So You’re Thinking Of Working Seasons In Europe?
If you’ve had some spare time to think recently or maybe the pandemic lockdown brought you to the conclusion that everything is a bit ‘meh’ and mundane! Maybe you’d like to shake it up a bit and get the adventures flowing, then you may be thinking about taking on a holiday job and getting your first season under your belt.
I will be your expert seasonnaire for Europe, the man in the know if you like- to guide you through the pitfalls and advice of taking on seasonal work.
Things You Want And Need To Know Before Working A Season?
I’m afraid you can’t expect to read this and get all the answers; but I’m writing this with around 18 years of summer and winter seasons under my belt, and experience in so many different areas on offer to seasonaires now, so I may be able to make a little sense of the opportunities available and considerations to make before jumping on a plane.
I’m approaching this advice for your first season. Once you’ve got your foot in the door and some experience under your belt, the advice I’d offer and opportunities you have will change. But you will meet other ‘seasonnaires’ and hear all the most fun parts about season life and you will notice two groups; those who are new this year, and the seasonnaires who came one winter or summer to try something new and became addicted. They will also share some of the harder parts about managing this lifestyle and making sure you still love it on the longer, harder days.
Which Destinations Should I & Can I Work As A Seasonnaire?
UK, Europe, New Zealand, Japan, Canada? What job should I do? Will I be homesick? Who should I work for? What do I pack? What can I expect? So many things to consider before you begin your first season. How to make sense of it all and where to begin?
There are more jobs in the northern hemisphere and most of this article is focussed around season experience in Europe, but there are other possibilities outside of this all around the world, including some closer to home that will give you the chance to get a taster of living away from your normal comforts whilst having the safety blanket of being closer to home.
There are benefits to every decision, one of my pieces of advice is not to get to fixated on a specific location, resort or company for your first season. Apply to a few places and companies if this is your first season and get started.
Here are some more experiences from others on working abroad:
Working Seasons In The Summer Vs Winter
I work both of these seasons back to back for 15 years (with short breaks to visit freinds and family in between). Although it’s classed as a seasonal contract you can turn this into a career. In summer I work as the Active Manager for a windsurfing resort in Vassiliki on Lefkada Island (previously I’ve done this same job role on Lesvos Island, in Messini on the Pelloponese and in Lemnos Island; and prior to that as a beach manager and instructor).
In winters I work as a ski instructor and i’m sponsored by a few brands. Both seasons are fun but hard work, and they allow me to live Europe and enjoy the activities on site, explore the local areas and meet new people.
Depending on your location and the company you work for you will usually get access to the activities they offer guests / tourists when you are on a day off or off shift.
Working A Summer Season
You will generally be by the coast and sea, although there are some seasonal contracts that are based on lakes or in national parks.
Some of the activities usually onsite will include: paddleboarding, wakeboarding, windsurfing, dingy or yatch sailing, tennis, climbing, kitesurfing, fitness, mountain biking, road cycling, hiking, kayaking.
Working A Winter Season
Winters obviously tend to be based around the snow so you will either be in a ski and snowboarding resort in the mountains or you might be based in the far north close to th arctic circle in norway, sweden, finland, iceland and canada
Some of the activities you will have access too as part of your package or in the town include: snowboarding, skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, snow surfing (yes I said snow surfing).
Other Benefits Of Working A Season
Besides the activities in both seasons, this is a great way to explore new locations and travel, learn a new language, try local cuisine and also get to live in villages and towns that may be off the beaten track (especially in summer, where the companies that offer activity based holidays that I have worked for tend to be in more quiet locations away from the big crowds). They are often are the only resort in the town and support the local economy by promoting what they offer, and having locals who work for them.
Let Start With A Few Season Truths…
The experience you have in holiday destinations as a tourist is worlds apart from living and working there. It’s not as glamorous as you may have seen! Maybe you’re thinking of working a season because you’ve been on holiday and seen someone working there have fun.
What you see when you’re on holiday is not the full truth (as with any job). Every job has its behind the scenes bit.
Insta vs Reality of being a Seasonnaire
Picture the classic social media posts of Instagram vs reality – working on a beach doesn’t mean sunbathing and chilling with cocktails all day, and repping doesn’t usually involve a line of people queueing up to kiss you on a bar crawl! Or maybe you’ve seen the film Chalet Girl – not what you can expect from doing a ski season.
