It’s been a year since I left a job in higher education I loved to start a new career in hospitality. There are a lot of reasons why someone who is perfectly happy decides to go somewhere different. I was so comfortable at my last job, I could do it in my sleep. I worked there for seven years with wonderful people. I truly enjoyed welcoming a new diverse group of students every fall and sending off fresh graduates into the world in the spring. I knew what I was doing. I was the person you asked when you had a question. And I started over from scratch.
Starting a new job is scary. At the end of my first week, I felt this sickness in the pit of my stomach: “Oh, gosh. What have I done?!?” I didn’t know if I made the right decision because I felt out of place. I was not a lot of help and I didn’t have any answers. In fact, I had so many questions, I couldn’t figure out which one to ask first.
I jumped into a completely different industry. Higher education and hospitality are like night and day. One works slowly, the other moves so fast you can barely keep up. I took for granted a lot of benefits working in the nonprofit world. Snapchat filters were free! Now I have to pay per square foot. At least I have a budget to make that work.
My former colleague predicted I’d feel this way. She told me I needed to give the new gig a fair shake before I decided if it was (or wasn’t) for me. This wise coworker had made an industry jump when she joined our staff at the college. She was fresh and always had a question to ask. It wasn’t until I experienced it myself I realized how she must have felt: questioning her purpose, feeling out her spot in the office and waiting for the day when she could let her guard down and start to find her own answers.
A handful of things stayed the same. I’m doing the same work on a day-to-day basis: digital marketing, including managing social media, editing webpages, writing blogs, curating online reviews and designing emails. The photos I take now are a lot less people-based and a lot more food and scenic horizons. I’m not complaining. I am doing all the things I love – just in a different environment. I didn’t think I could find a more beautiful place than a college campus, but the Wisconsin countryside is stunning. With a place so content-rich, I’m still uncovering new beauties a year later.
One of the problems I think all workplaces have is email oversaturation. We send so many emails, people stop reading them and miss the important stuff. Sitting in my inbox every day is a note from HR with the day’s birthdays and work anniversaries. WHAT?! You read that right: we get one extra email every day telling us who’s birthday and work milestones to observe.
I’ve been skimming these emails, looking for the names of people I work with so I can offer birthday wishes or notes of congratulations. There was no excuse to be caught off guard. Some have been here for 30+ years! My boss celebrated her 15-year milestone soon after I started. I originally thought this was the most pointless email until I realized why it’s worth sending every day. Not only is it inspiring to see this company’s many loyal employees, but it also builds camaraderie that isn’t easily communicated in any other way to 1,000+ employees.
My name came up on my one-year anniversary today. I had a couple people stop by my office to tell me they’re happy I’m here and I saved a few emails with notes of congrats in my “Kudos” folder – a special place where I look for little rays of light on cloudy days.
The email legitimized my first year of work. I still miss my old job, but I found more great people to work with. Just today, I made a really funny April Fool’s video with our golf pro who has the best sense of humor and set up yoga and mimosas for a small group of sales managers who donated a portion of their day to help me with a creative way to promote our wine fest weekend. I’ve made friends with a pastry chef, concierge and barista. The team I work with inspires me to develop creative content every day and we’ve got super strong leadership challenging us all to go beyond our goals, proving no one can do our jobs better than ourselves.
I still have a lot to learn about working in travel and hospitality, but I also think there will be a time in the near future when I’ll have more answers than questions. Until then, I remind myself: there’s no such thing as a dumb question.