Why Seasonal Work Isn't Just For Students Anymore

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ShutterstockSeasonal employment refers to work that recurs annually.

Summer and other seasonal work is not just for kids anymore. Depending on life stage, job goals, and financial needs, seasonal work increasingly appeals to a widening swath of the U.S. working pool. Unlike part-time work, seasonal work can be almost full time during a distinct time period.

By definition, seasonal employment refers to work that recurs annually, frequently with a returning workforce for years at a time. It is cyclical in nature based on bursts of short-term needs in bona fide industries including everything from migrant farm workers and Christmas retail sales associates to highly skilled professional options.

For instance, in the accounting field, seasonal work refers to tax assistance from the first quarter of every year to early spring when both on-time and late taxes are fully filed. In tourism economies, seasonal work can vary from ski instructors during winter months to dock workers and fishing boat hands in shore communities. Each kind of seasonal work appeals to a different type of labor base, and each has a different definition of its unique "busy" time.

With the slow economy and recent recession, the profile of seasonal workers has continued to evolve. Many adults, who previously would never have considered seasonal work now find it a useful bridge during employment gaps. Due to the nature of the work, many seasonal jobs require experienced skill sets and may favor ex-professionals over younger counterparts.

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Using accounting again as an example, a retired accountant has a far greater chance of landing supplemental tax work than a college kid majoring in finance with no practical experience. In contrast, a Fashionista high school student stands a better chance of landing a Christmas season retail job over an accountant, but will also attract a much lower base salary.

Last spring, one of my close family members landed a stint as a part-time paint sales associate at a South Jersey hardware chain. He was hired based on his background as a part-time landlord and handy Mr. Fixit in the family. He matched the consumer profile of the store, and was, therefore, a good fit also as an empathetic employee.

Seasonal work can be a good opportunity for these four types of workers.

Students. Each May and June, seasonal jobs become a feeding frenzy when college and high school students find too much time and too little funds on hand. But the student who waits before looking for seasonal employment can easily find all jobs already taken. The reason is that looking for summer work after Memorial Day is literally like trying to get on a boat long after it has sailed. Employers need time to train workers even at the lowest levels, and summer seasonal jobs need energized employees on the front lines by Memorial Day.

Snow-Birds. Increasingly summer seasonal work, unlike other employment, actively seeks gray heads. Active Snow Birds can bring a wealth of desired life experience to the job. For instance, tourism transportation logistics jobs in South Jersey are known to seek organized seniors who are familiar with the intricacies of scheduling, enjoy customer service and can calmly help tourists navigate to desired attraction sites. If a seasonal job calls for a Disney-like princess, it will clearly go to a younger student. But if the job calls for a trusted tram driver, the job is more likely to go to an ex-trucker, or retired mini-van carpool mom with a proven safe driving record.

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Adults Looking to Break In. Increasingly, middle-aged adults are looking for a second career. Whether due to a lay off or other circumstances, a seasonal job can be an opportunity to test if a new line of work holds any appeal, and simply keep you in the game. A retired transportation executive in North Jersey Fortune 500 company started a second career in Florida at a rental car franchise manager. Although not initially looking for full-time work, he found that he genuinely liked still going to work each day and his industry experience was a boon to the new employer.

The Unemployed. When unemployed either due to a layoff or other circumstances, the real job at hand is to land another full-time job. But finances and the crowded job application pool can be a hard reality. By taking seasonal work, a dedicated worker can prove his or her worth to a potential employer, gain experience, and be first in line when a full-time position becomes available. It's not an ideal situation, but it can provide opportunity when other doors seem closed tight.

For many, the idea of seasonal work stings due to the lack of benefits or low pay grade. But, for others, seasonal work provides a foot in the door and chance to test different employment or industry options. Regardless of situation, the biggest mistake potential seasonal workers make is to wait too long to get in the game.

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