Whether we leave our job for more money, new opportunities, or to achieve better work-life balance, a career change can have a drastic effect on our lives.

I thought I’d spend my entire career in the hospitality industry, but after series of events I ended up on a completely different path.  Here’s why I made a career change and how it improved my life:

Background: My first career

When I was 19, I started working at a hotel part-time as a bellman.  I was literally at the bottom of the totem pole, carrying bags and running errands for hotel guests.

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There’s a lot of turnover in the hospitality industry, so just by sticking around for two or three years I worked my way up to a supervisor role at the front desk.

After a brief stint in food & beverage as the assistant manager in the dining room, I moved in to the sales & catering office as the sales manager.  Two years later, at 25, I became the director of sales & marketing.

I was the youngest sales director in the company, which had nearly 40 hotels across the country.  That’s when I started to treat this as a viable career and began mapping out my options:

  1. Stay at this hotel and work my way up to general manager;
  2. Stay with the company, but move and take on a sales role at a bigger hotel or in a regional capacity;
  3. Move to another hotel company in a bigger city, maybe even internationally.

My wife and I had serious discussions about moving away from Lethbridge.  In the meantime, I took on a project from our national sales office that had me travelling to hotels across the country and training new sales directors.

I was asked to apply for a vacant sales director job at one of our biggest hotels in Edmonton – which I turned down.  A few months later, I applied for a regional director of sales role based in Edmonton – and didn’t get the job.

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It was clear that if I wanted to stay in sales, I needed to get more experience in a bigger hotel, which meant we would have to move.

As this was going on, our general manager left the hotel and I was appointed the interim manager while we searched for a replacement.

This was 2009; the economy was in the tank, our hotel was in dire need of renovations, and to top it off there was a SARS outbreak.

It was tough, but I enjoyed the experience so much that I threw my name in the hat for potential manager candidates.  After three months as acting general manager – in addition to my sales director role – the company finally decided to hire another candidate who had decades more experience than I did.

I was crushed.  Not only did I get passed over for the general manager job, I’d have to return to my director of sales role without any clue where to go from here.

Career Change

Things were changing on the home front as well.  We just had our first child, and decided my wife would stay home full time to look after her.

Money was going to be tight.  The company froze wages, and the chance of hitting our bonus was bleak.  I was putting in long hours, 50-60 per week, and still travelled whenever I was needed.

I hated being away from home and knew I needed to make a career change.

At a lunch meeting with one of our top clients, the local University, I learned they were restructuring and looking for a new business development manager.

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The job paid more money for working fewer hours, plus offered better benefits and more vacation days.  Did I mention there’s a defined benefit pension and guaranteed annual wage increases?

It didn’t take much prodding; I applied the next day.  A few months later, I left my 10 year career in hospitality behind to start a new adventure.

How my life changed for the better

The salary increase at my new job was enough to give us some breathing room.  Fewer hours on the job also meant spending more time at home with my family.

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With a bit of spare time freed up, I started this blog with my mom.  I also landed a job writing twice a week for Moneyville.  Between advertising revenue and freelance writing, I’m now earning enough to replace my wife’s income.

We’ve used the extra income to accelerate our financial goals.  We built a new house last year and we’re on target to pay off our mortgage in less than 15 years.  We’re maxing out our tax-free savings account and contributing to my RRSP, along with our kids’ RESP account.

My career change couldn’t have come at a better time, as the hospitality industry continues to struggle.  Although it’s not easy to change jobs in a recession, sometimes you need to recognize when there’s an opportunity to improve your situation.

I feel fortunate to say I’m better off now than I was three or four years ago because I changed careers.

Have you made a career change in the last few years?

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