I’m trying to blog the seasonal employee journey, based on my history in Alaska. Previously I talked about the slowing rate of tourism in 2009. But don’t worry, there will still be seasonal jobs out there for you to enjoy. Once you have made the decision to seek a seasonal adventure, you have to decide where to apply. This is an immensely important decision and can mean the difference between you having the summer of your life, or the summer of your discontent.
Before you start looking at places I recommend looking at yourself in the mirror and figuring out what you want. It is easy to just say I want to go to Alaska or Yellowstone, because let’s face it, the “idea” of those places sounds pretty good. But we all have had bad experiences in great places. I can think of a certain family vacation to Disney World myself. That’s right, a bad experience in an amazing place. It isn’t the place you go; it is your interaction with that place that matters. Are you looking to continue as is but just in a new environment, or do you want a total life makeover? Do you need civilization or solitary? How important is money to your life right now, or is it outweighed by experiences and friendship? Is this a family decision? Are friends coming along for the ride? First you have to know what you are looking for, and then you decide where to look.
The reason it is so important to decide what you are looking for, is because there are so many types of positions out there in any given location. The tourism industry is so diverse that you can find something for whatever you are looking for. At first blush, you might think Alaska is out for you because you are looking to work with a group of friends and not leave the comfort of civilization. Or Yellowstone is now too commercial for a die-hard naturalist who wants to leave no footprint when they are done. That might have been the case 15 years ago, but now you can find what you want in many different places. You just need to know where to look.
Once you know what you are looking for, you can hit the web to find it. Since this is a blog for MyCoolworks, obviously I am going to suggest checking out coolworks.com first. You can search for a job by location or position. I would suggest picking a state or location you are interested in, then going through the opportunities to find ones that meet your personal goals. The ads on coolworks are going to be short and include basic information.
Make sure you take the next step and venture on to MyCoolworks for some first-hand accounts. Ask the members if they have worked at the place you are interested in. I would strongly suggest trying to find a person who actually worked at a given location as opposed to a person who knew a person who worked there. Second hand stories are usually pretty unreliable in my experience. It seems like people are always interested in telling their best memories or their worst memories. Do a little digging. Every place will have good points and bad points. If you can find a person who worked where you want to work, ask them about every day things. Don’t forget, you are looking for a job. Ask about working conditions, management styles, and safety. Ask if the company was honest about things during the interview process or if they made a bunch of claims that were not true. Ask what the there was to do during free time. The facts are that we will spend more nights after work doing nothing than we will hiking or fishing or whatever you want to do, so the living conditions on a normal day/night are just as important as the once in your lifetime opportunities. Ask about consistency of hours, possibility for advancement during the season, and if they would go back there.
After you have scoured the coolworks community, send your prospective employer through a Google search and see what pages come up. Look at their home page. I would suggest trying to find some comments from their guests. Odds are that if their customers walk away very happy, the employees are relatively happy as well. Let’s face it, who wants to work somewhere that makes people upset more often than not. If you see nothing but guest complaints, probably wise to steer clear and look elsewhere.
Try to personally contact someone from the property. I cannot stress this enough. At the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge, we are closed 7 months a year, but we are still at the property. My phone number is listed on the lodge website so that people can call me even when we are closed to ask questions and get answers. If you cannot get a phone or e-mail response from a place, move on. They may be a great company, but with jobs in higher demand, you don’t have a month to wait from them to get back to work while others are filling all the available jobs. Talking with a prospective employer also gives you a leg up in the hiring process. Just as you can tell a lot about someone by talking with them and asking them questions, the employer will remember you. When I start looking at my pile of applications, I’m going to contact the person I spoke with on the phone first, the person who I’ve e-mailed with second and the piece of paper applicant third. Just the way I roll.
Wow, this has gotten rather long. These are just some basic tips that I would suggest you follow as you start your seasonal job search. Whether it is your first seasonal job or your 12th, I really believe these tips will work and help you to find your perfect seasonal employer. I’d love to see some comments from people on other tips they may have come up with over the years to add to my own. Next time I will talk about what you can do as an applicant to get hired. Hopefully I can help you overcome less than perfect work dates, a negative work experience from your past or over-the-phone interview stage fright, amongst other things.