I’ve had a crazy, successful career in the hospitality industry spread over 20+ years – and now, reinvented myself to become an author. But what would I do better given 20/20 hindsight during my first career?
I knew even at 25, I wasn’t the average professional seeking a job in the events world. I was going through a divorce, which I didn’t want but knew it was too unhealthy to stay; I had already run a small company in my teens; and was now working for a Destination Management Company in Southern California where in just over a year, I had managed to climb the corporate ladder from service manager to director of sales. I was hungry and competitive. I set new standards in the field and was always looking at how to make the company more profitable and exciting. I came up with fresh theme ideas for parties, new tours, and a variety of VIP experiences. I went out of my way to work with clients from all over the world, which resulted in a ridiculous amount of working hours – day and night. I remember working on one event where I stayed up for three days straight to organize a very complicated transportation shuttle system for over 60,000 people during a conference in downtown. Needless to say, my calculus skills were put to good use but by the end of the third night, after which, I collapsed.
On another occasion, I woke up in Barcelona thinking I was in Singapore working a different event with a different client! You know you’re tired when… right?!
What I wish I had known at the time was how important it was to take care of myself. I was always rushing. In the middle of the day I would grab a candy bar to simply keep going. My “exercise” was comprised of running in my high heels from one hotel ballroom to the next or unpacking boxes. On a normal day, I’d log 14-20 hours with very few breaks in between. I didn’t say no to my clients. I thought I was invincible. Sure, I worked with Fortune 500 CEOs, traveled the world, and met dignitaries and celebrities – but if I had been asked what I did for fun? I would have answered, “Fun? My work is fun.”
I worked hard and I played hard. And by “playing hard”, I mean wining and dining clients, or more work. I had forgotten about me and what was truly important. Spending all my time pleasing and taking care of everyone else, I lost sight of my end goal, and I certainly lost sight of myself.
The best advice I can give for the 25 year old out there now trying to get ahead and be successful, is don’t lose sight of what YOU truly need and want. This life is not about how much stuff you have; it’s about the connections you make and the joy and gratitude that comes along with it. Take care of yourself, eat right, get some exercise, and know that it’s okay not to overachieve. This life you have is meant to be enjoyed. So get to it and enjoy it.
Note: Janee recently published her debut novel, Meeting Eve, based on her successful career in the hospitality industry. It’s a funny, fast-paced, absorbing read that will inspire you to chase your dreams and live passionately. Check out www.JaneePennington.com to learn more.