There might still be snow on the ground and a chill in the air, but amusement parks, theme parks and water parks across the country are gearing up to begin hiring for their summer season.
Brandon Berg, Director of Human Resources at Holiday World and Splashin' Safari Water Park in Santa Claus, IN can almost smell the popcorn, suntan lotion and hot asphalt. He has begun a two-month long process to hire the 2,100 employees that his park needs each year from May through August.
According to themeparkcity.com, there are about 50 amusement parks nationwide that are owned by large companies such as Six Flags and Disney. Then there are another 35 to 40 smaller independent parks. Most of these parks hire at least 90 percent of their workers seasonally. This is fertile job-opening territory for anyone seeking a first job, a summer job or a second source of income.
If you think seasonal employment could be in your future, read on.
Seasonal Work = Hourly Rates
Seasonal employees earn anywhere from $8 to $10 per hour, says Six Flags spokesperson Jennifer Savage. At Six Flags about 1,200 of the 3,200 workers that they hire each summer are people who return. Some hope to move up to a management or a supervisory role; many more will return to a job similar to the one they had previously. "Some of our staff have been coming back year after year since we opened in 1976, and some even recommend that their friends and family members apply for a job with us," says Savage.
Amusement Parks, Not Just For Ride Operators
If you think this seasonal work is just for teenagers looking to be cashiers or Ferris wheel operators between school semesters, you need to stretch your imagination a little. These parks also hire carpenters, game attendants, lifeguards, guest relations personnel, accountants, chefs, landscapers, security officers, wardrobe specialists and performers. Six Flags has already kicked off auditions for their entertainment department, which needs "gifted actors, singers, dancers, magicians, improvisational actors, animated performers and specialty acts," to perform in shows and parades." This year, the company's parks are introducing a nighttime illuminated parade called, "Glow in the Park," which will need more than 60 performers and 35 support staff.
How the Application Process Works
Berg begins his yearly ritual by "calling out" the seasonal management from the prior year, followed by former non-management employees, to see who wants to come back. After that, Holiday World holds a series of four jobs fairs to fill in around the veterans with new employees.
Similarly, most amusement parks begin their seasonal recruiting shortly after the New Year. They use radio and newspaper ads and other media to publicize that they're hiring and drum up applicants at local job fairs. Typically they eventually direct prospects to an online application.
According to Wilfred Seymour, executive chef at Canada's Wonderland Park, the online step is one of the most vital. "We receive hundreds of applications each week, so employees need to understand that if they lose their focus and do not fill out the forms correctly, or they leave questions blank with no explanation, they will be passed by."
If everything looks right with a potential employee's online application, they will usually be contacted for an in-person interview where the human resource staff will try to get a feel for the prospect's personality so they can match him with the right job. "We only want to have fun, smart, outgoing people who deal well with the public and who want to have fun on the job," says Seymour.
There Is Still Time To Get Hired
Just ask Jennifer Dugan, from Six Flags Great America if there is still time to get that summer job, and she will tell you-YES!. Although Six Flags is set up already for Spring operations, most of the positions that have been filled are management, shift leaders or supervisors, so there are still over 1,000 positions that need to be filled before daily operations begin on May 12. The food service department, which is the largest department at SFGA is always looking for new managers, but there are still these exciting, fun-filled departments looking for employees:
- games and attractions
- entertainment (Justice League and Looney Tune Characters)
- park services and security
If you have not begun the application process yet, Dugan reminds you to be friendly and flexible, because "friendly and flexible individuals are always a priority for all the departments, so make sure you let your personality shine through in the interview. With a limited number of positions available flexibility is also important."
Applicants that can and are willing to work a mixed schedule of days, nights and weekends are some of the first to be hired. SFGS is launching a number of hiring events in the next month so stay tuned for those announcements, or visit www.sixflagsjobs.com for more information about the location closest to you.
Some Last Advice
1. Be flexible with your schedule and ready to work outdoors, says Savage. "Six Flags opens for the 2010 season in early spring and moves to a seven-day operation once the summer begins, taking the park all the way through the fall. Our guests come out to play in all types of weather, so employees have to be ready, too."
2. Be ready to comply with a strict dress code and to learn the park's mission statement and employee rules and regulations. "Six Flags prides itself on its guest service and it starts with our Six Flags Standards of Appearance, which starts with each team member," Savage says.
3. Be ready to have some fun! Amusement parks are places where thrills are enjoyed and memories are made everyday. You're likely to work hard, play hard and maybe have the time of your life.
4. Dress nicely for your interview. "You don't need to be in a suit and tie, but don't be a slob. First impressions are important, so show that you care," says Berg.
5. Make eye contact and smile. "This is the hospitality industry, so if you can't easily summon a smile, then this might not be the place for you to work," he says.
6. Speak clearly. To clarify the importance of this skill as an employee, Berg tells employees about a hypothetical mother whose son needs to find the nearest potty–and quick! "It is important that you give her the information that she needs in a clear and succinct manner," he says, or you'll have one one small but wet, very unhappy customer.
Persistence, Then a Summer of Love
It can be overwhelming to have to fend off competitors for the right to dole out caramel corn, but when in doubt, keep at it, says Berg. Persistence is key to working at an amusement park.
Painfully shy as a 16-year-old, Berg applied to work at Holiday World because a friend talked him into it. For the next six summers he worked as the director of rides and director of admissions, then the park hired him full-time when he graduated from college. Berg fondly remembers his summers and all that he learned from that work. Berg even met his wife while working at Holiday World. On Valentine's Day, 2000 he tied the knot with his Holi-sweetheart, Rachel. They have four children and hope that one day the kids will work at the park, too.
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