Chances are, if you are even remotely computer literate, you have seen job postings on the Internet for provocative positions in exotic and far-away places that seem like just the thing for you. I'd like to share with you a recent experience of mine about just such a situation.
I am a professional Chef with over twenty years experience in upscale hotels and resorts. Over the past five years I have accepted four jobs that I found via the Internet. I have found these positions on hospitality industry web pages and Chef bulletin boards. The ads usually read something like this:
Spend the Winter in a beautiful fishing lodge in sunny South America. Complete responsibility for daily food service operation. Take charge individual with extensive culinary experience required. Serious professionals and team players only need apply. Ability to get along well with others is required. Lodging, meals, salary, gratuities and transportation provided. Apply to:
Doesn't that sound great? Just the thing for a seasonal employee like me.
Of the four seasonal jobs I have accepted off the Internet, three have been outstanding opportunities.
One was a luxury resort in St. Thomas, US VI, another a private island resort in Belize and the another a charter yacht operating in South East Alaska. The Alaska position has evolved into a four year seasonal job that pays well and gives me the freedom to work and travel extensively in the Winter.
While surfing one of the Chef sites this past summer I spotted a job posting very much like the one above. I was immediately interested and emailed my resume. Eventually, I was offered the job and with eager anticipation I went South for the Winter.
It was a very bad decision on my part. Had I done my home work and checked up on this position I would have learned that all the glitters isn't necessarily gold.
The reality was something like this:
Spend the Winter in a beautiful fishing lodge in South America. Complete responsibility for daily food service operation.
You will be isolated in a fishing lodge in extreme southern South America. You will work an average of 14 hours per day, 7 days per week and can expect one day off for every 21 days worked. Your employer will not provide any transportation, meals or other considerations during time off.
Take charge individual with extensive culinary experience required.
You will be expected to perform culinary miracles without assistance. Responsible for all food production, including baking all bread and pastry products, three full meals plus appetizers from scratch for fourteen people per day. Other duties include daily supervision and responsibility of lodge cleaning staff.
Serious professionals and team players only need apply. Ability to get along well with others required.
Team players only need apply, provided of course, that you will obey without question the rigid commands and authoritative direction of employer.
Employer is an ex-Marine with a vituperous military demeanor, prone to violent tantrums, immoderate drinking, vulgar, rude, and impulsive behavior. Chef can expect to be micro-managed to excess by employer and frequently embarrassed by the employers behavior and demeanor in front of guests, purveyors and local residents.
Lodging, meals, salary, gratuities and transportation provided.
Very low monthly salary, housing, meals, plus gratuities. You will be required to turn over all gratuities received to the employer. Gratuities are then subject to the discretion of the employer who uses this money to compensate for the low wages paid to other non-tipped employees.
Employer implies that he will provide travel expenses however the employee should expect to pay for all expenses incurred in obtaining their travel visa. These expenses will include transportation to Los Angeles, ground transportation, meals and lodging expenses incurred while completing your medical exam, including extensive lab analysis, criminal records search, passport application and visa fees.
Employee will also need sufficient money to support himself for three weeks after arrival in South America while the employer goes on vacation and closes the lodge.
Expect to wait two months for a response.
After three months of working under intolerable conditions, I walked off this job only to find myself isolated in South America. Thirty days later, after considerable effort and expense, I managed to return to the U.S. and resume my job in Alaska.
What did I learn from the experience?
Don't believe anything you read. Do your research carefully and thoroughly before accepting any position, especially a job in a foreign country.
If I had done my research I would have discovered that this lodge had been in operation for four years and had never had an employee return to work for a second season. I would have also learned that this employer went through four Chefs last year alone!
What should I have done?
I should have insisted on verifiable REFERENCES of previous employees and I should have contacted these references before accepting the position.
I should also have asked for a detailed job description, IN WRITING, that included the anticipated work schedule, time off, any out-of-pocket expenses I would be expected to pay and exactly what expenses were provided by the employer.
Other considerations are: What experience has the employer had in this type of business before? What are the employer's expectations regarding the volume of work you will perform? Will you have assistants? What can you do on your time off?
Had I known the answer to any of these questions I wouldn't have found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to walk off a job (the first and hopefully only time in twenty years.)
I won't make the same mistake again and I hope that this never happens to you.