Peyton Barber, a 2023 Bemidji State University graduate, now works at The Travel Chalet in Bemidji after Career Services helped her enter into the professional world. (Micah Friez / Bemidji State)
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By Micah Friez

Published 12:40 p.m. on Dec. 4, 2023

When Peyton Barber first applied to work at a travel agency, she didn’t even have her own passport. But, thanks to Career Services at Bemidji State University, she booked a new professional path anyway.

Barber graduated from BSU in 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing communication. But before the pomp and circumstance played out during commencement, she attended a job fair on campus and signed up for Handshake – a free platform that connects college students to employers.

That’s where she saw an enticing internship posting from The Travel Chalet in Bemidji.

“I went on to look and was like, ‘Oh, this position at a travel agency sounds cool. But I don’t know anything about travel,’” Barber said. “But I applied through Handshake, and I had a couple questions, so I reached out to Career Services about my resume. They actually helped me go through and edit it, which was super nice. And I ended up here.”

Barber was hired in May 2023 as an intern, which has recently evolved into a full-time assistant position. Her main responsibilities include answering customer questions, partaking in specialty industry trainings, sorting paperwork into the company’s database and managing social media channels for the business. With her help, The Travel Chalet caters to vacationers seeking warm-weather destinations such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the like – a valuable service when the winter tundra invades Bemidji each year.

A young Peyton Barber was featured in an advertisement for the Kalahari Waterpark Resort Convention Center with her mother. (Contributed)

It may not sound like a hard sell, but Barber is making her best pitch.

“My mom has owned her own advertising agency since I was like 5 or 6,” Barber said. “I’ve always been interested in advertising and marketing just from a young age of seeing my mom do it. Being able to actually do it myself and put myself in my mom’s shoes is super cool.”

Barber grew up in Madison, Wis., then journeyed to college in Florida when she was fresh out of high school. But when the pandemic hit, she wanted somewhere closer to home and found a perfect fit at Bemidji State for her final two years.

During her first semester on campus, Barber swung by a job fair because she wanted to get a lay of the land and see what employers around Bemidji had to offer. She signed up for Handshake and really didn’t expect it to lead to anything serious, but it became an integral piece to her and The Travel Chalet finding one another.

“I applied through Handshake, and it was super easy,” she said. “I really like how Handshake is run, how you can apply directly through it rather than having to go to a website and putting in all your information and going back.”

But even more than the platform itself, she’s grateful for the office that supported her so well.

“I’m very thankful, especially for Career Services. I don’t think they get the thanks that they should,” Barber said. “They do a lot of behind-the-scenes things that I didn’t realize until after I graduated. … A lot of people don’t realize that, after you graduate, you can still use them if you need any help with job stuff. You still have those resources.”

Barber is currently pursuing a master’s degree in communications through Syracuse University online, in part because of strong recommendation letters from her BSU professors. As for life in Bemidji, she sees herself staying at The Travel Chalet “for a pretty long time” and also hopes to turn social media marketing into a career.

And whatever trail she blazes next, her path will always include a bit of Bemidji State’s footprint.

“I’ve taken what I was learning in school and put it into what I want to do for work,” Barber said. “I really appreciate all of the support I got through everyone.”

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