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April 3, 2014 at 1:00 AM

For fun summer job options, the time to apply is now

Spring break is still a fresh memory for some students. Others have barely started to think about final exams. But early April is not too early to have a temporary job lined up this summer. In fact, time is already running out on finding some of the highest-paying, most rewarding seasonal positions.

For many college-age job seekers, and recent grads who have entered the market, the choices for summer jobs are mostly limited to retail clerks, restaurant wait staff and maybe a few office internships. But what if you could do these kinds of jobs while surrounded by some of the most gorgeous natural wonders in the country?

That’s the premise behind Cool Works, a Gardner, Mont.-based employment site that, since 1995, has specialized in pairing seasonal workers with jobs in America’s Nationals Parks, vacation resorts, ranches, camps, ski resorts and other recreation-oriented places. Jobs range from entry-level restaurant servers and lodge housekeeping personnel to animal wranglers, counselors, sales and assistant manager positions. Best of all, many of these positions provide room and board on or near each location for the duration of the work contract.

You may have read about Cool Works in these pages before and thought, “That might be fun; I ought to try that someday.” This summer, more than any other, might be the best time to take the plunge. According to an article on the Cool Works site, the improved overall economy has led to fewer applications for summer work nationwide compared with last year, so park and resort managers have a smaller pool of talent to choose from.

Also, thanks to a new executive order signed by President Obama in February, the minimum wage for all contractor jobs on federal lands will rise to $10.10 per hour as of Jan. 1. While this is great news for workers in the jobs that remain, it may force some employers to offer fewer positions, because of the higher costs, starting next year. It’s still too early to tell, but this summer may be the high-water mark for these entry-level summer jobs in our nation’s parks and resorts.

A Cool Works list of available summer jobs in Washington state, as of April 1, found seven job openings in resorts stretching from the Olympic Peninsula to the Okanagan Valley, plus profiles of 10 employers that are hiring. Even more can be found in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

If your dream job in the great outdoors this summer is already taken, have no fear. Spring is also the perfect time to start thinking ahead about fall jobs when the ski resorts open up again.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: contracting, entry level, finding your passion

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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