Living & Working in Great Places
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Hmm...I've answered this question several times throughout the years, but I'm thinking about changing my standard averages answer. Short answer is apply when the place says they are searching for applications for the positions.
Yes, the bulk of summer work will be open in January. But there are places that look starting in November, and by Jan. it's kind of late. There are also places that don't start looking until March, then Jan is way too early.
Winter has a lot of variables. There is overall fewer opportunities. Many positions are filled with only face-to-face interviews, sometimes at job fairs and sometimes you have to travel to the place. But, yes, there are some openings that are filled with an online search. There is a wider start to the season, southwest ranch season begins late sept/early Oct..they're looking as early as June. Some ski areas are open in mid-November, some a month later...so some look according to their anticipated start dates. Some ski areas start looking as early as July, but only look for a handful of positions, then every couple of weeks place another handful, sliding the amount of apps and concentrating on one area at a time.
Year arounds are handled just like any position in the "real world". When a position opens, there is room for applications.
As several people have commented, it depends entirely on the industry and also on the company. For most of the summer seasonal national park jobs and Alaska jobs, it seems that they start advertising the jobs by early January. The larger ski resorts start advertising jobs by August/September and some start holding job fairs at some of the larger national park locations in late August. The ski resorts also hold local job fairs near the resorts in October to hire some of the locals.
One thing that I have noticed is that you can find out on MY Cool Works which resorts (and types of jobs) will provide you with a fun season (lots of time to ski or hike) but they won’t necessarily provide you with a profitable season. Tipped jobs are the ones to look for if you want to make better than average wages, summer or winter.
Most year-round jobs are quite different and are affected by the economy more than seasonal jobs. They don’t have a certain hiring season but hire when someone leaves a position or when business improves in their industry and they need a larger staff.