Until the age of 16, summer means city pools or beach vacations, Popsicles, lawn sprinklers and hours of free time.
Enter the summer job. Summer becomes an exercise in self-discipline, leaving the warm sunshine for the air-conditioned monotony of the local mall, fast food restaurant or grocery store.
But there is a way to revive the fun of summer and make money at the same time. From working on a cruise ship to being a ranch hand, fun summer jobs do exist.
Jeff Allen, 31, an executive for a dot-com job finding site, ditched his job as a software developer at age 26 to try an adventurous seasonal job. Allen, who worked in Aspen, Colo., as a waiter and a ski instructor for physically challenged skiers said that job led him to many others.
"There are so many people who will go from Aspen to Chile to Costa Rica. There are hundreds of people working in those resorts," he said.
Allen named free skiing, learning about wine and food and waiting on the tables of celebrities as perks of his seasonal jobs.
Those interested in packing their bags for the summer are only a mouse click away. The Internet provides a virtual employment line for anyone looking for a different experience.
"I would say it's probably changed in the past two years with the acceptance of the Internet as a job hunting tool. People are starting to poke around and see there's more out there than a job in a local grocery store," said Jon Kantor, vice president of cooljobs.com. Cooljobs.com and several other dot-com companies are in the business of connecting wanna-be adventurers with employers.
Patty Bishoff of CoolWorks.com, a Web-site also catering to adventure seekers, said the number of employers on the site has increased from 10 to more than 500 since 1995.
Though there are thousands of cool summer jobs available, it's important to apply soon. Employers already are looking for seasonal help - hiring time runs from December through March.
Bishoff said applying online is the simplest way to access a new job, though contacting companies and operations by mail and phone also is an option in most cases. Most applicants - about 90 percent - are college-age students, added Kantor. The number of international students and older employees has increased in past years as well.
Bishoff warned that fun summer jobs are time-consuming and do not result in major earnings. Most seasonal jobs pay minimum wage, she said. And many, such as jobs in summer camps and resorts, require employees to work almost every day of the week.
"The thing people need to remember with these jobs is that it's work," said Kantor. "They need to understand that it's work and not partying."
But Kantor said the experience is worth hard work for many. "Just for the experience you'll get and people you'll meet; those will last a lifetime."
Kantor said the idea of employment away from home usually is more appealing to parents than summer travel. "Parents are more likely to let kids go, if they're working instead of spending," he said.
Though paychecks may be small, many summer positions offer housing to their employees. Other programs may offer training. For example, some white water rafting organizations train employees to be river guides.
Choosing the right opportunity is important, said Bishoff. "Someone who is happy on a guest ranch might not be happy in a national park. ...Those jobs require two different personality types."
The choices? Here are but a few:
- National parks.
- Theme parks.
- Summer camps.
- Adventure recreation (hang gliding instructor, sailing instructor, kayak tour guide, white water rafting guide)
- State parks.
- Beach life-guarding.
- Cruise ships.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)