What I Learned at Destinations International’s Membership Summit

This month I was fortunate enough to attend Destinations International’s Membership Summit, or what was formerly known as Shirtsleeves, for the first time!  This conference is for destination management organization (DMOs) and convention and visitor bureau (CVBs) staff members to attend and focuses specifically on partnership and membership (P.S. DMOs and CVBs are interchangeable phrases).  Despite the fact that my current title is “Event Specialist,” my role sits within our Industry Relations department at Visit Bucks County, which is the department that not only handle events, but also partnership and outreach.

Aside from the great sessions I attended, I think the most impactful part of the conference was getting to meet and talk with other DMO professionals and hear about all the ways destinations do things differently even though we all have the same end goal.  It was also really refreshing to see how open everyone was to sharing their tips and tricks, their programming schedules, their email templates, pretty much anything and everything, with the other destinations in attendance.  The lack of competition between the destinations in regards to partnership (since partners must be within that destination) made for a very open, accepting, and educational environment.

With that said, I wanted to share some snippets of information that I picked up while at the conference.

(1) “Destination organizations are a community need. They are a common good.  They should be spoken about as a common good.” (Don Welsh, President & CEO, Destinations International)

From my vantage point, if your community is not on your side, your efforts will never be as successful as you intend them to be.  You want your local community to realize the incredible economic benefits of and to help you further your travel initiatives.  Word of mouth is still incredibly powerful and you want your community to share the good your doing and help to encourage their networks to visit your destination.  At the end of the day, the recipient of a DMOs efforts is the community itself.  The entire system needs to come full-circle in order for it to work at maximum efficiency.  In the words of Brenda Scott Savage, Director of Membership for Visit Houston, “tourism and travel is everyone’s business” and the end goal is “quality of place for everyone;” so community must be front and center.

(2) “The easiest way to create memorable event is to have poor service.” (Jim Gilmore, Co-Founder, Strategic Horizons, LLP and Co-Author of the book “The Experience Economy”)

With global connection becoming easier and more expansive by the day, word travels faster than ever before.  The surest way to create memorable experiences, that are shared with others, is to offer poor service.  Unfortunately, humanity is more apt to share bad experiences as opposed to positive ones.  When your organization has a service failure, that small part of the full experience will stick with your Guest.  When that happens, most businesses automatically think that an apology is the end-all-be-all of fixing the problem.  However, as cliche as it is, actions speak louder that words.  The actual response to service failures should be resilient and immediate action to fix the issue.  Unfortunately, businesses cannot be perfect all the time.  When imperfect experiences happen, how they are solved is the true measure of a business’s ability to deliver on experience and Guest service.

(3) “What gets measured gets done.” (Don Welsh, President & CEO, Destinations International)

It’s no secret, data management, measurement, and analysis is the center of the universe at this point in time.  In Don’s welcome remarks, he reviewed 11 trends that Destinations International has been tracking for travel and tourism.  Trend #5 was: “harvesting data and developing business analytics differentiates successful tourism enterprises and destinations.”  At the end of the day, every destination offers the same base-level services, products, and experiences.  Destinations have accommodations, retail, attractions, and food and beverage options.  How do we show the success or grow rates or visitation in order to show difference between various locations?  Data.  Data can chart those elements of business growth and change, which provides a more concrete way to measure the ethereal concept of visitor experience.  If we know where we currently stand in the eyes of the consumer, it becomes much easier to map how we can improve the designed experience.

Collage from Destinations International's 2019 Membership Summit

If you happen to be someone that works for a DMO or CVB and you’re reading this, I highly recommend this conference.  I heard some great ideas and met some amazing people from various countries and I can’t wait to go back again next year!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Time-lapse of the Bucks County Quilt Show Set-Up

Visit Bucks County hosts the Bucks County Quilt Show each year, which is a colorful and diverse display of over 100 quilts.  This year, the show runs from June 30th to September 2nd at the Bucks County Visitor Center in Bensalem, PA.  For more information on the exhibit and for information on the speaking engagements schedule during the show go to: visitbuckscounty.com/events/annual/bucks-county-quilt-show/

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

Breaking Down My Brand Statement Pt. 2 | Professional Development

This is Part 2 of “Breaking Down My Brand Statement.  Just as a refresher, or if this is your introduction to my site, I learned about professional brand statements from one of my undergraduate professors at Temple University.  Broadly speaking, brand statements are a way to sum up your professional promises, view of the industry, and a written demonstration of who you are as a professional – think of it like your own mission or vision statement!  In Part 1, I introduced the topic and discussed some tips for starting to write your own statement (click here to check out that post!).  In Part 2, I’m going to discuss my own brand statements.

My brand statement is broken down into four separate statements; two are promises and two are beliefs.  My statement includes themes of leadership style, acceptance, and diversity, and my view of the experience economy and experience portfolios.

Brand Statement #1 - Sub-header photo

This first statement was inspired by my time choreographing for childrens’ community theatre.  I grew up participating in community theatre and whether or not I was performing or teaching, I’ve found that the dances that are the simplest, borderline boring (you know, the ones where you do “step-touch” the whole number), were ALWAYS the sloppiest.  However, if you assess the skill level of your cast and then take the difficulty of the dances a half-step or a full step up from there, the product that you receive in return was always cleaner.  By increasing the difficulty of the dances, it gave the cast more of an incentive to practice, because they couldn’t achieve perfection the first time, and consequently, it the kids felt more accomplished once they realized their delayed success.  For me, what this has taught me is that as a leader, I want to help others surpass what they thought they were capable of.  Most of the time the largest and scariest barriers are the ones that person puts up for themselves.  I want to be the person that helps them to overcome that and ultimately come out stronger on the other side.

