Early on in my career, I had aspirations of running my own hotel, or group of hotels, somewhere in Canada or abroad. A decade working in the hospitality industry taught me a lot about running a business, leading people, and doing what it takes to succeed.

I read every business and leadership book that I could get my hands on and learned from some incredibly bright people in the industry. Promotions came quickly – I was director of sales by 25 and the following year I was recognized as the top sales director within our national chain of hotels.

Related: How a lucky break launched a successful career

Soon I was training other sales teams and leaders at sister properties across the country, in addition to duties at my home hotel. When the local general manager left, I was named interim manager while the company searched for a replacement.

I was active in the community outside of work, joining the Rotary Club, sitting on the board of directors for the city’s economic development group, and chasing sponsorship for the local air show. Everything was going according to plan – I wasn’t even 30 yet and my career was about to take off.

At a crossroads

A few months into my interim role, though, priorities started to shift. Our world was turned upside down when my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Career ambitions and travel aspirations were put on hold as we decided to slow down and start a family.

During my three-month trial run as general manager, I learned a hard truth that I wasn’t cut out to run a multi-million dollar company with over 200 employees.

Despite all the leadership training, I just didn’t have the toughness to hold people accountable for poor performance or force them to change (some who had been working there 20+ years), and I didn’t enjoy the “kiss up and kick down” mentality that was rampant in the industry.

Fortunately, as it turns out, I was passed over for the permanent manager role and got sent back to the sales office.

Your career, or your life?

A few months later I left the hotel industry to start a new career in the public sector. While it doesn’t necessarily fuel that ambition I once had for climbing the corporate ladder, it provides a steady income and keeps me close to home – something that has become increasingly more important over the years.

It’s not uncommon for people to reset their priorities after a big life event, like having kids or getting married.

Related: Switching careers mid-life: Is it worth it?

After spending five years working 60+ hours a week, getting called in on weekends, and travelling every month, I needed a change of pace. I realized that if I was going to advance any further in my career I’d have to move to another city, possibly several within a short time, to get ahead.

Life is about trade-offs and finding balance. The new job gave me the slower pace that I needed at this time in my life, but at the expense of a lower ceiling in terms of career advancement and promotions. I decided that was okay.

Final thoughts

Looking back, it was a no-brainer to take the new job. With considerably more downtime, and nobody bugging me after hours or on weekends, I use my spare time to work on things that I’m passionate about, like writing and helping people with their finances.

Did you choose your career for money, passion, or to achieve a work-life balance? Or was it something else? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Comments

  1. Brian @DebtDiscipline on May 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I choose my career out of interest, but over the years some of the things you mentions the long hours, and weekend phones call can wear on you no matter what you are being paid or have interest in. If you can find the job with the good work/life balance and pay the bills that’s a win-win.

  2. M on May 22, 2015 at 7:04 am

    I admire your recognition that your family needed you and that you made the decision to make a change. I’m 9 months into a job I chose for the money to get our family ahead financially. I knew I might not be happy (returning to an area of work I’d done previously but not a dream role) and I’ve proven myself mostly right. But I’m saving 25% of my income, learning as much as I can and planning an exit in a couple of years to take a 2 yr “sabbatical” to be at home with my young kids. It helps to have an end goal in mind before taking any job.

  3. Robert on May 22, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Because it was intellectually challenging, logic-oriented and creatively demanding. It never got old and suited me.

  4. John Richards on May 22, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s difficult when health issues strike your family. My oldest son is autistic, and I know something of the trade-offs you considered. I went the business/accounting path in college. I started work in a then big-6 CPA firm, but accounting was just a living. I left and eventually found work in a large tech firm, doing accounting, but soon found myself gravitating towards finance. I jumped ship and have been grateful ever since. At one point though, I was working over 100 hours (7 days, 4 hrs sleep at best), and with a new family, took a step back career-wise also to a less demanding job in the same company, but in another state. Of course, the problem with advancement is that you end up doing different kinds of work, so I’ve tried to stay in technical rather than managerial roles within finance, though the latter is inevitable to some degree.
    Ironically, I dropped the only finance class I took in college – the teacher was failing 2/3 of the class. He resented having to teach undergrads, and issued tests on material not covered in class, in the textbooks, or in the assigned reading – doing his best to make us all quit. Hours of daily study had me getting C’s & D’s on almost daily quizzes. It consumed all my study time and other grades were falling, so I dropped. Weird how life turns out.

  5. NelsonG on May 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I chose a career in sales for 2 reasons. One being that English is my second language, I want to improve on my communication skills. Two I want to overcome my shyness.But the best part is being able to do random act of kindness to more people. On two separate occasions, I got the chance to transact with different First Nations people. And on those occasions, they thanked me for treating them with kindness. They told me that they have never been treated with kindness before in their life in all the stores they’ve been to.

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