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The Employee Journey – pt. 5 How to Build on Year 1 and Beyond

The past chapters on my employee journey blog have focused almost exclusively on the first time seasonal work experience. Well perk up all your “career” seasonal workers, I am writing this blog for the repeat seasonal employee. The goal is to help you become the lead, supervisor, or manager you always wished you had your first season. And if you are a first time seasonal employee, remember this advice as your season goes on. It can come in handy a year from now.

As a hiring manager the most difficult decisions I make each season are who to hire for my supervisory positions. It makes all the difference. Great supervisors means less disciplinary work for me, less busy work for me, less worries……for me. Ok, call me self-centered, but I want to have a great summer too. The dream scenario is that I have a wonderful returning employee to step up and fill the post. Unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. It is really a pity too. Each season I have good employees who come back to the same position they held the previous season. And that is great, don’t get me wrong. This blog is in no way intended to be negative. I love those people and couldn’t really survive without them. But if you want to be one of the people in charge of things, leading others, and getting the perks that go with it; here is some advice that you can follow to help get there.

You should always be evaluating. When you first arrive somewhere you probably don’t know if you even want to stay until next month, much less come back next year. It is never too early to start planning for your future decision though. Keep some mental notes those first 2 months about your employer and your job. After 2 months you should have a rough idea whether you want to return or not. This leaves the second half of your season to set yourself up as a supervisor-in-waiting.

There are several character traits that managers look for in their supervisors. The order of importance will undoubtedly change by manager, but I really think the list will have the same traits on it. First for me is leadership. Also on my list are adaptability, poise, and fair or not, out-of-work behavior. Traits to avoid include being needy (you can ask for help too much, or for too many special schedule requests), cocky, or too clever. Just because you can figure out how to get internet access at work doesn’t mean you should use it, ditto for solitaire and changing desktop pictures and screensavers.

Leadership is as much about wanting to lead as it is about knowing “leadership skills.” A leader stands up straight, a leader walks with a purpose (Walk Hard Dewey Cox!!), a leader isn’t afraid to make mistakes, a leader looks for challenges, a leader takes the blame when it is deserved, and a leader tries to make others better. It is so easy to demonstrate these things to your boss. Managers notice the employee who walks like a lump and always pushes that 15 minute break to 15 minutes and 30 seconds. Believe me, no matter how good you perform; I am going to be irked by those 30 seconds every day. I will also notice the person who is back at the 14 minute mark, and I will appreciate them. You think you know your job pretty well, ask what you can do to get better. Make it know you want to succeed, you want to lead, and you want to be back. I try to help everyone, but I bet I work just a little bit harder to help the person who tells me they want to come back next year. Volunteer to pick up shifts for people when they need to change their schedule. You don’t have to be the loudest person, but don’t be a church mouse either. Sometimes you have to be vocal so show you can vocalize your thoughts and carry a conversation.

Adaptability and poise really go hand in hand. We look for supervisors who can think on their feet and not sweat through their shirts while doing it. Show you can think on your feet, find answers for yourself, and step up to challenges. If you manager is a good one, they won’t be too upset if you make a mistake as long as you were trying to work things out professionally and independently. I had an employee who was upset once because they felt passed over for an open lead position. They couldn’t believe I had hired one of their co-workers and had to point out a particular mistake the person had made when dealing with an upset guest. My answer: I hired this person because they were not afraid to make that mistake and deal with that guest on their own instead of automatically running back to get me. Sometimes a mistake can pay off. I won’t bother with telling you the mistakes that don’t pay off for you; you should be able to identify them on your own.

Lastly, your out of work behavior matters, especially if you live where you work in employee housing. I once had an amazing bellman, but I couldn’t hire him as a supervisor even after his 3rd season because after work he was a very hard partier who appeared in security reports on occasion. Great performance at work, but employees first and foremost remembered him for what he did at night at the parties. Part of being a supervisor is having the respect of your employees. It isn’t always easy to respect someone you saw doing beer bongs the night before. I know some of you might think this is extremely unfair, well, as Metallica said, It’s sad but true. Have fun when you are off of work, but remember to keep your noses clean if you wish to make the leap to supervisor this season or next. You’d be amazed how long security reports stick around.

This is my quick primer on moving up the corporate ladder. Getting your first supervisor spot is always the toughest but also the most rewarding. And I think the best way to get there is with an employer you have laid a foundation with the year before. Once you have it on your resume you can get supervisor positions at other employers that much easier. Many managers want someone who has been there.

