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A Strategy for Success

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John Crystal, an eminent career counselor, used to say that to get a job, you need the skills of a spy. It is more accurate to say you need the skills of a good investigative reporter. Finding a job is a matter of knowing where to find information and what questions to ask, targeting specific potential employers, and then assembling all the information into a convincing presentation.

The first questions to ask are whether you want to pursue a career in travel and tourism at all and whether you have what it takes to be successful in it. The industry is made up of about

50,000 separate businesses in some 15 different categories, with very disparate needs, problems, and approaches. Regardless of whether you target an airline, a car rental company, a hotel, or a travel agency and regardless of whether you believe travel is a dream or a commodity, what each business sells is service.

The overriding quality that employers look for is not "love people, love travel" but an ability to serve people selflessly. Travel and tourism goes on constantly; most industry jobs of any responsibility are not just weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but require commitment and dedication.

'The world is so large, so complex, so vast, that the one thing human beings need more than anything else is one-on-one service that makes their world a little more orderly," stated Travis Tanner, senior vice president of Walt Disney Attractions Sales and former president of Ask Mr. Foster.

Another quality that employers look for is the ability to be very detail oriented. This business is one of minute detail and complicated logistics. Many jobs require someone who is organized and patient and who can handle the constant changes and hassles.

Many jobs, particularly at entry level, entail some sacrifice, especially in terms of income since the industry is low paying, and possibly the need to relocate. However, because the industry continues to expand, it affords excellent opportunities for rapid advancement into positions that do pay decently and that have considerable responsibility and prestige.

Know Thyself

Once you have decided that you have what it takes for a career in travel and tourism, the next task is to isolate where you want to focus your energies. The industry is so vast, so diversified; each segment manifests its own personality and style. Finding a job requires sorting through myriad choices so that you can focus your energies in one area.

Next, you have to establish priorities. What is important to you: Travel, money, power, influence? ; The chance to work with people, to help people, to make a mark on society? To create, to grow personally or intellectually, to submerge yourself in art, culture, science, or business? ; To have free time for other interests or for family? To work in a set routine or in a dynamic situation where nothing is predictable? What is your ultimate goal? Where do you think you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years?

Recognizing that your priorities will change and that it is impossible to map out a career path precisely, make a list of your wants, desires, and needs on paper in order of their importance. Since few things in this world are perfect, any job you take will likely require some trade-offs. Determine what is vitally important to you and what you can compromise. If you can be flexible about where you want to live, for example, you will have a much easier time finding a job in travel and tourism. You will most likely have to weigh long-term benefits against short-term ones-higher pay against a learning experience, security against mobility, responsibility against free evenings and weekends to pursue outside interests.

Knowing who you are and what you really want can help expand your options. You may find that you can satisfy the same professional and personal objectives in a different industry segment from the one that first captured your imagination. For example, the field of tour operations is very limited, but you can be a tour planner in many different contexts, such as hotels, incentive houses, travel agencies, airlines, motor coach operators, or even the railroad.

Once you have established your priorities, you can begin to focus in on potential employers. The approach you take depends upon your priorities. You can first decide what kind of professional you want to be marketing, sales, public relations, administration, computer systems (positions that are common to most businesses)and then zero in on what segment of the industry appeals to you most. Or, if getting into a particular segment of the industry hotels, airlines, tour companies and travel agencies is more important, and then start there. If you have targeted a particular company, you will probably have to be a little more open-minded about what position you take. You can be very clear on a resume about wanting a position in marketing, but many companies only fill these positions from within and you may have to start in some entry-level position.

Finding Leads

Once you have decided on an industry segment, consult trade journals (both the articles and the ads), trade associations (some have job banks, referral services, or internship programs), professional societies, newspapers (classifieds as well as the news items, particularly the financial section), employment agencies (some specialize in travel), and stock analyst reports about growth companies. Some references that are helpful are:
  • Standard and Poor's
  • Dun & Bradstreet Reference Book of Corporate Management
  • Moody's Industrial Manual
  • F&S Index of Corporations and Industries
  • Encyclopedia of Associations
  • Standard Directory of Advertisers
  • College Placement Annual
  • Sales & Marketing Management
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Business Week
  • Forbes
  • Fortune
  • Newsweek
  • Time
Trade journals include:

Travel Weekly Tour & Travel News Business Travel News Travel Agent

Travel Management Daily Travel Trade Corporate Travel, Travel Life

ASTA Agency Management Aviation Weekly Meetings & Conventions Successful Meetings Hotel & Resort Industry Lodgings

Be particularly alert to the names of new companies, formations of new divisions, corporate expansions, reorganizations, and new products or projects and trends that may suggest new endeavors. (The woman who landed the position of director of administration and personnel for the New York convention center had contacted the newly appointed chairman personally after reading about his appointment in the newspaper.) You might also try to attend vacation and travel expos and trade shows.

If you are restricted to finding a job within a geographical area, contact state travel offices, local convention and visitors bureaus, tourism information offices, or chambers of commerce to find out what travel companies might be potential employers.

If you have targeted specific companies, try to do some re-search about each company to find out what positions each is hiring for and then personalize your approach. You might start with the human resources department, just to get an idea of what openings are available before you make a formal introduction. It is best, however, to try to contact people in specific departments.
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