Talking Tourism: What do you want to be?

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: March 2019

Talking Tourism: What do you want to be? | by Anna Klobuchar

As an adult with life experience, what do you wish you had been told about careers?  Or, as a teenager contemplating a future vocation, what information would be beneficial? Visit Cook County will attend the College and Opportunities Fair on April 3 at ISD #166 to let the students know how their various interests and potential post-secondary plans can directly align with the industry of tourism, entrepreneurial endeavors in our county or employment in our organization.  We thrive on new ideas, positivity, fresh perspectives, and that “fire in the belly” drive that young people can bring to us.

Yes, tourism drives 85% of Cook County’s economy.  But I am writing to you from the perspective that not only are lodges, restaurants and retail businesses important employers in our area, Visit Cook County is a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) and is also an employer to a team of 11 people who blend their various strengths, educational backgrounds, and talents to attract and provide assistance to visitors.  It works because we work. Hard. And, the team also drops their paychecks into our local economy every two weeks.  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2016, those employed in the hospitality and leisure industry contributed to a workforce of 15 million jobs nationwide.

Growing up on the Iron Range, I had a hardworking friend who at the age of 12, much like Hermey the misfit elf in Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, stated that she wanted to become at dentist. And she did! The rest of us don’t make such emphatic career choices so early. In today’s lightning speed, ever changing world, perhaps the message to the dewy-eyed 16 to 18 year olds is that it’s okay if they don’t know at such a young age what they want to the do for the rest of their lives.

At Visit Cook County, we have a Psychology major as our Finance Administrator, working with complex budgets and databases.  You’re reading an article from a Journalism/Political Science major who is now the Information Center Coordinator. Our Executive Director started as a Theater major, detoured into motherhood, and has a passion for people and organizational management.  She has worked in medical transcription, insurance coding, owned multiple businesses, was a kick box instructor, and later became Director of Retention and worked on major events with the Duluth Chamber and Greater Duluth Downtown Council.  Lastly, our Events Resource Coordinator discovered a huge university didn’t work for her, returned home for a breather, and is now carrying a full load of on-line classes pursuing her Accounting and Organizational Management degrees. Our Marketing Manager and our Communications Manager are the two who are currently practicing their majors in their current occupations. They both spent many years in other fields of art and hospitality.

Our advice to the young, upcoming work force? Study what interests you, and the important skills to learn are to problem solve and communicate your ideas. Explore the jobs available through a DMO such as ours.  What occupations fall under that umbrella?  The list is endless!  Our area is rich in artistry and creativity. We work with photographers, graphic designers, videographers, and layout artists.  We rely on and employ those who are website builders, coders, techie data chasers, analytical programmers,receptionists, writers, file managers, historians, researchers, sales managers, customer service representatives, skilled communicators, social network strategists, and foreign language translators.  And that truly is the tip of the iceberg.

The ethereal “find your bliss”, or “do what you love” counsel may apply to few right away, but sometimes it takes a while to make that happen or get discovered.  In today’s economy, useful guidance is more along the lines of “figure out what you are good at and what you find satisfying and work in that field.”  Then, roll up your sleeves and have at it. Discipline, motivation, compromise, humility, flexibility and honesty will carry you through your chosen profession or vocation.  Career satisfaction often comes from the people you work with and who surround you, and not particularly what you do.  And lastly, don’t fear change.   The best life lessons are the ones you learn by trial and error, and these job fairs are a great opportunity to open the students’ eyes to all the choices they have.

So, what do you want to be when you grow up?