Woot woot! It’s Seasonal Worker of the Month time! And this month is extra special for me. Number 1: I’m introducing my very first seasonal worker COUPLE. And Number 2: They’re my wonderful friends, Eilidh and Owen.
I met these cool cats in my first few minutes as a volunteer in Nicaragua. I arrived first to orientation, and they walked in a few moments after. They sat down next to me and introduced themselves. I had to ask them both three times to repeat their name. Owen, because he’s Scottish AND mumbles (deadly combo), and Eilidh, because I’d never heard anything like her lovely name before. (Hint: It’s pronounced like Haley without the H.)
After our initial struggles, we became fast friends: bonding over adorable kids, $1 Toñas, pool days, and our love of laughing about stupid stuff. They’re kind, funny, have a wonderful positive energy, and are pure fun to be around. They’re always up for anything, and it’s impossible not to smile when you’re around them. I couldn’t adore them any more and am looking forward to shredding with them in Whistler this winter!
And I’m super excited to introduce them here, because they have some really SMART and SPECIFIC advice for those of you looking to get into seasonal work — particularly at ski resorts. They’re also proof that you can maintain a relationship while working seasonal jobs. You just have to find the right person.
Meet Eilidh & Owen!
Names: Eilidh Pearson and Owen Robinson
Ages: 24 and 25
Hometown: The Black Isle, Scotland
Current location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Current job: Grocery store clerks
Life philosophy in one sentence: Do what makes you happy and the rest will follow.
Spirit animal: Eilidh- Wolf. Owen – Black bear.
Favorite quote: Eilidh – “Open your eyes; look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” ~ Bob Marley
Owen- “To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.” ~ Gandhi
Favorite condiment: Hot sauce. We put it on everything.
Fun fact about you: It may be “fun” or it may be very, very sad, but we first “dated” when we were 10.
Eilidh & Owen’s Seasonal Lives
What’s the first seasonal job you worked?
Eilidh: Tomato picking in Queensland, Australia
Owen: The Grocery Store in Whistler, BC, Canada.
What led you to getting that job?
Eilidh: Desperation! I had arrived in Brisbane completely broke and had to take the first job I could find. Fruit picking can be awesome, and I know lots of people who enjoyed it. And for us lucky travellers from the UK, eight weeks of agricultural work gains you a second year working holiday visa for Australia. However, five weeks of ten-hour days working in 40°C heat and coming home to a tiny motel room crammed with five smelly guys was more than enough for me!
Owen: I had always wanted to do a season snowboarding, and upon arriving in Canada, I was drawn to the beautiful mountain town of Whistler. I spent roughly a week going door-to-door in Whistler introducing myself to managers, handing in my resume and filling out various work applications. It wasn’t a particularly fun week but it led to a job with staff accommodation, so it was totally worth it. Luckily, I arrived one month before the winter season kicked off which made securing a job and accommodation much easier. I would definitely recommend this!
What other seasonal jobs have you worked?
Eilidh: In 2011/12, I joined Owen when he returned to Whistler to work at The Grocery Store. We’ve just received new working holiday visas for Canada and can’t wait for another year working there.
It wasn’t exactly a seasonal job, but we also both volunteered as elementary school teachers in Nicaragua for two months at the beginning of this year. (Susan: Yeah they did!)
Among those, what’s been your favorite and why?
Owen: For me, I think it has to be The Grocery Store. It’s a super fun place to work, you get great perks and everyone there is awesome. Plus we mostly work evenings, which is perfect during the ski season as it allows us to shred every day. After an amazing day spent on the slopes, you can’t help but have a smile on your face going to work. We tend to spend the majority of the shift talking about where we rode, what we hit and organising where we should meet tomorrow for another epic day on the mountain. And it’s sweet in the summer too, leaving us plenty time for hiking, biking and chilling at the lake. It’s basically like having a full-time job and a full-time vacation at the same time!
Eilidh: I also love working at The Grocery Store, but volunteering in Nicaragua was a totally new and incredible experience. I had never worked with children before and was surprised (and relieved!) by how quickly I took to it. The kids I was teaching were amazing and, although there were definite challenges to the job, seeing their smiling faces every day made it seem easy. It made me swell with love and pride to be greeted at school in the morning by a gaggle of eight year olds singing the song that I had been teaching them the day before.
How did you get that job? Any tips or advice for others interested in the same thing?
Owen: I think my persistence paid off getting a job with the Grocery Store initially. I would return daily and speak to the manager in charge to let him/her know that I was serious about getting a job. I always make sure I speak to a manager who has the authority to hire. This way, when a manager is looking through hundreds of resumes they can put a face to a name. I believe this can make all the difference, providing you have made a good first impression. After a year with The Grocery Store, I was told that I could come back anytime — an offer which I jumped at as soon as I’d finished university.
