Three Steps To Finding Seasonal Work
When I first became a nomad back in 2010, I didn’t know that seasonal work existed; that someone out there would pay me to take people kayaking. I became a nomad by sheer luck. I wanted that lifestyle, but didn’t realize that it had a name or was actually a real way of life. I thought I was simply an odd and unsettled person that desired to roam and somehow get paid for it.
When I first found myself in this lifestyle, it was purely by accident (really, divine providence). I was offered a position as a Foreign Correspondent for a marine conservation organization in Japan, which led to a photojournalism position aboard a ship in the Mediterranean. But it was 100% volunteer based. My expenses were paid by the organization, but I didn’t make a salary, and my savings account from my time as a product photographer for an industrial company dwindled rapidly.
When I first became an outdoor guide and discovered the world of seasonal work, it was again by luck. I was offered a position aboard a small cruise ship in Southeast Alaska as a hiking and kayak guide. This was when I truly found the nomadic lifestyle; this was when I discovered that people would pay me to kayak and geek out on whales and nature.
My tattoos, always something to be covered in the corporate world, became the mark of a good guide. No one wants a prissy girl leading them through Alaska’s grizzly country. They want someone who’s ‘been there, done that’; someone who can carry a shotgun like Annie Oakley but also tell them that skunk cabbage is a natural laxative for bears coming out of winter hibernation. They want someone they feel confident would stand between them and an angry mama brown bear.
My moment of facing-off with that bear definitely happened, and apparently the company still uses that day as an example of the right way to handle things in their yearly bear safety course. Though I’m sure they leave out the part where I sobbed like a scared baby later when I was alone in the wheelhouse with the captain.
People ask me how I find work in these rad places I live. They ask if I’ve ever had an issue getting a job due to the lack of longevity with one employer. They ask me how I know if the job I’m going to will be a decent job.
There are so many answers…
#1. Have a job lined up before you arrive somewhere new
My number one rule for being a nomad and living in so many different places that it’s dizzying, is to always have a job lined up before I get there. Though there have certainly been times when I haven’t had a definite job lined up, but have had multiple interviews scheduled. I’ve always known that no matter what, I will get a job. It may not always be a glamorous job, but it’s a job. Basically, don’t ever think that you’re too good to scrub toilets and change sheets at a hotel. Because you’re not. None of us are.
#2. Don’t rely solely on job postings
Finding a job can be overwhelming sometimes. I can’t even tell you how many hours I’ve spent scrolling through Indeed.com looking for appealing jobs. Though I’ve never relied solely on job postings. Once I’ve chosen where I want to go next (we’ll get into that later…), I Google the type of job I want to do. If I want to work as a kayak guide, I make a list of all the kayaking companies and apply to them, even if they don’t have current job openings.
If I want to work as a barista, I make a list of all the coffee shops and apply to them. Just because a company doesn’t have a current job posting, doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring. The majority of my jobs have been with companies who were not advertising that they were hiring. And what’s the harm in emailing them a resume? The worst that can happen is that they won’t respond. The best that can happen is that you’ll get a job.
Choosing where I want to go has always been the biggest issue for me. I know that no matter where I go, I can get a job as a barista or a bartender or a housekeeper or whatever. I’ve done it all, and I’m really good at it all. But the WHERE is what I struggle with the most. There are so many amazing places out there, and I want to experience them all. The shoulder season, the season between seasons, is the most stressful time for me; more stressful than working seven days a week for months on end, usually at multiple jobs. I want to go everywhere, and I never have any idea where to start.
Aw, First World problems.
#3. Collect reference letters
My biggest piece of advice would be to collect reference letters as you roam this world. I get a reference letter from every single job I have. I worked at a café once for about a month, and when I left, I asked for a reference letter. The letter the manager emailed me was one of the best I’ve ever received.
Really, I’ve found that longevity doesn’t matter so much – what matters is work ethic. Go in there and be the best damn employee you can be – get along with your co-workers, clean things when it’s slow, be nice to customers, smile a lot – and it won’t matter that you’re only there one month. If you’re applying for jobs in the seasonal field, and in a seasonal town, most employers aren't going to care that you don’t have longevity on your resume, because that’s the nature of the seasonal beast, but they will care about that stack of glowing reference letters that you hand them.
You can never truly know what you're walking into when it comes to a new job in a new town. Some will suck, and will give you amazing horror stories to tell at the bar in the next new town. But some will be indredible and will provide you with another awesome experience to draw from when (if) you ever decide to stop roaming.
So, to recap:
*Have a job lined up before you arrive somewhere new, or at least have interviews scheduled.
*Don’t rely on job postings. Be proactive. Google companies and apply.
*Collect reference letters. Have work ethic, be a memorable employee. Don’t burn bridges just because you’re a seasonal worker and have no intention of returning to that town.
You never know when you’ll need to cross the same river twice.
Check out these job boards for unique seasonal opportunities:
Backdoor Jobs: www.backdoorjobs.com/
Camber Outdoors: camberoutdoors.org/