Halloween, Ham, and Hotels: My Adventures in Seasonal Employment

When it came to making money in my early 20s, I was game for all sorts of interesting jobs. I was always looking to earn more in my spare time, so I needed to get creative. I participated in consumer and college research studies, took online surveys, read pay-per-click emails, and scoured Craigslist for random gigs, in addition to seeking out part-time work. It was during this time that seasonal employment showed up on my radar, and I discovered just how awesome it could be to make quick cash in a short time.

Trick, or Treat?

I was a college student and had just moved from Pennsylvania to Florida to attend UCF. I needed to find a flexible job fast, so I signed up on Monster.com and Career Builder. One day, an email showed up in my inbox from one of the sites. They thought I might be interested in a seasonal position at a pop-up Halloween costume shop. The pay was more than minimum wage, and I thought okay, this could be fun!

And fun it was, among other things. This wasn’t your typical retail job. We started setting up the store in September, building makeshift dressing rooms, arranging rows upon rows of frightening masks, and hanging up hundreds of overpriced costumes.

It was a busy few months, but I learned a lot about seasonal retail. I also learned that Halloween costume shopping really brings out the crazy in people. We dealt with a lot of weirdness at that store, like the guy who came in just to stand by the dressing rooms and watch young women showing off the sexy costumes they were trying on. (Don’t worry, he was eventually escorted out by security.)

Once the Halloween season was over, it was time to break down the store and pack it all up until the next year. By mid-November, I was back to being unemployed, so I started looking for the next seasonal opportunity. I found it right down the road at a “specialty cafe”.

Ham Horrors

Now, I don’t want to name names, but I’m sure you can probably guess where I’m talking about. It’s a company that specializes in “handcrafted hams”, and they make the bulk of their sales around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. During the rest of the year, they’re mainly a sandwich shop, or “cafe”.

I finished up at the Halloween store, and turkey day was right around the corner. The cafe had a big sign in the window- they were looking for seasonal help, for just a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I went in and filled out an application and got hired on the spot.

I thought the job would be pretty easy; people come in, request a certain size and flavor of ham, I bag it up, the end.  Nope.

It was probably the most disgusting job I have ever had.

People are surprisingly picky about their holiday hams, and I quickly found myself slipping and sliding across the ham juice covered floor to the refrigerators behind the counter, scanning the shelves for that perfect piece that would please the customer. By the time my shifts would end, I was literally saturated in sugary, sticky pork juices.

Simply put, this job sucked. By the time it was over, I never wanted to touch, smell, or even eat another ham ever again.

Adventures in Alaska

alcanmountainsIt was a while before I had my next foray into seasonal work. I returned to the Halloween shop for a second year but then moved on to full-time employment after that. As my time in Florida was winding down, I started making plans for the future, but I wasn’t ready to settle down just yet. Adventure awaited in the last frontier.

I had a friend who had been going to Alaska for several summers to work in a cruise ship port town. He kept returning year after year, so I thought there must be something really appealing about the whole experience. Since I love to travel and am always craving new adventures, I knew it was a perfect fit at that time in my life.

There are tons of jobs that you can do in a town or city that caters to summer tourists, from retail to food service, to hotels and even entertainment. I got hired to work in the same hotel as my friend. Hospitality was a new line of work for me, and I learned so much.

In that type of environment, you can expect to put in long hours. I sometimes worked 10 hour days, 5-6 days a week, for about 5 months. But there was always time to have fun, too. I met people from all over the world and had some of the most incredible experiences, all while making good money. I even met my husband, M, that first summer.

We loved it so much that we returned to the same town for the next 2 summer seasons. To anyone seeking a real change of pace and interested in putting in a couple of months of hard work, I can’t recommend this type of seasonal employment enough! It can truly enhance your life, not just your bank account.

So there you have it: my experiences with seasonal jobs. There are so many different options out there, in every season. If you need to fill in the financial gaps for a short time, seasonal employment can offer you an ideal opportunity to bring in quick cash for a few weeks or months of effort.

Have you ever worked a seasonal job?  Have any good stories to share?

11 comments on “Halloween, Ham, and Hotels: My Adventures in Seasonal Employment

  • Cashville Skyline , Direct link to comment

    Wow, working in Alaska for a season sounds amazing, even if the hours were long. I grew up in a coastal tourist town in New England, so I worked in restaurants every summer. It was hard work, but it helped me stay out of debt through college. I also sold beer at Titans stadium in Nashville when I first moved here. Being a small woman, I struggled to carry the bucket of beer and ice up and down the aisles, but it was so much fun being at the game!

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance , Direct link to comment

    That experience in Alaska sounds amazing! I’ve never had much seasonal employment, outside of working construction during summer breaks in college. But I can say that while it was awesome to be making so much money, it was just terrible, crappy work. But an interesting cast of characters to say the least. And I can’t believe the ham job was so disgusting! I would have thought it be relatively easy, like you said.

  • Jon @ Our Fine Adventure , Direct link to comment

    That Alaska experience sounds kind of fun!! 🙂 We were in Alaska for a couple weeks last year, but it would be fun to spend a lot longer up there! Which town were you in?

    One time I worked as an accountant at a summer camp… that was probably some of the hardest I’ve worked… 55-60 hour work weeks were the norm, and when I worked it out, I was basically getting paid less than minimum wage (it was just a summer stipend). It helped me to appreciate the better jobs I would eventually have 🙂 But the cool part was that it was in a part of the country (kind of upstate NY) that I had never been in and didn’t know anyone, so that was a pretty cool learning experience for me!

    • Lauren May , Direct link to comment

      Alaska is fantastic! We actually hope to go back someday. We were in the Southeast in a little town called Skagway. Summer camp sounds like a fun environment!

  • John S @ Frugl Rules , Direct link to comment

    Your ham experience reminds me of my two months in fast food one year early in college. It was the nastiest thing I’ve seen – my ham juice was the fry grease covered floor. 😉

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