Advice for anyone who wants to work in Whistler (and probably other ski towns?) would be: don’t arrive in November without a job. The town doubles in size around this time with everyone arriving for the winter season and hundreds of people compete for the relatively few jobs still available. Personally, I would also recommend not working for the mountain. Jobs for the mountain generally involve working when you want to be shredding. They do often come with good perks, but so do lots of other jobs, so my advice would be to shop around.
Eilidh: We had been in Nicaragua for a few weeks and were looking to do something productive with our time when I came across the website for La Esperanza Granada. We got in touch with the charity as soon as we’d read about how we could get involved and were told that we could start the next day. It definitely felt like we were throwing ourselves in at the deep end as neither of us were very confident with our Spanish, but we soon realised that having a positive attitude and an enthusiasm to teach were way more important than having perfect Spanish.
I would advise anyone who is considering volunteering abroad to think very carefully before signing up with any organisation which charges a fee to take part in their program. There are plenty of charities out there (like La Esperanza) who ask only for your time, and they can often help you to organise accommodation, etc while you volunteer for them. If I was being asked to pay several hundred dollars to volunteer for a couple of weeks, I would want to be certain that I knew exactly where my money was going.
Have you tried a traditional “grown-up” job? If yes, why did you stick with it or why did you quit? Do you see yourself working one in the future?
Eilidh: The closest I’ve come to a “grown-up” job is temping in various office admin jobs during my summer holidays from university. Those were enough to convince me that 9-5 is not for me, at least for now. Who knows what the future holds, but if I ever do settle down to a serious job, I will always work to live; not live to work.
Owen: I had a summer internship with BAE Systems Surface Ships, a naval defence manufacturer. There were aspects of working for a corporate giant which I enjoyed, like flying first-class for meetings in London and Turkey, for example. However, I didn’t enjoy the rigid 9-5 work lifestyle and having to ensure that I kept my professional hat firmly on my head at the workplace. I found that, come Monday morning, I couldn’t wait for the weekend again. It made me realise that I’m definitely not cut out for the corporate environment. Working in Whistler, most people are far more concerned with what they do in their spare time than what they do for a job. This is the place for me!
What rocks about seasonal jobs?
Eilidh: The people you meet. Everyone is out to have a good time and no one takes life too seriously.
Owen: The lifestyle. You might not make a lot of money, but you are definitely rich in terms of quality of life. Many tourists work and save hard so that they can enjoy a couple of weeks skiing or snowboarding in Whistler. For us, it’s full-time. (Shameless boasting!)
What sucks about seasonal jobs?
Eilidh: Saying goodbye to friends. This is part of life when you’re living far away from home and meeting people from all over the world and it really sucks.
Owen: Having to work over Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s usually the busiest time of the year in Whistler and there is no chance of getting any holidays over this period. This year, we will be missing a third Christmas with our family and friends back in Scotland… which sucks.
Have you used seasonal jobs to travel? If yes, how and to where?
Eilidh: I spent a year in Australia between high school and university, travelling until I ran out of money, then bartending or picking fruit until I had enough money to take off again.
Eilidh & Owen: We used seasonal-ish jobs during university summer holidays to fund travels to Thailand, India and Morocco. When we had to leave Whistler last year, we decided to spend the time until we got our new Canadian visas travelling in Central America. Many seasonal jobs have great benefits and we were lucky in receiving a winter and summer bonus, holiday pay and tax refunds. YAY travel fund! This allowed us to learn Spanish in Guatemala, surf in El Salvador, and spend two months volunteering in Nicaragua.
Have you gained any special skills or qualifications through seasonal jobs?
We haven’t gained any qualifications, but we definitely learnt a lot in Central America. We had never spoken Spanish before, never taught and never worked with kids, yet by the end of our trip we were teaching kids in Spanish.
What’s the one coolest thing you’ve done through seasonal jobs?
Eilidh: That’s a really tricky question! For me, it would probably be Christmas day last year, which we spent on a beach in Nicaragua helping baby turtles to get out of their nests and into the sea. That was pretty incredible.
Owen: Last year in Whistler, a group of us did a late night ride out from the top of Whistler mountain. We ducked out of the ski boundary, built a fire, enjoyed a few beers and watched the sunset over the mountains. It was, as they say in Whistler, SUPER SICK. Once it was dark, we hiked back onto the piste, switched off our head torches and shredded down using only the full moon for light. It was epic!
Do you have any general tips for seasonal job seekers — to find jobs, keep them, and have fun?
Know your priorities, be willing to compromise, and always keep an open mind. You may be over-qualified or under-paid, but if you’re doing what makes you happy, that’s all that matters.
What would you say to someone who is interested in a seasonal job, but is scared of quitting their grown-up job?
Do it! As a very wise travel blogger once told me, “you can have unlimited dreams, but not unlimited priorities” (Shain, 2013). (Susan’s note: Ha! This should be attributed to Chris Guillebeau, but yes: I preach it a lot!)
Stop making work your priority and your only regret will be that you didn’t do it sooner.
A ginormous GRACIAS to some of my faves, Eilidh & Owen, for sharing so much good advice and insight with us. They are so cool.