Note from Work Stew Editor Kate Gace Walton: Over on Facebook, I recently posted this message: “I’ve talked to many job changers. Now I’m on the lookout for people who have stayed with one employer for a long, long time. Anyone?”
I heard from quite a few people, and over the coming weeks, I plan to share the brief Q&A exchange I had with each of them. First up: Priscilla Emerling who has worked at Vermont’s Smugglers’ Notch resort for more than two decades.
Initially, I only planned to stay for a winter. I had just moved to Burlington, Vermont from Washington DC and was having trouble finding a job. At that point in my life, I had great plans to save the world working with troubled teens, but found it difficult to get my foot in anywhere, especially without a Masters. A friend was headed out to Smugglers’ to apply for a job, and I decided to tag along. I applied on a whim. I thought it would be fun to be a ski bum for a season. Little did I know that, 23 years later, I’d still be here!
2. Why have you stayed as long as you have?
Laziness? I think a lot of it has to do with the atmosphere, especially early on. There’s nothing like working at a resort: you get to work, play, and live in a place where people spend oodles of money to spend their hard-earned vacation/family time. In a word, it’s fun! Plus, I was learning so much. Because line-level resort jobs are seasonal, you needed to be willing to do whatever is needed to stay employed during the slower shoulder seasons. For me, this meant brush cutting ski trails, painting facilities, building bridges on the cross-country trails, acid-washing pools, waxing slides… For a girl who didn’t know the difference between a wrench and pliers, these were all huge accomplishments. The other important factor is the people. There’s a longevity epidemic at Smugglers’ and the people you work with are more than just co-workers—the company as a whole is much like a large, dysfunctional family. We fight, we tease, we nag—but give us a crisis to get behind, or (god forbid) someone say something negative about us, watch out because we’re a force to behold. There’s one thing we all have in common: we love the mountain. It’s not just a job or a resort, it’s a family.
3. Was there ever a point where you considered leaving? Making a change? If so why? What made you decide to stay instead?
Many times. Mainly because I didn’t want to get stuck in the same job for 20 years and not be able to find another one. You can see how well that turned out. One of the downsides of working at a resort is that you’re asked to do many things outside what would be considered a normal job description. Jack of all trades, master of none. It’s difficult to figure out where you fit in the real world—or if you’d fit at all. On paper, I’m the art director/graphic designer at a year-round resort…but that just doesn’t translate as well as it would if it were the same position but at an advertising agency, or a magazine—even though I direct our ad agency and produce a magazine. There are a lot of little things that keep me here, beyond not being able to (half-heartedly) find another job: flexibility being the most important. As long as I get my job done, I can work from anywhere. I can come and go as I please. For me, this has become more and more important with my father passing away and my mother getting older. Frankly, I’ve come to realize that working here for as long as I have has turned me into a spoiled brat. I work hard, and for the most part under the radar—but at the same time I have no filter. I will give you my opinion regardless of your position and apparently missed that day in school when they taught business correctness and how to suck up.
4. Why do you think changing jobs is so common? What are other people seeking that you have perhaps already found?
I think most people are more ambitious than I am. Plus, for the most part, my quality of life and where I live was much more important to me than making the big bucks. Ive never been one of those people who always had to trade in and up—I’m quite content and comfortable with what I have. THAT or it’s because I don’t like change. My father spent his entire career with J. Walter Thompson, so I suppose there’s something to be said for doing what you know.
5. Is there something, anything, that could—at least hypothetically—lure you elsewhere? If so, what is it?