Chit Chat Series: Jenny Mitten
First thing’s first: to help our readers get to know you, tell us a bit about yourself and your career journey so far. What/where did you study? Did you always want to go into tourism and events marketing or is that something you fell into?
I am currently the Director of Marketing at the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB). Prior to joining MCB, I held management positions within the Major Events, Strategic Partnerships and Product Marketing teams at Visit Victoria and Tourism Victoria. So I got around a bit. 😊
But let’s go way back to when Australians were actually “partying like it’s 1999”, getting over the anti-climactic Y2K bug and looking forward to the Sydney Olympics, I finished studying PR at RMIT and secured my first ‘proper’ job as Events Officer at Frankston City Council.
I didn’t plan a career in tourism and events marketing….I just wanted a job! But event management sounded exciting and challenging and it was. This job set the foundation for the rest of my career as I was given a lot of responsibility in a short-time but felt supported as I was overseen by a hard-working, creative and enthusiastic Manager who had my back.
I was responsible for managing and marketing large-scale community events attracting thousands of people.
This job helped me develop my problem-solving and people management skills (bossing around volunteers and service providers was my forte) but it was marketing the events that I loved.
So when I saw a Marketing and Communications role at the iconic Royal Botanic Gardens, it was my time to move on. I spent four years there learning how to spell Latin plant names, generate revenue for a free attraction and encourage tourists to travel to Cranbourne to visit a new Botanic Gardens (the Australian Garden). I also made lifelong friends at this special place. Sometimes you have jobs that are life changing in many ways.
How did you find and receive your first industry job? [Submitted by Melissa from William Angliss Institute]
Volunteered and volunteered until someone was willing to pay me!
Even though I didn’t plan a career in events and tourism, looking back I volunteered at Moomba (stuffing envelopes and conducting market research) and the Australian Film Institute Awards (writing media releases, filing photos and…stuffing envelopes!). Events are always looking for volunteers (and there is probably less envelope stuffing these days).
I love writing so I volunteered to help young Jobseekers produce their own community magazine. Meanwhile, Maxine Sando who was the Events Manager at Frankston City Council was looking for an Events Assistant to help out during the busy summer season. She approached the company I was volunteering for and they put me forward.
The job started as three days per week for three months. Within a couple of weeks, it became a full-time permanent role. You never know how ‘temporary’ a temporary job is.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
- People – there’s something about the people who work in this industry. They are my kind of people. They work collaboratively by nature, are tenacious and don’t seem to be driven by money or prestige.
- Purpose – I didn’t plan a career in events and tourism, but I always wanted a job that made me feel like I had a purpose that was contributing to good not evil. At MCB we are literally responsible for bringing some of the world’s brightest thinkers to Melbourne to work through global health and social issues. It is very rewarding.
- Place – I get to promote my favourite city in the world, Melbourne!
If you weren’t in marketing, what would you want to do?
Ohhh good question. I have wanted to work in Marketing and Communications since finishing High School but I love writing and am fascinated with magazines.
I used to produce my own magazines and was even a guest fashion editor for a reader-produced edition of Girlfriend magazine back in the day.
But given the state of magazines these days, I probably made the right choice not pursuing my dreams of being the next Miranda Priestly.
You have experience in marketing at the product level (Royal Botanic Gardens) as well as at the state level (Tourism/Visit Victoria). What is the biggest challenge you faced at each of these different levels?
At product level, you have more control of the end-product as you are working in a small team solely responsible for the marketing outputs. Whereas at a State level you need to juggle lots of stakeholders with different expectations. On the plus side, there is generally significant budgets and more access to marketing resources and expertise.
What is the one piece of advice you would go back and give yourself at the start of your tourism career?
Do not compare your career with other peoples. I am still trying to remember that now! We all have different trajectories, priorities, and opportunities.
We all know tourism, hospitality, and events is a people-industry. What is your best networking tip?
I actually hate networking. It doesn’t come naturally to me at all. You probably won’t see me walk up to a group of people I don’t know and shake their hands (or elbow bump).
So my best tip is to develop strong, meaningful relationships with people in the industry. Keep in touch with colleagues and stakeholders when they leave a role (or you do). Ask your network for advice. Provide advice and recommendations when someone reaches out.
That way when you are at an industry event, there will be people you genuinely feel comfortable with. And they will probably introduce you to other like-minded people…and so your network grows.
When did you first hear about YTN and what influence or impact has it had on your career, if any?
I was young and working in tourism when YTN started, so was one the OG YTN members. YTN provided me with an opportunity to meet like-minded people and learn from industry leaders. Through YTN, I mentored newer members of the industry via the YTN Mentor Program.
Some of the people I met at this time have gone on to become industry leaders themselves and we still catch up at industry events or through work. We have joked about starting MATN (Middle-Aged Tourism Network)!
The latest cliché we are all hearing is “never waste a crisis.” What tips/advice/work-arounds/innovations/pivots have you developed that we can all take away with us for the new normal? [Submitted by Barry Broons, Victoria University]
If you work in events and tourism, you will live through many crises. But COVID-19 has disrupted our industry like no other. It can be hard to see the positives, but it is a time to reflect on the way our industry has responded. Some of the MCB partners have been so inspiring in the product and experiences they have developed (some of my favourites include Zoo Victoria’s Animals at Home and Localing Private Tour’s Virtual Victoria).
At MCB we are exploring the opportunities that hybrid events (part online, part face-to-face) will bring the industry. Whilst we will always want and need face-to-face events, hybrid events will be part of the ‘new normal’ and provide us with the platform to extend our reach to new audiences. We have developed a Digital Destination Kit designed to help professional conference organisers promote Melbourne and Victoria to delegates attending future meetings. We are also developing a ‘Virtual Tradeshow Booth’ so that we can promote Melbourne at international exhibitions and trade shows that we can no longer attend.
What’s your best advice in getting a job in marketing/sales? Submitted anonymously
Lots of jobs require industry experience, how do you recommend gaining experience? [Submitted anonymously]
Events always need people to help. Volunteering at events or attractions is a great way to get some experience, build your contacts and referrals.
Research people and organisations that you want to work for. A polite and tailored LinkedIn message is usually welcomed and may result in a coffee catch up (but be mindful of busy people’s time).
When recruiting I am as mindful of attitude as I am experience. A positive attitude, along with sound judgement and a willingness to learn, will get you far.
Do you think domestic/interstate travel will be more popular than overseas travel when planes can fly again? [Submitted by Paul Strickland, La Trobe University]
There is an opportunity for domestic travel in the short-term. People will start to explore their country more than ever before and discover and share new destinations and experiences. I am planning more regional Victoria trips and have started to think about a family trip into outback Australia.
Popular domestic destinations (Byron Bay, Port Douglas) will remain popular but I think we will see new destinations emerge as travellers will want to experience the sense of discovery (and ‘show-off’ appeal) they would normally associate with overseas travel.
But Australians have always felt ‘wanderlust’. They will want to fly and connect with other parts of the world as they always have. But that’s ok. Let’s focus on increasing the pie instead of slicing it.