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Six months into the life of a Graduate Executive at Lemongrass

Published on By Tara Schwenk

After the graduation confetti has settled and your student card expires, one of life’s big questions presents itself: What now?

For many of my friends and uni-mates, it was a case of jumping for the first thing that popped up, but I wanted to really consider where my skill set could be most useful.

With a degree in Modern Languages I searched for a career with international scope, but how could I combine this with my passion for travel? Enter Lemongrass Marketing.

I have now completed my first six months as a Graduate Executive where I have been working on Sales, PR & Marketing across a set of luxurious and exotic travel clients.

My friends think I have a cool job, but for me, it’s more than that; it’s a chance to develop a career in an exciting and international industry.

For all you out there wondering what it’s like to forge a career in travel, here’s my low down on what you can expect from my initial experiences in the sector.

1. Luxury Travel is surprisingly casual

Over the past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to represent my clients to both the UK travel trade and media. One of the things I quickly learnt after meeting with journalists from publications like the London Evening Standard and National Geographic, as well as Product Managers from travel agents and tour operators including Audley, Scott Dunn and Savile Row, is that people who work in travel are incredibly relaxed, approachable, and passionate people.

There are no three-piece suits and stuffy boardrooms, just people eager to share their most adventurous and glamorous travel experiences with you. This is not, however, an excuse for unprofessionalism; It’s always better to be the one a little bit overdressed than underdressed, and ensure you always speak respectfully and appropriately. Remember that you’re there representing your client’s travel brand, and at that moment, their reputation is in your hands.

My advice is to listen, and work out how you can provide value to journalists or product managers and, at the same time, represent the best interests of your clients and secure new opportunities as that’s what they pay us for. This leads me nicely onto my next point…

2. Knowledge is power (to an extent)

As UK representatives for luxury travel brands, hotels and destinations, it is important to prepare for any type of question. You will become the face of entire cities, stunning hotels and adventures beyond your wildest dreams – but when you cover many continents it can be hard to be an expert in all fields (and you have to accept this).

When your clients are in the UK, listen and learn from their expertise during meetings; you will discover more about the product from conversations with the managers or staff over coffee, than you can ever learn from their brochures. Your time together before and after meetings should be filled with questions (as well as jokes – my go-to tactic for getting on with my clients).

When you are heading to meetings solo, use the knowledge you have gained, be exceptionally well prepared, but never bluff because it will always come back to bite you. Be honest, but professional and take down any questions to pass on to the client to answer. And when you get the answer, remember it for next time!

3. And yes, you get to travel!

Working in the travel industry indeed means that you get to explore the world with your job; I was lucky enough to do this in the first six months.

In June, I co-hosted a joint press and educational trip to Dream Phuket Hotel & Spa on the paradisiacal island of Phuket, Thailand. While the thought of island-hopping boat trips, fine Thai dining and even a Muay-Thai boxing class excited me, I was in charge the group’s safety, enjoyment and professional reputation; more than a little daunting as I’m sure you can imagine!

To succeed in this type of work, I’ve learnt you have to be well prepared, approachable, energetic and understanding. I was thrown into the deep end with a 13-hour flight with people I’d never met before, but on arrival, we were talking as if we’d been friends for years.

4. Organisation is key

Having all documents on hand throughout is imperative (imagine teacher on a school trip), but make sure you maintain enthusiasm. It will be your job to ‘rally the troops’ and build excitement for all activities and solve problems if they arise (we have an internal Lemongrass WhatsApp group so even if I’m abroad I always have access to a senior member of staff to help with trickier questions).

5. Remember, you and the client are a team

Enjoy yourself and take every opportunity you can, but remember that when an issue arises you must do everything in your power to resolve it. You must work together to ensure that everything runs smoothly – with prior, meticulous preparation of course. And when the trip is over and everything has gone to plan (or as close as possible at least) and you’ve followed up with everyone, the feeling of elation and pride is priceless. And don’t worry too much about post-trip blues, the next one will never be too far away!

While the industry does not carry the stuffiness of City life, professionalism is key. You will be the physical representation of whole world-famous cities, hotels and brands based thousands of miles away, and this means that you will be constantly learning.

And yes, we travel, but this is no holiday and you are here to work (that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself at the same time). After university, it is important not to lose faith and settle for the first job that presents itself. Never doubt yourself or lose your drive and ambition. If you are serious about making a career out of your passion then I hope this blog post has proved to you that it is more than possible.

If you’re interested in a career in Digital Travel PR, sales, or marketing and think you have what it takes to be part of the Lemongrass team, we’d love to hear from you! Visit our Join our team page to find out more.