Seasonal Jobs

Work Abroad

Seasonal work is a great way to line your pockets and have time during the year to travel. By definition, seasonal work is temporary and short-term. This means that, unless you work back-to-back jobs, you are certain to have at least a few months during the year free to do whatever it is you want to do. Additionally, there is a wide range of positions available, some of which pay exceptionally well and allow you to save enough money during your working months that you actually have the cash to do what it is you want on off-months.

skiing instructor
Teaching kids to ski

Seasonal employment is definitely not for everyone, but it is worth exploring. The following is an overview of what you need to know to decide whether seasonal work is for you.

1. What is seasonal work?

Seasonal employment, as the name implies, is work for a specific, short period of time, associated with one particular season. Summer and winter-specific work is by far the most popular type of seasonal employment, however, there are also several other categories of work that would be considered seasonal, such as farming during harvest, industrial fishing, holiday retail, and teaching during the school year.

Packing fruit
Packing fruit

There is a wide range of job types that fall into the category of seasonal employment, however, many options involve physical, manual labor and/or athletic activity. This makes this type of work extremely attractive to individuals hoping to work outside. That said, there are also options for people who prefer to be indoors, particularly in various service positions.

One of the downsides of this type of work is that they generally do not provide benefits, as they are only temporary positions. However, many also pay in cash, which can be a perk for some. These are things to take into consideration when deciding whether seasonal work is something you would want to do.

Seasonal work can be a great way to add unique experiences to your CV, while at the same time saving some money for travel and other life events.

2. Where can you find seasonal work?

Obtaining seasonal work requires a bit of investigation and can take some time. There are several steps you should take to start your search, which are detailed below.

Take inventory of your skills

In order to decide what type of jobs you may want and what jobs you could qualify for, you should first make a list of your skills. To do this, ask yourself a few questions about what you can bring to the table. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • During what season do you prefer to work?
  • Do you prefer indoor or outdoor work?
  • How physically fit are you?
  • Are you great with people?
  • Do you have experience in customer service?
  • What special qualifications do you have (i.e. are you a trained lifeguard or ski instructor)?
  • These are just a few ideas. By taking inventory of the things you have done and the things you hope to achieve with seasonal employment, you can probably come up with several more.

Run a search on job sites

To get an idea as to what type of jobs might fit your skills, start by running a basic search on one of the many websites where seasonal employment opportunities are listed. Even if this doesn’t bring up a specific job you may want to apply for, it is a great way to get an idea of the range of employment that may be available. Make a list of the type of jobs you find that stand out to you as something you may be interested in doing (i.e. ski instructor).

Some of the best websites for searching seasonal work are: Cool Works, Back Door Jobs, Transitions Abroad, and Job Monkey

Don’t find anything you like? Take a look at our list of the most popular seasonal jobs at the bottom of this page to see if anything stands out.

Conduct research on companies that are hiring

Many seasonal employers don’t post on external sites because they get a sufficient number of employees from their main sites. Taking the time to research specific companies that conduct the type of work you have decided on seeking can, therefore, be very helpful. Having a specific location in mind can be very helpful for helping to narrow down options.

Example: If you run a search for ski resorts, you will get a slew of responses, from all over the world. If you run a search for ski resorts in Colorado, you will get a more reasonable list, and, more likely than not, each of these resorts will have a career page that will list their vacancies.

3. How do you get hired?

Even though seasonal work is temporary employment, most employers will not just hire anyone who applies. In fact, depending on what type of job you are applying for, the process can actually be quite competitive and, as with any job, you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Apply early

Seasonal employers tend to hire on a rolling basis, meaning they will hire qualified applicants until all the allotted positions are filled and will then close the vacancy. While many employers will hire hundreds, even thousands of employees, they will have a set number of employees they need for each season and they will only hire until they meet that number. This means that the earlier you apply, the better. However, you have to take into consideration that many employers will not start hiring for the next season until the current season is over, or, in other words, they will only hire during their off-season. There are some exceptions to this, such as teaching positions, but this is the general rule.

Plan on applying at least four months before the start of the new season, but take a look at the employer’s website to see what the opening date for applicants is. The closer to this date you apply, the higher chance you will have a successful application.

Tailor your CV (resume)

Your CV, or resume, just tell an employer that you have the skill set that is necessary for the position they are filling. For certain positions, this may mean you need to have certain prequalifications or licenses. For example, if you are applying for a lifeguarding position, you may need to have CPR training. If this is the case, you should take note of this and make sure you have the required qualifications prior to applying.

