Recreation & Hospitality

The Jacksonville region offers a coastal lifestyle filled with outdoor recreation, a professional sports scene, and a thriving arts and culinary landscape.  As such, the region will always need professionals in recreation & hospitality jobs.  Recreation and hospitality is a fast-paced, exciting industry with plentiful career growth potential. Career Pathways include roles with hotels, restaurants, resorts, theme parks museums, professional sports, gyms and other facilities that meet leisure and recreational needs of tourists and residents.  Currently, nearly 80,000 people work in this industry in Northeast Florida.

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Some of the positions available in Jacksonville are Recreation Superintendent, Activities Assistant, Recreation Activities Coordinator, Recreation Manager, Rentals Manager, Director of Recreation Operations, Community Activities Coordinator, Program Assistant, Recreational Therapy Manager, Activities Assistant, Cruise Ship Staff, Tasting Room Attendant, Waiter, Server, Dishwasher, Cook, Travel Specialist, General Manager, Barista, Hospitality Consultant, Store Manager and Night Club Manager. Operations Manager, Room Attendant, Server, and Desk Clerk/Concierge are high on the annual demand list, meaning that there are plentiful opportunities in those roles.

To determine the best next steps, check out the Career Pathway on recreation & hospitality jobs to view career options available and their corresponding education and training requirements.  Explore ways of achieving needed skills in this industry.  Pursue an HVAC, Electricity or Welding Certificate for a Maintenance and Repair role at one of the region’s many lodging establishments.  Enroll in a Culinary Arts Technical Certificate or Culinary Management Associate Degree program for an exciting and creative cook or chef role.  Begin a bachelor level degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality Management, or a Hospitality and Tourism Management degree for jobs as a lodging manager or meeting and event planner.  Should an occupation in exercise or sports sound interesting, bachelor and graduate level degrees in Kinesiological Sciences and Sport Management may be options to explore.

Resources

Hospitality and Leisure Career Pathway Report

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Hospitality and Tourism Overview

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Recreation & Hospitality Companies in the Region

I had no idea that my passion for sports could evolve into a career.

Raef GodwinVP, Advertising Strategy and Operations, PGA TOUR

My experiences with travel and being part of different cultures definitely helps me in my career today.

Kearra StreetSouthbank Hotel Jacksonville Riverwalk, Accounts Payable Specialist

The most rewarding part of coaching is helping athletes meet and exceed their goals.

Chad CahoyOwner/Training Coach, Jacksonville Strength & Athletics, LLC.

Try two different internship opportunities. Travel is essential to learn more about types of food and various preparations.

Chef GrigsbyCulinary Management Professor, FSCJ

Don't be afraid to try something new. If it makes you uncomfortable, you'll learn from it. Learning doesn't stop after high school.

Sarah MathisDirector of Fan Experience, Jacksonville Jaguars

Kearra Street

Accounts Payable Specialist, Southbank Hotel Jacksonville Riverwalk

Kearra Street grew up in a military household, moving every four to five years. At age 10, Kearra moved to Okinawa Japan, where she pursued her middle and high school studies. After graduating from Kubaski High School, she moved to Florida to join her mom who had already relocated to the United States.

Kearra was determined to study Business Administration with a concentration in Communications in college. However, after speaking with an admissions counselor at Keiser University, her career pathways plans quickly changed. The counselor suggested that, because of her personality, she may wish to pursue a degree in Hospitality Management. Kearra then spoke with an instructor. After several days of additional consideration, she opted for Hospitality Management. Of this change, Kearra says, "It took me on a much better path--better suited to me. I've met so many wonderful people and have had great experiences."

At Keiser, Kearra further explored the hospitality industry via an internship at the Southbank Hotel Jacksonville Riverwalk. There, she was immersed in a new department each week. Unbeknownst to her, this experience would provide excellent cross-training for her future job. When her internship led to time spent in the Accounting Department, she was hooked. "I thought I would gravitate toward sales, but I love the numbers in accounting and seeing how all parts of the hotel work together."

Once her internship concluded, Kearra and a classmate chose to stay at the Southbank Hotel to work in the Banquet Department. She saw the innerworkings of back of the house operations and got to know many people individually. Then, a part-time opportunity opened in the Accounting Department which gradually led to a full-time position. Today, Kearra is an Accounts Payable Specialist.

Kearra graduated with an Associate of Science in Hospitality Management from Keiser University in 2018. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Hospitality Management.

