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 founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, 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 ran 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. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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