We hear from job seekers frequently - especially solo travelers, women, and people of color - that have concerns about whether it is safe to go to some of the places that they discover on CoolWorks. It is a very valid concern, especially considering a) the remote location of some of the employers, b) the cost and / or difficulty of leaving a location if something goes wrong and c) the dynamic of living and working in a close environment with other employees (for those employers that provide housing). It's always a good idea to have a plan and to do as much homework as possible for making a big leap to travel a long distance. We believe whole-heartedly that it can be an extremely rewarding decision - most of us on the CoolWorks have done the same thing - but as with everything in life, there are risks involved and important steps to take, which we'll outline more below.
First, it is important to note that as with any job board/search engine, the presence of an employer on CoolWorks is not in any way an endorsement of the reputation of that employer, or the quality of the experience any job seeker can expect. One thing that experienced seasonal workers are aware of is that an employer can provide an outstanding experience one season, and a negative experience the next year. Common factors, like a change in ownership, a new seasonal department manager who conducts themselves inappropriately, bad weather/forces of nature, changes in policies, etc., can completely alter the working environment at a location from one year to the next. We sincerely hope that job seekers will discover great locations, live out amazing experiences, make lifelong friendships, and just have an adventure so they'll be thrilled that they stepped out to see the world. We know that there are a lot of great experiences to be had out there, and, unfortunately, we know that there are going to be some negative experiences as well.
Second, it's important to keep in mind that even though these employers often represent the opportunity to live in an idyllic, beautiful location where your backyard is a place that people pay to go on vacation, it is still the real world out there. The jobs may require long days, hard work, multiple and changing responsibilities, etc. In addition, you may have to deal with disgruntled and rude customers, or managers that are inexperienced, burnt out, and/or inappropriate. You may encounter harassment, bullying, bigotry, and racism. Of course, this is true everywhere, and you also very well may not experience any of these things, but it's just important to know that these incidents still happen in beautiful places, so it's important to be prepared for how to encounter some of the negative aspects that can arise.
So let’s talk about some steps you can take before accepting a job and traveling cross-country on a new adventure.
1. Do lots of research – It’s incredibly important to learn as much as you can about an organization before you commit to giving them your time. Thoroughly read over their recruiting materials and their website. Look them up on GlassDoor to see if previous employees have provided feedback. Ask questions in online communities to see if other people have experiences to share (Reddit is a great resource for learning about regions and seeing if people who live there feel content/safe in their community). Read online reviews and see what customers say about them (take these with a grain of salt – people can be overly picky, and a $7 cheeseburger that didn’t meet expectations doesn’t necessarily imply a bad workplace, but certain information can indicate larger underlying issues). Gather whatever information you can to help you make an informed decision about how a business conducts itself.
2. Ask lots of questions – Remember, in an interview process, you’re also allowed to ask questions. Do you want to know more about how they prioritize and address employee safety? Ask them if they have an incident reporting procedure, sexual harassment policy, an onsite contact who addresses reports of workplace conflicts (e.g. Human Resources, a Manager on Duty, etc.), procedures for dealing with unruly guests, etc.. Obtain specifics about the availability and cost of employee housing/meals (if applicable), confirm your wages (preferably with an employment agreement, if possible), roommates, rules governing conduct in employee housing and who enforces those rules, etc.. The idea is to ascertain whatever information you need to feel comfortable accepting a position with a new employer.
3. Have a Plan – Before you head out on this big journey, give yourself some extra security and comfort by formulating a plan in your mind about what you’re going to do if things don’t pan out quite as expected. Make a list (mental or physical) of who you might need to contact, including:
– Your supervisor
– A Human Resources contact
– In some circumstances, the Department of Labor and/or Civil Rights / Human Rights Commission in the state you’ll be working to report inappropriate or unsafe working conditions and/or issues of discrimination.
You may also want to plan for other needs that could arise, like a small backup fund for travel and accommodation expenses if you find yourself in a situation that just isn’t going to work out or that you need to remove yourself from.
4. Be A Documentation Pro – Although the vast majority of employment arrangements come and go according to expectations, we do know that sometimes conflicts or disagreements arise. In the instances where issues do come up, it’s extremely helpful to have documented backup supporting your claim, so we recommend that you save every e-mail, request an employment agreement that outlines wages/benefits, hours, job duties, and season dates (when your season will start and end, if it’s a seasonal position), and keep track of your hours. If an issue escalates to the level that you have to file a wage / workplace claim with your employer or a state agency, you’ll be much more likely to make a successful case for yourself if you can provide as much documentation as possible supporting your claim.
As in all of life, things don’t always go as planned. All of us on the CoolWorks team have had experiences that didn’t meet expectations or didn’t go as planned, and it’s not fun. We want everyone to be empowered to handle situations as they arise so that you can confidently navigate, resolve, and move past them as best as possible. So be bold, be prepared, and most importantly, be excited! Hopefully, you’re going to go off and have the best summer or winter of your life, but you’ll have a lot more confidence and peace of mind knowing that you’re equipped to advocate for yourself.