Spruce up your resume

Other positions will require more flexible skills, which you should use to your advantage. Service positions, for example, will often require skills such as “communication skills” or “good at sales.” You should think of ways that your past experiences can demonstrate the required skills for the specific position you are applying for. For example, maybe you have raised funds for a specific cause or charity. This could be used to demonstrate your strength in sales. Maybe you have been the chair of a committee at school or work, even if just for a short period of time; this experience can demonstrate leadership skills.

The most important thing you need to do is make sure that your CV reflects the skills that have been posted in the employer’s job advertisement. Each employer will be different, so make sure your CV is tailored to the individual employer, rather than just one category of job.

Seasonal work can sometimes feel like a dream. Get paid in cash, live wherever you want, and carefree work. However, there are certain things that you need to take into consideration to assure you won’t have a big legal headache further down the road. Specifically, if you are planning on working outside of your home country, you need to make sure that you have a proper work visa and you should understand your tax obligations, both in the country you are working and back home. As explained a bit more below, this second issue, regarding taxes, will also need to be considered even if you are working in your home country.

Make sure you have a work visa

If you have decided to take a position outside of your home country, you need to have a clear understanding of what the visa requirements may be in your destination country. Nearly every country in the world has some restrictions as to who can work there, what companies can employ foreign employees, and for what length of time foreign employees can be employed. All of this comes down to whether or not you can get a work visa for the job you plan on doing and for how long that work visa will be valid.

The company you will work for has just as much responsibility in this matter as you do, so be sure to discuss this with them. Particularly, if you are planning on working in the United States, Australia, Canada, or anywhere in Europe, there are often times huge consequences for taking on employment without holding the proper visa. Avoid this issue by working with the employer to get the necessary documents in order.

Sort out your taxes

There are only two things for certain in life, death, and taxes. Unfortunately, this rule applies as much to working abroad as much as it does to working in your home country.

fishing boat
Short-term fishing boat

Many seasonal jobs will not require you to pay taxes upfront. In other words, they will not deduct taxes from your regular paycheck. This seems amazing at first! You are making everything you earned, without any cut being taken out for the government. However, your income will need to be reported and there is some possibility, based on your total income during the year, that you will have to pay taxes on this income at a later date. This means that come tax day, whatever date that may be in your home country, you may be hit with a huge bill from the tax authority.

To plan for this, put away at least 25% of every payday into savings. In the worst-case scenario, you will have to take that out of your savings and give it to the government. In the best scenario, you just saved an extra 25% or more every month and now have that money to use (or, keep saving, if you are planning ahead a bit)!

If you are working abroad, you may think that these rules don’t apply to you. Sorry to burst the bubble, but there are tax laws in every country and there is a high likelihood that you are subject to a deduction on every paycheck. Before starting work, make sure to clarify this with your employer. If they are not making withdrawals from your salary for taxes, make sure you have an understanding as to what your obligation is at the end of each year, if any.

Additionally, note that income received abroad will also need to be reported on your tax returns in your home country.

For example: If you are a citizen of the United States who lives and works in Colombia and pays taxes there on your salary, you will still be responsible for reporting this income on your tax returns in the United States. In the event you make over a certain income, you may also be responsible for paying additional taxes in the United States.

Again, the best way to protect against this all is to plan ahead and save some of what you are making to pay taxes, if necessary.

5. Managing Funds

Since we brought up taxes, we might as well discuss finances as well! What makes seasonal employment a great option is that you can often save enough during a short period of time to live off for the year, giving you months of freedom to travel, using the funds you earned while employed.

In order to do this, however, you need to make your funds last throughout the year. If you are bringing in huge amounts of money between December and March, but you are also spending huge amounts of money between December and March, you won’t have anything left to travel on between April and November! Budget, budget, budget. Live as cheaply as possible during the months you are employed, so that you can save as much as possible. Then, plan a budget that allows you to spread out the money you made over the remaining months of the year.

Example: If you live in employee housing and keep your eating habits simple and don’t go out much at all between December and March and, by saving, have $16,000 (after paying taxes and any other obligations you have) in your account in March, you should plan on a budget of $2,000 a month for the remaining 8 months (April to November).

Ask your employer what opportunities there are for employee housing or room and board. This can greatly reduce the expenses you will have while employed. You can also find other people who are also doing seasonal work in the same area and live with roommates, which also cuts costs.

6. Having an open mind

One of the most important pieces of advice we can provide you regarding seasonal employment is to go in with an open mind. The thing about seasonal employment is even if you end up hating it, it will only be for a short time. On the other hand, if you end up loving it, you can always apply again next year! Go in with an open mind and be ready to put your best foot forward. Most jobs you are going to find will be fun and exciting. Some may not be as fun but will earn you enough cash to enjoy the rest of the year however you want. If things aren’t going as well as you hoped, just keep thinking about the amazing vacation you are going to have soon!

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