There are a number of steps you can take to join these industries.
Step 1: Figure out what is most important to you? How do you define success? Many job search articles and posts focus on finding a career you love. This is great in theory, everyone would like to have a career they love, however, it is okay to have other priorities as well. Supporting your family, providing a roof over your head, food on the table and saving up for vacations are also worthy causes for finding a job. Ideally, we would have all of those things and also a career we love, but sometimes you have to take positions that are less desirable in order to work towards the life, lifestyle, or career that you would like to eventually have.
Step 2: I recommend that you change your branding on LinkedIn (and all social media for that matter) and through your resume/ cover letter to focus more on transferable skills that could be used in this industry. Make sure that your brand, your messaging is consistent. If you want to go into sustainable tourism development, your social media should match that message. Consider talking to a career coach and/ or résumé writer, they can help you to craft your brand. Universities provide these services to students and many times alumnus as well.
Step 3: Network, network, network. Pick the area of the industry you want to focus on and get involved. Whether it’s one or all of the above, get involved in at least one network: MPI, PCMA, GSTC, IAVM, ATTA, ASTA, AHLA, ILEA, Travel Massive, etc. I recommend becoming a member and then attending local events. Events, conferences and LinkedIn are great ways to meet people. If you consider that 40% of the available jobs are never posted online and are given to a friend/ friend of a friend, then it definitely behooves you to focus your efforts on networking.
When you start to apply for jobs in the industry without the network, then you are facing the applicant tracking systems, search engine optimized words and 100-300 applicants per job. It can be daunting. The best way that I have found to meet people can just be cold introductions. Walk up and say hi. Find out what you have in common. My best advice when it comes to networking is to ask yourself (with every person you meet), ‘Who can I introduce this person to that could help them?’ When you think of how you can help others, others will also think of you when opportunities come up that remind them of you.
Step 4: If walking up to strangers at event is too scary for you, volunteer. You will meet a lot of people at industry events if you are volunteering and it’s not quite as confrontational as talking to a stranger with the purpose of networking. If you’re a good volunteer, people will talk, word will spread and you can get a job from making a lasting impression as a hard worker.
Step 5: Informational interviews. One of the best ways to get where you want to go is to interview people who are doing what you want to do. You’d be surprised by how many top people will be willing to give an informational interview and you can discover a lot. For instance, I once did an informational interview with a gentleman who had worked his way up through the National Park Service. He was an incredibly inspirational individual, I also learned that to get a job like his, I would have needed to either join AmeriCorp, PeaceCorp or the Armed Forces due to preferential hiring. After chatting with the person you interview, you can send them a follow-up email that includes your resume and ask them to send it to anyone who may be of interest. Which means, you need to have all of your ducks in a row prior to the interview, but it’s worth it!
Step 6: In addition to networking and getting yourself out there both in person and virtually, I also recommend that you still apply for the 60% of jobs that are posted online. Research applicant tracking systems so that you can use the system to your advantage. There are ways of mastering the system, which will lead you to more job interviews. Utilize search engine optimized words in your posts and your resume. The higher a position in an organization, the more positions you may need to apply for. Folks applying for higher management positions without an inside lead may have to apply for 100-200 jobs before getting the right position. This can take time, patience and likely some form of work in the meantime.
There are tons of resources to support you. Do not get discouraged, this is a really tough time in the field and jobs are extremely competitive! Keep at it, make opportunities for yourself.