How I Got A Job In Travel Through An Internship

Annisa Maher

Posted On 6 October 2020

I think it’s fair to assume that many people who are fresh out of university and on the hunt for their first full-time job often feel overwhelmed.

This is probably largely due to the fact that there is an overwhelming amount of competition for entry-level jobs, growing pressure to “stand out” and an unrealistic expectation to have 5 years of experience under your belt by the age of 20. Maths was never my favourite subject at school, but I know that doesn’t add up.

Needless to say, I certainly felt this pressure and to add to it, I had the misconception that to work in the travel/tourism industry, you need to have travelled extensively around the world, which is a naive belief that I can now thankfully look back on and laugh about. 

But looking back, the best thing I could have done to set myself up and give myself a chance was to get work experience.

In my case, I managed to snap up two short-term internships between getting my Bachelor’s Degree and finishing my Masters, and they definitely paid off when the time came to go fishing for my first full-time adult job.

Internships can lead to work contacts that you’ll use in the future, networking opportunities, the chance to further develop your hard and soft skills and just generally help you develop an understanding of what to expect in the workplace and make the transition easier.

And don’t get me wrong, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of being able to devote extra time and energy towards another project ON TOP OF what they’re already trying to juggle, but if you are in a position where you can make that sacrifice, it will definitely be worth it in the long run.

I know you didn’t ask, but here’s a bit on my background (yes, it's one of those blogs...)

I was born in the Philippines, to an Indonesian mama and an Australian dad. Fast forward five years, dad got a promotion and an opportunity to relocate to Geneva, so we packed our bags and moved across the world to a small village called Ferney-Voltaire, on the French side of the border between France and Switzerland.

This is ultimately where I grew up for the next thirteen years, up until I finished high school.

I went to international schools in France and Switzerland, which was such an epic experience/opportunity that I will always pinch myself for.

I met people from all over the world with different backgrounds, families, stories and ways of living and thinking.

It was around this time that I started to develop my curiosity and appreciation for travel, culture and learning about people. My friends were from Malawi, Sweden, Canada, Pakistan, Ireland, the U.S… the list goes on. On the surface, we had little in common, but we shared similar experiences and an open mindedness that you develop from growing up in an environment like that.

We were children of expats – parents who worked for any of the various U.N. organisations that were headquartered in Geneva, meaning we didn’t really know where “home” was, but we really liked being part of the same big melting pot.

All of this to say that even though I didn’t travel the world, I still got that enrichment from my people and my experiences. And no matter what role you go for, you will always be able to bring something else to the table that is equally as valuable and relevant.

I went off to the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia because it’s where my dad grew up and also where my parents met and fell in love.

After dipping my toes in Psychology, French Literature and Linguistics, I decided on a Bachelor of International Tourism Management because, at this point, why not.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do (see Kimmy K GIF below for reference) but I knew that I really valued my international background and really believed in the benefits of travelling and what it could achieve. On the other hand, I understood that we needed to change the way we travel and learn to limit impacts on host communities and the environment with more sustainable practices. 

During this time, I had to undertake a short internship as part of my degree and I managed to score one at a great adventure travel agency that catered mostly to backpackers.

I mainly provided administrative support for the team, but I still developed a good understanding of how a travel agency works and got to learn what travellers were looking for. It was really inspiring to see how keen these people were, some of them straight out of high school, to travel around the country and discover new things on their own, meeting people along the way and experiencing new things.

I see the same thirst in the travel legends that walk through our doors today and have the biggest drive for adventure and discovery and are willing to make sacrifices and decisions to make their travelling dreams come true.

A common road that a lot of my friends from Europe took after their Bachelors was to dive straight into their Masters, so I felt an internal pressure to follow suit.

I wasn’t quite ready for a full-time job, but I also didn’t know what I wanted to specialise in, so I decided to take six months off to work it out.

Pretty soon after, I landed a three-month internship with an ecotourism organisation and absolutely loved it. I knew that the area that I wanted to get into, sustainable tourism, is quite niche so I figured it would probably be best to do my Masters straight away.

After my Masters, I wasn’t very successful in finding a role in sustainable tourism that I had the experience for.

 I had degrees under my belt with the grades to show that I knew what I was talking about, but I didn’t have the work experience to prove that I knew what I was doing (according to job descriptions).

Mind you, this is how I felt with SOME work experience, imagine how it would have been with NONE. I started branching out and deviated slightly from the path I thought I needed to go down, because at the end of the day, all experience is good experience and you will learn from each and every role you spend in. After a while, I finally came across a role for a tour company that one of my ex-bosses from a previous internship was advertising. 

At this point, I was pretty disheartened at how long it was taking me to find something and didn’t have much hope.

But both Adam and Darryl made it abundantly clear that they didn’t need someone who had been everywhere and seen everything, nor were they after someone with 10 years of work experience. They just wanted someone that could adapt, show up, and step up to the plate.

It was through this whole process with them and the rest of my team that I started to see working in the travel industry (and the whole job process) through a different light.

There is no real moral to this story, but if I could give anyone some advice from all of this it would be to go out there and get as much experience as you can, in whatever forms you can.

Try to get a balance of both theoretical knowledge (if university is even the route you want to go down, because it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) AND practical experience. Internships are a great way to build on your skills and feel more prepared for a full-time job.

They can also be really instrumental in helping you decide what it is you actually want to do. The harsh reality is that it is becoming increasingly competitive out there, and you will need to prove that you have what it takes to do the job better or in a different way to someone else.

But don’t get discouraged when looking at job descriptions. Just because you can’t tick off every little requirement, doesn’t mean you’re not right for that role or that you can’t prove yourself in other ways.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to deviate from the route you had previously set for yourself – it’s okay to take a little detour, you’ll learn so much along the way. 

Written By

Annisa Maher

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