NOTE: I’m in Seattle today, so today’s guest post is by Robb Engen, who writes about personal finance at Boomer & Echo.
I like to think I’m a fairly successful person. I have a beautiful wife and daughter and a fulfilling career. I live in a nice house, spend less than I earn, and have managed to put away some money for a rainy day. Things have turned out pretty good for me so far.
Yet when I’m asked how I got to where I am today, I struggle to come up with an answer. I wish I could say this was all part of a well thought out plan, built on years of hard work and sacrifice. But the truth is there were a lot of lucky breaks along the way.
For ten years I worked in the hotel industry and I literally started at the bottom of the totem pole, carrying bags and running errands for hotel guests. Because of the nature of the industry, there’s a lot of turnover each year, so just by sticking around for 2-3 years I was able to work my way up to a supervisor role at the front desk.
When my manager left, I thought I would apply for that job. I was finishing up school and ready for my first crack at a leadership role. Unfortunately, I had a terrible interview and clearly wasn’t ready for that position. Thankfully the General Manager saw some potential in me and asked me to transfer to a supervisor position in the food & beverage division. There I would get a broader range of experience in the industry, which would prepare me for the next step.
I wasn’t cut out for food & beverage and after 9 months I was ready to give up, but I caught my first lucky break. One of the sales managers at the hotel was going on maternity leave and recommended me for her replacement. This time I was ready for the interview, but I still had very limited experience and thought I wouldn’t stand a chance. Somehow I got the job, and I was so excited to get hired that I jumped at the low salary they offered me. Oh well, my foot was in the door.
Nearly a year went by and I was excelling in this role, but I still didn’t have any job security. The next lucky break hit me about 10 months into this job when my boss quit to start her own business. The sales manager returned from maternity leave to take the Director role and I was hired on as a full time sales manager.
Another year went by and I was doing a really good job hitting my sales targets and developing some leadership skills. I was ready for more, but this time there was nowhere else to go. My boss would have to leave, or I needed to go. Amazingly, right at my breaking point, my boss left for another opportunity and I was promoted to Director of Sales.
At 25 I had reached a position that was typically filled by 40-something’s with 20+ years of industry experience. Yes I worked hard and was good at my job but, without those three lucky events, I would have surely ended up on another path.
I talk to a lot of young people who are looking for the secret to a successful career. They ask; how do I get to where you are? I wish there was an easy answer, but there is no blueprint for success. My advice to them is put yourself in the right situation to succeed. Rather than jumping from job to job, stick around and make your own luck by being in the right place at the right time.
Robb Engen lives in Lethbridge, AB and writes about Canadian personal finance at Boomer & Echo. Together with his mom, (she’s the Boomer, he’s the Echo) they offer their own unique perspectives on saving, investing and personal finance. You can follow him on Twitter @BoomerandEcho