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Success Story: Kate Sornson

15 Dec 2016
Kate Sornson has worked in diverse roles within the health and wellness arena. Her roles have included agent, supervisor and manager in a variety of operations that could be classified as start up to luxury resort spa settings.

By taking advantage of various opportunities within the spa industry, Kate has been able to expand her knowledge in spa management, spa development, customer service training, social media campaigns, guerrilla marketing, technology & software, and the future of spa and wellness tourism.

Currently, Kate serves as a volunteer for the Global Career Development Initiative that developed this website, while working for the Green Spa Network and the Global Wellness Summit.

Where has your spa and wellness career path taken you?
The easier question would be where has my non-traditional career path not taken me! I began in spa management by answering a newspaper ad in a small college town, which then led me to a Spa Management degree from the Conrad N. Hilton College at the University of Houston while working at a luxury hotel and spa. I then found myself touring the country in an Airstream trailer promoting the wellness lifestyle to consumers, followed by a training manager role created to achieve the Forbes Five-Star rating and a part-time position helping to develop the Global Mentorship Program, before finding my current roles as Membership Coordinator for the Green Spa Network and Social Media Specialist for the Global Wellness Summit. As a Millennial who continually likes to re-define my role, I’m excited and grateful to be working in an industry that allows me to create my own future!

What are two of the most important resources you use to stay engaged in the industry?
Industry events and personal outreach (email/phone/snail mail). Industry events enable me to stay up to date on the latest trends, products and education, while also allowing me to stay engaged with old friends and new. Since I work remotely, events are imperative for me to stay connected to the industry. That face-to-face time is invaluable. The second most important for me is reaching out, either by phone, email, or snail mail (a personal hobby of mine) to keep in touch with industry professionals. Building relationships within the industry takes time and commitment, but is vital to my success (and I would argue to yours too).

What is the best part of working in the spa and wellness industry?
Man it’s hard to pick just one! These four benefits we identified a few years ago are all top contenders…but the BEST one for me is being able to learn from the best. As you can see in my other answers, I’ve picked up on the fact that our industry loves to share and teach. We love helping others better themselves in all ways possible, including their career. I learned this invaluable fact, when I attended my first ISPA in 2010 as a student and Mary Tabacchi Scholarship Recipient. I was invited to attend a past and current Board Member social and even though I was nervous as hell, I spoke to them and they listened…and they shared, openly! Those moments of honest sharing, regardless of company or rank, left me with a feeling I’ll never forget and one that keeps me in this industry – that these people care and are willing to share, listen, and learn.

Is there someone in the industry who has had a profound impact on your career? Why?
It isn’t a single person, but the collective impact of the industry leaders who have taken time to speak with me, hire me, or mentor me. Spa industry professionals are generally known for being approachable and friendly, and as an extroverted person who rarely meets a stranger, I’ve taken full advantage of that. My success in this non-traditional career path is entirely due to the support and encouragement I’ve received from industry professionals. Those who took the time to listen, teach, and inspire me to take the next step. I am a profoundly different person because of them and I hope to pass on the same generosity to those I encounter in the industry.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in the spa and wellness industry?
Seek out recurring opportunities to network with industry leaders and then really talk with them. I have known almost all of my managers before they hired me and most of the “interviews” I’ve done didn’t occur in the workplace. They occurred at an industry event, through a phone conversation, or other personal meeting, which I sought out in order to learn more about their position or company. I created the opening and then asked them real questions, so that I knew what this industry could provide for me. And then they asked for my feedback and we were able to build a relationship that may or may not ever turn into a job, but always benefits my career.


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