The Compass Blog

Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

What is a Seasonal Job?

Matt Moore

What it is a seasonal job anyway? A summer job as a lifeguard at the local pool? A grinding holiday season job delivering packages for UPS or darting around a warehouse picking items for Amazon? Department store Santa? It could mean any of these things for a lot of people, but for us at CoolWorks, the answer is a resounding none-of-the-above.

When we talk about seasonal jobs, we mean opportunities that allow you to travel, to live and work in places where others go on vacation, jobs that give you the opportunity to live in beautiful places that you can explore during your time off, places like National Parks, ski resorts, dude ranches, summer camps, outdoor adventure companies, conservation corps, and many more. So with that in mind, let’s dive into the world of real seasonal jobs.

A job that allows me to travel sounds great! But why are they seasonal?

Many of the businesses in the travel, recreation, and hospitality industry only operate during certain times of the year. For example, in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in northwest Wyoming, the lodges are only open from May through October (some close a little earlier). These operations hire hundreds of staff to do everything from wait tables, clean rooms, guide float trips, check-in guests, and more. But come October, they close their doors, and everyone except their year-round staff head on to the next thing (perhaps a seasonal job at a ski resort for the winter, or for the warm-natured, a guest ranch job in the Southwest). 

If the jobs only last a few months, and are in remote locations, where do people live?

One of our favorite parts about seasonal jobs is that many of the employers include housing and meals, usually at a very reasonable cost that’s deducted from your pay, and sometimes even for free. Even the employers that don’t provide room and board with the job will generally be able to provide some local intel and direction on what their staff do for temporary / seasonal housing, so you’ll likely be able to find a short-term option near by to set down roots for the season.

Well that sounds great and all, but once the season wraps up and my seasonal job ends, I’m out of work. What am I supposed to do then?

This is where the real beauty of a seasonal job comes in, because the answer is that you get to do whatever you want to do. If your seasonal gig was a summer job during or before college, then it’s off to school with you! If you’re a retiree traveling the country, maybe in an RV, then you’ll probably hit the road either to your next gig, or take the winter to vacation and relax before heading out next summer for another seasonal job. If you’re a seasoned seasonal, regardless of age, you might hop into a routine that looks something like this:

  • Summer (May – September): Work a summer seasonal job with housing, save money
  • Fall (September – November): Travel – go home and visit family or head abroad, OR find a shoulder season job somewhere to pocket some more savings
  • Winter (November – March): Work at a ski resort to get 100+ days of skiing in a season, work at a ranch in the Arizona desert or a warmer climate Park (Death Valley, Everglades, Grand Canyon South Rim, etc.), or give your time to a cause you care about by volunteering
  • Spring (March – May): Travel some more, road trip through the desert Southwest on your way back to your next summer seasonal job
  • Repeat

Or, maybe during your time at your seasonal job, you’ll savor every experience, you’ll write down everything, you’ll go home and put all those notes and memories into a story which will become your first published piece, and then you’ll go on to become a world-renowned author who inspires millions of people. It’s been known to happen.

Can my partner and I go together? I have an RV, can I bring it along and live in it? Do these employers hire college students? What about retirees? Aghh, I’m so excited but I have so many questions!

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. It’s okay, we love questions, and we’ve answered a lot of them in our Job Seeker’s Guide section. If you’re ready for a really deep dive into the beautiful world of seasonal jobs, check out our e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Seasonal Jobs. It answers tons of the most commonly asked questions about seasonal jobs and offers a fantastic roadmap on how to get into and get the most out of seasonal jobs. 

Looking for a little inspiration? Tons of people, just like you, have worked anywhere from 1 to 50 seasonal jobs, and many of them have amazing stories that they’ve shared with us. If you want to see how they’ve done it, and get some ideas for how and why you might want to do it too, check out our Journals. Happy trails!