Do a European Working Gap Year

There are two strategies for getting summer work in Europe:

  1. Apply early (December / January) through one of the many companies offering gap year internships or...
  2. From May onwards, be an opportunist and look out for jobs at smaller / middling tourist establishments looking for staff of all levels on resort / in country (bar staff, cleaners in villas etc).

Employers are looking for trustworthy, bright and respectable employees - so make sure you think about what you want before you get in touch. If you look like a time-waster, you will more than likely be treated like one.

Summer camp companies like PGL employ hundreds of staff to work on their adventure camps in France and Spain, pubs need bar staff on the Algarve, clubs need dancers in Ibiza, campsites on the south of France need general English-speaking bodies - take your pick, the key points are...

  1. Early planning and prep: you should be sending off letters from December the year before. Find out when the employers are recruiting.
  2. Get to the right place at the right time - this is a knack some travellers pick up and others don't. I have known some people that can walk into a town and through their own natural vigilance find an opportunity straight away.
  3. Don't be shy! Ask away... local people, other travellers, bus drivers... make your own luck!

My summer jobs in Europe

1. Working in French youth hostels

I got the fax and email details of all the big youth hostels in Europe's main cities (Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Rome etc) and did a mail-shot saying that I was looking for work - from this I scored a job in Paris and one in the French Alps the following ski season!

2. Bar work in Portugal (Algarve)

It was early season (Mid May) and I was bored with my current job, so I got a cheap deal from Teletext and flew into Faro for £79 including seven nights' self-catering accommodation - I used this as a base to trawl the bars and restaurants up and down the coast for work. Something came up on my second day, and within two weeks I had a shared flat and was working two jobs: chi..ching!

3. Supermarket work in Florence

I was serving a table of Italian people at the restaurant I worked at in Portugal, I got them chatting about how to experience the real Italy... they gave me an open invitation to their home in Tuscany and said I could earn money at their supermarket. I even dated their daughter for a little bit... but that went a bit funny!

NOTE: When you are open and friendly with strangers you do open yourself up to a certain element of risk. Use your head, think things through, and don't be scared to leave if something doesn't feel right.