Kearra emphasizes that working in a hotel involves much more than cleaning a room and providing a check in key. Being people-friendly, adaptable and impeccably organized is critical. Her specialty involves accounting and the ability to navigate the multiple internal computer systems used by the Southbank Hotel. Recalling where specific information is housed is also essential.

"I thought I was organized, but I found a better way to prioritize and track my work." One of her adaptations includes using a daily planner. As a result, month end reports due to corporate and pending vendor bills are all completed and processed timely. Kearra says, "It's important to find something you enjoy. You're crunching numbers but you're also maintaining relationships with vendors, colleagues and individuals at the corporate level."

Kearra's childhood experiences afforded her many opportunities to find home in the world. Now, she is centered in Jacksonville and has found another home in the hospitality industry. She notes, "My experiences with travel and being part of different cultures definitely helps me in my career today."

Sarah Mathis

Director of Fan Experience, Jacksonville Jaguars

Sarah Mathis grew up in Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. A competitive and energetic person by nature, Sarah played a range of sports throughout her life from basketball and volleyball to softball and dance. Today, these same characteristics have driven her professional success.

After high school, Sarah moved to Florida to attend Flagler College and obtain a BS in Sport Management. She was thrilled to learn that a personal passion of hers translated into a degree program. At Flagler College, she studied sports management and promotion, sport finance and law, as well as facility and event management.

While in her junior year, Sarah began an internship with the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of only 32 National Football League franchises. She worked game days and enjoyed the camaraderie, spontaneity and challenge of the various tasks involved. Sarah was exposed to a variety of volunteer activities while in college, but this environment was a favorite.

As a college senior, Sarah took a semester long internship in the spring with the Washington Redskins, her original “home town” team. This resume-builder, combined with her previous Jaguars internship experience, positioned her to return to Jacksonville and seek full time employment with the Jaguars after graduating from Flagler College in April 2011. Although her first role with the team was still considered an internship, she “put in her time” which led to a position in the ticket office.

Since that time, Sarah’s career has prospered with the team and she is now the Jaguars Director of Fan Experience. She is responsible for ensuring all fans are prepared to come to the stadium, training staff on how to create a stellar game day experience, creating policy, and communicating with season ticket holders. Now in her 13th season with the Jaguars, Sarah emphasizes that there is no typical workday. Working at the stadium requires knowledge of multiple operational facets as well as who to go to for efficient answers.

“We wear many hats in the Fan Experience Department,” said Sarah. “Recently, that meant I helped roll out the field tarp on game day because of rain. Whatever it takes, we’ll do.” Sarah said.

The most rewarding aspect of her role is the relationships she creates, from internal staff to front-line team members to the fans. That fun, dynamic energy is what keeps her staff returning and fans excited about each new football season.

“You get out what you put in,” said Sarah. “I put my heart and soul into it. I perform at my highest level and stick out tough situations. It may not always be easy, but it will be worth it.”
Working in the Sports and Recreation pathway offers many options. Sarah emphasized that at the Jaguars there are roles in ticket operations and sales, marketing, finance, IT, corporate sponsorship, events, public relations, recruiting, as well as the legal team and the Jaguars Foundation.

For more information, check out: https://www.jaguars.com/careers.

Raef Godwin

VP, Advertising Strategy & Operations, PGA TOUR

Like many other recent college graduates, Raef Godwin had a job as a server while trying to determine his future plans. One day, a customer came in who would change the course of his career and life.

A sports enthusiast, Godwin recognized the restaurant’s guest, former collegiate and professional basketball player Kent Benson, and served as his waiter that evening. Benson was one of Godwin’s sports heroes and their exchange at dinner led to an invitation to join Benson for breakfast the next morning. Benson recognized Godwin’s enthusiasm and knowledge, and asked him if he wanted to work in sports.

“Kent Benson’s kindness completely changed my life and career,” Godwin said.

The Jacksonville native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Florida in 1991, parlayed his chance meeting with Benson into a successful career in sports marketing and management. Godwin is now VP, Advertising Strategy & Operations for the PGA TOUR.

“I loved sports as a kid, but I had no idea that my passion for sports could evolve into a career,” Godwin said.

As a result of his connection with Benson, Godwin relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and began working as a community relations assistant at the Continental Basketball Association. Shortly after he arrived, he knew he had found his calling.

“It’s important to find something you have passion for and apply it to your career pathway,” he said.

