Internships with the Vans Warped Tour, the Starbucks VIA Taste Tour, and Super Bowl XVIII appeared to place former event management and hospitality management double major Jennifer Garcia’s career trajectory on a crash course with success after college. However, after Garcia initially graduated from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in 2009, the alumna couldn’t even find employment as a hostess due to the economic recession in the United States.
Fast forward nearly four years later, when Garcia returned to her alma mater to inspire current hospitality students with her story of resiliency, as she went from unemployed college grad to assisting with multi-million dollar celebrity weddings and now a new career in professional sports.
“After I graduated, I wanted to work in the event industry,” said Garcia. “I was applying everywhere, but at the time, everyone was cutting back and I literally couldn’t even get hired as a hostess. It was extremely discouraging, considering that I just graduated from a prestigious hospitality college and had such great internship experience. But I refused to give up on my career. When you give up, you’re giving your opportunity away to someone else.”
Garcia’s relentless pursuit of employment eventually paid off after months of job hunting, when in January 2010, she was hired by a Miami-based event designer.
“I ended up getting hired by Nuage Designs, where I began working in luxury weddings,” Garcia recalled. “I didn’t realize the experience that I would be gaining from this job until one day, my boss put me on a plane to New York, where I found myself delivering table linens for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”
Over the course of her three and a half years of employment with Nuage Designs, Garcia opened an office in New York, created partnerships for destination weddings, and assisted with several celebrity nuptials, including Grammy Award-winner Carrie Underwood and reality TV star Kim Zolciak, whose wedding appeared on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
“I learned a lot from this job opportunity, but I knew I needed to leave the wedding industry to chase my dream job,” said Garcia. “My goal is to one day become the events director for the [National Football League].”
Garcia again faced adversity in finding employment, as many professional sports recruiters refused to hire her, as she had no previous professional experience within the industry.
“It was extremely frustrating,” said Garcia. “How was I supposed to start gaining industry experience when no one was willing to hire a person without previous experience?”
But again, Garcia refused to give up on her goal, as the alumna continued to submit her resume and attend networking functions.
Her resiliency paid off again, as the alumna ultimately received job offers from at least two professional sports teams, and recently accepted a position with the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League, as a group sales manager.
“I came back to Rosen to speak with students about facing adversity,” said Garcia. “I know that some of these students will face the same employment challenges that I did and I wanted to tell them what happens when you don’t give up.”