If you love food, there are many ways you can get to eat or cook your way around the world. You could be a chef on a cruise ship, a food writer, or someone who stays on top of food trends.
That’s exactly what Linda Dorman does. As Principal Consultant/Founder of DSA Global Advisors, she helps organizations explore growth opportunities in new markets across the world, focusing on food and travel trends. "I research local food products and food-related services to identify trends and provide insight to companies that use this information to evaluate potential markets, create new products/services and innovate how they produce or deliver their products,” she explained.
Her job is multi-faceted. Some of the projects she works requires her to be in a specific city, while others are location-independent, allowing her to work from anywhere.
Just a few of her responsibilities include being a global business strategist for a US-based food consulting company; business development and marketing consultant for food and travel tech start-ups; field market research for food product manufacturers, retailers and service providers; advisory board member for global food travel association; food tourism program ambassador; food and travel writer and blogger; and private chef engagements.
On average, she stays one month in a city and then moves on to the next one. “That gives me enough time to scope out the food community, visit local food markets, attend industry events, gather information and meet with chefs, restaurateurs, cooking class and food tour operators, shop owners and other experts,” she said. “I try to schedule my trips to coincide with industry events such as gastronomy fairs, gourmet festivals and culinary conferences where I can meet with many people at a time and see what’s new in the market.
In some countries, she will visit more than one city especially where the regional cuisines are distinctly different. “Though I usually stay in large or mid-sized cities because those represent the greatest opportunity for my clients,” she said.
So far she’s visited 40 countries and many of them multiple times, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, and Morocco.
In 2015, after working with other businesses, she decided to focus on her passion for food and travel, and combine her international business experience into a new career. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu’s Culinary Arts program and is a Certified Culinary Travel Professional by the World Food Travel Association, where she was just appointed to their new Board of Advisors. She also volunteers as an Ambassador for the city of Lyon, France, working to promote new business and tourism opportunities.
She said that this job is hard to identify within most organizational structures, but having a background in business development, international sales or marketing is a solid foundation for this type of work.
“After leaving Experian, my goal was to build on my diverse experience and transition into a career and lifestyle that fit my needs,” she said. “I looked at the skills I had and said “What value can I provide to organizations?” and “How can I make a living doing work I enjoy and feel good about?” and crafted my unique role based on that. When I decided to focus on the food and travel sector, I set about getting specialized training and education in those areas.”
So advises others to make a list of all of their skills and develop three to four different roles by matching their capabilities to what employers look for. “Then, go talk to people to get feedback and suggestions on how to present yourself to potential clients/employers,” she said.
For example, her skills list includes:
Hard skills: Strategic planning, international business development, corporate development (M&A, joint ventures, strategic alliances), sales/customer service, market research, marketing, data mining/analytics, digital innovation, product development, project management, design thinking training, professional culinary training, extensive travel experience.
Soft skills: Curiosity/ability to ask lots of questions, strong observation skills, appreciation for different cultures, ability to quickly build rapport, sense of adventure, attention to detail, solutions-oriented/problem-solver, ability to pitch new concepts, critical thinking/ability to see different aspects of an idea, self-confidence.
She worked with a career coach to define different roles based on her skills and assess how each job fit her goals, and then talked to her former boss, co-workers and people in the food and travel industry to get their input. “Most importantly, I do a quarterly self-review to update and refine my career path based on new skills learned and the opportunities that come along the way,” she said.
Here are 9 other tips from Dorman:
Plan the first 3-6 months and research where to go, how you’ll earn money on the road, what logistics need to be sorted out, etc., and write it down as if you’re creating a business plan because, actually you are creating a plan for “Me, Inc.” and this way, you’ll be better prepared. See her Nov. 29 LinkedIn post for her 5-step plan with links to budget and planning resources.
Join social media groups and talk to others in the same field – ask for advice and learn from their mistakes. Trust your gut instinct and, if you’re still unsure, discuss it with someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in the outcome.
Participate in free or low-cost online classes, challenges or hackathons on a regular basis to learn new skills and meet other people with similar interests.
Take control of your time. Establish a regular schedule and keep a to-do checklist. Set aside time every day to listen to a podcast, read, write, work out or do something that moves you closer to your goal. Don’t schedule calls or meetings on travel days and give yourself the first day to settle in to your new surroundings.
Learn a foreign language. Being able to hold a conversation in whatever language is spoken where you are will be incredibly useful. At the very least, try to learn a few commonly-used words and basic phrases in each country.
Prepare to be a frequent traveler. Download language translation, currency exchange and local transport apps before you arrive. Set the clocks on your devices for multiple locations. Plan back-up options in case your primary service doesn’t work or isn’t available. I have multiple credit/debit cards, digital phone/messaging apps, ride-sharing and apartment rental services just in case there’s a problem with the one I usually use.
Learn to acclimate quickly to your new “office”. When you arrive, walk around, take local transportation, city orientation or hop-on, hop-off bus tours. Find the shopping malls and discount stores in case you need to replenish electronics or personal items, as well as internet cafes or hotel business centers for printing/copying services.
Get to know local brands and observe consumer behavior. You’ll find familiar products wherever you are, but it can be much cheaper and a lot more interesting to discover new brands. Sample foods and take photos at a street market, supermarket or specialty shop or be brave and buy something with a label you can’t read. Watching how locals shop and make buying decisions informs my field research and provides valuable insight to my clients.
Be flexible enough to change up your travel plans if things don’t turn out the way you expect or a fantastic new opportunity comes along. Keep in mind, being a nomad is not a permanent condition. You can set your own pace or stop when it feels right for you.