June 6, 2014

How To Get Seasonal Work

“We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work” 
-Thomas Edison

I got a bunch of emails after my last post asking how I go about finding and securing seasonal work, a really good question as there seems to be some confusion about what seasonal work really is.

First of all seasonal work usually means work that is offered for one season (spring, summer, fall, or winter), like a ski resort that hires 300 people just for the winter months and then most of them move on to other jobs elsewhere. Some seasonal work, such as hospitality, is less finite but still seasonal, like in New Orleans where hundreds of bartenders are hired just for the Mardi Gras season with the understanding that they will probably not have shifts come the slower summer months.

Step #1: Finding The Job

This site has come a long way over the past few years. They have a really wide selection of jobs from Conservation Corps to fly fishing resorts and it's organized really nicely by season, state, and job type. This is where I found Yukon River Camp.

I hate to say it but this site seems to be loosing popularity, but it's still a good resource to know. This was the site to go to before Cool Works and is also organized by season, state, and job type. I would highly recommend purchasing The Backdoor Guide to Short Term Job Adventures 4th Edition. Other additions have come out since but the 4th is the most comprehensive and useful. I found the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp through this book and had a great summer.

A job site, like the ones listed above, is just a searchable database of available positions with contact information included. If you're not seeing anything you like then head for Google and search for resorts, hostels, or ski resorts in the region you want then craft a nice introductory email to their HR person. Make sure to attach your resume and inquire about open positions. This is how I got both the New Orleans Hostel and the one I'll be at in Puerto Rico come fall. I emailed them and we negotiated a fair exchange.

If you're looking for a job in a restaurant in, say, Virginia Beach then I'd go with Criag's List. I've met a few people who operate exclusively off this site and seem to be having good luck.

I haven't used this site a whole lot but have heard some good things from coworkers. I found a sailing job and a few interesting resorts when I was researching Florida so check it out.

Step#2: The Application

An application is an application, so make it look good and stand out. Seasonal employers are less concerned about the length of your jobs and more about your responsibilities and work ethic. You see, seasonal employees are often a little flaky by nature. We're cool, don't get me wrong, but we're a little abnormal as well. We live without roots, far from family, and with very few possessions. We need to make friends quickly but can't get too attached to people we'll be leaving a few months later and while many workers travel by choice, some just can't hold down a long term job and by the end of their term an employer is happy to see them go. This is where references come in. Get them from anyone you can and make sure they're glowing because employers are taking a lot on faith and the better you look from across the country the more likely they are to take a chance on you.

Here's my attempt at looking "Resume professional"
Potentially Helpful Tip: I was surprised how many jobs, especially resorts and dude ranches, ask for a picture because that means there are twice as many jobs that want a picture but had lawyers who told them not to ask. One of the drawbacks to hiring seasonal employees is that the employer doesn't get to sit down and interview them; most rely on phone interviews which don't really give them an idea of how a candidate might present to clients (some are going to Skype now, but not many). The employers I've spoken to have all (every one of them) talked about the nerve wracking experience of waiting for new employees to arrive and hoping that they made the right choice, like ordering a painting sight unseen and based only on a loose description of its medium. What if they wear tons of makeup? Or have a facial tattoo? Or a Mohawk? There's nothing wrong with these things and some employers will embrace them while others will shy away, but if you can present well in a photo then go get a hair cut, tone down the makeup, and dress the part then attach a head shot to your resume. It will make you stand out and give employers peace of mind.

Step #3: The Interview

Like I said, most of these job interviews are going to be done by phone which is good for us because we can do them in our PJs surrounded by cheat sheets. I personally have a notebook handy to write down questions as they come up (employers love well thought out questions) and stay on target with the questions they're asking. While these interviews tend to play out along fairly standard lines they will probably ask about your experience with communal living. Many seasonal positions include dorm style housing so you'll be living with your coworkers, which makes for a lot of togetherness and tends to breed drama. Employers want to know that you'll be responsible and professional both at work and towards your housemates.

So by now you hopefully have the job, but remember to learn from my mistakes and as soon as you've secured a position begin your research for the next season. Employers begin hiring a season ahead and if you don't have employment by the time your summer gig ends then you might find that all the fall positions have already been filled.

Good Luck! And if you have additional resources, ideas or experiences please post them in the comments section. Lots of my experience is based on the trail and error of other so lets expand out collective knowledge.

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