People often say to me ‘you’re so lucky to work in travel marketing… I wish I could do what you do.’ I have two answers to this.
1. It’s not luck.
2. Why can’t you?
No one is born into a job, and everyone has the power to change what they do for a career. I currently work as senior marketing manager for TrekAmerica and Grand American Adventures… quite possibly the best job in the world, as I get to be creative, use my problem solving skills and help people to have incredible adventures in America. Plus I occasionally get to fly out to the USA, Canada or Central America to try out these holidays for myself. What’s not to love?
But it’s notoriously hard to get into these revered positions, so how do you go about starting your search? Whether you’re a complete marketing novice or you’re a seasoned marketeer looking to make the leap into the exciting world of travel, here are my top 10 tips to get there.
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1. Be prepared to work hard
Marketing is not always glamorous, and it’s certainly not easy. People think it’s all champagne receptions and hobnobbing, and what my friends like to call ‘colouring in’ (essentially making things look pretty). But on a typical day I could be proof-reading a third round of the brochure, answering the phone to the millions of advertisers who want my money, filling in budget spreadsheets, writing copy for an email, organising the logistics of brochure delivery, reporting on campaign success (or failure!), organising brand partnerships or signing off an urgent press release.
Of course there are the more exciting parts of the job like coming up with a creative campaign, social strategy or improving the website with some much-needed content, however it’s a lot of work and you have to be prepared to multitask. If this sounds like too much work, then travel marketing may not be the career for you.
2. Reach out to the companies which interest you
So you’ve decided you’re up to the challenge and you really do want to work in travel marketing. Now’s the time to do some research. Think about what type of company you want to work for. Do you like the idea of working for a big company, or a start up with potential? Do you have a particular interest in one aspect of travel, such as cruising, beach holidays or adventure travel? Start googling what interests you, and start following the company’s Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus and Twitter accounts.
Once you’ve narrowed your list, fire out a quick note to those which you like the look of. Make sure you take time to research the name of the marketing manager or person of influence either online or by giving the company a quick call. Never EVER send to an ‘info@’ or ‘customerservices@’ address. An example of what you might write is:
Hi COMPANY NAME
I just wanted to get in touch as I absolutely love what you guys do. As a keen traveller and long-term fan of yours, working for your company would be a dream come true. I’m currently studying marketing at XXX University / I have a keen interest in marketing / I’m currently working at XXX as a marketing executive and I wondered if you currently have any vacancies in your marketing team?
Write a little more about what your specific interests and experiences have been, but don’t overdo it. Marketeers are busy people! (See point 1)
3. Be patient
Don’t expect that just because you contacted the company that they are going to jump at the chance to have you on board. You may not even hear back from them at all. But at least you’ve registered your interest and they may remember you and your enthusiasm when a position becomes available. As you’re now following all of your favourite travel companies on all of their social networks, you may also see when they post a job vacancy. But you may not, so always keep your eyes open.
One very important thing to note: Your dream job will not land in your lap without some hard graft. You will probably have to take a shit job or a job you just plain don’t like whilst you wait for your dream one. After I came back from travelling I worked for 18 months in a job I hated with people who barely said a word to me on a daily basis. I was marketing financial products I didn’t understand and I came home every night and cried. It was a dark time in my life but it made me all the more determined, and when my dream job opened up, I lunged at it with all my might. In fact, my boss asked me in my interview ‘why should I give you this job?’, to which I answered ‘because it’s MY job. I’ve been waiting a very long time for this job and now you have to give it to me.’
4. You’ll probably need to work your way to the top
People always say how well I’ve done for my age (that’s 28 by the way), but they don’t know it’s taken me 10 years to get to the position I’m at today. I didn’t go to university as I didn’t know if it was the right path for me at the time. What I did know is that I loved to travel. So, I started applying for sales roles in travel companies and finally landed a job at Virgin Atlantic, taking calls and making reservations for customers. I also knew that I didn’t want to be in sales forever, and that marketing was my calling. But did I mope around and complain that it was too hard to get into marketing? No! I made sure I was the best salesperson that my company had, constantly outselling everyone else in the office and winning almost every competition going. I wanted to get myself noticed.
In the words of Tim Minchin:
‘Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you. You never know where you might end up.”
I like that saying.
Incidentally, if you haven’t seen comedian Tim Minchin’s funny and rather inspiring graduation speech, I urge you to take a look.
