Exchanging your time and labor in return for free or reduced rent and other perks at RV parks and other hospitality businesses is called “workamping,” and for many full-time RVers like me, it’s a great way to enhance the lifestyle while saving money on rent. Finding workamping opportunities is relatively easy, but if you don’t put a little effort into the application process, you’ve created a recipe for disaster. To ensure that you don’t end up in a miserable workamping arrangement, here are some easy ways to connect with the right job for your lifestyle and personality, including a few great tips from my current workamping employer, Grant Stoaks, owner and operator of six 55-plus resorts throughout the West.
First, join Workamper News
As the oldest and biggest workamping resource, Workamper News is worth the annual membership price because thousands of employers look for their next team members in the group’s “Awesome Applicants” resume database. Sure, you can dig around for free workamping job listings on the web, but the smaller entities that post them don’t have the staying power or well-earned reputation that Workamper News carries among those folks who do the hiring.
Next, create a resume that shines
I often wonder what makes an “Awesome Applicant” resume stand out on Workamper News, so recently I had the opportunity to ask my employer what he looks for in prospective workampers. Grant Stoaks is owner of one of the top 100 RV Resorts in the U.S., and has been a successful investor in RV resort and manufactured housing communities for more than 30 years. When he casually mentioned to me that he had personally overseen the hiring of about 1,000 workampers, I knew he would have some gems of advice to offer job seekers and he does.
Since the first step in applying for a workamping job is to have a well-crafted resume, I started by asking Stoaks what he looks for when sifting through the thousands of resumes on Workamper News. Here’s what he advises:
Show an employer what you can do now, not what you did 20 years ago.
According to Stoaks, the typical resume on Workamper News doesn’t paint a clear picture of what an applicant can do today. “The way that most resumes are presented, you’ll get the typical resume that dates back to 1960 and it really doesn’t help much,” he explains. When looking for candidates, Stoaks says, “You try to find out what their workamping experience is first, and that’s usually what they list last. I won’t give those resumes a second look because I really didn’t learn anything.”
Stoaks explains that you can stand out from other workampers by writing your resume so it opens with a hierarchical bullet-point list of the skills you’ve obtained and used at your previous workamping jobs. If you’re new to workamping, don’t worry; just compose a list of the applicable skills you use on a daily basis, whether it’s working with Windows 8 or swinging a hammer. Be sure to place a special emphasis on the skills that are especially helpful in the type of job setting you want.
Remember, workamping employers don’t care what you did in your previous career; they want to know what you’re willing and capable of doing now. You can help them understand this by following your skill set list with a short list of past employers and a brief narrative of daily tasks you performed that would be useful for workamping environments.
Be upfront and precise about your skills.
A big part of finding that ideal workamping arrangement and being happy with your daily tasks is to start by being honest about what you really know. For example, don’t generalize on your resume and say that you “understand electricity.” Get specific and describe how you applied your electrical knowledge to your last workamping job or daily life.
“There’s so much difference between a guy being able to change out a meter at a site, versus a guy pulling a pedestal at the site,” says Stoaks. The same holds true for someone who used to work in high tech. For example, if you’re a retired computer programmer but the last time you worked with a new operating system was in 2001, don’t call yourself a computer expert on your resume. Experts are people who use
the skills they claim to possess on a regular basis, and keep current with ongoing training and education in that area.
“When a person represents that they have certain skill sets, and they’re really not up to date on them, once they show up (to work) they effectively choke,” says Stoaks. “You expect them to go out and do things and they don’t.”
Find a job that matches your temperament.
Some folks are people-oriented and some shy away from strangers; some want to work independently, and others need to feel like part of a team. There are no right or wrong personality traits, but it’s up to you to determine the kinds of roles you enjoy in a work setting so that when employers come knocking, you can tell if a job matches your personality. Since many workamping jobs require working with the public, keep in mind that you must be friendly and outgoing to take on most types of park assignments.
For Stoaks, hiring personable workampers is one of the most critical parts of the hiring process. He places nearly as much emphasis on an applicant’s sociability as he does on their skills. A workamper can have the best skills in the world but if that person doesn’t have the ability to be cheerful around guests, a bad impres- sion is created. Workampers “are truly ambassadors to your prop- erty while they’re working,” Stoaks explains.
Get real about the daily time commitment.
Stoaks tells me that one of the biggest complaints he has heard from workampers is that many employers aren’t honest about the time commitment required of workamping jobs in the hospitality industry. For example, although a few assignments will have clearcut, defined working hours, most hospitality businesses like his run 24/7. If an emergency situation develops and an off-duty workamper is needed to help out, that person is expected to report for duty without complaint, even if it happens at 11 p.m.
Stoaks says that this “all hands on deck” scenario is something that small business owners will understand, but for workampers who have never been self-employed, it could come as a great surprise and leave them unhappy. Therefore, before accepting any workamping assignment, always ask your potential employer about the time commitment required and in return you can do your part by being upfront about the types of hours you are willing to work.
Finding that ideal workamping job can seem like a ton of work if you’ve never been through the process, but once you fine tune your resume and know what questions to ask a prospective employer, it get easier. As my boss explained, clarity and honesty go a long way toward mutual happiness for you, the employer and the customers.