Can you tell us about your experience working in the Grand Canyon?
Once a month, we’re going to talk about awesome/weird/adventurous jobs that you (maybe) didn’t even know existed and talk to people who have done them. If you’re sick of your current gig, get to applying! You can read about other awesome jobs here. This interview comes to us via the lovely Whitney Lenox.
First of all, let me clear up the myth that everyone who works at the Grand Canyon is a park ranger or mule wrangler. That just isn’t the case. There are loads of jobs out here, and the best part is, your back yard is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!
I work for Xanterra, the largest state and national park concessioner in the United States. I’m currently located at the Grand Canyon, and spend my working days as a cashier at a food court near the rim of the canyon. Though I’m overqualified for this position, I am happy to have my foot in the door of a company that boasts vast opportunities for advancement. I’m hoping to work my way into the HR department, specifically into a role as a trainer for newly hired employees. I have lots of room to grow here, and I’m excited about my future.
During my time off, I take long walks along the canyon, read books beneath the Ponderosa pines, and catch up on writing and other correspondence at the local public library. Life is slow and simple inside the park, and I’m happy to ease my pace while enjoying the wildlife and gorgeous landscapes.
Why did you decide to work in the national parks?
Ok, I’ll admit, I was one of those people who thought you had to be a ranger or wrangler. I hadn’t even considered working in a national park until a recent road trip. My boyfriend and I stopped at the Grand Canyon on our way back across the country, and we overheard an employee saying how much he enjoyed his job. Much to our surprise, the park, as well as many of the positions, are open year-round. It seemed like the opportunity had fallen into our laps for a reason.
We applied for jobs at the Human Resources department while we were visiting the park, and were hired just a few weeks after we returned home from our trip. We knew we’d be hired into positions that we were overqualified to do, but we took a risk to see if there was in fact, growth opportunity for us.We were also looking to ease back into life in the U.S., as we have spent the last few years living abroad in Asia. This company has allowed us to do just that, without planting too many roots. We have no car. We’ve signed no lease.
The application process is quite simple. For U.S. applicants, applying for a position using the appropriate online application is the first step. You must provide several, recent work references along with your application. The hiring manager will then review the completed application and references.
This process can take up to six weeks for entry level positions, while skilled trade and/or supervisory positions may take longer. If the hiring manager is interested in the applicant, they will contact the applicant directly with a job offer and a start date.
International student’s with J-1 visa status are also encouraged to apply for seasonal positions and internships. Loads of other helpful information about the hiring process can be found on Xanterra’s website.
What’s an average work day like?
I usually work from 9-5p or 12-9p most days. I don a green and black uniform, tie up my hair, and get my register ready for a busy shift serving hungry travelers. My cashier job is easy, and it affords me loads of time to connect with travelers from all over the world. Meeting people is my favorite part of the job, and it is easy when the guests are just so excited to be here. I connect with people about my travels in Asia, make suggestions for folks currently on road trips, and give lots of directions and advice about various areas and activities in the park. For many guests, this is a “bucket list” trip, and I feel happy knowing that I’ve positively contributed to their experience.
How much money are you earning?
I am earning just above minimum wage for the time being. In addition to pay, the dormitory that I share with my boyfriend only cost me $16/week. I also get 50% off meals, laundry and uniforms are free, and the shuttles around the park allow me to live without a car. My expenses here are so low, I am currently living off just $10 a day. Simple living at its finest.
Who would be a good fit for this work?
While it’s great to live next to a natural wonder, this place is not for the faint of heart. The park has its own (slow) rhythm, living with a roommate can be challenging, and being contained in a tiny town can seem mundane at times. If you’re someone who can go out and make your own adventures, exhibit flexibility and patience, and display cultural sensitivity to guests and coworkers, you’ll be appropriately prepared to enjoy all the perks of being here. You also might fit one of the following descriptions:
Outdoorsy-types looking to work where they play. College students seeking seasonal work or internships. Gypsies, like me, who love to try new places without planting roots. Anyone looking for advancement opportunities in hospitality, food & beverage, or retail departments. Park hoppers who would like to live and work in various national parks across the country.
What are some of the best resources to help someone prepare for this work?
Make sure park living is right for you by checking out this link before you apply.
Browse through the frequently asked questions here.