Could you tell me a little bit about your background?
I grew up in the Colorado Rockies, and I’ve only been back here for the last couple years. The whole adventure started for me back in 2006, which is when I discovered CoolWorks. I was 21, school wasn’t really working out for me and I knew I needed to try something different. I took a summer job in Wyoming inside Grand Teton National Park where I worked at the front desk of a resort that sat right on Jackson Lake. Through that experience, I was introduced to real wilderness and I fell in love with backpacking. Even though I’d grown up in a state known for it’s wilderness, it was a whole new opportunity for me to live and work inside a National Park and be surrounded by it.
My job was just for the summer, but at the end of the season, they offered me a year round position which led to me living in Grand Teton National Park year round for nearly six years. It was amazing because during the winter time there was only 12 staff members, and it really felt like we had the park to ourselves.
I loved living in the Tetons, but after close to six years I realized that I’d most likely maxed out my professional growth and development potential in my role. I bucked up the courage to take a leap into the unknown and at decided to go abroad. In the summer of 2012, I got the chance to live and work for a non-profit in Iceland. Fall of that year my partner and I applied for New Zealand’s working holiday visa, which allowed us to work, travel, and soak up all of the country’s greatness over a 12 month period. It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone!
Summer in the Rockies called and we came back to Colorado where I’d grown up, to plan our next chapter. As luck would have it, that’s when I got a call from CoolWorks, and an invitation to come work for them. My experience being a CoolWorks job seeker and taking that first fateful summer job changed my life. I used the site for years to pay that opportunity forward and change many more lives in my years hiring people to come to work in the Tetons. The opportunity to join the CoolWorks team was something I’d always hoped for, and I couldn’t have been happier.
What has been your experience with the growth and direction of seasonal and adventurous jobs over the last 5-10 years?
I was fortunate to be a recruiter from 2008-2012. There were an overwhelming number of highly qualified applicants due to the recession. Unfortunately for job seekers, there weren’t a lot of opportunities out there and that prompted many of them to try seasonal work. Since the economy started to really come back around 2012, things have swung back. There are more opportunities available out there, and thus more of a demand for adventurous seasonal employees. These sorts of fluctuations are typical and the trends around seasonal work are closely tied to the economy.
In regards to the world of Jobs In Great Places® today, adventurous job seekers are in HUGE demand right now. The job board is busy and booming, and with more “traditional” job opportunities out there it makes it more of a challenge for seasonal recruiters to find individuals who are willing to work for 6-7 months. Even though many of the jobs aren’t permanent, there are trade-offs to everything, and a seasonal job is often the experience and adventure of a lifetime.
These jobs are so amazing just for the fact that they offer anyone a chance to step outside their comfort zone, spend a summer in Yosemite, Alaska, or the Boundary Waters. It’s not just these picturesque places that you get to work at but they also provide you with a place to stay and a lot of times your meals are included so your overhead is extremely low. People also often craft these opportunities into a lifestyle. Spending each season traveling to new and incredible places and traveling abroad or taking 1-2 vacations in between.
What kind of experience do people need to work some of these seasonal jobs?
It really depends on the position that you’re talking about. Each employer has their own expectations and things that they’re looking for. For example, if an employer is looking for a glacier guide, that person will likely need to at least be familiar with hiking in crampons and using an ice axe, but they could seek a seasoned experienced guide as well. There are plenty of places that are happy to train someone coming in with a great attitude.
In general, I would say a vast majority of the positions are great for anyone who is excited, positive and eager to learn. In my opinion (as a former HR manager and recruiter) those character traits are more valuable than the work experience one might traditionally focus on in a conventional hiring situation. In the seasonal world, you can build the skill sets people dream of or the resume of a rockstar. If you’re just willing to show up, work hard, have fun and be a positive force.
If you’d rather find a permanent position, it’s not uncommon for people who take these seasonal jobs to end up getting opportunities to work year round. There is almost always an opportunity for moving up in these environments, and today’s managers are constantly looking for tomorrow’s leaders. It’s common once you’ve worked in a place like Yellowstone or the Tetons, to find it incredibly hard to leave. Those communities are filled with people that came for a summer and made their lives there.
What benefits do seasonal employees enjoy the most about their job?
I’d say hands down, the best benefit is getting the opportunity to live where other people might spend a lifetime saving to visit on vacation. There is nothing that can compare to 100+ days of skiing in a season, sleeping out under the stars every night at a summer camp, or spending a summer learning to ride a horse or square dance at a dude ranch. Having an entire summer to explore places like Acadia or Glacier – that’s an opportunity that most people will just never get to have. It doesn’t hurt that on top of that you can earn a paycheck, have housing provided and not have to cook for an entire summer!
It’s also a great opportunity for travelers and an amazing way to meet people from all over the country and the world. Seasonal work can provide the flexibility to be a bartender in the Grand Canyon, save up for a season and then spend 6-7 months living and traveling in a place like Southeast Asia.
Which jobs are in the highest demand right now for seasonal workers?
Entry level positions are in high demand across the board. If you work hard and do a good job in that entry level position, promotion is a good possibility. This makes it incredibly easy to move up the ladder with seasonal work, but also means the entry level positions are constantly opening up. Another great thing about seasonal, because of the opportunity for promotion, you can often move up and build your experience and resume quicker than in the more traditional careers.
Food and beverage, and cooking jobs are generally the most difficult to fill, which I don’t think is necessarily unique to the seasonal industry. If you can cook, you can always find a job!
What does the future hold for you in the seasonal job industry?
CoolWorks has been a compass in my life ever since I discovered the site and took my first seasonal job, 11 years ago, and I’m really excited to say that as of January 1st, 2017, my partner and I became the new owners of CoolWorks! It is something we’ve been working towards for a while, and we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to be a part of it’s future.
As the new owner of Cool Works, what are your future plans for the company?
Anytime someone passes the baton, the hope is that the people taking it are going to have big dreams and a big vision. We hope to continue doing what CoolWorks does best. Changing lives, one seasonal job at a time. For someone who has had their whole life changed by this job board, I want to make sure I pay it forward and continue to give that opportunity to others.
We also hope to grow and develop new exciting avenues, as we’re exploring opportunities to reach out and open up doors for people in our community who might not otherwise be aware of their existence. At-risk populations can struggle with employment opportunities, and we believe that CoolWorks can provide a positive opportunity for these folks. In 2015, we partnered with an organization to help a group of young adults from Louisiana, who had never left the state, get jobs outside Rocky Mountain National Park. At 18-20 years old, these young people had a summer that likely no one else they know can relate to or imagine. I like to think that they didn’t just get a summer job, but a life-changing experience. CoolWorks provides people with an opportunity to throw open the doors of what they believe to be possible or available to them, and to write their own “choose your own adventure” story.