After being successful at interview, I had a long three months to wait before the training course for my dream job as a holiday rep began. On New Years Eve 2012 I had an email telling me the course would be taking place in Portugal, and as you can imagine, I was overjoyed at the prospect. I remember watching the fireworks, wondering where I would be travelling over the next year. I was filled with hope and anticipation.
Mid-February, we travelled out to our training course. We’d all been in touch over the preceding months on a private Facebook group, and this really helped me feel a little less anxious. It was nice to get chatting to everyone and find out a little about them before training began, and it was also an opportunity to ask each other questions and seek advice.
I was flying from Manchester along with about half of the trainees. Since our flight was an early morning one, a bunch of us stayed overnight at the Premier Inn the night before. Ah, the good old Manchester Airport Premier Inn, I’ve stayed there a few times since, before heading off on my adventures. Meeting the other wannabe reps was scary, in a way. They all seemed so much more confident and outgoing than me, and I knew I was the quiet one. But it was also reassuring to have met them before we got there. As we chatted, I knew everyone was nervous, just like me, and equally as keen to make a good impression. Everyone was friendly, and we were all excited about what the training course would bring.
The next day we were up early to fly to Portugal. When we arrived, we were greeted by the recruitment manager, and directed to the coach which would take us to the hotel where we were staying, about an hour’s drive from Faro airport. On the way I knew I was being quiet. It seemed hard to get a word in edgeways with the big personalities about.
The hotel we stayed at was lovely – huge big apartments surrounding a little pool. Unfortunately it was far too cold for a dip and anyway, over the next few days we didn’t have the time for a swim! After dropping off our bags we then waited for the final coachload of reps to arrive and then it was straight into training.
The training course, we were told, was very much part of the recruitment process. This was still part of the interview. We weren’t guaranteed a placement this summer and could be sent home for any misbehaviour. If we didn’t make the grade, we wouldn’t get a job, simple as that. It was a nervewracking prospect. I couldn’t bear the thought of being sent home a failure. I promised myself I’d work my butt off and behave impeccably to make sure I got that job.
On the first day, we were split into three different groups. However, the next day, myself and about five others, were told I’d be moved to a different group. This was part of the test, to see how you respond to change. As a rep you might be asked to move resort at a moment’s notice, and if you’re fussing and moaning about changing training groups after a day, that’s a red flag that the repping life just isn’t for you. Changing groups didn’t bother me, it’s not like we were all best buds after 24 hours, so I took it in my stride.
Over the next few days we were taught everything we needed to know about repping. We learnt how to deal with customers, health and safety, and all about the endless bits of paperwork we’d have to fill in. On the final day, we spent the whole day putting together welcome meetings, which would be performed to our groups. This was the most stressful part for us all, I think. Even though we were all in the same boat we were still terrified. I actually think performing a welcome meeting to colleagues is a hundred times more scary than performing one to actual guests!
And of course, throughout all this, was the knowledge that your every move was being watched by the trainers, constantly on the lookout to make sure you were acting professional and putting in the effort. OK, so maybe that makes them sound much more intimidating than they were – actually, they were very friendly! – but I was always watching myself to make sure I was acting how I felt a rep should act. Even though I’m shy I tried to chat to everybody and join in with group activities.
In the evening, we’d go out for meals to local restaurants. After our first full day, we were taken in jeeps to a peri-peri restaurant. I’d only ever tried peri-peri in Nandos before and if I’m honest, I think it’s a bit overrated, so I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of this! But as soon as the food was served I realised that Nandos is nothing like a genuine peri-peri chicken! It was delicious!
That night, we all learned that the threats that we could be sent home for misbehaviour were not just empty words. Two of the trainees spent the night together and didn’t turn up to work the next day. They were sent home immediately, without a chance to redeem themselves. It showed us all that we had to turn up on time, ready to work, or we’d go the same way.
On our final day we found out whether we had been successful or not. It was just like bootcamp at the X Factor. After a morning spent doing teamwork exercises, we were then gathered into the kitchen at one of the apartments and sent through one-by-one to speak to the trainers, who’d tell us if we’d been successful and if so, where we were going for our first season.
My stomach was in tangles, I felt physically sick. In my heart, I knew I’d done alright. At least, I hadn’t screwed up too magnificently and I’d been well behaved. But there was still that voice of doubt in my head, telling me I wasn’t good enough. When I was called through to hear the verdict, I was a bag of nerves and excitement. The trainer started to talk, asking how things had gone, and I just wanted to know!
When he told me I’d been successful I could have hugged him! I was so relieved that my hard work had paid off, and that in a few months time I’d be starting my new job, something I’d been dreaming of for years. He told me I’d be going to Tenerife, and started telling me about the team there while I just wanted to jump up and down.
Outside, I excitedly told the other trainees the news. They had all been successful too, so when our group was gathered, we all had a big group hug, so happy and proud of ourselves for what we had achieved.
Not everyone was successful. In the whole group, one man hadn’t made it. At the time I felt really sorry for him. I knew he was desperate for the job and he’d overcome a lot to even get to the training course.
(Those sympathies disappeared within a year when he started posting increasingly anti-immigration and islamophobic statuses on his Facebook page. I mean, why apply for a job working abroad when you’re against immigration?! So now I feel he deserved to fail. Ha!)
That night, we were taken out for a slap up meal to celebrate. The drinks were flowing and we could finally let our hair down, safe in the knowledge we didn’t have training the next day. Back at the hotel, we hit the hotel bar, which ended in me and two girls from Manchester having a lock in with the bar staff, helping ourselves to drinks from the bar.
The next day I had an early flight, followed by a long train journey back to Wales. But despite my epic hangover, I was still over the moon that I’d been successful. Back at home, I proudly stuck my certificate of achievement, as well as the group photo from the course, over my mirror, so I would be reminded every day of what was to come. I couldn’t wait to see what the future would bring.