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  • Writer's pictureElliot Figueroa

Starting over is nowhere near the end...

It was scary...

If you have ever wondered whether you had the courage to change careers after being successful in an industry for so long, I am here to ease your fears. Too often we hear about comfort zones and being able to step out of them or thinking outside of the box. Yet, seldom do we actually take on this challenge.

It wasn't too long ago that I directed a team of 40 plus team members. That number was 225 before that and at its peak, my direct reports topped at 551. That's a lot of people who depended on mine and my leadership team's decisions, support, and guidance. But if you think it's lonely at the top, then you're doing it wrong. Being in charge of a group of employees with a common goal, vision, and passion is the least lonely place to be in any business. Now in a new industry, career path and starting at the bottom, I am in charge of no one except myself. But if 1980's films taught me anything, besides how to skip school and go on a joy ride in Chicago (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), is that "If you build it, they will come." So, will my team come back?

This is not a question of “if” so much as to how. After spending the last 20 years working in Hospitality, I took a hairpin turn into the corporate sector seeking a change in careers. With my education complete and continuing at the same time, marketing came calling and now, unlike for the past 18 years, I am in charge of only myself. No payroll, no scheduling and no labor issues to handle. With that however comes no leadership of people, no development of other leaders and no one to impress my experience upon.

So, I clocked in. Literally punched a clock to record my time and let superiors know I was actively producing. That felt more refreshing than I expected actually. The peace of mind that came along with it was based on the memory of countless punch edit forms I have reviewed over the last two decades. My initial thought was, “I am not going to be one of those employees that causes undue payroll edits.” That brought me a sense of pride.

After becoming a producing member of the team, it was off to training and learning an entirely new job not to mention an entirely new industry. This was not so refreshing. Having gone through multiple orientations and introduction periods at various hotels, I can tell you that besides learning a new culture, the operational lessons are short-lived, and my learning curve has usually been sharp. One rooms operation is quite similar to others and only varying in minuscule software use and labor relation procedures. This intro period was different and certainly has required a notebook and a set of notes, manuals and lessons that were expected, but surprising at this point in my career.

I am certain I will lead a team once again. My goal was to change my career and not to end it. Yes, the turn was scary and marked by white knuckles gripping a long-tenured career in a familiar setting. The horizon, however, looks amazingly bright and this is the furthest from an end I have been in a long time. It is quite the opposite; it’s the beginning of a new adventure.

So, don’t be afraid to take the turn or discouraged by starting over. Don’t even let your pride get in the way of your goals. Maybe you don’t get a fancy office or even a nameplate on your door. You may not even have a tittle after your name. What you will have is a clean and fresh slate to learn and accomplish anything you set your mind to.

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