January 19, 2016
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Happy New Year.

Here is a classic scenario: after graduating from Cornell, Lausanne or Michigan State, you have enjoyed a steadily rising career with Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Hyatt, InterContinental or some of the other big guys.

Do not feel you have to remain in the corporate world: my recommendation would be in fact just the opposite. You do not want to find yourself downsized and irrelevant at age 49, worse yet 55. And it happens so often, and will even more so over the next 20 years. Financially, you will need to earn an income later and later in your life. However your employed life will be shrinking quickly. Your choice: play dumb, and end up living like a pauper in Panama or Costa Rica where you will never go hungry. Or be proactive and be ready before bad things hit the fan: it is very reasonable for a successful small entrepreneur to bring in seven figures annually, whereas hotel general managers or vice presidents rarely exceed a third of that. And, by the way, at a totally different taxation level. Incidentally, the right timing to become an entrepreneur is NOT between jobs, but rather at the peak of your career.

If you ever find yourself in a position to seek a job rather late in your career, a few pieces of advice: DO NOT, repeat DO NOT EVER start with a vacation just because of family pressure or because your are told it will “give you a fresh approach.” Be practical: every paycheck that does not come in digs into your retirement savings. Look at the essentials and trim accordingly: do you need that third car? Probably not. Your annual ski trip? Gone. The country club membership? Unless you are convinced networking on the course is effective, forget it. Remember the days when you couldn’t afford the extras? Just pretend those days are back. How many cruises on the Danube can you take anyway? And the wildlife in the Galapagos is better off without you. Take a road trip for crying out loud. Discover America’s backroads, classic motels and diners.

Remember what the Romans said: “mens sana in corpore sano”. Dust off the old bike and stay fit: your mind will remain agile.

Update your résumé on your first day of unemployment: you should always have a current résumé in the first place. On LinkedIn you can update it in one minute by two clicks of your mouse. And remember the ONLY rule applying to résumés: NEVER LIE.

We took care of the savings, now let’s look at your prospects: what are you good at, and known for? How much of a pay cut can you afford to take, if needed? Did you spend the past 20 years overly focusing on your job and paid little attention to hobbies and extra-curricular passions?  Sell your expertise. Become an expert witness (if you have the skills and knowledge). Many hospitality schools are dying for lecturers with unique experience. Two lectures a week will stimulate your intellect and generate income. A blog can become a revenue generating endeavor if you can attract advertisers.  Is there a writer in you? Don’t tell me 20+ years in the hotel industry did not leave you with loads of anecdotes you could easily organize in a book. Last but not least, many hoteliers have been known to develop a passion for fine wine and stock their cellar accordingly: that jammy Cabernet you bought by the case because Parker gave it a 100 rating? Maybe the original cost of $350 has now gone up to $1000 or more. Multiplied by 30 cases: we are talking real money there. Keep a few bottles to remind yourselves of the good old days.

And then, of course, there is always stand-up comedy.


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