Brand Statement #2 - Sub-header photo

This second statement is born out of my own experience.  I have been fortunate enough to work and intern for a variety of companies since I graduated high school- all within hospitality in one way or another.  When I first started to look at the array of experiences I had accumulated, I had a hard time telling a cohesive story.  What I have since learned is that no matter job or the place, always approach with the intent to learn something new or hone a skill.  The example I love to use is my time as a Loss Prevention Officer with Marriott Vacations Worldwide.  No, loss prevention is not for me and I don’t think it will ever be something I want to pursue.  However, how I frame that experience is that I was able to get a hands on learning opportunity in the areas of safety, securing, and emergencies.  I now utilize that new “lens” to view my current events career through.  That internship, in a completely separate sector of the industry, now allows me to be more conscience of the safety and emergency preparedness component of events.  So this statement is a reflection on my time in the industry and how diversity of thought and experience will always bring new ideas to the table.

Brand Statement #3 - Sub-header photo

Statement three is essentially what I love most about events and the experience economy as a whole.  I have decided to focus my career on experience planning, design, and implementation, and this statement outlines that.  My career goal is to help people to translate ideas and thoughts into actual events.  Not only do I want to create the event, I want it to be done so well that it sticks with the Guest, the client, etc., and becomes a valuable and positive memory.  For me, I love events because they are something that helps to enrich peoples’ lives and helps give people stories to tell.  This statement is my bookmarker for my place in the industry.

Brand Statement #4 - Sub-header photo

Lastly, this statement is influenced by all the people in my life and all their beautiful and unique thoughts.  Diversity is the key to creativity and I wanted to expressly state how deeply I believe that statement.  Everyone has a different background and a different story, and it is those differences, when brought to the same table, that create new ideas, new possibility, and solutions.

My journey to crafting my brand statement is unique to me, so do not let the fact that your journey looks different than mine discourage you- because it’s supposed to be different!  What I really want you to take away from this post is that inspiration can come from a variety of sources.  Don’t dismiss one experience because it doesn’t strictly align with your career choices.  Find what speaks to you and craft that into your own statement.  Again, if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn yet, find me there and let me know you came from this post!  Lastly, drop your brand statement journeys in the comments below so myself and others can hear your story as well!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

Breaking Down My Brand Statement Pt. 1 | Professional Development

A hospitality student recently interviewed me for a school assignment and within one of my responses I brought up brand statements.  To me, I knew exactly what I was referring to, I knew what what my own statement means, and I knew exactly how I developed my own statements.  However, to anyone else looking in, brand statements for individuals may be something complete new.  So along that train of thought, I’ve decided to breakdown what brand statements are and how you can develop your own.  (Part 2 to this mini-mini series will come next and will talk more specifically about my own brand statement.)

I believe…

…in encouraging people to visualize success, work hard, and exceed their own expectations of themselves; to rise above the constraints they’ve created.

…that all industry experience is relevant experience, and that a diversified experience portfolio is the key to success and innovative thought.

I promise…

…to take the intangible ideas and concepts of others and transform them into experiences that exceed expectations and leave a lasting, positive, and memorable impact on others and the industry as a whole.

…to create spaces where acceptance is not a stranger, and creativity and artistry are free to grow and inspire.

What is a professional brand statement?

To me, these statements can either be a singular statement or several statements that help to define you as a professional.  Much like how brands and companies have mission statements and values, theses four ideas are how I want to be defined in the industry and are important parts of myself that I want to share upfront with coworkers, industry professionals, potential employers, etc.  These statements are essentially a consumable synopsis of what is important to you and how you approach your career.

Why are professional brand statement important?

Whether or not you’re looking for a job at the present, you should always be “selling” your skills- whether it’s to your boss for a promotion, to a hiring manager to get a new job, or to a client to book business.  In order to help you do so, it’s great to have a quick elevator pitch or grouping of statements that can quickly define who you are and what you believe in.  What also makes this a valuable tool is that not everyone has developed their own professional brand statement.  Allow this to help set you apart from other industry professionals!

When was this topic introduced to you?

I first heard the term “brand statement” from the current Director of Alumni Engagement for Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism & Hospitality Management, Jeffrey Montague, in his Fall 2016 Senior Professional Development Seminar.  The course itself introduces an array of topics, but this one specifically sticks in my head because one day Montague walked to the front of the room, called on someone randomly, asked them to stand up in front of our class of 50, and tell us all what his/her statement was.  Well, having never thought about that before…actually, for never having even HEARD the term before, it automatically made me nervous that I was going to be called on next.  I am happy to report that I was never called on for that exercise, but you can bet that I went home that day to start brainstorming how to define myself as a professional.

How did you approach creating your brand statement?

My first inclination was to create a singular statement.  I worked with that concept for a while, but it never felt right to me.  I will be the first to tell you, verbosity and I know each other quite well, so whittling my thoughts down to a single sentence just never seemed like “me.”  Eventually, it dawned on me that my statement didn’t have to be framed the same way as others’, so I eventually created a set of four statement that are broken down into two beliefs and then two promises.  These statements also touch on four different areas: leadership, industry experience, experience design, and diversity.

 

How to Create Your Own Professional Brand Statement - Sub-header

(1) Be completely honest with yourself and start jotting down all your thoughts.
Who are you?  What do you want to do, professionally?  How do you want people to remember you?  What do you believe in?  Take a DISC assessment or Myers Briggs test as starting point- do you agree with those results?

(2) Do your research and compile a list of words that define you.
Identify aspects of brands and organizations that really speak to you.  What elements of their mission and vision statements do you want to carry into your career?  Which of their organizational values do you identify with?  What do other industry professionals have written in their LinkedIn profiles and on their personal websites?

(3) Start writing.
It’s time to just start the process!  Hint: Stream-of-consciousness style is a great way to begin.

(4) Keep writing.
Just keep writing.  Just keep writing.  Just keep writing! (a la Dory)

(5) You should still be writing.
This statement is a reflection of you as a professional so take your time, be thorough, and spend time reflecting.

(6) Good, you’re still writing!
Steps three through six are exactly the same for one reason: writing brand statements takes time and practice.  Don’t be afraid to tear up everything you’ve already written and start over if the direction you’re taking doesn’t feel authentic.  Also, when you feel like you’ve hit a wall, take a walk or take some time and then come back to what you’ve already written and view it with fresh eyes.  Don’t be discouraged, this is the process of self-discovery and isn’t cut and dry for anyone.  Take it in strides and enjoy the journey.

