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From committee room to classroom - starting a second career in tourism

28th September 2015

It is now six years since I swapped careers, moving from managing Chester’s tourism service to lecturing in tourism at its university. Here are six things I have learnt:

  1. Destination managers have transferable skills. We are good at explaining ideas, making connections and presenting to a crowded room of people with different levels of understanding. We are good at providing patient answers to questions we have responded to many times before. We are good at empathy. We are good organisers. We are good administrators. We are good at taking on new ideas even when they are the same new ideas we took on five years earlier under a different name. These skills can help make us effective lecturers.
  2. Our ability to be jacks of all trades is very useful. We know how to manage services, write development plans, prepare marketing campaigns, copy-write, run events, devise sponsorship packages and measure impact. We have a touch of chutzpah. As a lecturer I have taught strategy, marketing, operations, event management, customer services and even accounting. I have drawn from my previous career in every class.
  3. Local authority tourism managers are often criticised for not understanding “life in the real world”. At universities local authority life is the real world. All the same although new lecturers’ prior experience is respected you still have to become qualified and it is expected that you will never stop learning. I now have a PG Cert (HE) and have just completed an MA – in destination management of course. Since students are taught that opinion or unsupported statements are worthless and that all evidence must be published perhaps I shall next have to write a book!
  4. Although the bulk of students may not go on to careers in tourism the management skills they acquire on a tourism degree and the experiences they have do help them grow and become far more employable. I have had few more rewarding moments than being told at graduation one year by a now successful former student that they felt it was my strategic management class that had enabled them to get their first job.
  5. Tourism is not a career any more than it is an industry. Instead it is an activity that connects to lots of sectors. When I first switched from working at a council to working at a university I didn’t think of myself changing careers, just applying my skills in a different way. I now understand that I was in fact exchanging a local government career for one in teaching.
  6. Changing careers can give you a new lease of life. I recommend it.
From committee room to classroom - starting a second career in tourism