My job is awesome. I work as the Content and Social Media Manager at gapyear.com. In the past year I’ve been to Vancouver, New York, Toronto, Prague, Havana, Palma de Mallorca and Dublin for work, and this year I’m going to Australia and New Zealand.
Day to day I could be doing anything from answering PR requests, writing, editing, coming up with campaign ideas and monitoring the site and the community. I work with some fun and knowledgable people (some, not all) who are pretty funny, my days are interesting and I’m getting paid to walk, talk and chat travel all day long too. Never, in my school time dreams, would I have imagined I’d get a job like this.
I’m not just trying to show off, I actually want to help you to get a cool writing and social media job in travel too.
My job history
It was a long and winding road to get to this point. In my life I’ve had more than just the following jobs:
- Envelope addresser
- Bar staff
- Music shop worker
- Boots till worker
- Boots photo counter manager
- Temp staff at concerts and events
- Avon lady
- Call centre worker
- Logistics delivery administrator
- Camp counselor
- Topshop floor staff
- Pay roll data entry typist
- Content editor
- Sub editor
I’ve been working since I was 13 and in my life I’d bet I’ve applied for over 1000 jobs. I was obsessed with working in New York at one point, played with the idea of being a social worker and have been made redundant, twice.
Daring to change
It was making the jump from working as a Sub Editor at Good Food Magazine to Content Writer at HostelBookers that was the big jump. The life-changing one that got me into travel blogging. I mean, I worked at the BBC on a well known title and was given more free and delicious food every day than what was right. At the time the Good Food chefs tested every recipe three times in the on site kitchen – Christmas was tasty. I was bored though. I like to eat, but not edit articles about eating and how to make the perfect puff pastry. So, I took a £7k pay cut and went to work as a writer just to get out of there. It was one of the best things I ever did. I loved the work at HostelBookers.com from day one. This was it and I’d found my calling.
Developing my travels and skills
Almost a year in and I started to go to networking events – the now defunct Mearcats and the almighty Travel Massive. I set up my own blog using everything I’d learned and the next six months soon became pretty crazy.
I was desperate for more travel to fuel my blog but had no money. So, I started to enter every competition I could find – and won three. I went to Egypt, Amsterdam and Tanzania, giving me something interesting and recent to write up.
By October I was hired at gapyear.com and was whisked off to Toronto and New York to meet the rest of the global team. Incredible.
In the 18 months from deciding to take a career and financial step backwards to work at HostelBookers I had my own blog, earned twice as much as my starting salary at HB, gained some awesome friends and bagged a dream job. I’d also gained a huge amount of invaluable knowledge of travel and the industry. Again, I’m not showing off, I just want to offer some reassuring and practical advice if you’re after a cool job in the travel industry and want to change what you’re doing right now.
What can you do?
Since I started at gapyear.com I’ve tried to hire content and social media specialists, and interviewed many interns. From doing this I’ve learned so much about where people out there are going wrong in their job search, and where I made blindingly obvious mistakes in my past job searches – leading to the 1000 applications. From the other side of the fence, being the employer, you can see people let themselves down in so many unnecessary ways.
There are plenty of things, completely in your control, that you can do to ensure you’re the one chosen when your dream job in travel writing and social media comes along. Here goes…
1. Don’t give up
If you really want something you need to go for it, and keep going. I’m not trying to be all dreamy and inspirational but you really do. When you’re starting out no one is going to come looking for you, you need to prove you’re good enough to be headhunted or sought out before anyone will even dream of doing it.
Everyone has a uni degree now, that’s only going to get you so far. You need to be thinking about your employability as soon as possible and think about how you can stand out above everyone else in your field at your age.
If it is a cool job in content and social media for a travel company you’re looking for, you can’t just tell the employer you’re interested in it, you need to show them. Blog, if not for yourself, for other people. Seek out writing opportunities and build up your profile. There are so many websites out there that will be only too willing to take your work on board. I didn’t have that 10 years ago when I was looking – magazines and newspapers were much harder to crack – so make the most of it. Build up your profile in your own time to prove your passion.
Apply for the job you want. Write your application straight away and try to get some different opinions on it from friends. Phone to find out if the job is open, some websites don’t take them down in order to catch your email address, and there’s no point wasting your time if it’s not still there.