(7) Read your statement aloud.
What you write ALWAYS sounds different in your head than it does out loud.

(8) Read it aloud to someone else.
You’ve been spending a lot of time with this so you know exactly what your thought process was when you wrote your brand statement.  By reading it aloud to someone else, you can see if what you’re trying to communicate comes across the way you want it to.

(9) Commit to your new brand statement!
Once you’ve crafted your statement, in whatever format feels most authentic for you, commit to it and fully understand why it’s important.  Then incorporate it into your professional life: add it you your LinkedIn profile, put it on your website, insert it into a cover letter.  The possibilities are endless!

(10) Don’t be afraid to edit.
Everyone changes, so don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board at a later date.  (Just remember to make sure your new brand statement is saved everywhere you have initially incorporated your original statement!)

Stay tuned for part 2 where I’ll talk about the stories and thought processes behind my own brand statement!  Also, are we connected on LinkedIn yet?  If not, send me a connection message that you came from this post!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

5 Reasons You Need Solo Travel In Your Life #thesolotravelmovement

“The solo travel movement.”

This is a movement that has been increasing in popularity over the last few years and has started to garner press coverage within that time frame as well.  Reputable companies are now dedicating sections of their websites or full articles to the topic of solo travel (including companies such as Travel + LeisureNational GeographicForbes, and more!), which is only bringing more information right to our fingertips and thus encouraging this trend to continue in a positive direction.

But what exactly is solo travel? Well, it’s as simple as it sounds. Solo travel is the act traveling and having experiences on your own! Whether you’re traveling internationally or just exploring your hometown, solo travel, and solo experiences in general, can have an incredible impact on your psyche and be great opportunities for self-discovery and self-development.

Now as a precursor to the rest of this article, I have not had the opportunity to travel abroad in any capacity yet (one day!), but I am not unfamiliar with solo experiences!  What prompted this article was my most recent trip to New York City.  In September 2018, I attended a work marketing event in the daytime in Union Square which ended at 3:00 PM.  Instead of traveling home on the train as soon as the work day was over, I decided to explore the city and check out some iconic and unique places I had yet to visit- on my own.  I finally explored the Empire State Building, walked through Strand Bookstore and other small shops in Union Square, and even saw a Broadway musical completely alone! (P.S. I saw Waitress and I HIGHLY recommend the show. It has an incredibly funny book by Jessie Nelson and beautiful and catchy music by Sara Bareilles & The Waitress Band.)

 

 

The following days, as I recounted my mini-trip to coworkers, family, and friends, and many were surprised to hear I had traveled alone. To me, there was nothing strange about that. I’ve gone to dinner and the movies alone before. I’ve flown in a plane and rode trains and taken Greyhound alone before.  I’ve spent time and had experiences prior to this alone before. To me, there was nothing weird about this experience, but to others, it was something strange and completely out-of-the-ordinary; something they had never experienced.

So today, I’m here to tell you to find the courage, take the leap, and spend some quality time with yourself.  There are innumerable benefits to solo travel and solo experiences and I do not want you to go through life without being privy to these beautiful self-discovery, and ultimately fun, opportunities.

So here are some of my favorite benefits/things you learn from solo travel and solo experiences:

  1. As I somewhat eluded to above, solo travel helps you find comfort in your own company. Some people are truly uncomfortable and anxious when it comes to solo situations.  I cannot deny the validity of how someone else feels, but pushing yourself to have solo experiences, large or small, will slowly start to help you prove to yourself that maybe these situations aren’t as scary as you initially thought.
  2. Traveling solo will also help you hone your decision-making skills. I can firmly say that I am that person that says “I don’t know” when you ask me what I want for dinner. However, when I’m walking around the city alone or deciding to go see a movie or a play, I am forced to ask myself what do I want right now?  And the only person who can answer that question in that moment is me! Even when it comes to simple questions such as do I want to stop for a smoothie or for coffee, I know that I am the one who needs to make the decision for something to happen next.
  3. What is also great about solo travel is that it gives you the time to clearly pick out what you want to do- no compromise needed! Your opinion, when on your own, remains uninfluenced by other companion travelers, so you are able to clearly see what you want and then follow through. Compromise is important in so many aspects of our lives, our work life, home life, and within our network of friendships, that sometimes we have a hard time tapping into ourselves and figuring out what we need and what we want. Solo travel is all about listening to that inner voice, getting to know yourself a little better.
  4. When traveling in a group, you have the option of being the leader or a following group member.  Group travel doesn’t necessarily work well if you have multiple people directing the group in differing directions- simultaneously.  What typically happens is that certain people will opt to take a back seat and follow the emerging leader.  When this happens, for many, your level of awareness of direction and your surrounds may drop a little.  However, when traveling on your own, you are the leader and so that level of awareness will need to be heighten.  For people that are not used to leading the pack, a great way to develop these skills is solo travel because it forces you to become the person you usually rely.  Solo travel puts you in the place where you need to be in charge of understanding the layout of your environment, you need to consider safety, you need have street skills ready and on your sleeve.  Solo travel is a great way to hone that sense of awareness that you may not otherwise tap into on a regular basis.
  5. This would not be a complete article about solo travel if I did not mention confidence! Confidence is definitely one of the top skills you gain from solo experiences and travel.  When you are on your own, you need to rely on your own ability to make sure you get what you need when you need it and say what you need to say when it needs to be said. You are your own representative when traveling alone, so this forces many outside of their comfort zone and to be more vocal and communicative in the situations they find themselves in.

I wish you all the best and hope you have some amazing and eye-opening solo travel experiences.  Whether you’re just exploring your own town or you’re traveling internationally, the solo trip is always an adventure.  Let me know in the comments section what your favorite solo trip is!  What places should I travel to?

