work, Determination Pays Off for USFSM Alumnus

Hunter Potalivo

Hunter Potalivo graduated from USFSM in fall 2012 with a major in hospitality management. He started out manning the front desk at the Marriot Springhill Suites in Tampa, and after two years of promotions became executive housekeeping manager at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, with a plan to earn a master’s degree and a spot on the corporate side of hospitality.

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“I get to travel the U.S. and work at beautiful destinations people pay thousands of dollars to vacation at,” Potalivo said. “My job is amazing.”

He has built his resume at Ocean Properties, Ltd. & Affiliates by working at five different properties and in four different managerial positions. After four months, Potalivo was promoted from front desk agent to manager on duty at a Marriot Springhill Suites as well as a front office supervisor at the Sandpearl Resort. After four more months of balancing both jobs, Potalivo advanced to general manager at The Bar Harbor Club in Maine, which is an AAA four diamond rated property. Another four months passed at this seasonal property before he was transferred next door to The Harborside Hotel & Marina as a property manager. From there, Potalivo added another property management position at The West St. Hotel to his resume.

“When Bar Harbor’s season came to a close I found myself back at the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater as a housekeeping manager,” said Potalivo. “This is the last department I needed to become familiar with before being ready to take over a property of my own (hopefully).”

He anticipates another year or two of gathering experience and then smooth sailing to a full service general manager position. While Potalivo enjoys ground floor operations and the competitive atmosphere of corporate job progression, he intends to continue his education at USFSM, applying for an MBA within the next year. His mindset is staying focused on absorbing as much knowledge as attainable and using it to promote the company he has put roots into— one of the largest privately held hospitality management companies internationally.

When asked how he got where he is today, Potalivo responded “by not giving up.” After his initial job interview, he waited a week before following up with the human resource office. After that, the USFSM alumnus called and emailed once a week, getting transferred, leaving voicemails and “falling in between the cracks”. After some time, he was given another chance to interview where he spoke to the front office manager and the general manager of the property. From the end of his second interview, it took Potalivo four more months of perseverance to be hired. “The biggest thing I learned was not that they did not want me, but rather the human resources office at a major resort is extremely busy and you must stay on their mind,” said Potalivo. “It’s also helpful to know which company manages the resort you’re applying at, and carbon copy someone from their corporate office onto the email if you can find it on their website.”

Potalivo says the recipe for career success is being well versed with the company and the specific property one is applying to, as well as projecting confidence. Learn every property in the company’s portfolio and the owner’s names. This tells the interviewer that the candidate truly cares about the position he or she is applying for and that it is not merely “one of seven jobs on a list”.

Potalivo adds, “If you put 100 percent of your effort into one job and not 20 percent into five, it will show.”

Candidates may start out as 10 dollar-an-hour workers on the front desk for several months, which Potalivo knows can be discouraging. However, in hindsight, he believes that experience is a crucial step in the learning process.

His final advice for anyone seeking out a job: “Shake lots of hands, learn names, always have high energy and the corporate world will be a breeze.”

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USFSM offers a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management which prepares graduates for leadership positions in the hospitality industry through foundational knowledge of hospitality operations and experiences that promote diversity, ethical responsibility, lifelong learning, and community engagement.

For more information on a degree in Hospitality Management, please visit our interest page.