Advice for a post-pandemic career in travel: We have a collective responsibility to help our people thrive. We need talent not just to rebound but to innovate in the long-term.
For our Viewpoint series, Skift invites thought leaders, some from the less obvious corners of travel, to join in the conversation. We know that these independent voices are important to the dialogue within the industry. Our guest columnists will identify and shape what global trends and through lines will define the future of travel.
Winston Churchill famously said “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a significant impact on the people that power hospitality and travel. Though we are living through a deeply challenging and evolutionary time in travel, this crisis provides us with the opportunity to rethink: about how we innovate and about how we can help people better manage their careers and personal success.
Over time, many words of wisdom have been shared, and practical advice has been given as it relates to managing one’s career. Almost to the point where everything may sound like a cliche. But just because it’s been said before, doesn’t mean that the words don’t hold value for us today.
So here is our take on career advice that has withstood the test of time. We share it now, through a travel lens, with the hope that it will resonate for you as well.
Nobody can say for certain why human beings started to travel in the first place. But the same instinct that drove the early explorers to sail their ships to the New World fuels our desire to launch space travel and explore the far reaches of the galaxy. Our lives and to-do lists may have changed during the pandemic, and recovery is projected to be a multi-year process, but the human desire to travel is perennial.
In the words of Pico Iyer, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves … we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” People will travel and explore again. It’s in our nature. And we will learn newer, safer ways to do it. As we have done before.
Waiting is the hard part. All of us in the industry are dealing with forces beyond our control. We cannot predict the virulence of the new strains any more than we can improve the vaccination rates around the world. What we can do in the meantime is mitigate the risk for our teams, the travelers, and eventually, our sector; we
wait and we watch. We watch and we plan. You can be strategic right now, planning, rethinking your personal brand, improving your online presence, so you will be more resilient and prepared in the near future.
Invest in Yourself
A lot has been said about using this time to “upskill.” There is no expiration date for skills acquired and knowledge gained. You carry them with you, everywhere you go.
Too often we are caught up in the daily operational grind. There are deadlines to meet and meetings to attend. We lament the lack of time to do anything new or interesting. If you find yourself in a “pandemic lull,” take this time to learn a new skill or expand on an existing one.
Diversify Your Portfolio
Just like sound investment advice, this applies to your career as well. If you are in a position to explore a different team in your company or can afford to learn about a new vertical, jump on it. Travel will bounce back, sooner rather than later. The lessons you learn and the new skills you acquire might just give you a fresh perspective on the challenges we face in travel.
Plan Your Next Move
Modern careers are like playing 3D chess. Gone are the days when people started and ended their careers with a single company or stayed within the same industry or even location. The pandemic inadvertently accelerated remote work, flex-time, and secondments. Today, the real currency is the speed with which you can acquire new knowledge and skills. That means we need to constantly monitor, evaluate, and plan where the next opportunity lies.
Leverage and Expand That Network
When was the last time you actively reached out for a no-agenda chat with someone in your network or extended network? Many of us do not think strategically about growing our social and work networks. We often simply connect with people on LinkedIn as we meet them, content to see a large number of followers with whom we’ll probably never interact. Until we need something.
The art of networking is being genuinely interested and keeping in touch with friends, families, and acquaintances that you value, even when you don’t need a favor or introduction. Like it or not, it is highly probable that your next opportunity will come from within your network. It’s up to you to recognize the possibilities. So, be a bit more
thoughtful about your contact lists and start reaching out to people you find interesting now, even without a specific agenda.
It can be difficult to stay focused on one task during times of uncertainty and chaos. Let this time provide the opportunity to let your mind run in different directions. In other words, allow yourself to be actively curious. What else might you learn about your team, your competitors, your industry, or even a different industry? History books are full of serendipitous discoveries made by the wrong people, who were in the right place at the right time.
There are so many success stories that are so improbable, seemingly impossible, downright fantastical. It makes you wonder what led these people down this path. Was it creative genius, stupendous luck, or divine intervention? Or could it just be plain old curiosity? It is often the people not looking for any solutions who find them nonetheless.
Find Your North Star
Do you know why you do, what you do? Do you know what guides your intentions and actions? If yes, take a moment to reflect on whether it still holds true. If not, take this time for some introspection and find out.
This may sound like advice from a new age guru, but it helps to visualize and verbalize your North Star. Your North Star is your mission, your WHY, your raison d’être. It should be something that truly inspires you and draws you towards it. Unlike career goals and short-term plans, it doesn’t have to be practical or specific. It can be aspirational and ambitious. Even if your North Star seems completely unrealistic, you know that you are striving towards something personally meaningful.
Write your North Star down on a piece of paper and frame it on the wall; put it on a post-it and stick it to your laptop. And every time you have doubts about what you are doing, ask yourself: “Is this leading me towards my North Star?”
We recognize that it is critical to take this time to nurture and retain top talent in travel.
As an industry, we have to double-down on the investments that we have made and take a long-term view. Human effort and ingenuity (combined with data & tech, of course) will help us navigate these unchartered waters, drive a travel resurgence, and build a sustainable future for our industry.
To paraphrase a fellow traveler, our continuing mission is to explore strange new worlds and to boldly go where no one has gone before!
Rob Torres is managing director at Google and Vivek Bhogaraju is general manager, revenue performance solutions, lodging & vacation rentals at Expedia Group.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of their employers.
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Photo credit: Career tips from experienced executives will be essential for travel's workforce coming out of this pandemic. IR_Stone / Getty Images