A few days ago, a recent college graduate, Jessica McGarry, submitted her story on the Community section of this website detailing her educational credentials, passion for the environment and professional experience within tourism and hospitality industries.
By describing her career since graduation, she also offered (perhaps inadvertently) some job counseling advice to readers and other new college graduates. At the end of the article Jess then asked the question that may be on many readers’ minds and which has prompted this Blog post, “I‘m wondering if you could suggest how to connect with Ecotourism operators that are looking for my type of profile?”
While the following suggestions for breaking into the ecotourism field may not apply to everyone, my hope is that they offer some starting points for Jess and others:
- Attend Ecotourism and other Sustainable Travel Conferences – you may also want to consider volunteering for the event for a reduced program fee. Bring professional business cards and make a connection with people who are really inspiring you, even if they are not immediately hiring. I recommend the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference as a starter conference.
- Establish & Utilize a LinkedIn profile – by far, LinkedIn is an underutilized professional networking resource by college graduates, which is too bad because this is where you can start learning about industry issues and opportunities, and make connections. If you have a profile, fantastic! Now, it’s time to begin researching ecotourism operators located in your region of interest and connecting with someone who works for the operator. How do you do that? Join LinkedIn groupssuch as Believers in Sustainable Tourism and Ecotourism Worldwide and contribute to discussion threads.
- Join the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) – there are different levels of membership starting at $15 per year and with that, you will gain access to the Ecotourism Job Board, which at last count this morning there were 112 jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities available around the world.
- Write Opinion Editorials – establish your passion for the ecotourism field by publishing articles on a blog or for other online media outlets. While you will not make any money doing this, it will increase your knowledge about the issues surrounding this industry and provide you with exposure for when you are applying for your dream job.
- Volunteer – which may seem like a drag because you’ve probably volunteered countless hours with many organizations and not sure what’s left to do. However, have you volunteered to help organize events for local environmental groups, such as Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy to connect with people who want to travel responsibly and will have opinions on which tour companies to work with?
- Look at Ecotourism Operators in Pacific Northwest – the states of Alaska, Washington and Oregon have raised the bar when it comes to eco-certified tourism activities. Look into organizations like P.U.R.E. Travel Collaborative and Adventure Green Alaska to find companies that are operating sustainably and growing!
- Consider Ecotourism Companies Overseas – some growing markets for ecotourism include Central America, South America and Africa. There’s a lot of information about certifications and the innovative programs on this website that describe what some countries are doing to differentiate themselves in the ecotourism space.
- Go on a Volunteer Vacation – choose a region where you would like to get a position and book a volunteer vacation! Again, it’s all about networking until the right position comes along.
- Obtain University Consortium Certificate in Sustainable Tourism – this interdisciplinary program that includes opportunities to gain professional work experience is offered at a number of universities across the country, and again may provide networking opportunities.
- Intern – this is not a cheap ploy for Greenloons, but we have an extraordinary intern – now our Communications Coordinator – Adam Yarnell, who is learning about all aspects of the business and because we are so small, Adam is involved in strategic decisions and is readily making connections in the industry.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I welcome all additional suggestions and comments!
Of course, if you want to figure out if ecotourism is for you, check out one of our eco-certified solo trips!