How I’ve made it this far in the tourism industry – and how I’ll always be evolving

Our PR Consultant, Amy Gardner, talks about her career path and her tips for making it in the tourism industry.

I’ve enjoyed a jungle-gym-variety career over the last 10 years or so, jumping across different departments and taking on exciting projects here and there. It’s an adventurous trail working in the tourism industry, with constant surprises and change. It’s also a competitive one for professionals seeking their dream job and workplace.

The journey begins

Shortly after completing a tourism business degree at La Trobe University, I followed my dream of starting a new adventure moving interstate (okay, so I was really following a boy!). This was difficult at first because any opportunities and networks I’d built while at uni in Melbourne couldn’t really help me. The timing also coincided with the severe Queensland flood of 2012. Eventually I landed a job at a luxury hotel in Brisbane, shortly followed by a second job at a smaller boutique hotel. Yes, young and energetic me then went for the trifecta – I worked at three different hotels at once.

I remember those years fondly, doing the hard yards (70+ hour weeks) with all sorts of different roles and schedules; that stint as night auditor was where I first discovered a love for coffee! Yes, it was challenging, but I learned and grew SO MUCH. By the time we were ready to move back to Melbourne, I had a good idea of which areas of work I enjoyed and I was successful in starting a role at a boutique hotel in St Kilda coordinating events, marketing and sales.

Lessons I’ve learned

The current COVID-19 lockdown has brought about a time of reflection. I’ve been considering some of the important lessons uncovered from the industry I love. It’s hard to see a clear path ahead right now, but it’s true that from some of our biggest challenges come great opportunities.

For me, it’s the people and the passion that help you find where you belong.

 

Networking is key

We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Networking can be awkward and weird but it is oh-so critical. The benefits and the overall impact of networking to your career progression are truly substantial. The exact numbers are debatable, but research indicates that upwards of 60 per cent of people land their job thanks to networking.

So forming and maintaining a strong contact base can lead to many opportunities to develop your career.

 

Networking in the age of coronavirus

How can we network right now, you ask? During this digital lockdown, you can still put yourself out there. Here are a few ideas to start with:

  • Use social platforms such as niche Facebook Groups and LinkedIn to be present and participate in current topics.
  • Find an opportunity to meet up online with other professionals – The Young Tourism Network is running weekly Zoom networking meet ups.
  • Sign up to and attend industry webinars (many are currently being offered for free). Asking questions is a great way to engage with others, and you will likely learn a thing or two while you’re there!

 

Still feeling intimidated by the ‘n’ word?

Remember everyone is in the same boat. Networking events are generally conducted with an informal and laid-back vibe. Relax and be yourself. If you don’t like talking about yourself, you can be the one asking lots of questions, and pay attention to the answers. Good listeners are few and far between. It also gets easier – I promise it does.

When you do meet someone new, be willing to invest some effort on a regular basis. Follow up. Keep in touch. Build relationships, not just contacts. Quality not quantity is definitely the key to effective networking.

 

Industry peers; friend or foe?

You’re at an industry event and, looking around the room, you see at least five people in roles that you applied for but missed out on. Most of us have been there. We know it’s a competitive industry, but don’t forget the importance of collaboration.

Here’s why you shouldn’t see your peers as enemies:

  • First of all, you have your own strengths, personality and experience. Be confident in yourself!
  • You might face them again down the track when they are the decision maker for a new opportunity. Make a good first impression early on.
  • Whoever coined the phrase “you’re only as good as the company you keep” was onto something.

What if we could see our peers as a supportive network of like-minded, intelligent friends?

This is not something you just have to imagine; you can make it a reality. Networking is a great way to achieve this. 

The value of volunteering

Another great option is to find a committee to join or a volunteer opportunity where you will work alongside other industry professionals. It’s easy to make friends when you’re working together as a team. Your world will open up to new people and all sorts of new and exciting opportunities, especially when you work in the tourism industry.

Many years ago I volunteered a few hours each week providing visitor services for St Kilda Tourism and Events. One of the friends I made there was just finishing the same tourism course at La Trobe that I had completed a few years earlier. We went our separate ways, both entering exciting new opportunities. She championed roles at Zoos Victoria, Eureka Skydeck and Puffing Billy. We kept in touch and are now delighted to be working together again on the Young Tourism Network (YTN) committee.

Volunteering on the YTN committee, I’ve built stronger friendships with my fellow industry pros, many of whom I call up for advice on new projects or events. We also share opportunities with each other and have provided genuine work references to potential new employers.

Hold onto that passion

Tourism can be a challenging industry at the best of times – and we’re currently experiencing the worst of times – but it’s also one of the most rewarding. You only have to scroll through the hashtags #wanderlust or #travelquotes to get a good dose of the warm fuzzies.

Collectively, we as an industry provide visitors with awe-inspiring experiences and incredible, lasting memories. We push people to open their eyes, learn, grow and discover news things.

We love what we do.

If you’re feeling uncertain about your career path, try the following:

  • Remind yourself why you started, where you started and how far you’ve come – or if you’re a graduate, envision where you want to be and the steps you can take to make that happen.
  • Talk to friends outside of the industry about what your normal week looks like. This should remind you of that heart-throbbing pride you have for your job.
  • If you’re really not loving it, look into transferring your skills to a different area of this vast and thrilling industry.

And yes, right now the dark cloud of COVID-19 is hovering and we’re facing great uncertainty short term, but this will not be the end of us. Keep your ears and eyes open. An abundance of inspiring stories are already coming out of this global pandemic. I am excited to see how we can come out of this and where that will lead – there are more breathtaking moments awaiting us on the horizon.