Transferable Skills in the Tourism Industry: 3 tips from Hop It founder Jon Lee on finding and using skills across your career

It may feel like you now need a bachelor’s degree or at least some short courses under your belt before attempting to enter the tourism industry. But as Hop It founder Jon Lee has shown us during his 15-year career so far, you likely already have many strengths and skills that are highly transferable throughout the boundless job opportunities at your fingertips. 

1. Look at your personality traits throughout childhood!

The first place to look is always at the beginning. Think back to the traits that came most naturally to you throughout adolescence.  

“Growing up, in my friendship group, I was always the organiser. Essentially, I was always wanting to see everyone happy. That trait really filters nicely into what we do to this day,” says Jon, who built his hop on, hop off bus service business across three wine regions in Victoria in order to help make people happy every day. 

“My favourite part of the job would be meeting new people and seeing the smiles on their faces. I think working in the tourism industry is a beautiful thing because you get to actually make people laugh, make people smile and see the best of themselves. It builds my confidence and actually feeds my happiness.”

From asking your parents and childhood friends what they saw naturally in you at a young age, to reading back on some primary school report cards – there are many ways to identify those innate traits! Note these down and then think about how they might be able to transfer across to your current career. 

2. Think back to your first job, no matter how relevant it is to your current career pursuits.  

Any job experience is bound to birth a set of skills, and you’ll be surprised to find that many can be applicable to other industries and careers in tourism. 

“I grew up in a corner shop – what you guys would call a milk bar, I think, in Australia. I was only 15 years of age – that was my first job. Essentially, I was looking after customers and eventually looking after licking stamps,” Jon tells us.

While licking stamps may not be as transferrable a skill (though, never say never!), looking after customers helped Jon learn how to work within a community and carry a conversation with people from all walks of life. These communication skills became a crucial part of his business success when looking to develop partnerships with the wine tourism industry in Victoria – especially when COVID hit a mere 8 months after Hop It was launched. 

“We bought two buses. My wife had just come full time with me. We had no money coming in, so we had to think of something. So we just took the seats out of the buses and made them into vans, and we asked the vineyards and businesses what they needed. We communicated with them and said ‘Look, you know, we’re all struggling. What can do we to help you?’”

Communication skills from the corner store transformed into local area marketing skills just as Hop It transformed into a delivery service, bringing wine from the Yarra Valley to people’s homes across Victoria. What started with 3 wineries grew to 30 businesses from truffle to chocolate, and Hop It ended up with 20 staff members on the books. 

Search up a position description for the first job you had and you’re bound to discover a list of key skills required for the role. From communication skills to relationship building, you’ll be surprised how many foundational skills you already have under your belt!

3. Say yes to opportunities, as you never know when those experiences will come in handy later. 

Don’t shy away from any opportunity that comes your way, even if you don’t know yet how it will help you in your career development. 

From an early age, Jon always accepted leadership roles and opportunities even without knowing he was going to become a business owner later in his career. From being the captain of his rugby team back in the UK, to saying yes to a leadership course that was offered to him while working at Nando’s, these opportunities helped hone his skills when it came to managing staff, training people and ultimately running a business. 

Similarly, when Jon and his wife Sara first started Hop It, they took the opportunity to attend regular Young Tourism Network (YTN) networking events. “Going into our first YTN event was really refreshing because in this industry, there are a lot of older people and it can be quite unapproachable. We got to meet people who were like-minded but also similar in age. From there, we met people who worked for TripAdvisor, Victoria Tourism Industry Council and Australian Tourism Industry Council, which led actually into being a part of the Victorian Tourism Awards, which we won!”From recognising his innate traits at an early age, to converting skills developed in his first job and saying ‘yes’ at every opportunity, Jon has built his successful career in the tourism industry.

To learn more from Jon about his career and Hop It, come along to our Working in Wine Tourism panel on Tuesday 26 March.