From national parks to ballparks to amusement parks, seasonal hiring is heating up at a whole host of summer vacation playgrounds. For many retirees, this is the perfect time to scoop up short-term work that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Ask Rich Bartkowski, 67, of Perry Hall, Md. A couple of days a week from April to November, the diehard baseball fan dons his Baltimore Orioles polo shirt and heads to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where he leads 75-minute walking ballpark tours. He recites fun stats and team facts as he strolls through the stadium. “It’s dream job time,” he says. “I get paid to be outside and talk about baseball.”
Bartkowski started working for the Orioles as a tour guide in 2002, not long after he retired from a 34-year career with Constellation Energy. “My wife didn’t want me sitting around the house, and I wanted something to do,” he says.
You have to be fairly fit and like to walk … and, of course, not be bothered by all kinds of weather, he says. The best part of the job: meeting and talking to people. “Everyone’s a kid when they come to the ballpark,” he says.
Rich Bartkowski leads tours of Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland on March 25, 2011. — Simon Bruty
Now Bartkowski trains most of the new guides and leads two tours a day. Until last year, he also worked in the box office. The Orioles’ front office employs 25 tour guides during the season; most of them are retirees, Bartkowski says.
While the $8.50-an-hour pay isn’t eye-popping, the perks can be. He gets free tickets for about 20 nonworking games, free parking, free Orioles shirts and other discounted merchandise to wear on the job. And, yep, all the game day giveaways you desire. Can you say bobbleheads?
Here are five great summer jobs to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and geography, are derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.
The nitty-gritty: The boys of summer are calling. Ballparks around the country are scouting for seasonal ushers, ticket takers, box office attendants, ballpark guides, cashiers, bartenders, suite attendants, in-seat servers, concession stand workers and more. In general, these jobs are not for fans longing to stretch out in the bleachers and marvel at the action on the diamond. Pausing to watch a line drive is permissible, of course, but you’re frequently on the move. You’ll need to know your way around the ballpark. Some positions can require standing for long stretches and facing the mercurial elements that Mother Nature throws out.
The hours: Flexible schedules are offered. Availability for the majority of home games during the 2011 schedule is often a prerequisite. Days, nights, weekends, holidays are possible. Average shifts: 3 hours for in-seat food and beer vendors, 4-1/2 hours for guides.
Median pay range: $8 to $11.50 an hour. In-seat food and beer vendors might pull in a minimum $7.40 and hour, plus commissions for an average $25 an hour.
Qualifications: Managers like signing workers with a love and knowledge of the game. Advance training is provided. An outgoing and fan-friendly personality is essential, especially if you’re in a position of meeting and greeting fans as you scan tickets, usher them to seats or give directions to the nearest concession stand. This is show biz. Ticket sellers are expected to understand the seating layout of the ballpark and ticket prices. Background checks will be performed. Tap into your hometown team’s official website for openings. Team-by-team contact information can be found at Major League Baseball’s site. Look for your city’s team-sponsored job fairs in the spring. Play ball!
The nitty-gritty: Got a recreational vehicle (RV) and want to roll? As vacationers flock to campgrounds at theme parks, national and regional parks, marinas and resorts, RVers can work at a campground in exchange for a free or discounted campsite and full hook-ups. Jobs might include office work, guest check-in, reservations, security, restaurant, grounds keeping, maintenance, handyman work, housekeeping, running social activities and rentals, interpretive guides and retail sales. Some of these opportunities can be found at government employers, such as Alaska State Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
You might work four days a week at Buffalo Bill Village in Cody, Wyo., for instance, and have three days off to explore nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Work at the Atlantic Oaks campground on Cape Cod and spend your free time enjoying the beaches, Provincetown and other seaside communities, with side trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
The hours: Vary widely. Some employers might require a four-week to three-month commitment or an agreement to work eight hours a day, two to four days per week.
Median pay range: There are a variety of arrangements in this semibarter opportunity. Pay is typically $7.50 to $10 an hour, but compensation is usually a combo of campsite, hourly wages, store discounts and laundry allowance.
Qualifications: Past experience in the type of work available helps. Expect on-the-job training if necessary. Go toWorkamper.com, a website and organization that promotes the concept of RVer jobs, connecting prospective employers and employees. Job site CoolWorks is one place to start your job hunt. The site has a special sectionfor RVer jobs. Best for rambling road warriors. 10-4.
3. Amusement Parks
The nitty-gritty: Still got rollercoaster rushes racing through your blood or a cotton candy sweet tooth? Thousands of seasonal gigs are available at amusement and theme parks across the country each summer. But be warned — you may have to elbow out earnest teenagers for the slots. Jobs run the gamut from rollercoaster ride technician — you make sure riders are seated and strapped in safely and stop and start the ride — to waiting tables to hawking souvenir shirts and unwieldy stuffed animals. There are crowd control and security patrol openings, custodial work picking up trash and repairing benches. And the list goes on from ticket-selling at the entranceway to parking lot attendants and grounds maintenance (such as watering, planting and pruning). If you have entertainment chops, you might score a role as a dancer or storyteller, even a musician. The drawbacks: The summer heat and humidity can sap you. Expect to slather on the sunscreen and drink lots of water. You may also be required to walk around the park or stand for stretches. Loud clanging rides filled with screaming passengers, combined with tired and testy customers, in the heat of the day can be nerve-jangling.