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Comment by Jim on March 7, 2009 at 8:45pm
Akscootr said it very well: Being a great manager with the skills learned by most from obtaining an MBA is wonderful, except in this world of seasonal employment and the abysmal pay there is no reason for an MBA grad to seek employment being a manager at any of the NP concessionaires. They can go where they will be compensated for their education and experience and therefore be able to afford a house, family, car, etc. I was shocked to hear that managers in Yosemite, wearing the blue shirts and seeming so important, were earning so little, like not much above $10.00 an hour if you figured the time they put in on the job.
Comment by Jon Tilley on March 7, 2009 at 5:03am
That was a great post and I agree with every bit of it. I also agree with ak; as a server and bartender, unless I went straight to a dept. head position, I would be taking on twice the responsibility and make 2/3 the money. I suppose assistant dining room manager would make about the same....ehhhhhhh, maaaaaaybe.
Comment by akscootr on March 6, 2009 at 8:31pm
It not WHAT you say, its HOW you say it. One can be firm yet respectful...hope this helps. I had a hard time learning that since I learned leadership in the Marine Corps. Most civilians just can't take Marine leadership, so I had to learn to adjust and temper myself. Cheers
Comment by reggiecohen on March 6, 2009 at 8:20pm
this will be my first supervisor postion i'm an little neverous on how will the employees would react to me wondering if i would make an good impression on them espcially since me being black alot of internationals been around alot of blacks dont know would they be uncomfortable telling them what to do
Comment by Dan on March 3, 2009 at 4:19am
Sometimes for new employees, it is very hard to get into the game. You wonder or try so hard you come up stiff. Worried about how to impress your boss for promotion, raises? Try these 3 simple rules. First, appear exactly as they requested that you do. Shoes shined if that's what they want. Beard trimmed if that's what they want, etc. Second, don't wander. Stay at your work station and only your work station. Side trips to the employee dining room, for smoke breaks or to check your e-mail make you ordinary at best. Be glued to your workpost and you will be ahead by just that simple act. Finally, be timely. Punch in on time, stay for the entire time and punch out on time. Everyone can't be a great computer hand or even a fantastic personality, but everyone can be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be looking like they are supposed to look. Check and see if this doesn't put you in the top half of any group of employees.
Comment by Rick Peterson on March 2, 2009 at 12:12pm
Yeah, the Cubs were pretty great last year, a playoff performance for the ages. At least the Brewers won a game, and were beaten by the World Champs.
Comment by Ryan on March 2, 2009 at 12:10pm
Can you add how horrible the Brewers are going to be this year? and why it truly is the "cubs" year lol
Comment by akscootr on March 2, 2009 at 12:06pm
Well, I should have clarified going from tipped to an untipped position. Sorry about that...It was a spot in the Tetons to name just one and it wasn't me, thankfully. It was a friend of mine... I learned long ago that I prefer tipped positions.

I will use last season as an example; I sometimes made in excess of 300.00 a day as a server/bartender in Homer, not counting the hourly wage. I rarely made less than 200.00. To go to a supervisor position I would have gone down to 12.00 an hour. Now if I went from host to supervisor, it would be an increase... but going from a tipped position to a supervisory position is the catch. I do read your stuff, Rick, and I actually like most of what I read. But you said it best; I am a free spirit. To each his own, yah?... :)

Keep writing; I'm listening. peace...Akscootr
Comment by Rick Peterson on March 2, 2009 at 11:38am
I'm just glad somebody is reading these blogs. And I totally agree with previous posts that not everyone is looking to be a supervisor. I wrote this just because it seemed like a short blog to tell people how to stay in their position.

Scootr, not sure where you worked where you lost 40-70% of your earnings. My experience with Princess has shown some definite rewards to being a supervisor/manager. Examples might be free housing and meals for the summer, and a real good boost in hourly wage. But you are right, there is definitely added responsibility and demands. In the end, people need to do what is best for them in terms of meeting their needs. If you are an adventurous spirit keep exploring, if you are looking to move up the ladder, you can do that too. I hope none of my blogs lead people to believe that I am preaching the only way to do things. I'm not, just sharing my stuff.

Really appreciate the comments from everyone. I think my next blog will be simpler, maybe something along the lines of my favorite movie fights or something.
Comment by akscootr on March 1, 2009 at 11:04pm
Yes, it is o.k. to keep exploring different places; It is one of the main allures of this type of work and it is one of the main reasons I do this. Moving "up" with a good work ethic is not that hard to do (and I have a very strong work ethic).... The problem is that every time I have moved into management I have basically doubled my responsibility and cut my earnings by 40-70%. Moving up is good, but not at a drastic loss of income. I feel that moving up in responsibility should mean moving up in the reward as well...
Moving up in the corporate world means giving up way too much control of my own life for little reward and conforming way too much to someone else's rules. I like my free way of life...

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