Culture, Career, Hope: Interview with Tiffany Harrison

Tiffany with her STA Travel team at the 2015 NAFSA Conference & Expo
Tiffany with her STA Travel team at the 2015 NAFSA Conference & Expo

Culture Career Hope SeriesIn this edition of our series on finding that perfect career across cultures, we interviewed Tiffany Harrison of STA Travel. Her insights show us how important it is to be “known” for something to stand out in the job search:

Melibee: It took google 0.34 seconds to populate links after googling “Tiffany Harrison STA.” Could you elaborate on how you got to where you’re at (on social media or otherwise)?

Tiffany: Ha, you might say I have a bit of a love affair with social media. It’s what helped me to launch my career in international education and encompasses the kind of tools someone passionate about communication should be aware of.

From the very beginning of using Twitter and LinkedIn to network and build a personal brand for myself, my strategy has always encompassed authenticity and consistency. I wanted to find a way to merge my personal passions with my professional goals, and meet some interesting people along the way. Developing that digital footprint eventually transitioned from a tool to get my foot in the door into a tangible community of friends and peers who have mentored and supported my growth over the years. During my nearly four years at GoAbroad.com, and my recent transition to STA Travel, I’ve been able to present at numerous conferences, participate in webinars, collaborate across different knowledge communities, and stay abreast of trends related to student travel and international education. All this, due in part to being active on Twitter and documenting my thoughts on a personal blog.  It’s been an incredible journey, and I can’t advocate enough for the power that social media can have, given the right strategy and some creative thinking.

Tiffany makes a pit stop along the coastal route from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia.
Tiffany makes a pit stop along the coastal route from Sydney to Melbourne, Australia.

I’m not saying you’ll see success with social media overnight. It took me a full year of networking before I even landed my first job in the field. It also needs to be complemented by what you’re doing offline, as the face to face is just as important. I can tell you, despite the challenges and frustrations you might run into while building a personal brand, it does eventually pay off. Sometimes in the most unexpected of ways, which I love; because as often as we change, so do our goals, and hopes, and dreams. Being open to that will make your professional ventures as memorable as mine have been.

The same can be said of staying true to you who you are. Own those parts of yourself, even if it includes an out of control affection for all things Doctor Who and Jane Austen. I always try to keep this in mind, as who you are online should align with what you bring to the table in a professional (and personal) context. People will see through a façade, and you’re more likely to have better connections from the outset by keeping things honest. You’ll also be able to more quickly identify when you’ve climbed on to a soapbox about Doctor Who with the wrong crowd 😉

Melibee: On your LinkedIn profile, you touch upon a recipe for success. Has cooking in any shape or form helped you in creating and sharing your international journey? How so?

Tiffany: Interesting, I’ve never thought about the recipe on my profile in that context! I’d say more the EATING of food has inspired how I travel. I never used to think of myself as a foodie, but after participating in numerous trips with the GoAbroad/STA Travel Roadshow, that started to change.

Tiffany with her STA Travel team at the 2015 NAFSA Conference & Expo
Tiffany with her STA Travel team at the 2015 NAFSA Conference & Expo.

When you’re traversing many a beaten path across the United States in an RV, you have to think about how best to experience each location in such a short amount of time. For me, that ended up being through food and drink. I’m telling you, there’s no better way to dig deeper into the history and culture of a place than by taking a local’s recommendation and eating at a hole in the wall restaurant in Monroe, Louisiana with the best cheesy grits you ever did try. Don’t even get me started on my hunt for local craft brews in every place I visit. The list would be never-ending.

Whether it’s cooking or eating, I think what it really comes down to is people. My journeys are shaped by those I travel with and those I meet along the way. Alongside the meals are the conversations. They’re often the strongest memories I have of a place, and what I reflect on when telling my stories after the fact: who was I with; who was it that introduced us to that amazing brewery; what was the name of the man who shared his life story outside that café? The list goes on. I am definitely one of those people who will take a photo of wonderfully presented food/beer (shout out to the #FoodieOlympics crew on Instagram!), but it’s the stories you don’t see behind them that are just as powerful for me. I guess it is kind of like a recipe then, isn’t it? 1 part delicious eats, 2 parts travel narrative, and an extra handful of awe for the world we live in.

Melibee: You recently moved to a state kitty corner from CO to AZ. How was that transition?  Any tips for people who are thinking of relocating for their new jobs?

Tiffany: The transition from Colorado to Arizona has been a great one for me, as I made many friends at STA Travel during my time at GoAbroad.com, and they’ve been amazing in making me feel right at home. Adjusting to triple digit temperatures is really the only thing that will take some time. I’m a cold weather girl, and the heat of Phoenix is far more intense than Fort Collins! A colleague helped me put it in to perspective, though, when he said if you can get used to three months of living on the surface of the sun, the other nine months are a dream. It’s something to look forward to, at least.

Every time I’ve moved to a new place, it’s been related to my career. I’m lucky that I’ve had an incredibly supportive family and friend network throughout each transition, as I know it can be stressful to pick up and relocate to a new place. It usually encompasses saying goodbye to a community you’ve established, in order to chase your professional dreams. I won’t say it’s always easy, especially when it means moving so far away from loved ones, but if you’re passionate about your chosen career, you’ll find you’re more adaptable than you think. I had an amazing community of friends in Colorado and almost all of my family is based in California, so being creative with how I stay in touch is essential. From skype/wine dates to sending handwritten letters or postcards from my travels, these are simple yet meaningful ways to make relocation less of a headache.

I’m also a firm believer in getting rid of “stuff” when you relocate. When you’re in a place long enough, “stuff” starts to accumulate and you suddenly realize how much you have to move when the times comes. My advice? Get rid of everything you don’t actually need. Have a garage sale, sell things on Craigslist, or donate to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army. I did this for my move to Arizona, and only brought what would fit in my car (including my cat, Elinor). It’s refreshing, really, to clear the clutter out of your life and start fresh in a new place.

Melibee: Please express how International Education inspires you in only 7 words.

Tiffany: To embrace the world and all its potential.

Melibee: Could you expand on what you mean as an “active time traveler”?

Tiffany: Ha, it really means exactly what it says. I’m holding out with good faith that Doctor Who will finally realize I make a great travel companion and include me in his adventures through time and space.

Tiffany demonstrates her adoration for all things Doctor Who
Tiffany demonstrates her adoration for all things Doctor Who.

I’ve been in love obsessed with the idea of time travel since I was young. It was born out of a fascination with history and a curiosity to experience iconic places and moments firsthand. While I can’t say I’ve achieved active time travel yet, unless you count crossing the International Date Line, my appreciation for it continues to inspire my appetite for exploring the world through more traditional methods. I like to think this will one day make me a suitable candidate for owning a DeLorean (with the flux capacitor intact), or at least a Hoverboard. A girl can dream!

Still looking for your dream career across cultures?  Melibee has a new  Cultural Career Cohort beginning on August 17, 2015.  Learn more here