The benefits of a seasonal job
When I was a student oh so many years ago, my main seasonal or holiday job was working as a labourer in a cement works in Weardale, County Durham. Readers might be thinking at this point this is a trip down memory lane and this has nothing to do with me…but persevere – read on – what I am going to say is as relevant to you now as it was to me then and now.
A slight bit of nostalgia first and not intended to make you envious…in those days there were grants for further and higher education – yes I got ‘paid’ to study…pretty good eh…So the job I got for 10 weeks at a time over two summers wasn’t just to help me finance entertaining myself with socialising and travel and all the good things I could do during the vacations but to get some experience of life. Experience of life, that sounds a bit profound but it’s true.
Albert Camus the famous French writer and philosopher (and a very good football goalkeeper by the way) once wrote “All I know about morality and obligation to men [he’d be more inclusive now] I owe to football.” Well to paraphrase the great man, I would say, ‘Almost everything I have learnt about others, about responsibility and about work I owe to seasonal jobs.’
That’s a pretty bold statement to make so let me justify my opinion.
When I was working at the cement works I had to get up at the unearthly hour of 6.30 in the morning, put on work clothes and jump on a not too fast or high spec motor cycle to ride on potholed narrow roads to work for 7.30. After at least an 8 hours (and sometimes 12 hours) shift it was back home to take off dirty, and after a time disintegrating clothes, shower and if I had the energy go out to meet my friends. So I learnt the key disciplines of work: punctuality, routine, endurance.
I hope this is starting to make sense…
Apart from a few students, the large work force was a mixture of people from all walks of society. But they had one thing in common…they all needed to work to help support their families. So you can imagine they at first treated us students with a bit of suspicion and I believe envy too. I personally felt there was a need to build rapport with these committed workers. I gained their trust too and showed that I was capable of working hard and safely in ‘their’ environment. I had to adapt to the work but also, in conversation, engage with the common interests that we had, such as sport, holidays and even a bit of politics. I learnt to respect and tolerate people who had sometimes different perspectives on life that I had and to encourage them to do the same of me.
So far so good; do you see any comparisons with your own experience of seasonal work?
I must say at this point I really grafted/put in a lot of physical effort for my seasonal pay; the job was demanding and on reflection sometimes dangerous – hot soft cement dust spewing out of kilns, unfamiliar machinery, and unpredictable situations (once staying too long under a kiln sweeping leaking dust led to my safety helmet beginning to melt!). But I never gave up and showed resilience; I never took a day off ‘sick’; and I hope I never let my bosses and colleagues down. I like to think I was a team player and I showed it!
I have to say I learnt loads about myself, and since then and after 37 years of work, the seasonal job that I had at Blue Circle Cement, Eastgate, County Durham has made me in many respects the person I am now. I’m not a perfect person in any respects at all, but one who profoundly appreciates and values the friendship and drive and labour of people from all strands of society and in whatever job role they hold.
I gained from my seasonal work an appreciation of the hopes and fears of my co workers which has ensured that as an employee and as a manager since then, that I have an emotional intelligence which has led me to learn to value and understand the challenging situations of others.
So back to Camus and his obligation and morality and how that quote and my adaption might have meaning to you…When you undertake seasonal work please don’t take it for granted. Learn about yourself and others, record and reflect on the skills and attributes that you already have but also the ones you are gaining or developing. These will be the foundations to support the rest of your life. I hope I have proved this to you and have practiced what I believe in this short biographical blog.
After graduating with a History and English degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance, Tom has worked as a Careers Adviser in public sector and university work environments; working with a range of young people and adults with varying career needs and expectations. He has also continued to support and develop colleagues as a manager and as an experienced trainer for his professional body AGCAS.