The hours: Full- and part-time shifts and night and weekends are available.
Median full-time pay range: $8 to $13 an hour. Six Flags jobs, for example, pay anywhere from minimum wage to $10 an hour. Employees normally have access to free admission and are often given free tickets for friends and family. Discounts on food and beverages, merchandise and hotel stays, depending on the venue, may be offered, too.
Qualifications: Hiring managers will typically look for areas where you have experience or education. A pleasant and outgoing personality can sweep you to the front of the line. On- the-job training is standard. Good communication skills are prized. Expect background checks and drug tests. Look for local job fairs sponsored by the theme parks in your region. Sites such as JobMonkey and CoolWorks have sections dedicated to amusement/theme park jobs. Adrenaline junkies wanted.
4. National/State/Community Parks
The nitty-gritty: Each year, the National Park Service hires about 10,000 temporary and seasonal employees. Potential jobs: collecting fees, fielding visitor queries, and passing out maps and brochures. Guides or rangers give short educational programs. More strenuous work might involve keeping hiking trails in good shape or gathering field samples. Parks with lodges hire part-time employees to accept reservations, provide concierge-type information and check-in guests and other booking functions. Park attendant responsibilities may include maintenance and office work, equipment rental, housekeeping assistance, food and merchandise sales, fee collection, and other general support services. These types of positions are usually available at most parks and forests and wildlife management areas.
There are also guest service and hospitality jobs at park stores and restaurants via Aramark, a national firm that provides facility and concession management under authorization of the National Park Service. State parks, too, pump up rosters during the tourist months. Each year, for example, the New Jersey State Park Service hires approximately 600 people to fill seasonal jobs from May through September. These jobs include collecting fees, issuing permits and passes, and directing traffic. There may also be jobs at touristy gift shops and restaurants near the parks. Community parks also need help with managing recreational activities such as softball, volleyball, craft programs and summer day camps.
The hours: From Memorial Day through Labor Day, hiring ramps up. Specific times will vary.
Median pay range: National Parks: $14 to $18 an hour; State parks: $8 to $15 an hour for most positions. You can work as a National Park Service volunteer, too, where your only pay is free housing or a pad for your RV.
Qualifications: Training is provided for most jobs. A knack for working smoothly with park visitors of all ages may be the most important criteria. Competition can be stiff at some popular destinations. Travel-related jobs are often sought after by students and overseas visitors who come to the United States on special work visas each summer. Keep in mind that if you actually work for the National Park Service, and not one of the outside vendors, you will be applying for a federal government job. You may be subject to a security background check. A teaching résumé or public speaking skills help. Expertise in a particular field — such as history or geology — can get you in the gate. If you’re interested in pursuing a nature guide job, then flora and fauna identification skills are a must. The best way to find a job at a national park is to go to each park’s individual website and click on “Employment Opportunities.” State park job postings can be found at job board CoolWorks park section or with your state’s division of parks and recreation. For example, you would go here for West Virginia’s website. Hear the call of the wild.
5. Pet sitter
The nitty-gritty: If you prefer catering to pets rather than people, give me your paw. Pet sitting is a legit business these days. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. households have a pet, and last year they spent an estimated $47.7 billion on them, an increase from $17 billion in 1994, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association in Greenwich, Conn. As vacationers head off for summer frolic, someone’s got to tend to those members of the family that can’t fit in the suitcase. The upside: This is a pampered clientele that will be tail-wagging happy to see you. The level of activity depends on your charge. If it’s a canine client, you’ll need a certain level of fitness and a love for walking, and an aptitude for Frisbee tossing. Not so much playtime is required for cats, hamsters and fish. Clearly, you can’t be squeamish about cleaning out kitty litter boxes and picking up after any waste or mess the pet has created on your walks. That comes with the territory. A level head able to handle any veterinary crisis is vital. With animals, you need to be prepared to deal with the unexpected. Work arrangements differ. If it’s a dog or two, the owner may be willing to allow the dog to stay at your home. Other owners will prefer that you make visits to their home once or twice a day to feed and walk pets, dole out treats and clean litter boxes, if applicable. Depending on how footloose you are, you might opt to stay overnight at the owner’s home. Of course, you’ll toss in gratis newspapers and mail pickup and flicking on lights as part of your service. You can work for a pet sitting company or advertise as an independent contractor. Local vets and pet stores can get the word out about your service.
The hours: Flexible. They can be as little as an hour or two a day, depending on the number of and type of pets you’re caring for and the arrangement. Summer vacations, spring breaks and holidays are peak demand times.
Median pay range: The charge for a single visit to a pet ranges from $10 to $22, depending on the location, and $45 or more for overnight care. You might charge $25 or so a day if the pet stays overnight at your pad.
Qualifications: Animal instincts and a reputation for being a responsible pet owner in your own right go a long way in this world. This tends to be a word-of-mouth service. You might consider joining the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. The roughly 8,000-member trade association offers a certification and national listing service searchable by ZIP code for pet owners looking for a reliable sitter. If you’re interested in becoming certified, you can buy the at-home certification course online. It costs $245 for members. The course consists of pet care, health, nutrition and behavior, business development and management, and a complete pet first aid course. Fetch! is one national pet-sitting and dog-walking service that lets you set your own hours and choose your assignments. You can also check with your local pet-sitting services for opportunities. Call this puppy love.
Kerry Hannon is the author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.