Travel industry professionals not dealing with immediate health issues for themselves or their loved ones are nonetheless leading an uncomfortable existence. Many are natural networkers and extroverts. Spending nearly every minute within the same four walls is a mental health challenge. At least our plethora of communications tools are allowing us to stay connected.

For an extremely large number among this group, one of several worries is unemployment. Your peers are here to help. (If you know of additional resources, please comment below.)

Corporate travel veteran Maria Chevalier about 10 years ago started a volunteer group for job seekers. They hold confidential conference calls discussing résumé tips, best practices in negotiating and mock interviews. They practice their “why you should hire me” speeches. There’s no charge.

Maria Chevalier
Maria Chevalier, EVP for customer success at PredictX

“Our goal is to provide hope and help,” said Chevalier, whose day job is EVP for customer success at PredictX. “A lot of people have been with the same company for decades. They don’t know how to look for a job. Seventy-five percent of jobs are in what’s called the ‘hidden’ job market. There’s 100 percent competition for the 25 percent that are advertised. That’s why you need the power of your network. We share that hidden job market whenever we hear about it.”

Estimates for the percentages vary, but certainly a large number of available positions never make it to CareerBuilder, Indeed or other job sites.

As the impact of the coronavirus became apparent during the past few weeks, Chevalier and her co-volunteers prepared for a deluge of interest in the group. They upgraded their conference calling tool, narrowed their agenda and reached out to prior participants for extra help. This week, they added a LinkedIn group and a name: the CTME (Corporate Travel Meetings & Events) Search Party.

In addition to committing to full confidentiality, participants also agree to “pay it forward.”

“This started because someone helped me once,” said Chevalier. “I’m most proud of how so many come back to the group to help.” The group has dozens of regular participants, and Chevalier estimated that it has through its history attracted involvement from close to a thousand.

“I have participated in Maria’s group off and on over the years, but rejoined it this past August after being part of a large reduction in force at my previous organization,” according to written comments by Doug DeBaltzo, who joined BASF Construction Chemicals in January as travel, fleet and indirect procurement manager. “As someone who has interviewed for a few (okay, many!) roles over my career, I joined the group primarily to network and to keep engaged in the industry. I’ve made a commitment to remain a part of this group as I’ve reconnected with old friends and peers, made new ones and learned a great deal about all facets of career searches.”

CWT director of global client management Jeff Messer

“When my position was eliminated at Sabre, Maria worked with me on the pursuit of my next career opportunity,” United Airlines distribution technology sales manager Mike Fitzgerald wrote by email. “I was anxious and overwhelmed, as I hadn’t interviewed outside of Sabre in over two decades. Maria’s first words of advice were, ‘Take some time to mourn your loss. In turn, we’ll be able to look forward to better things.’ Shortly thereafter, I landed a role at Travelport (one of the companies at the top of my list). After four years at Travelport, I made multiple proactive changes in my career path, with fantastic companies, based on goals that I crafted. Now I’m working at a company I love, in an incredible role on a fantastic team. However, I’m realistic about the future. I can’t expect the world to change around me and not be impacted. At this pivotal moment in our industry, I feel prepared for the future based on the skills I’ve acquired from our group.”

CWT director of global client management Jeff Messer shared a similar story. He also pointed out that even those who, years ago, had top-notch résumés or interview skills need help as the process has changed dramatically. “I have secured my last three roles with the dedication and support from this group,” said Messer, who supports it by maintaining contact lists and compiling lists of job openings.

Those hiring may contact Messer to share the opportunity with the group.

‘Be Realistic About What’s Transferable’

As timely and also unfortunate as this is, the Search Party is keen on assessing transferable skills to prepare participants to leave the industry. Former GBTA executive Daphne Bryant was one example from the past. Liz Lee left behind a 25-year career with American, Sabre and Travelocity to start a sales training consultancy.

Unrelated to the CTME Search Party, Susie McKernan left the corporate travel profession 20 years ago after working in hotel program management and account management at Rosenbluth International and BCD Travel. She kept her connections, though, and now serves as an executive recruiter at Craig Bradford Associates.

McKernan is offering free résumé critiques and opportunity sharing for those impacted by layoffs related to Covid-19.

“All sectors are being hit differently,” she said during a Monday phone interview. “If you have been laid off, make sure you know what the resources are. Make yourself seen. Update your résumé and your LinkedIn profile. There are other industries that are hiring. We have a strong practice in insurance. But you have to be realistic about what is transferable. Are you a sales person? Most sales people can learn the product and sell it. I have two open positions for account management, but I can’t take a travel person and put them in property and casualty insurance.”

Kim Hamer Kaye, Visa’s director of global sourcing for travel and events, suggested corporate travel people with operations roles could find work elsewhere. “Amazon is hiring,” she said. “They have call centers.”

Hamer Kaye has held travel management roles with Coach, Huron Consulting and Keysight Technologies, and for two years served as a strategy and customer lead for WhereTo. She has volunteered for the Search Party since the beginning, and said the biggest benefit was related to networking and encouragement.

“Sometimes people are just nervous,” she said. “Being able to talk about it with others makes it real. It helps with confidence. There are no judgements. You can say what you want to say and learn what you want to learn.”

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  1. A rising tide raises all boats and the CTME group is a great example of this. I have benefited greatly both professionally and with my career search. From peer networking, job referrals, interview prep and a safe space to share my disappointments and wins. It feels great when you can offer colleagues support. Kudos to Maria, Mike, Jeff and Kim for starting and growing this important group.

  2. Thank you Maria Chevalier, Mike Fitzgerald, Kim Kaye, Jeff Messer and the cast of others that have already provided so much support and continue to do so in these turbulent times! I have personally been helped by so many and your generous time and support is so appreciated.

  3. I joined this group about two years ago. We are like one big family. We celebrate with each other, we cry with each other, we support each other. The latter is important, especially in times like these — to remember that you are not alone!

    Stay safe, strong and well! ❤


  4. Honored to be part of this group.The network I’ve built through my connection with this caring and skilled brother/sisterhood of business travel industry professionals was instrumental in my recent career search. It also gives me the opportunity to pay it forward and help others who are looking for guidance and connections while on their journey. I’m continually learning from industry veterans as well as those new to our world. The best part is that I’ve met wonderful people and forged friendships that will last beyond the current turmoil.

  5. Fantastic article and group. It gives me great pride to be a part of such a caring and compassionate industry of professionals! Kudos Maria! I’ve heard about this group through inspirational stories from past and current members. It’s a winning concept and helps people realize we are truly all in this together!

  6. Thank you Maria, Jeff and all. I recently joined this group and it has become the most valuable resource in my search for a fresh start. In these times of uncertainty, this group is a multidimensional support and resource network at a much needed time. Be well and thank you!

  7. This group provides the support, resources, and honest feedback that one needs when searching for a new role. Thank you to Maria, Mike, Jeff, Kim and the others for your work, persistence and encouragement with the group!

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