Godwin wanted to learn more about the business of sports and enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he earned a master’s degree in sports management in 1996. His career path included working at the Orlando Magic, the National Basketball Association and the ATP Tour before he joined the PGA Tour as a broadcast project assistant in 2000.

Over the years, Godwin’s responsibilities have advanced as the PGA TOUR has grown and expanded, responding to changing media landscapes and audiences to entertain fans with a variety of platforms. Positions and promotions in digital media, advertising operations and client services led Godwin to his current role.

“There’s great value to getting into an organization, doing the hard work and learning the business,” Godwin said.

Godwin oversees a department of more than 40 talented colleagues responsible for the global strategic oversight of the buy and sell side of advertising operations including high impact display, live and on-demand video, social media, radio, podcast, email, database, search and TV. As a hiring manager, Godwin looks for talented candidates who demonstrate curiosity, a willingness to doing things that haven’t been done before, and who aren’t afraid of a challenge.

“With curiosity, they are going to think about the business innovatively and creatively,” he said.

Godwin attributes his longevity to the PGA TOUR’s culture of collaboration and innovation, and the organization’s charitable impact.

“The PGA TOUR brand is so well respected, but the heart of the organization is its community involvement and charitable giving,” Godwin said. “The PGA TOUR has made a significant impact on so many lives throughout Northeast Florida.”

As Godwin’s experience shows, a career pathway can be unexpected and transform to reflect industry changes. He started out as part of a small team at the PGA TOUR, which has flourished into a news and entertainment brand that engages, inspires and positively impacts golf fans, partners and communities.

Chad Cahoy

Owner of Jacksonville Strength & Athletics, LLC

Coach Chad Cahoy aligns with a successful career that highlights his true talents
Business owner Chad Cahoy is enjoying great success but it hasn’t come without challenges. Like an Olympic athlete, the personal trainer and coach has demonstrated dedication, commitment, sacrifice and perseverance to accomplish his business goals.

Cahoy’s business, Jacksonville Strength & Athletics, LLC, was recently voted one of the best 26 gyms in Jacksonville in 2021 by Expertise.com. In less than two years, the gym is financially stable and thriving.

Originally from Wyoming, Cahoy is a retired Navy Veteran with a lifelong interest in fitness and athletics. During his 20-year Naval career, Cahoy served as a command fitness leader, running group classes and working with active duty personnel who had fallen out of fitness standards.

“I have a passion for helping people become the best versions of themselves,” Cahoy said. “I’m going to do my best to make you better.”

After Cahoy retired in 2014, he focused on education and experience to become a high level coach and trainer. He attended Keiser University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine and Fitness Technology, and an associate’s degree in Physical Therapy. While attending Keiser and after graduation, Cahoy worked at several fitness centers before deciding to open his own gym.

With all the paperwork in place, Cahoy was set to open in April 2020. Unfortunately, the opening date occurred the same week as fitness centers in Florida were shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. After a six-week delay, Jacksonville Strength & Athletics opened in May 2020. It offers personal training, group classes and Olympic weightlifting. Even though gyms reopened, not everyone was ready to return.

“I knew it was going to be tough, especially during the times we are in,” Cahoy said. “I did whatever I could do to keep the doors open.”

Cahoy took on a full-time job at another business, and offered coaching at his gym from 5:30-8 p.m. In time, he was able to leave the other job and focus solely on his gym. His typical work day begins before 6 a.m. and ends after 8 p.m. Despite the long hours, he enjoys coaching athletes of all ages and abilities.

“The most rewarding part of coaching is helping athletes meet and exceed their goals,” Cohoy said. “To see the look on their faces when they do is priceless.”

For those considering a fitness career, Cahoy recommends extensive education and training. Along with the ability to motivate, he believes a good coach demonstrates compassion and empathy. With numerous fitness career pathways, Cahoy advises having a unique niche. Jacksonville Strength & Athletics is the only Olympic weightlifting focused facility in Jacksonville and home to Jacksonville Weightlifting, a USA Weightlifting Club.

Cahoy’s athletes include his son, Caden, who became interested in weightlifting at age 9 after going to a cross-fit gym with his dad. Now 17, the Mandarin High School student is a member of the USA Weightlifting team and recently competed at the Junior Pan-Am Championships in Mexico. Caden Cahoy has his sights set on one day competing in the Olympics.

To learn more about Jacksonville Strength & Athletics, visit jacksonvilleweightlifting.com or follow @jaxstrengthandathletics.