If you don’t get an interview, chances are you won’t get feedback. Ain’t no employer got time for that.
You just need to try again.
If you do manage to bag an interview yet don’t get hired, follow up, try and get feedback, work on that and try again when another job comes up. You need to learn from each one you go through. Remember, it’s not them, it’s you. And if you’re not getting the job you want, you need to do something different. The quicker you find out what that is, the better.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
2. Qualifications definitely aren’t everything
Having said ‘everyone has a degree’ approximately two minutes ago, everyone actually doesn’t. And I honestly don’t believe you need it if you have a good portfolio of extra activity. I do have a degree, but I think you can get a wealth of other experience out of the classroom and out in the world. If you learn a language, go exploring, stay well-read and learn from the university of life you can easily have the qualifications of your university educated peers and have more about you to show off at the interview stage too.
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of attitude
Attitude can get you a long way in this life. I’ve conducted interviews where the interviewee has come in all downtrodden and beat, that is not the way to make the most of the getting to interview stage. I’ve also have interviewees that are obviously bitter about the hand that they have or haven’t been dealt in life and they want me to know it.
At that point, for that hour, I’m not interested in that.
I want to know how you’re going to help me and gapyear.com run better. Always, always, stay positive in interviews, about yourself, about the job and about your history. Life is hard for everyone.
You want the interviewer to feel good about interviewing you and to leave on a high.
4. Get networking
Without a doubt this is one of the most important aspects of getting a cool travel social media job and getting known. If I hadn’t of started going to events I may never have known about this job and I wouldn’t know as much about the industry as I do. By meeting people in your field you can share ideas, get yourself known and keep your ear to the ground about any job opportunities that may come up. The first few meet ups may seem quite difficult, but once you’ve gotten to know people they may actually become quite fun. Have some business cards armed and ready to go and a spiel about yourself that just rolls off your tongue. You may not realise immediately, but the contacts you make now could be very useful later on.
5. You need to love it
When it comes to cool jobs, no matter what industry you’re in, you have to love it and show that you love it too. The people that make it to the top of an industry have passion, they live, breathe and sleep their field and that oozes out of them whether it’s when you meet them, on their blogs, or on their social media, in this case. To get the best jobs, you need to love your industry and be prepared to put the work in out of hours to be the best.
Listen to my podcast for more advice
Jayne Gorman, a travel blogger at GirlTweetsWorld.com, and an ex-social media manager, joins me on my podcast So She Travels to discuss working in travel. She was part of the first social media team at Flight Centre.
Have a listen!
6. Think about presentation at all times
The way you present yourself both online and in person is very important. In one interview I did, the lad came in in such scruffy clothes I was asked about him by the office boss afterwards and he’d been noted. Not a good look for him, and he didn’t get hired. Another girl looked fairly smart, but wore trainers. Again, no thanks. An interview is your time to shine no matter what the job. Our clothes are relaxed in the office, but that’s when you actually have the job, not when you’re trying to make a good impression. For most people it’s downhill from there so if you don’t impress then, you never will.
You also need to think about the way you present yourself in your social media feeds too. I’ve had interns give me their Twitter handles for example and then when I check them out it’s full of the most vulgar swear words that make even my eyes bleed, it’s even worse when it’s in their profile section.
If you want to get serious about impressing employers you need to sort this out, especially if you want a job in social media.
7. Seek out opportunities
You need to be on it. You need to be looking around for opportunities all the time. If you hear of someone leaving their job, find out what they’re doing about replacing them, get yourself on LinkedIn and if you can, write in your status that you’re looking for work. Found a company that you particularly want to work for? Send them a letter to enquire if they have any vacancies and authentically express interest. If you’re going down this route however, never, ever, send the email to ‘whom it may concern’. Any of those go straight in the bin for me. The fact I work at gapyear.com is on the about us page, if you can’t be bothered to find that out then I can’t be bothered to read your letter.
Basically you need to make it as easy as possible for someone to hire you. If you manage to get as far as to get your CV into the decision-maker’s hands it needs to be so good that they can’t say no.
Keep trying, follow my tips, and you’ll get there one day.