- If you’re lucky enough to get staff food, it won’t be what the guests receive out the front! Hotels and chalets serve up glamorous food for the guests on huge buffets or table service, but don’t expect this to be what you’re getting served in your staff areas.
- Can you survive late nights and early starts? There will likely be a lot of them!
- Calling in sick with a hangover is only going to make life hard for your co-workers or friends. There is not an endless supply of staff, and if you’ve had a late night, chances are so have your colleagues. Not making it to work because you’re feeling fragile is a ‘no no’.
- Most places don’t give away free drinks or drop prices just because you work there!
- At some point, regardless of your job, you’ll have to deal with a client that’s not happy – and chances are it’s not your fault but you’re the one to deal with it!
Seasons are hard work and long hours, usually blended together with active social lives.
Are you tough enough?
A few starting questions that you need to answer before beginning your adventure…
- Are you mentally strong enough to spend months away from you family and friends? (The answer should be ‘yes’!)
- Can you handle living and working in basic shared accommodation with strangers? (The answer should be ‘yes’!)
- Do you enjoy structure, timekeeping, and regular hours – the classic 9-5? (The answer for these purposes should be ‘no’!) I hope not! Although many seasonal jobs will have rotas and timesheets, there is the general understanding that you start at the beginning of your shift
- and finish when the job is done!
It’s The Whole Package
Firstly who to work for – there are thousands of companies out there offering summer and winter employment. Get applying to them all. In my opinion there are no bad companies, but they each offer their own packages – and that’s the key bit you’re looking for in your first season – a package deal.
- A season package should be everything you need to get you out into your first season, and support you along the way.
- Some of these will be outlined in the job description when you apply for the jobs, some of them will require some digging to discover.
- Anything not mentioned in job descriptions can be asked during the interview process. Get all the details you need at this stage.
Photo Credits: Global Shots (Click here to see more from them)
It’s All In The Detail
These are the things that you need to find out while you are researching your seasonal work, and certainly before you take on any work:
- Travel to and from the resort. Don’t be overly surprised if it’s a bus at the start of winter.
- Pre-season training (if you’re available to start before the local season actually begins). Often pre-departure training can be expected through some sort of online platform.
- If you can’t do pre-season training, and you intend to arrive in a resort once the season has started, you will be training on the job, which means straight into it with guests!
- Accommodation. Usually shared and within a simple travel distance to where you will actually be working. Linen and towels are usually supplied.
- Uniform. Sometimes with a cost or retainer attached to it.
- Support. Some sort of management structure to help and guide you through the season.
- Insurance. Companies generally have insurance included, or a company they work with that can offer a relevant package.
- Food. This varies greatly depending on your job, location and which type of season you are on, but worth checking before you begin.
- Further training and job development opportunities – this includes the possibility to return for future seasons with progression in mind.
- End of season bonus, commission or retainers payment. Companies using seasonal workers have many different ways of retaining their staff, so it’s worth checking what they are before you begin with one employer. As mentioned with the uniform, it’s not uncommon to be asked for an upfront retainer that you as the employee pay, returned to you on completion of your contract or used to cover costs should you decide to leave mid-season.
There are creative types everywhere – Make the Most of It
Remember when you’re reading job descriptions, the person writing them may have used a little creative license to entice you in… “you must be confident, adaptable, good at responding to others and a logical problem solver” could easily be translated to “when things hit the fan you had better be able to deal with unhappy clients because you’ll be on your own!”.
It’s only like you putting on your CV “solid computer and social media creation skills” because you know how to send emails and have posted a few pictures on Instagram!
The seasonal job range is huge and there are so many roles needed to keep operations running within the tourism industry in whichever country or season you choose.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this opening seasonal work guide. I’ll follow this article up soon with another on how to choose and find the right job, and what to do when you arrive in resort!
About the Author
Simon Cook A.K.A. ‘Cookie’ lives life between the seasons swapping the Alpine slopes for the Mediterranean beaches.
He is highly accomplished in a number of sports (as you can see) including skiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing and much more.
He has turned season life into a successful career and made a name for himself in both seasons around Europe with active holiday companies and brands.
Note from Nicole
Cookie was my active manager for Neilson during my first season and ran the active staff and services of the resort like clockwork.
If you have any questions just ask in the questions.