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Guide to Finding and Accepting Seasonal Jobs Abroad

Ensure a Positive Experience

Summer and seasonal jobs in Italy.
Summer seasonal jobs in some countries, such as Italy in Tuscany, can be pleasant.

As I looked from room to dirty room, my heart sank. I had been told to choose one. Having traveled for hours and finally made it from England to the top of the mountain in Switzerland at a huge expense, the welcome at my "new job" was less than expected. I eventually chose the room that seemed to have the most light, carefully picked the mouse droppings off of the dusty mattress, and sat down to contemplate the next five months of my life.

Many people assume that temporary work in the far-flung corners of the world is strictly for those on their "gap year" — between school and university, or taking time out from work. However, some become addicted to this way of living early on. They then find it a struggle to return to what many refer to as "normal life." Whichever your style and attitude, seasonal work can be a fast-paced, exciting, and an all-round wonderful experience.

However, mixed in with all of the great seasonal jobs is the occasional dud. Off you go, having paid for your flight, insurance, and new equipment ready for the next adventure, only to discover that, miles from anywhere, the exciting and lucrative job an employer sold you through emails and websites is not quite as fantastic as you expected. Your realization can lead to depression, anger, disappointment, and, sometimes, worst of all, a huge hole in your pocket. There are, however, a few simple rules you can follow to ensure a happy summer/winter season with as few work-related stresses as possible.

Searching on the Web

Most seasonal work these days is found on the web. Many websites advertise seasonal work anywhere from a little village in Cornwall to a massive city in South Korea. Employers want to make their jobs appear as attractive to you as possible so that you may come across misleading information and exaggerated claims. The difference with seasonal work (unless you want to work on oil rigs or fishing in Alaska) is that they tend to pay less because the "experience" is worth more than money. And that may be true in some respects. But before accepting any position and especially before signing any contracts, it is essential to research all the facts.

Ask Good Questions

Once the employer has shown interest, send questions about the job. The main factors you should know are the salary (gross and net) and when and how they pay the salary. I once arrived at a place of work only to be told after the first month of work that I would be paid everything at the end of the season with a check (which, if in a currency different from your own, can often take weeks to clear). Such bureaucratic practices are common in various parts of Europe.

Another crucial question you should ask is regarding the type of accommodation (if provided), whether it is single or shared, whether it has independent cooking facilities (and if not, what are your options), how many people with whom you are sharing your space, and what is the level of security where you will be living. Seasonal accommodation ranges from simple tents to luxury rooms in chalets. Once you are aware of where you will be living for the season, you can then decide whether it's safe enough to take your laptop/digital camera/saxophone.

You should also consider asking whether you will be provided with insurance, uniform, transfers to the place of work and any discounts in the area.

Don't feel shy about asking all of these questions. If the employer has nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind answering them. If an employer is evasive or skips some of your questions, think twice about going to work for them.

Before going ahead and booking your flight, put the name of the establishment you are thinking of working at into a search engine and look for independent reviews. Skip their home page entirely — as you probably have already looked at this ten times over — and read anything else written about it independently. Another meaningful sign that should make you carefully consider your destination is if you see the same job advertised frequently, which might indicate a high turnover, which often means unhappy staff.

What You Should Do Upon Arrival

When the employer has provided you all with the answers you desire to hear, you can start packing your bags. On arrival at your destination, your first impressions will tell you a lot about your place of employment. The first few days can always seem daunting, but it is important to give all locations a chance (unless there is some apparent reason not to). You are usually asked to sign a contract. Read this thoroughly to ensure consistency with all the information they initially provided. After a few weeks, you will be able to assess your situation and decide whether you are likely to stay the season. More often than not, you will remain on course and have a wonderful time. However, if you work 20 hours a week more than your contract, or you realize you have yet to receive a day off in weeks, it is time to talk seriously to your co-workers and then to your employer. Now is when all of your probing emails will come in handy. You will have written confirmation regarding all of these issues. You should also have handy a copy of your contract to refer to.

You must address any issues you feel are unfair or break the terms of your contract. Many people should be more mindful of working where they feel well-treated. Often, you can find work with other organizations or companies in the surrounding area that can offer you better terms and conditions.

But don't be put off by this information! Seasonal work is fun, rewarding, challenging, and exciting. If you follow these simple guidelines, everything should go smoothly. Most employers will be keen to make you as happy as possible for you to stay with them and motivate you to return in the future.

For More Information on Seasonal Jobs Abroad

Important note: Always investigate every job posting to verify that you have the correct visa or work permit. In some cases, you can talk yourself into being sponsored, but it is essential to be sure that you have information or papers in hand before committing.

Anywork Anywhere — A great job board for seasonal jobs abroad, winter and summer, that breaks out popular jobs and the job seekers and matches them. — A job board designed to find seasonal workers worldwide, and it often advertises larger companies, but not exclusively.

Seasonworkers: The Working Travel Website — Offers a wide variety of seasonal jobs worldwide divided by precise categories geared mainly to UK and Irish participants.

Editor's note: This article is part of the series Caroline Nye has written based about her experiences working abroad in an adventurous mix of short-term jobs.
See below for other articles on her personal odyssey.
Waking Up at Work Abroad
Live-In Hotel Job Abroad: Working at a Ski Resort in the Alps
Entertainment Jobs Abroad
Campsite Work Abroad
Working in an Eco-Lodge in Costa Rica
Volunteer Work on Organic Farms
Working as a Caregiver in the U.K.
The Importance of Travel Insurance Abroad
Related Topics
Jobs Abroad
Travel Jobs

Caroline Nye dancing.

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