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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 Keith Larson on March 1, 2009 at 10:25pm
I have read this blog entry a few times now, Rick. I have been trying to figure out how to word this comment. I want to make sure that I agree all about the leadership skills that you have outlined. I had used them to success back in our shared home state of Wisconsin. I also would like to use it to point people to when I try to explain why I like supervisors that know the property first and foremost. It's more important in my list than any motivational or mentoring training.

But... there are some of us here that like to keep on the move. One season than explore somewhere else. Being a supervisor at any level just isn't that much of a priority for some. That definitely doesn't mean that these same work qualities are not important. They have become so ingrained in my work style, I don't think I could or would want to do it any other way. But it's not necessarily looking to 'move up'. That's OK in this lifestyle too.
Comment by Judy on February 24, 2009 at 1:02pm
Excellent, Rick! Some Leaders are natural, some are not. We all have weak areas and your discussion provided an opportunity to identify those potential areas for improvement. I appreciate the time you spent on the subject. Thank You...J.P. (p.s. You get the John Wayne award!)
Comment by Jeff H. on February 23, 2009 at 9:16am
More corporate blah, blah, blah.
Comment by Dominic A. Smith on February 18, 2009 at 5:29pm
Thanks some good things to keep in mind through out the season

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