On role models, confidence and my next 20 years in the travel industry

On role models, confidence and my next 20 years in the travel industry

Today’s guest blogger is Rachel O’Reilly, Head of Communications for Kuoni UK. Rachel discusses the importance of the right role models and the opportunities she had working in the travel industry. Rachel will be speaking at the Women in Travel Meetup at WTM 2016 as part of the Leadership Panel.

My friends don’t believe that I have a real job. How can hosting a press trip to the Maldives, presenting at conferences in Barbados or attending glitzy awards dinners in floor length frocks be real work?

They do have a point. There are times when I conclude that work shouldn’t be as much fun as it is.

Yet it’s a job just as real as being a dentist, a PA or engineer, though admittedly it was never advertised in the careers handbook at school.

I’m frequently reminded how lucky I am to have found a profession that has taken me from being a 22-year old executive in a London travel PR agency to being Head of Communications for one of the UK’s leading travel brands.

Yet navigating our way along the professional path isn’t easy, despite attempts to make it appear effortless.

My mother was a wonderful role model for me.  She trained as a nurse and kept working whilst she had four children. She looked ahead at the trends in medical care and spotted the future of nursing when she moved into a general practice supporting a team of GPs.

One important lesson I I learnt from my Mum was that she always identified new opportunities to train and add to her skills set, becoming an expert in both asthma and advanced ear care when she was 50 and 56 respectively.

Plus she always looked fabulous and had a fun and friendly outlook so generated a huge amount of respect and warmth from her colleagues.  As a result she worked happily as a top grade nurse until she was 65.

Now in my mid-forties, I am looking to the next 20 years of my career. That does seem like a daunting thought if I allow it to be. One of my biggest hopes for the future is that attitudes to age in the workplace changes and we look positively at those who bring experience and new ideas to the table beyond the ages of 50, 60 and even 70.

I also hope that I have inherited some of my mother’s wisdom for staying one step ahead. Equipping myself with new skills, being open to different ways of working and radiating an optimistic  attitude are some of the things I aspire to.

Being asked to be part of the leadership debate at WTM is an honour. Believing in ourselves as women and having the confidence to speak up when it matters is vital.

It’s always easy, no matter what stage you’re at in your career, for that fear of not being good enough to creep in. Don’t let it, I say, and believe that you can and will be brilliant if not all of the time, then most of it.

When Hilary sits in the White House (I am indeed an eternal optimist) I’d like to think there are times when even she has a secret, perfectly-manicured freak out.

Finding our inner strength to walk tall, trust our instincts, monitor trends and listen carefully to trusted advisors when it matters will see us through even the rockiest of paths to ensure a rich and rewarding life of work.

Despite my friends’ jokes about job-envy, I hope I will pass my strong work ethic and lessons I have learnt along the way to my own 11-year old daughter, just as my own gorgeous mother did for me.

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Alessandra is a senior professional and qualified coach-mentor with 18 years of business experience spent working in the commercial sector, mostly consulting for the travel, tourism, hospitality and event management industry. Current and recent clients include Tourism Boards, Trade Associations, Hotels, Caterers and Educational Institutions. In 2011 Alessandra was appointed visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire within the Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events faculty of the Business School and has taught in a variety of establishments including The Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne and more recently The University of Normandie’s Business School. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she run between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

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