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

The 6 R’s of Sustainability | #WILW #thelowimpactmovement

I’m not usually a New Year’s Resolution setting-type of person, but I started a bullet journal (bujo) this year and subsequently forced myself to create some resolutions that I could draw out in my bujo.  The last resolution I ended up setting was to start changing my beauty inventory over to be cruelty-free.  Now, this post isn’t going to be about that journey, we’ll save that for another time, but this goal started me down a YouTube research path that included search terms such as eco, sustainable, cruelty-free, zero waste.  This research path ultimately led me to the term “low impact,” which is a concept I decided to start exploring more- and am here to share a little with you on today!

As a little background, the Low Impact Movement instagram (@thelowimpactmovement) was started by @sustainably_vegan, but this is relatively new social campaign and lifestyle that is being marketed and followed by influencers and activists who previously considered themselves part of the zero waste movement.  Collectively, this group of people and their social followings became frustrated by the impossibility of actually becoming “zero waste.”  That movement essentially set people up for failure and criticized those who were unable to make certain changes in the direction of sustainability due to their life circumstances.  The goal of this new movement, in the words of Sustainably Vegan, is to “lower your impact in a way that is attainable for you and your circumstances, without feeling dejected or life you have failed.”  The Low Impact Movement is about taking the steps you are able to take to help lower your impact and to make a commitment to living your life in this way.  This movement is not about being perfect, it’s about continually trying.

Instagram: @sustainably_vegan | Ditching Zero Waste for the Low Impact Movement
“I want to be part of a movement that is representative of everyone, and everyone’s situation not just those who are able bodied, socio-economically well off, and mainstream.” (@sustainably_vegan)

DISCLAIMER: I would by NO MEANS consider myself an expert in any of the following topics.  Additionally, my current lifestyle is not consistent with many of these areas, but it something that I am very slowly working on.  I know this is going to be a long journey, and I am proud of myself for even beginning to look into how I can lessen my impact and live more intelligently and sustainably.

The 5 R’s of Sustainability!

💚 REFUSE – Living a more sustainable and low impact life is about learning to live with less and live “without.”  Ask yourself, do you need it?  Can you live a happy life without it?  Are there alternative ways to live if you do not have this item?

💚 REDUCE – It’s time to start asking yourself- what do you actually need?  It is more important to invest in quality over quantity.  What truly adds value to your life?  Reducing not about forcing yourself to live with the bare minimum to the point that you are uncomfortable!  Reducing is about critically analyzing your life as a whole (your wants and your needs) and finding a level of comfort and sustainability that you can maintain.

💚 REUSE – As the saying goes, one (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure!  Step three is all about having creativity and a problem-solving mindset readily accessible for life.  The discovery of way to re-use, re-purpose, and re-design products is not only a way to sharpen your mind, but also a way to lower your impact.  What can you get second-hand and give a second-life?  What in your own home can be used again again?

💚 REPAIR – As technology makes information more and more accessible to us, this step should become easier and easier to implement!  So many times humanity takes the easy way out by simply throwing things out and then re-buying them instead of taking the time to fix what you already have.  With online resources such as video tutorials on YouTube and countless articles written by people around the world, it is extremely easy to get helpful tips and even step-by-step directions on how to repair items in your life and lower your impact!

💚 RECYCLE – This is the last piece of the age-old sustainability trifecta: reduce, reuse, recycle.  When it comes to recycling, it is important to be conscious of what we’re getting rid of in this manner.  We need to make sure we consider the cleanliness of the jar when you put it in the recycling can, the grade of plastic, the material itself, etc., etc., etc!  There are many limitations on what can actually be recycled, so make sure to do your research on what your area’s guidelines are.

💚 ROT – This last piece of the model is specifically geared toward food waste (and some paper/cardboard waste). This encourages us to think about how we store food to make it last longer (ie: freezing items) as well as how to get rid of remains after meals (ie: composting).  Eating is a fundamental part of life so it’s important to think about the impact those actions we take everyday have on the plant and humanity as a whole.

Now, there are several different versions of the the 6 R’s of Sustainability circulating around the internet, but this version posted by Sustainably Vegan resonated with me the most.  I like the models that include “re-think,” but the more I really thought about it, the low impact movement and actions toward a more sustainable lifestyle are all conscious decisions- meaning they require thought and preparation.  To me that means that the “re-thinking” step should just be a part of the entire process, not a step on it’s own.

I hope that this post introduced you to a new model to help you focus on sustainability and look at the idea of living a low impact life in a different light.  I’m definitely interested in learning more about this topic and related topics so stay tuned for more of my findings!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

5 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Internship! | Professional Development

I recently sat down with our Industry Relations intern at work because she wanted to hear a little more about what I do.  So, that’s how the conversation started, but as I was explaining my position, I unconsciously started adding some tips and tricks I learned along the way while I was still in school and interning for various companies.  That conversation inspired this post and helped me to stop and think about some of the best tools in my tool belt that other young professionals may or may not be using.

1)  Focus less on Instagram, Snapchat, and those other purely social mediums and focus more on LinkedIn and the professional side of social media!  LinkedIn is an underrated tool in the young professionals’ tool belt.  Many times you are forced to create an account for a class (like I was), but then you never update it or go on.  LinkedIn is a great source for not only keeping up with industry trends and sharing professional accolades, but it is also a great way to research potential careers you want and network, as well as find jobs.  Start looking at profiles of established professionals who are in positions that you see yourself holding in the future.  What did they study in school?  What experiences did that accept as they made their way to the position they currently hold?  Don’t be scared to set a connection request either if you find someone you really want to speak with.

2)  And that brings me to tip #2, set up informational calls/interviews or professional meet & greets.  No matter the title, they’re all the same thing- they’re conversations with a professional that you set up with the intent on asking them about their career and the companies they’ve worked for.  Remember, you’re not begging for a job during these- this is a time for research and networking!  These conversations can be held in person, over the computer or on the phone so it’s an easy way to start talking with a company that could be based states away from where you’re currently located.  These are also a great no pressure way of getting yourself in front of a person at a company that you’re interested in.  One last thing, just because it isn’t a job interview doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still prepare for the meeting.  You should still take the time to research the company and the person and formulate questions ahead of time.  Take this seriously and maybe the person on the other end of the line could become a mentor or an instrumental part of reaching your dream job one day.  You never know what could happen so make you’re prepared and you put your best foot forward.

