Tara was at the pinnacle of her career as an event planner at her hotel corporation in the D.C. area. She had just won a managerial award, and now she was accepting the prestigious Leader of the Year award for 2019. Only one person in the company would get it, and it came with a week-long, all-expense-paid vacation to any of her hotel’s properties around the world.
“My husband and I were thinking we were finally going to go to Hawaii; we’ve never taken a honeymoon.”
Fate has its twists. She missed the award ceremony because her son was born, but a couple days later, the presenters showed up right at her door with the award. It was a beautiful surprise.
Tara loved her job. She had no intention of doing anything else and her employers held her in deep regard. The plan was to take maternity leave until mid-May; then suddenly, the world ground to a halt. Lockdowns closed down everything and hotel events were canceled.
At first it appeared it would be temporary, but the seriousness of the situation was evident by May. The company was hemorrhaging money and almost everyone except on-site managers was being furloughed. Tara still wanted to stay on. Human resources worked with Tara, giving her the option of using vacation days or going on unemployment. Soon after, though, while on an all-property call with the general manager she heard the dreaded announcement. Four months after winning the Leader-of-the-Year award, Tara was laid off.
“So we thought we’re going to be in Hawaii for a week this December for free. And now we’re sitting here having to decide whether or not we can even take the trip in the 2021 calendar year. So going from basically the highest honor I can get at my property, plus a corporate award, to being laid off in July was just kind of a whiplash as far as my career goes.”
Her company wants to hire her back, but the hospitality industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Most conferences were canceled or have gone virtual. Tara is worried that after the restrictions are lifted, there won’t be a job to return to. Tara posed the question: “Take the whole pandemic off the front burner… Not only is it a long way down the road that they’re going to be back in the hotels, but when they do start coming back, are they even going to come back?” Video conferencing is cheaper than sending people to hotels. If even half of the conventions went away, she said, it would still be detrimental to the industry.
Years of effort were spent building her career to get the top before all hotel events were canceled. Tara doesn’t want to throw all that away, but the questions about her future as an event-planner float around her mind. “Finding a new job is stressful in any scenario within your own industry, but to have to consider finding a job outside of my industry because my industry doesn’t exist right now. No one’s hiring even if they’re trying to keep things afloat. They’re not hiring because there’s nothing happening.”
As she thinks about her newborn son, she realizes the importance of having security. The future has risks and she wants to avoid a repeat of the same situation. It makes her wonder if she should be looking into government contracting because the government was still fully functioning in all its capacity throughout the pandemic. It makes her wonder if she needs to do a full 180 degree turn and change her career path completely. Thinking about changing careers brings her anxiety, but unemployment benefits won’t last forever. After all, hotel events were canceled and so was her career.
Read more about this industry with how an event planner faced a perfect storm of apathy or read more on small businesses with how a dance studio languishes while waiting for phase five.