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Communication skills for top careers in tourism

The career path of Claudia Graf-Schmied shows the diverse set of opportunities students have with a degree from IMC Krems. She is a graduate of Tourism and Leisure Management and today a lecturer in this programme. Sharing her own educational and professional experiences is more than rewarding – for the students as much as for herself.

Portrait von Claudia Graf-Schmied

Claudia Graf-Schmied teaches as a part-time lecturer in the tourism and leisure management programme at IMC Krems.

Claudia Graf-Schmied graduated from the bachelor programme Tourism and Leisure Management in 2013, and then started her career in the retail industry in a management position at Lidl Austria. After her master studies in Portugal, Australia and Germany and an internship at Amazon, she joined McKinsey & Company, one of the leading management consulting firms, where she worked for four years with international retail and consumer goods clients around the world. As of November 2021, she will join Aldi Süd (in Austria known as Hofer) as Director International Supply Chain Management.

In September 2020, Claudia Graf-Schmied “returned” to IMC Krems and since then inspires students as a part-time lecturer. She teaches “Rhetoric and presentation” in the first semester of Tourism and Leisure Management for full-time and part-time students including rhetoric, communication and presentation skills, embracing positive organisational scholarship and applying innovative didactive concepts.

What are your personal goals for your course at IMC Krems?

The main idea was to make this course extremely interactive and exciting, providing students with an opportunity to learn, engage and practise – all of this outside the typical classroom set-up. The learning goal was to equip students with a well-rounded toolbox of communication, presentation and rhetoric skills.

Can you give us an example how you teach?

I strongly believe that being outdoors and doing physical exercise is beneficial for learning, which is why I took the students on an excursion – while hiking in the scenic Wachau valley. We either visited Göttweig Monastery or the Domäne Wachau winery. In between the hike, we stopped multiple times and sat in the grass, enjoyed the sun and students had the opportunity to practise building a strong physical presence and using their body language and voice effectively in their communication. It is important to me that students leave their comfort zone and try different communication and presentation techniques.

My ambition was to boost the students’ confidence and their ability to convince the audience – by helping them identifying their strengths and leveraging their talents. My experience has shown that confidence and the power to convince others are among the key success factors to excel in professional life. IMC Krems is pursuing a great approach when it comes to equipping its students with the relevant soft skills.

Communication and team spirit – is this the focus?

Looking beyond communication skills, I also aimed at supporting students in connecting with their peers and fostering a sense of belonging within the group. For me personally, this was one of the most valuable parts of studying in Krems – the people and the community. Not only did I marry one of my study colleagues from IMC Krems – did you know that the unofficial name for IMC is “International Marriage Centre”? But I still have many very close friends from my time in Krems – some of them close by in Austria and others spread across the world. I hope that the day outdoors with the students was the starting point of countless friendships within this year’s cohort!

The students filmed videos and took photos and posted them on social media. What did you think about the results? What impressed you most?

Clearly, creating video footage and taking pictures during the course was an amazing opportunity for students to practise their digital communication skills. All of them worked in pairs or small groups – another chance to build relationships and get to know each other better. I was overwhelmed by the passion students have put into their contributions and it was fun to be part of their ideas – they conveyed how proud they are to be students at IMC Krems and wanted to share this! I am really grateful for the hard work they have done.

Why did you decide to become a teacher? What do you want to “give back”?

My experience as a student at IMC Krems was great. Of course, the technical knowledge helped me to build credibility in my job, but what I am most thankful for are the strong soft skills I developed. When I started my first job and also during my master studies at other universities in Europe, I realised how much effort IMC Krems has put into critical thinking, confidence building, communication skills, intercultural competence, language skills, teamwork, and many more – all this helped me to accelerate my career!

I love the community of IMC Krems. Today, I am connected to a huge number of fellow graduates from different study programmes who help each other in their careers. My colleagues became friends for life, my professors became mentors! Staying connected with IMC Krems as a part-time lecturer makes me proud and offers me the opportunity to contribute to the future success of the programme. Spending time with the students is also great fun and very fulfilling – my heart is shining when I see how my students grow and succeed! 

More about the bachelor degree programme Tourism and Leisure Management