What does a critic/reviewer do?
Susannah is a freelance reviewer for travel and restaurant guidebooks. "For anything to do with tourism or travel, I'll check out hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars, and sights like museums and art galleries," she explains. When reviewing for various restaurant guides she says: "I try to paint a realistic picture for the potential diner and describe the ambience and service and surroundings, and whether the place will suit the occasion the reader is planning for."
What does a typical working day involve?
Reviewing is broken down into two distinct periods: a research/reviewing period and a write-up phase. For travel writing Susannah is "on the road" from around one-to-two months at a time; the write-up takes a similar amount of time. Restaurant reviewing is less taxing. The reviewing period is still around two-to-three months, but Susannah may only have to review 10 to 15 restaurants during that time.
"Before I go to a restaurant," she says, "I'll have a look at any existing information and do some research on the Net or in the media to see what that restaurant is renowned for." Susannah makes a booking at the restaurant beforehand but remains anonymous throughout the meal: "I might have to nip into the toilet to take notes," she laughs.
Travel reviewing is much harder work. "Your day starts as soon as you open your eyes," Susannah says. In an average day she might review eight hotels, one or two sights, around six cafes and restaurants, and two or three bars. "You're very pressed for time. And you wear out a lot of rubber on your shoes," she says.
What are some of the pros and cons of the job?
"When you're on the road reviewing you never take a break. You're switched on the whole time - you're checking how much a spin cycle costs in a laundromat as you walk past." Susannah comments that it can be "incredibly tiring" walking around a city all day and that sometimes the language barrier can be frustrating if you're in a foreign country. "Being on the road for a couple of months can also be really hard on your relationships," she says. She lists the highlights as experiencing another culture, meeting a diverse range of people, "proving to myself that I can do things that I thought I couldn't", and seeing the book published at the end. "It's also really encouraging to get readers' letters," she adds, "I love that my reviews and research has helped enhance peoples' travel and eating experiences."
What sort of skills and qualities do you need?
"You need a lot of energy. And you need to be really well-travelled to be comfortable handling the experiences that crop up when you travel." She comments that you need a strong interest and knowledge of food to be a restaurant critic. "You need to know what to look for," she says, "To know what's going to be of interest to people and to be able to write about it." She also lists having enough confidence to approach people for information and to be well organised with good time management skills.
Are there any tips for getting a job as a critic/reviewer?
"If you want to review for the travel and tourism industry, get some travel experience. And if you want to write about a particular place, research and study that area to get a thorough understanding of it." She also suggests doing a practical placement at a publishing house and making contacts with people in the publishing industry: "Tell them what you're interested in doing and ask for advice."
Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).