How A Career Change Improved My Life

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.

Related: How Did You Choose Your Career?

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.

Related: Does Your Job Define You?

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.

Related: Networking To Advance Your Career

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.

Related: 35 Ways To Save Money

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?


19 Responses to How A Career Change Improved My Life

  1. Joe says:

    When I graduated, I accepted a very modest, contract, 0-benefits position related to buying (I had better $ offers, but nothing comparable in terms of doing what I wanted to do with my life). Worked for a year and a bit, then took a gamble leaving that contract position to work at another contract position but doing buying / running what are essentially projects. Then I moved to TO and won a permanent position. I continued to build my skills, knowledge, and take on more responsibility, until I was able to achieve my “ideal” permanent position at 24. When I found out I’d be taking parental leave, I started lining up “life after due date”. Part of that was starting the blog, oddly enough. It’s a drop in income now that my top-up has run out, but I stayed flexible, lowered my family’s cost structure, and can continue working toward goals. So I’ve stayed in the same field and employer (on an umbrella level), but have definitely changed careers.

    Every job is an opportunity to learn — but at some jobs you’ll learn more than others, so choose wisely.

    • Echo says:

      @Joe – When I moved into sales at the hotel, the position was a 1-year contract for a maternity leave replacement. About 10 months in, my boss resigned and the woman who was on mat-leave came back as the director, so I got hired permanently. Very lucky how things turned out, but sometimes you make your own luck.

  2. Thanks for sharing Robb. Indeed, with every door that closes on you, in time, another one opens.

    I recently applied for a director-level position at my organization, and got passed over. It was disappointing but I’m optimistic another opportunity will come my way if I continue to do the right things, work hard, deliver strong results and keep an open mind.

    Continued success to you – you’re doing all the right things :)

    Mark

    • Echo says:

      @Mark – thanks for the kind words. Sorry to hear about you being passed over for a promotion, but you’re right, a new opportunity will arise before you know it.

      In my case, a few too many doors were being shut in the hotel industry, so it made sense to look for a career change.

  3. Jerry says:

    This is a different world we live in and people can have several careers in a lifetime and it’s a normal thing. I think planning well and saving money is your insurance for surviving those times when you need to make a change. It can always lead to bigger and better things.

  4. SavingMentor says:

    That’s quite the career path story. I’m impressed at how quickly you worked your way up, but it still stings when you get passed over for that big promotion. I can’t really relate because as a software developer a real career progression means moving into a more managerial role where you don’t really develop software. It’s a tough jump to make if you like doing the actual development.

    Sounds like it worked out much better for you now though. I’m glad you were able to unload some of the stress while being able to increase your income and improve your family life all at the same time. A definite success story!

    • Echo says:

      @SavingMentor – Getting passed over for the general manager position was sort of a blessing because I started to realize I didn’t have the stomach to manage people through difficult times, especially when it comes to letting people go. I was better at relationship building and sales, so I’m lucky I found something in that field.

  5. Steve says:

    I just finished writing a post on getting my new job. It took a long time to find a much better career with better pay, yearly increases and a pension as well.

    It’s very exciting to start somethings new, especially after 15 years of doing the same thing over and over.

  6. I’m in the process of a career change – leaving the computer hardware industry to enter the financial industry. It’s complicated by the fact that I’m looking to go out on my own rather than join someone else’s firm. In the long run I think the upsides will be worth it though – more money, fewer hours, and more flexibility.

    • Echo says:

      @W – Wow, that’s a big change. What made you decide to go out on your own?

      • I think the part of the computer industry I’m in (disk drives) has a limited life span – probably 5-10 years before most of the work is done in Asia at low wages. As a practical matter the money in finance is much better too.

        In terms on non-financial incentives, being my own boss is a pretty big motivation.

  7. James says:

    When I got married my resume was blank. I had no work experience and 3 yrs of college. The only career option I saw at the time was in sales. After my first daughter was born we moved to a larger city were I could make more money. We did all right, we had a nice place, a new car, etc. but the stress of sales was killing me. After a long talk my wife and I decided to go back to school. We toughed it out with three kids in a tiny two bedroom, but we finally got through the first stage. I am working in the school system now with less pay, less hours, and less stress; but sometimes less is more.

  8. Mr. PoP made a pretty major career change a couple of years ago when he moved into commission sales. It was a big risk, but hey – it was the middle of the Great Recession, so what did he have to lose? The result is great – he’s making better money than he ever did before, and has much more job flexibility and is always clear on what his employer wants out of him.

  9. eemusings says:

    That’s fantastic – sounds like things have worked out really well for you. I’m only a couple of years into my career, so I’m not sure what the future holds.

  10. Great Post, I have read great stories when a career change is invloved, but this one has been the most inspiring. What is a major similarity / contrast between a sales career and a business development career?

    • Echo says:

      Thanks for the kind words. The new position feels very similar because I’m dealing with the same people in the community. Instead of selling hotel rooms and meeting space, I’m selling season tickets and sponsorship/advertising opportunities with the University.

      The biggest contrast is moving from the private sector to the public sector. Business is done at a different pace.

      • Thanks for clarifying the difference. If you continue to work in the public sector, and you have kids they can attend the university free of charge. Always thought that to be a great perk.

  11. Carolyn Davey says:

    Great post. I have re-invented myself several times over. Right now I’ve almost completed my BA in Psychology and am very happy teaching piano and cello. For someone who is 60, I think that’s not too shabby. I definitely encourage others to follow their calling/vocation no matter what age.

Leave a reply