For managers who thrive on variety, a seasonal assignment can provide the right dose of intense professional stimulation -- followed by a lengthy recovery period.
"You can focus completely on your job for one part of the year and be off enjoying your other interests the rest of the year," says Melanie Keveles, president of Aligned Advantage Business and Personal Coaching, a firm that helps managers identify their career strengths and passion.
Just make sure you're able to keep pace with the hours and headaches that accompany the thrill of managing a resort or similar business operating at full seasonal tilt. Keveles and two other HR specialists explain what it takes to enjoy the ride.
Forget About a 40-Hour Week
Working long hours, nights and weekends is a given for seasonal managers, says David Rindt, human resources manager for Grand Teton Lodge Co. (GTLC) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
GTLC operates visitor accommodations and services at multiple locations in Grand Teton National Park, including Jackson Lake Lodge, Colter Bay Village, Jenny Lake Lodge, and Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club. During the five months these businesses are open, workers serve and pamper tourists day and night.
Rindt says successful seasonal managers are highly focused on the job and truly enjoy the whirl of activity and creating memorable experiences for guests. And in the off-season, they can go wherever they want. "Many employees will spend the summer in the Tetons and then move to a warmer climate for the winter," he says.
Be Ready to Battle Burnout -- Yours and Your Staff's
Still, in-season hours can take a toll on the entire staff. "Employee burnout can lead to missed deadlines, sloppy work and frustration," says Kimberly Walker, division director with The Creative Group, which specializes in placing creative, advertising, marketing, Web and public relations professionals with a variety of organizations, including those that need additional employees and managers during peak times or busy seasons.
"Managers can keep morale high by ensuring employees' workloads are manageable, regularly recognizing the efforts of individuals at all levels and showing their appreciation with small rewards such as meals or handwritten thank-you notes," Walker advises.
Stress can also drive managers away from a seasonal career. But Walker notes that those willing to put in long hours early on learn the business quickly and become better equipped to handle problems.
One way to take the edge off is to laugh and have fun with work. "The happier people are, the more willing they are to put long hours in," Keveles says.
Flex Multiple Management Skills
Among the skills seasonal managers need most is an ability to work with a diverse staff likely to include college students on break, temps and part-time employees who work varied shifts.
Seasonal managers also must be organized, strategic in delegating responsibilities and good team leaders, Walker says. Flexibility and a knack for knowing when to hire project professionals or temporary help to support overworked staff are helpful as well.
Keveles suggests these strategies for staying composed and in control as a seasonal manager:
- Don't Micromanage: Trust your direct reports to handle situations on their own, knowing you're there to lend support when necessary.
- Look for What Works: You'll find inspiration and motivation.
- Set a Worthwhile Goal for the Season: It should be something that's a stretch, yet achievable.
- Find Ways to Unwind: Use downtime to take care of yourself. You'll be more productive and effective.