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In this unique interview, a gentleman tells his story of how he turned his life around, from a life of gang violence, to rehabilitation, and now being gainfully employed at a hotel on Chicago's Magnificent Mile. He shares the challenges he has faced finding a career after being released from the prison system, and shares his hopes for obtaining more education in the future.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am a bellperson at a hotel on Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile. I've been at it for four years. My adjectives are attentive, courteous, and punctual.

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I'm a Latino male. I honestly don't know if any women would want to be a bellperson, so I can't say that my gender has either hurt or helped. I have had customers make racial slurs about me when they thought I couldn't hear them. When that happens, I tell my bell captain and I don't have to cater to those people again.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I bring the things that our guests need to their rooms. Whether it's their luggage, a toiletry item from the front desk, or delivery from a restaurant; I deliver it to the room. Contrary to popular belief, we don't stand there with our hands our waiting for tips as we're sometimes depicted on television.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: Being a bellperson is actually a lot of hard work. You spend a lot of time on your feet, you hear many, many complaints, and the pay is only fair. It is a job for people who want to work. My satisfaction level is around a 6, I'd say. Its easy work but I can't help feeling that there is something better for me out there.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: I don't know any bellperson who describes it as their sweet spot in life. I am thankful to Jesus for the opportunity to work, but I am just doing this until I can get up on my feet.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: I am using this job as a turning point in my life. I spent 2 years in prison for some gang-related activity. This is my first real job after getting out and my first opportunity to make an honest living. I can't describe how grateful I am to have gotten a job after prison. A lot of guys in my situation can't find work.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I didn't really have any job prospects after I got out of prison. A friend of mine already worked here and told me I should put in my application. I got the call not long after that. The management here knows about my past but they were still willing to give me a chance. If I could do anything differently now, I wouldn't have become involved with a gang and ruined my life. I'd have made better choices and stayed in school. I would have worked hard and gotten a better education so I could get a better job.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned that in a disagreement between a bellperson and a guest, the guest is always right. This particular guest complained that I manhandled their luggage when I brought it to the room. I didn't, and even though there wasn't so much as a scuff mark on the bags, I was still reprimanded. Later, the bell captain apologized and agreed that there was no damage to the bags. It was a humiliating way to learn that the customer is always right.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: So far, I learned that you can get a job whether you go to college or not. I'm thinking that you get a better job if you do go to college, though. I am thinking about taking some courses soon to try to better myself.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: I delivered a heavy suitcase to a customer's room and set it against a wall. It wasn't balanced well and fell over, and it opened slightly and an adult magazine fell out. I opened the bag to put the magazine back in, it was full of them! Needless to say, I was very embarrassed.

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I go to work because I have to. If I don't, I can't eat or pay the rent. It makes me feel good when my boss tells me I did a good job or when a guest says so. It also feels good when a guest gives me a decent tip. That shows they appreciated the job I did for them.

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: My job isn't particularly challenging, except for the heavy lifting and sometimes unreasonable guests. You just have to stay in shape and take the criticism in stride. I could be unemployed and living on the streets, so I will never quit.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job isn't stressful. I put the suitcases on a cart and deliver it to the room, or I deliver some other needed item. I like to go out to different clubs with my friends after work to relax.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: Bellhops don't earn very much. The average pay is about $9.00 her hour and the annual pay is only $10,000 to $30,000 per year. It isn't a lot of money but it pays the bills.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I get two weeks of vacation each year. Sometimes it feels weird to be able to walk around outside, as a free man. It's enough for me now but I can't wait the get another week.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: To be a bellperson, all you need is a high school diploma. As far as skills, local knowledge, knowledge of hotel amenities, and the ability to lift heavy objects are all definite plusses. Bellhops with a positive attitude and outgoing personality always get bigger tips, so that helps, too.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Hold out for something better if you can. Stay in school and do better for yourself. Being a bellperson is not a good career choice but its okay if you just need to get a job.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: Maybe I'll go back to school and earn a degree so I can do something I enjoy.