3)  Don’t be afraid to be a little pushy- just not in a negative way!  What I mean is, if there is an area that of the organization that you want to learn more about or a project you want to be a part of, make sure you vocalize it.  Unfortunately, may times, supervisors of internship programs are unable to dedicate enough development and one-on-one time with their interns because they are also performing their other job duties.  All that means is that you need to take imitative as an intern and state what your interests are and ask to sit in meeting and talk to the people that are involved in the projects you want to learn more about.  The worst your supervisor can say is no!  Remember, just because the word “super” is in the word supervisor doesn’t make them a superhero that can read your mind.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!  (Just make sure it doesn’t impede the duties you signed on to perform.)

“Remember, just because the word “super” is in the word supervisor doesn’t make them a superhero that can read your mind.  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want!”

4)  Try to experience everything you can!  I understand how hard it can be to have an unpaid internship, classes, and another job- but don’t let that stop you from making the most of your internship experience.  At the end of the day, despite the project you were given and the tasks you were assigned, it is up to you to dictate the level of involvement you had at the organization.  When the place you’re working for is hosting events- go to them!  When your supervisor invites you to accompany s/he to an educational lecture they’re attending on marketing- go with them!  When the whole staff is attending a partner organization’s event after hours- go with them!  You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.

5)  My final tip is to be present!  Whether or not you see yourself working for that company in the future or whether or not there’s a potential job opening that you may be interested in, make sure you come to work prepared, professional, and present.  Being present is more than just showing up on time and going through the motions.  Being present is about taking in everything around, all the stimuli, processing it, and appropriately responding to it.  Make the organization you’re interning for hate to let you go!  Give them a reason to want to keep you or at least give you a glowing recommendation at the end of your internship.  I can tell you from first-hand experience that this works.  At the end of my marketing & communications internship with Visit Bucks County, the organization created a temporary assignment for me until they could open a full-time, salaried position that they thought I would be a good fit for because I showed them that I would be an asset to the team- and I did that while I was an intern.  So I promise, it’s possible, you just have to put in the effort from the beginning!

Hopefully one, if not all of these tips help you make the most of your internship experiences.  I’ve had several over the years and I’d be more than happy to talk to you about them, just leave me comment below!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Letter From A Friend | #sincerelyme

I’ve decided to recycle a post from my old blog…I know, that sounds a little light cheating in the world of content, but that blog will be coming down and I feel strongly about continuing to make this post available for those that need it.

This open letter received a lot of great feedback and comments from people saying that some days they really needed to hear this particular message, which is why I wanted to transfer it to my new site.  No, it has nothing to do with entertainment, events, or hospitality, it just has to do with being a good and supportive person for those around you- and maybe for some people you’ll never meet.

So, without further ado, here is my open letter to you, my friend.


Originally Posted: June 16, 2015
Original Blog: Songs of a Gypsy Soul

Dear Friend,

Breathe…

This is an open letter to anyone that feels alone and lost; lonely and broken down; cracked and wrong; invisible and small; burdened and heavy.  This is a letter from me to you.  This is a letter from a person you may know in realtime, or maybe just someone you’ve seen on the street in passing, or maybe from someone you’ve never met at all.  Regardless of our relationship status, today I am here speaking to you as a friend.

In this Universe, there is nothing more valuable than your heart, soul, and mind all rolled into one beautiful and terribly messy package.  That package is you.  Our world exists and revolves around the people who inhabit it.  Without humankind, what innovations, what thoughts, what emotions would exist?

You are unique, no matter your size.  No matter your sexual orientation, gender, marital status, ancestry, political affiliation, and so on; you are your own perfect individual.  No one can compare to you because no one is identical on any grounds.  We may intersect and we may have pieces in common with one another, but we are all our own special breed.  Be proud of that and let no one make you question yourself and what you stand for.  You have so much to offer this world.  Do not let negative people dismiss your dreams and redesign your future.  Do not let those people pull out the silver lining from the pillows of compassion and love that surround you.  And most importantly, do not let yourself become a victim and prisoner of your own darkness.  You have the potential to be your own worst enemy.  Do not submit to the demons that inevitably hid within the darkest crevices of your soul.  Yes, they are there, everyone has them, but do not set them free.  Do not let them push and prod you.  You are not their pin cushion and you are not their slave.  Choose to recognize that they stand for your own imperfections, which then, if you let them, becomes the definition of your own true perfection.  Be the own ruler of your heart, soul, and mind.  Choose to honor yourself and pick a pedestal to stand upon that is becoming of you.  Go!  Be proud of who you are and be positive in all you do.

Yes, maybe that is all easier said than done as the saying goes, but that is why I am here.  I am here as another pair of eyes for you to look through.  My eyes see you like no one else’s.  My view of you as a person is not the same as the way you see yourself.  I wish, I wish with all my strength that we could trade perspectives just for a few minutes so you can see what I see.

Because I see strength.

I see more strength in you than you ever thought possible.  And no, it’s not in the most normal of ways.  Maybe you’re strong of mind.  Maybe you have the power to envision beautiful plans and mentally fuse together ideas so brilliant that will one day be the way of our futures.  On another hand, maybe your are strong of heart and are able to empathize with those around.  You are that person down on hands and knees weeping with another because you feel for them.  You feel through them.  You may not have personally been subjected to their struggles, but you cry for their heartaches alongside them.

Then again, maybe your strength lies in your soul.  You are certain of who you are and what you stand for.  You may have gone through hell and back in your life thus far, but you are relentless in your journey forward.  You can be bruised and thrown around, but your core remains strong and pure.

That is all true strength.  Those are not strengths that exercise can build, but rather products of personality, triumphs, and struggle all molded into one mass.

I wish, I wish we could trade perspectives for even a few minutes because I see selflessness.