Once I had found a way into the travel industry I then went on to work for Thomas Cook and Virgin Holidays, always sounding out if they were the type of company who was happy to promote from within. The hard fact is, some companies will always recruit people with marketing experience, and some are happy to take a chance on a hard worker. I found the sweet spot at Virgin Holidays where the marketing team had noticed my sales record and when the opportunity for a junior marketing role came up, allowed me an interview. Which brings me onto my next point…
5. Learn to sell the benefits of you
I don’t need to go into the intricacies of what makes a good job interview (when indeed you get that far), there are plenty of websites to tell you that. What I will say though is that when I’m sitting on the other side of the fence, as someone actually conducting the interview, the last thing I want is some rambling spiel about how your biggest weakness is that you’re stubborn or you take work home with you. Be honest, and don’t forget that whoever is interviewing you will be looking at you and asking themselves ‘will they fit in here?’, ‘are they up to the job?’ and crucially ‘will this person make my life easier or more difficult?’
So now it’s your chance to sell yourself and the benefits of employing you. No marketing experience? Obviously you’re at an immediate disadvantage, but have you had a lot of experience on social media, for example? Or have you done any voluntary work which included promoting an event or service? Try to see yourself in the eyes of the interviewer. Then sell the benefits of employing you over anyone else. For example I would value a self-starter who learns quickly, as I won’t have to spend a lot of my time training that person.
Be confident, honest and memorable and you’ll go far.
6. Do your research on the company.
God, the amount of times I’ve interviewed someone who doesn’t even know who our target audience is or where we travel to… or answered the phone to an advertiser who has no idea what we sell or who we target, and who proceeds to waste my time when the answers to these simple questions could be found on our website… It doesn’t bear thinking about! If you do finally land yourself an interview for the love of all that is holy, make sure you read the ‘about’ page on the company’s website at the very least.
You should also be prepared with information on their product (e.g. if it’s an adventure tour operator then what are their key locations and why are they so popular), their company ethos if you can find that information, and try to gain an understanding of the company’s long-term goals.
7. Travel yourself interesting (or fake it)
If you’ve done a lot of travelling in the past, it may work in your favour to bag yourself your dream job in travel marketing. However if you’ve never been further than Great Yarmouth, you may have to be a little creative. Find out some key facts about the main destinations which your chosen company travels to, and use them in your interview. Make sure they know that although you haven’t been to that particular destination, you’re really interested in its history / culture / food / music. Then throw out a couple of detailed facts about it. For example;
‘I’ve never been to the USA but I’ve always been interested in its musical heritage, and am a huge fan of jazz music, particularly Louis Armstrong. I’d love to visit New Orleans one day and see live jazz in the French Quarter, then grab a Po’boy or a bowl of gumbo and watch the world go by.’
This shows your willingness to learn about the places you’ll be selling, as well as a passion for the destination.
8. Start a travel blog
If you happen to do a lot of travelling at the moment, then one of the best ways to showcase your writing and creative skills is to start a travel blog. But remember that everything you write is in the public domain, and could be seen by potential future employees, so whatever you do, do NOT use it as a place to store all of your drunken travelling selfies.
Think about how your blog can be different to the rest of the blogs out there (carving a niche is a lot harder than you might think), and then put some time into building your audience. It’s not called ‘social’ media for nothing. You could have the best blog in the entire world but if people can’t find it then you may as well be talking to a brick wall.
I like to picture the world of blogging like this. If you walk into a crowded party and stand in the middle awkwardly saying nothing, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone is going to approach you and strike up a conversation. But if you go in and graciously mingle with the guests, telling interesting and insightful stories as you circulate the room, people are much more likely to interact with, and remember you.
That’s all the internet is really. A big old party. Which leads me nicely to point 9…
9. Network… Network… Network!
Once you have your travel blog set up, why not go to some organised blogging events in your area? I regularly go to the events hosted by travel blogging events company Traverse. Keep an eye on their twitter feed for the next #TravelMassive which they host quarterly in London and Manchester, and head there with a pocket full of business cards and your ‘elevator pitch’.
What’s an elevator pitch? It’s a summary of you and your blog in the amount of time it would take to be in a short elevator ride with someone. In other words, what makes you different? In one minute or less.
Although walking into a room full of strangers may seem intimidating at first, you’ll soon be made to feel very welcome. Start chatting to people on the #TravelMassive hashtag before you arrive and get to know their faces so you can approach one or two people. These events are great for getting yourself known in the travel industry as a lot of PR’s and brands attend them too. Some of the people I’ve met at Travel Massive have become some of my closest friends, and everyone looks out for everyone else, whether that’s supporting their blog or keeping an ear to the ground about possible job vacancies. It’s a win-win situation!
10. Never give up
OK so you’ve had more rejections than an entire season of the X Factor and you feel utterly dejected and you’re about to stop trying. Don’t. Your perfect job is out there, you just need to be ready to grab it with both hands at a moment’s notice.
So go forth, and good luck! Let me know if my advice helped you to get your dream job, and if you have any other tips I’d love to hear them below!