Casual work is one of the greatest ways to earn a living abroad, granting you the flexibility to move from country to country or city to city without the danger of life becoming as boring and humdrum as back home.
If you are a people person, working seasons gives you the chance to make dozens of new friends, and create your own web of contacts that stretches across the globe.
While casual workers, like beggars, cannot be choosers when it comes to finding a job abroad, one industry that always needs more hands is the hospitality sector. Wherever there are people, there are places to feed and water them, and a cheerful smile always helps a drink taste better.
That’s right, we’re talking about finding bar jobs abroad!
Unlike a professional career move, casual work does not require hundreds of hours of planning, or years of previous experience. Although it is possible to find a job in a bar before you fly out to your destination of choice, in many cases vacancies are advertised through word of mouth or local signage. In popular European resorts such as Magaluf and Ibiza, the accepted method of finding a job is to turn up and ask the bars what shifts they have going, even if you have never pulled a pint in your life.
This requires its own strategy, as hundreds of other eager workers will do exactly the same thing. The trick is to arrive early in the season, to get established in a bar before they have all the staff they need.
In the Balearic Islands – well-established hotspots for European revelers – the main summer season runs from May to September, so arriving in late April or early May gives you a better chance of finding both work and cheaper accommodation. The later you arrive, the less choice you have.
Expect a modest living wage, but the lifestyle encourages lazy days and hectic working nights, so few people finish the summer out of pocket.
During the winter, the best place to find bar work is in a ski resort, although it is unlikely you would just serve drinks. One of the most popular ski season jobs is a chalet host, when people cook and clean for holiday groups staying at a chalet throughout the season – which runs from approximately November to April in the northern hemisphere.
Unlike the summer resorts, in the winter it is better to apply for a job before heading out. While it is not unknown for companies to take staff on midway through a season, many prefer to recruit on masse before customers begin to arrive. Find a great guide to the biggest European ski employers here.
However, working flat out for six months and spending Christmas away from home can be tough for some people, and there are always a number of workers who do not last the season and need to be replaced. While not a guaranteed approach, it can be possible to fill these roles on a job-by-job basis by contacting employers directly.
If you do not fancy looking after a small group of people for the duration of their stay, it can be possible to polish your bartending skills, but expect to help in the restaurants as well, perhaps in low responsibility jobs such as waiting staff or dishwasher. Qualified chefs are in high demand at ski resorts, but would need to commit to the entire season as they are not easily replaced.
As ski resorts are isolated places, companies usually include accommodation and sometimes food expenses, or deduce a percentage of your wages to cover the living costs. In summer resorts this is rare and you are expected to find your own accommodation.
The alternative to seasonal bar work is urban bar work – going to the tourist magnets that need capable hands all year round. These establishments are found in big cities, especially country capitals, which are full of visitors every month.
Again, the vacancies are often found through word of mouth or cold calling, although city employment agencies often have notice of upmarket venues that need experienced staff. However, the Internet has dozens of websites advertising vacancies, including JobMonkey – a great resource for international jobs across the hospitality sector.
Do not underestimate the power of Gumtree either – you can find jobs listings conveniently divided up into major cities in the UK, Ireland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.
At the other end of the scale, youth hostels are used to a high turnover of causal staff and can provide the ideal first job in a new city as it combines paid work with a secure place to live, cutting back on commuting costs.
For all bar jobs, a confident, upbeat personality and willingness to work is essential. Bar work demands long hours in hectic environments, and drunken customers can test patience beyond endurance. Those who struggle to stay up late will find the working hours a strain, as bar shifts start mid afternoon and rarely end before the small hours.
As mentioned earlier previous experience is not always required and on-the-job training is normal practice, but the industry’s high turnover rates damage job security – if you do not pull your weight it is simple for employers to find more motivated workers.
On the other hand, bar jobs offer the ultimate flexibility as it is easy to leave and move on to another bar if you do not like the venue, your colleagues or your boss!