I see a selflessness in you that is unlike any other.  You would throw away your own health or your own time to help another; in order to pick someone else up, dust them off, and hear their story.  I see compassion and love within your heart that has the power to mend the voids in another’s.  Keep that.  Do not let go of that purity and palpitating devotion you have for the betterment of mankind.  But do not forget to be a little selfish as well.  Do not sacrifice all that you are to the point of exhaustion.  The world needs you whole and strong.  If you cannot heal and help yourself, how do you expect to be able to continue helping others?  Only relinquish what you have to the point of coexistence.  Then, if you can both live and breathe comfortably, you know you have found your balance.  But if you are struggling to grasp a single breath, then step back.  Take your time and center yourself.  Re-find you within this crazy mixed-up world.

And I wish, I wish we could trade perspectives for even a few minutes because I see above and beyond and through what you think is blocking your path.

I have the vantage point of a bird in a tree.  I am able to see past the sun, the moon, the clouds, and the stars.  I can see beyond the wall that is seemingly holding you back.  I can see the lit part of the path that you have yet to turn and find.  You are not alone and you are most certainty not lost.  You are right where you are supposed to be.  I cannot promise that you’re content with that current location, but I can promise that a single step forward will make all the difference.  That single step forward, if you look around, will have new possibilities in store.  New opportunities can arise, new places can be seen, and new people can be met.  Do not let your feet grow roots and pull you down.  Just find the courage within yourself to leap into the unknown that is in front of you and meet what is in store with all that you are.  If you feel as though there’s no going up, maybe the trees around you are just too thick for you to see over the side of the mountain that you are climbing.  Do not doubt the path that you’re traveling down and do not neglect to examine the paths that cross yours along the way.  And remember, in the words of Walt Disney, to always keep moving forward.

And finally, I shall close this letter with two last thoughts I would like to impart to you.  First, find positivity in your life and find any reason you can to smile.  Everything seems to be closer and easier to grasp- closer to possible- when paired with a smile and positive energy.  They are also contagious.  They are contagious in the best way possible.  Positivity begets positivity.  Share a laugh and a smile, with family, friends, and strangers and watch what happens.  And second, whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed, do not make hasty decisions.  Take ten seconds to stop.  And breathe.  A deep breath will help to calm and clear the mind.  Take those few seconds to remind yourself that you are not being suffocated by the situation because you can still breathe.

…and Exhale.

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

 

Credits:

#IslandVibes Part 3: My Southern Summertime Adventures | #storytime

This is the final installment of my mini-series, #IslandVibes.  For those just tuning in, this is the third blog post in a series that talks about my experience moving to Hilton Head Island for a internship with Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MVW) in the summer of 2016.  In this post I’m going to tell some stories that are outside the realm of the internship and have a more social focus.  In the first post I talked about Hilton Head Island specifically and then talked about, in the second post, MVW/getting the internship/my position in the second post.  Make sure to go back and check them out if you haven’t yet!

But without further ado, here a few tidbits and stories from my time on the Island and other intern excursions!

Whether The Weather

One of the things I haven’t talked about yet is the weather.  First, you’re down South, so humidity is a real thing.  Second, expect a small rain shower daily.  And third, the weather while I was in Hilton Head was all over the place- storms were here and there.  The craziest thing I got to experience was seeing my first waterspout!  I had never even heard of one before this experience, but as reference, a waterspout is a rotating column of water that occurs over a large body of water.  It essentially looks like a tornado over the ocean.  When we got the call that it was happening, our manager said we should all come down to the pool/beach so we could see it for ourselves.  Needless to say, it was a pretty cool site.

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Island Ambassador Training

MWV, in conjunction with the Center for Event Management and Hospitality Training at the University of South Carolina, every so often hosts a full-day training session on Hilton Head Island.  We were lucky enough to be employed when one of these sessions were hosted.  Essentially, we came in one day, clocked in, and then went into one of the conference spaces where we would spend most of the work day.  The information that was presented was divided into three areas: (1) island knowledge, (2) culture, and (3) ecology.  To be perfectly honest, it was an extremely long day, but I think it’s really important for visitor facing employees, across the island, to know about the island as a whole.  During this training we learned some of the history of the island, heard a lot of stats, learned about the Gullah culture (which I talked about in my last blog!), and even walked the beach to see what type of plant and wildlife were native to our own resort.  It was definitely a neat experience and helped me to better understand Hilton Head overall.

Island Hot Spots

What kind of #IslandVibes mini-series would this be if I didn’t talk about some of the things I did and places I went on HHI!?

SEA PINES PLANTATION:  You definitely want to visit Harbour Town in Sea Pines, which is the toe of the island.  (Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Wondering why I’m referring to a person’s foot?  Check out the first post in this series!) You do have to pay for a pass into Sea Pines, but it is definitely worth the few bucks.  You can then take a trolley to Harbour Town- which I definitely recommend.  We saw at least one alligator on our ride!  Once in town, you won’t want to miss the 360-degree view from the top of the Harbour Town Lighthouse!  The is a great spot to take in the sites of the Lowcountry and check out what the Sea Pines Plantation has to offer.  Also make sure to check out the adorable gift shop while you’re there.  While you’re in town, stop in Cups & Cones for some ice cream to keep you cool while shopping around.  If you’re more of the outdoorsy person, then definitely check out the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.  We went for a picnic lunch and hike one day and the walk was beautiful.

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HILTON HEAD CENTER:  Before I talk about a major area in Hilton Head Center, my favorite ice cream spot on the island is Hilton Head Ice Cream!  I’m not a huge cookies ‘n cream fan so I never ordered it, but a fan favorite is their deep blue, Cookie Monster flavor.  However, I definitely recommend their mint chocolate chip and or cappuccino ice cream if they’re available when you go!  If you get there at the right time, you may even get a seat at one of their outdoor tables.  When my one of my Disney College Program roommates was down from Ohio, we had to go get ice cream when we were together!

