I wish I had something more pleasant to write about, I really do. Unfortunately I do not, so I am going to go ahead and write about an issue I have been dancing around for many years. This post is based on what I personally have seen and experienced, and I am fully aware that there may be some seasonal jobs where this bias does not exist, but I have yet to see it for myself.
What do I mean by bias? The idea is that seasonal workers, especially in the work-kamping world, are only capable of doing certain things. That’s not even exactly true. Most employers recognize that many seasonal workers have prior experience and skills that are valuable, but are extremely hesitant to harness those skills.
Initially I thought the problem was managers/owners were reticent to give responsibilities to workers who were in their lives temporarily. I know a few people who returned to the same jobs year after year and managed to eventually work their way into a more upper level position. Even those situations though are extremely limited and the extra oversight is crazy. I have come to the conclusion it is not about length of time working with a company. It is about bias.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago Lee and I wanted to try working at an amusement park. We both thought that would be fun, and when I saw that the park had a job opening for a video technician, I thought how perfect was that. Unfortunately when I reached out to the hiring manager, I was told the video technician job was only available for local people. Basically they would rather hire a local kid straight from high school with zero to minimal experience than hire a guy who ran a television station for 15 years. Why? Bias.
I can’t tell you how many times we have run into this, and it continues to be crazy frustrating. I have been told numerous times by “older work kampers” that I just needed to get over it. We are hired as “bodies” for a specific purpose and our employers have a limited interest in any ideas or thoughts we might have. The advice I have received more times than I can count is put in your time and quit worrying about stuff. I’ve tried…I really have…but as I have stated before it is just not in my nature. (I don’t even try. I am always quick to point out where I think things can be improved. Value added. – Lee)
And that’s where things get a little strange. It’s not like employers aren’t more than happy to take advantage of the parts of your personality that work for them. For example, most work kampers have a tremendous work ethic, and will often work off the clock to finish tasks. No one complains about that. Employers aren’t interested in hearing ideas that might stop the inefficiency, but they are fine with getting that extra labor for free.
Same with higher customer service standards. Employers are thrilled with the positive comment cards, emails etc, but not as interested in ways to improve the customer experience. Well, that’s not exactly true either. They are sort of interested in ideas, and will pick the low hanging fruit, but anything expensive or complicated gets put into the bad idea bin.
Those of us who work kamp get used to this. And some can disconnect themselves from the experience and not let it get to them. But for me, at times, it can be almost painful. I’ll give you another example. Many years ago I was a waitress and a restaurant manager. Because of my background I can’t help but notice certain things when I go into restaurants. Most of the time it’s a minor annoyance, but there are times when I am watching a place fall apart around me that I have to physically stop myself from jumping up and pitching in. It’s really hard for me to watch. Worse to just sit there. Like I said, sometimes it is painful.
This year for some reason is especially tough for me. I think it is because there are a couple of big projects happening where my skill set would be particularly valuable. They are rolling out a massive new software program, creating training documents, and teaching people who are not tech savvy to use mobile devices. I spent ten very successful years doing exactly that, and being completely left out is driving me a bit crazy. If things were going well with the projects I definitely could handle it, as an observer. But they are not going well, and having my skill set left untapped is nuts to me. (I know nothing about this crap, but even I can tell they need a project manager. I think it says a lot about the person at the top, if they cannot get the job done, and refuse to allow someone who can get the job done to just do it. – Lee)
And yes, before you ask, they know what I am capable of doing. For whatever reason they would rather have permanent employees with minimal related skill sets tackle them than a seasonal who has worked for them for three years. Is it ego? I don’t know. They can’t be worried that I would in any way cause them a problem because in three years they have seen my work ethic. Is it simply that they cannot get past the seasonal bias? That seasonal people don’t do certain things? I think so. No other explanation makes sense.
And yes, I will continue to hang in there, but it’s all very demotivating. It makes me sad.
(I am in agreement with her on most of this. It’s just stupid, and wasteful. I’m sure some people will think or comment that this is part of the deal, that we “gave all that up” when we hit the road, but that’s just absurd. The big difference though is that these are not long term relationships. If we connect with someone who doesn’t have enough sense to put us to good use, they will be out of our lives and another opportunity will be along. I think this is another argument for not returning to the same place summer after summer. Too much like regular life. – Lee)
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