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Who ARE you?

How do you answer this question? I suppose it depends, on the context, right? Your answer would be quite different at a cocktail party than it would be in a courtroom, I imagine. Your response when posed this question by a potential client would be quite different than your response when posed this quesiton by a new neighbor. And how would you answer that question if you asked it of yourself?

The day I showed up for my first hotel shift twenty-two years ago, the manager on duty came out to meet me and said, "Who are you?"

That's a pretty disconcerting question on the first day of work. I suppose I could have answered in one of several ways: I'm your new employee. I'm the person who was hired to work the 3-11 shift. I'm the person you've been looking for to complete your team. I could have said any of those things in my confusion.

What I actually said was, "I'm Eleanor."

And after a few minutes, it was all sorted out. I began training that afternoon, and despite the tentative start, I quickly settled into my new role as guest service representative with ease and confidence. The hotel was water, and I was the proverbial duck.

During a 3-11 front desk shift at a hotel on the coast in summer, you can bet the phone rings nearly one hundred times. The greeting is nearly always the same. "Thank you for calling the Hampton Inn Southport. This is Eleanor. How may I help you?" The conversation that follows is almost predictable. The caller would like to make a reservation. The caller would like a dinner recommendation. The caller needs more bath towels. One afternoon a few weeks into that first summer, a caller went off-script.

Me: Thank you for calling the Hampton Inn Southport. This is Eleanor. How may I help you?

Caller: Who are you?

Me: I'm Eleanor. Who are you?

Caller: I'm Gordon. I own the place.

The details of that conversation are lost to me now. After a few moments of cheerful chitchat, I passed the call along to the general manager, and carried on with my afternoon shift. After a while, she came to the desk and said, "I don't know what you said to him, but he told me to give you a raise." I had been in my job for a few weeks, but if you were to ask me now, I would tell you that my career began that afternoon.

A year later, I was promoted to the assistant general manager role. In 2004, I accepted the position of general manager. I've worn a few additional hats within the company (project manager, regional director, rockstar). In the world of hotel operations, no two days are ever the same, and some days I wear several of those hats at once. Over the past two decades, we have built a new hotel, and rebranded/remodeled another. We survived the uncertainty of the tourism industry following 9/11, the 2008 housing bubble crash, and a global pandemic. We've weathered hurricanes. Every day in this career of mine has been an adventure.

In luv with Hampton, 2014

After 22 years, my career is evolving, which is equally exciting and terrifying! Today is my last day with this company I have grown up with. As I launch myself into the solopreneur space, I'm struggling to pinpoint a job title that sufficiently encompasses all of the great things I have planned. I may try several things on for size over the next few weeks. (I'm open to suggestions!)

In the midst of this great change, I am certain of one thing.

Who are you?

I'm Eleanor. And I am forever grateful for this journey.

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