Another area to check out is Coligny Plaza & Beach, which is at the bottom of Hilton Head Center.  There are a variety of shops to check out in this area of the island.  But the place I wanted to highlight was Tiki Hut.  This is a beach-front bar that features live music and is a great place to go and hang out.  If you’re looking for an array of frozen drink options, then Frosty Frog is another place to check out.  They have a frozen daiquiri bar where you can even order drinks to-go by the gallon!  The place we went at night, most weeks, was to Casey’s Sports Bar & Grille, for karaoke night.  This is your typical sports bar, but it definitely became something a large percentage of the interns would go out and do.  My one issue is their love of the Steelers…I’m from the Philadelphia area so you can do the math, aha!

Right outside of Coligny Plaza is Rockfish Seafood & Steaks @ Bomboras, which is where we went for one of our girls’ nights out!  Since I am from the Northeast, I had never had hush puppies before moving down to South Carolina.  My first time trying them was at this restaurant and I wish there were places up North that made them just like those.  Just thinking about them now is making my mouth water!

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HHI’S HEEL: In the heel of Hilton Head there are a couple places I’d like to mention: Okko, a hibachi spot we visited for multiple intern birthday celebrations and also Shelter Cove.  Shelter Cove Towne Center was a few minutes from our condo complex, so it was easy to spend a lot of time there.  I stopped in a lot of the quick service places, such as Wayback Burger, where I saw one of my coworkers perform, and Orange Leaf for some cold frozen yogurt.  We were also in Hilton Head during college basketball season, so we went out several times as a group to watch games (not that I know anything about basketball…).  We went to Hickory Tavern as well as watched the Warriors win in the Finals at World of Beer.  If you go to the latter, I highly recommend mixing chocolate and raspberry beers- this was a suggestion by our server- for a unique liquid dessert!  There’s also some unique shopping locations in Shelter Cove, as well as a Pure Barre location.  I took my first Barre class there, and let me tell you, it is a killer workout!  Shelter Cove also hosts an array of events as well including fireworks and movie nights so be sure to check those out as well.  They do get busy, so carpooling is always a great idea.

This is also where I did all my grocery shopping, at my one true love, Kroger!  I don’t have a love for Giant and ACME, which are the grocery stores near where I live in PA, so Kroger quickly stole my heart.  I actually miss the place now that I’m not down South!  …so shout out to Kroger!

Oh The Places You Can Go

Aside from exploring the island, we also traveled off island and checked-out some nearby destinations as well.  The first of the two places I traveled was Savannah, GA.  Savannah is about 45 minutes from HHI, so it is a really easy day trip- so we went more than once!.  This was the first time I’d been to Georgia, so I loved that I was able to experience more than one destination while in South Carolina.  We spent some time of River Street, which is a cobblestone street along the water, visited Forsyth Park, had martinis at Jen & Friends, ate at the District Cafe & Eatery and Savannah Taphouse, and met some really interesting people! (Check out Visit Savannah for more tourism and travel tips and information!)

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Another destination that’s pretty close to HHI is Charleston, SC!  Charleston is about 2-hours away, so it’s a bit longer of a trip, but definitely worth the drive.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have great weather that day, so we spent a bit of time weaving in and out of shops to stay dry.  However, as someone with a hospitality degree, I highly recommend stopping by the iconic pineapple fountain.  From there, you can hang out at the Charleston Waterfront park.  We ate at Eli’s Table, which I encourage you to check out, but one of my roommates, who had been to Charleston countless time, loves The Rooftop Bar at The Vendue– so you can check that place out as well!  Lastly, we got to checkout an outdoor set for Z: The Beginning of Everything, a biographic series based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald.  The set pieces and the costumes were so elegant and it definitely peaked my interest.  (Check out Charleston CVB for more tourism and travel tips and information!

Living on the Island

Living on Hilton Head was an extremely unique experience, which has left me with mixed feelings.  My intern group had an exceptional amount of issues with the complex MWV was leasing from, so I’ve heard that the company did not bring interns back to the same housing location the following summer.  However, despite all the issues, in retrospect, I would choose to live their again over having to commute from off-island.  Another reason I would choose to live their again was because we could walk to the beach.  The location we were staying at had 4 buildings.  We just had to walk thorough the buildings to get to a private boardwalk down to the beach, which is something I miss a lot!  I loved getting home from work and going to the beach and reading or taking walks under the stars at night.  That was definitely a pro when it came to living on the island.  Another pro in retrospect was how my rooming situation worked out (this is kind of a pro actually).  We were randomly matched up with other interns as roommates for housing.  I was the last to arrive on island, of my roommates, so I got the bed that was left.  Somehow, I got extremely lucky and my actual roommate, Corinne, became my best friend in Hilton Head and is someone I still keep in touch with today (I’m actually texting her as I write this!).  The con to the living situation is that Corinne and I essentially were sleeping in the same bed.  The complex has put a queen and a twin bed in our extremely small room.  So in order for us to get to the bathroom, we had to literally connect our beds.  It was a strange situation to say the least, but we made the most of it!

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And thus we have come to the end of the #IslandVibes mini-series!  I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures on Hilton Head Island and as a loss prevention intern with Marriott Vacations Worldwide.  For more information on their internship program, check on this site!  They also have a management development program as well- but I cannot speak to that experience.  Let me know if you have any favorite island spots that I didn’t talk about in the comments below!

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com

Credits:

#IslandVibes Part 2: My Marriott Vacation Club Internship| #storytime

As a continuation of last week’s blog, this post is part of a mini series titled #IslandVibes! As I mentioned in Pt. 1 All About Hilton Head Island, I interned for Marriott Vacations Worldwide during the summer of 2016 in Hilton Head Island, SC.  The first post in this series talks about the island itself, but this post is going to talk more about Marriott Vacations Worldwide and my internship as a loss prevention officer!

