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Inside Kendall

Paving Her Way to a Successful Career in Hospitality

Ashley Rigsbee has been motivated to succeed professionally since she was a child watching her mother overcome major obstacles as a single mother. “She embraced her talent and emerged from an urban environment to become a successful business woman,” she shares proudly.

Rigsbee began her own career by working in the service industry to help support her Ashley-Rigsbeefamily, but quickly found she had a passion for food and giving customers an exceptional experience. She first enrolled at Kendall to pursue her A.A.S. in Culinary Arts, but after graduating and working in a few area restaurants, and talking about her career with the owners and staff, she realized something major was missing: Meeting new people.

“When I thought about what makes me most happy, I realized it wasn’t cooking—although I love to do it at home—it is making someone else happy as a direct result of my job.” Rigsbee is currently completing her B.A. in Hospitality Management (she is a recent Kendall College Trust scholarship recipient) and appreciates how immediately applicable her coursework is.

In her role as guest service agent at the Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites Magnificent Mile by Hilton, she says, “By using the knowledge I’ve learned, I’ve been able to better respond to guest complaints. I feel prepared and empowered, and less dependent on my managers,” she shares.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Rigsbee says the move to a major city was initially a bit of a shock, but one she’s taken to like a fish in water. “I love the fast pace, the opportunities,” she says. “It’s a very competitive work field and a great place to get experience.” Once she graduates, Chicago may only be the beginning of her travels. “If I see a position in Florida, California—or Dubai, I’m going for it. I have to pursue my dreams, my career. If there’s an opportunity I will apply for it,” she explains.

Rigsbee readily admits that she’s worked very hard for everything she’s earned—and it’s taken a lot of focus. How does she balance school and a full-time position? Here, she shares a few pieces of advice:

Inhale confidence and exhale doubt. “When I was younger, I doubted myself, but I’ve come to realize that I am much stronger and smarter than I initially gave myself credit for.” When she was 17, she moved from Columbus to Chicago with no family close by. “Look where I am today!” she exclaims. “It wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take the risk. Always have confidence in yourself and your abilities.”

Rely on a support system of friends and family. “My family offers regular encouragement, especially when I’m stressed. My family members snap me out of it and tell me, ‘You’ve got this.’ ”

Surround yourself with successful people. “Network, make connections, meet new people. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to pursue your dreams.” And, she notes, “People always notice confidence. Focus on your strengths in your conversations.”

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