Oxbow Bend, Snake River

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Seasonal Work Priorities: How to Identify Your Dealbreakers

Kathi Noaker

You’ve decided that you’re ready to take the leap and give seasonal work – at least one season – a try. There are many opportunities with different employers in different locations. So how do you decide which ones to consider? There are a lot of ways to go about this, but before you dive right in to the first thing that looks good, take a few things into consideration.

What would your best case seasonal work experience look like? What aspects of working seasonally are you good with, and what are your deal breakers? Ponder this for a bit. Only you know what is going to work for you and what isn’t. Making a list of these things can help a lot when reading through the Ads and Employer Profiles and deciding where to apply and for what position.

When I worked seasonally, my only real deal breaker was the six day workweek. I was totally good with giving it my all for five days, doing any job, didn’t care much about the living conditions or the food – at the time – but no matter what, I wanted two days off a week to explore and adventure.

So here are some aspects to consider to help you create your list.

Food: Do you have food sensitivities or a diet you’re trying to maintain? Vegetarian? Gluten-Free? Dairy-Free? If you have any dietary restrictions, make sure to read through the Room & Board section of the Employer Profiles to see if they accommodate. If it’s not clear, ask. And be realistic. Going into a season with the hope that you’ll just “make it work” when the employer states that they can’t accommodate special dietary needs, could be setting yourself up for failure. Not good for you or the employer.

Weather: Do cloudy, rainy cool days get you down, or do you love those misty mornings? Are you one of those people that as long as it’s sunny, you’re happy, or does the heat make you melt? If a certain type of weather really bothers you, make sure to be realistic about the weather in the location you’re considering.

Housing situations: Many seasonal employers offer some type of housing, and it ranges from dorm-style to cabins, to wall tents, to trailers, and more. Much of the time you’ll be sharing a bedroom with someone. Some employers have private rooms, but you’ll share bathrooms and common spaces. Some employers do have private housing. Some can only accommodate single people, and others can accommodate couples. Have a pet you want to bring along? Employee housing that allows pets are less common, but there are a few. Again, the Room & Board section of the Profile will provide a lot of these details. Ask the hiring manager or HR contact if you can’t find the info you need to make your decision.

The job: If you’re a seasonal work pro, then you know the specific job you’ll be applying for. If you’re new to this seasonal world and don’t have a specific skill set, there are plenty of entry-level positions that will get your foot in the door. Things to think about when selecting your job choice:

  • Like to chat up new people and hear how their vacations are going? There are plenty of entry-level guest service positions where you deal directly with guests – in restaurants, resorts, outdoor adventure companies, etc.
  • Or does talking with people all day wear you down, and you’d much prefer to be ‘behind the scenes’? Look into those ‘back of house’ positions where you’ll either be working solo or with coworkers.
  • If either standing on your feet or being in one place all day is a deal-breaker for you, then make sure to apply for positions where that’s not a requirement.
  • Hate cleaning? Don’t be a housekeeper. Love cleaning? Be a housekeeper! You get the idea.

The schedule: Early morning riser or night owl? Pay attention to the position schedule, and choose a job that fits your rhythm, so you can enjoy your shift and give it your best.

Money: Have bills to pay? How much do you need to make to pay them? Want to save a certain amount for your off-season adventure?  Figure all this out before you start to apply, as this can narrow the list of possible employers. Idea: If you have monthly bills, try to pay them in advance before your season starts so you won’t have to pay them from your paycheck during your season.  Money can be a deal-breaker, so take a serious look at your finances – what you need and what you don’t need – and plan accordingly.

COVID / Health & Safety protocols: Employers may or may not require staff to wear masks, may or may not require staff to be vaccinated, and could have other protective measures in place focused on employee and guest safety, so if any potential elements surrounding safety guidelins may affect your ability or desire to join on with a particular organization, be sure to ask lots of specfic questions before you begin the application process to be sure that their location will be a good fit.

Hopefully, this list will help you get started on figuring out what’s important to you – what you can live with and what you can’t. If your deal breakers are not addressed in the employer’s materials – we encourage them to include info on this list – there’s no better time than the present for some self-advocacy. Before proceeding with the application process, reach out and get your questions answered before applying.

With every choice we make, there are trade-offs. Looking back, I’m glad that I only had one deal-breaker when I was working seasonally. It afforded me some amazing opportunities in spectacular locations with some really fun and interesting folks – both coworkers and guests. The more flexible you are, the more opportunities you’ll have. And now is the perfect time to give the seasonal work world a try!