Marriott Vacations Worldwide (MWV)

MVW is a public timeshare company that focuses primarily on vacation ownership.  The company started in the mid-1980s and opened it’s first property on Hilton Head Island. Originally, MWV was a division of Marriott International, but separated and became it’s only publicly traded company in 2011.  MWV has several brands that include, Marriott Vacation Club Pulse, Grand Residences by Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, and Marriott Vacation Club, which is the brand I worked for.  More specifically, I worked at Barony Beach Club, which is one of the eight properties on the island.

Finding the Internship & The Offer

As I mentioned in my first blog post, Meet Alex!, I am a graduate of the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University.  One of the benefits of being in a tourism and hospitality-specific program is that the school brings in various companies to talk about their companies, their experiences, as well as internships.  I attended an information session for their internship program and was able to sign-up for an on-campus internship appointment later that week with HR rep, Emily Emery.  I can’t speak to everyone else’s experience, since there were several Temple students that accepted MVW internships in various cities, but I was made an offer in my interview.  I was offered the option of taking a food and beverage (F&B) or loss prevention (LP) position at one of a few resorts in HHI.  I specifically chose Hilton Head, not only because I was excited to live by the beach, but because that is the location where you could sublease housing through the company.  Since it was such a short time period in a different state, not having to find a sublease on my own sold me on the location.

After my interview I had sometime to do research on the locations and decide which operations area I wanted to focus on.  At that point in my life, my experience was primarily F&B so I ultimately decided to go with loss prevention to try something new- even though I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was signing up for…  And as I mentioned above, I chose Barony Beach Club.  I don’t really remember my thought-process behind choosing Barony, so I can’t speak to that now.  I do remember looking at the commute time between where I was going to live and work and trying to find a short one so my internship wasn’t consumed by driving, but I don’t remember what the deciding factors were to be perfectly honest.

The 2016 Interns

Since I decided on Hilton Head, MVW’s headquarters, the largest pool of interns was also located there. In total, there were about 30 interns during the summer session. Everyone that traveled to the area for the internship was housed in the same complex and we were all in the same intern orientation class. The group of us were split among the properties on the island so I did not work with everyone that was interning during the summer. However, since there were so many of us, HR put together several intern outings for us, so it was more of an intern program as opposed to just a job. (The pictures below are of a lot of the interns at dinner together on one of first days on the island (L) and then me and Nikola, who was a co-op from Montenegro (L).  P.S. Nikola was not part of the internship program- this was just the only picture I had of the uniform!)

#IslandVibes Pt. 2 My Marriott Vacation Club Internship - The Interns/Co-Ops

The Ins & Outs of Resort Loss Prevention

As I said, I had little to no idea what loss prevention actually was when I accepted the internship.  I knew it had to do with safety, and I knew it would probably not be my calling in life, but I decided to try it out anyway.  When people ask me now what loss prevention is, I say you are focused on the areas of safety, security, and emergencies.  As a loss prevention officer (LPO), your ultimate job is to safeguard the company, stakeholders, guests, and assets against current and future threats. I realize that this is a very vague definition, but so much of the duties of an LPO require you to be on top of your game because emergency situations and safety or security breaches can’t be 100% predicted.  Sure, you can have standard operating procedures for to cover generics, but you can never plan fully for anything that happens while on the job.

As an LPO at Barony some of my duties were as follows: guarding the property and ensuring only verified Owners and Guests entered, patrolling the building and property and performing property checkpoint walks, operating the resort shuttle (my LEAST favorite job), assisting Owners and Guests who have locked themselves out of their condos and/or need new room keys, responding to all emergency situations and communicating with local law enforcement and EMS at those times, and completing and submitting any accompanying incident reports.  Though it seems like a lot when you group it all together, everyday was a little different because some days everything was calm. Then there were other days that everything happened all at once; the perfect storm.

Another thing to know about loss prevention is that it isn’t a glamorous job and a lot of places are desperately looking for more people for these departments; and Barony was no exception. We were pretty short-staffed throughout my time in Hilton Head, so I was very much thrown into the mix as soon as I started.  There was one day when the manager was out during the day because he had to work the overnight shift (because we were short-staffed) so I was the most seasoned LPO that day… Of course, that was the day we got an alert about an elevator and I had to close it down by myself.  Yes, I had previously been trained on the procedure, but it’s not something that sticks with you until you’ve completed the task by yourself once. To this day, I am really proud of myself for being able to handle that situation!

Another specific situation that sticks with me is the day that the fire alarm went off in one of the buildings. We all hopped on the golf cart and drove to the relative area of the building and then got off and ran (P.S. I am NOT a runner by any means…). The first rule of fire drills is that you must use the stairs. So me and one of the other LPOs split the building and I ran up to the fifth floor while he started on the other end so we could meet at the bottom, in the middle. Let me tell you, it was the oddest sensation running into a building that everyone else was running out of- but that is the job of an LPO. In this particular situation, it was our job to open every door on every floor of the building and shout into any remaining guests to get out of the building. This is especially important to do if you have patrons that land on the spectrum of disability. Luckily, there wasn’t a fire and something maintenance was working on had triggered the alarm. After everything was clear, my manager told me that I had a great response and disposition during this event. This was a moment that I proved to myself that I can be the calm and steadfast person that is needed for stressful moments. It was a great moment of self-realization for me.

The Moral of the LP Story

I went into the job thinking it wouldn’t be for me and I was 100% right, however, there a few pieces that I take with me into my career, especially in regards to events. I am now able to pull out my “safety and security” lens from my toolkit and analyze situations in regard to those areas. Now, when I’m setting up for events I am more cautious of not blocking entrances and exits and when creating aisles. I am more aware of situations that could be unsafe. I ask questions about incident reports and the associated paperwork regarding accidents at events. I consider whether or not a venue is ADA accessible and whether or not the set-up will prevent certain people from participating. Without going through this internship experience, I would have never been put in a place where those areas were something I focused on every day at work. Especially with everything going on in today’s society, safety and security are moving to the forefront of event professional discussions, and I now am more aware and considerate of these topics after working as an LPO, which I am very grateful for.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post (the last in this mini series!), which will focus more on other aspects of island life and have more of my social stories! But until then…

All my best,

AlexandraMottershead.com