Shovelling snow is a hard job.
Sidewalk crews and snow shovelers may very well have the hardest job in the snow removal industry. It is certainly the hardest job when it comes to retaining workers.
Sidewalk crews are often in charge of snow blowing, shovelling, filling salt bins, and any additional clearing that equipment can’t complete, as well as laying salt and other deicing materials. Snow shovelling and clearing involves vigorous, overnight physical labour in cold and dark conditions. The hours are long, the work is tiring, and it is mainly an on-call job. Shovelling snow in a snowstorm demands patience, hard work, persistence, a great work ethic and attitude.
Shovelling snow is a rigorous and physical job.
Why Would Anyone Want To Shovel Snow?
If your career in construction is just starting and you have been looking for a way to get a foot into the construction world, then snow removal is the perfect way to do so by giving you the opportunity to prove yourself. It can be a stepping stone to becoming an operator, landscaper, site supervisor, skilled labourer, or any other role you can find in construction and landscaping.
As Luther Campbell – an American rapper, promoter, record executive, and actor – once said, “goodness and hard work are rewarded with respect.” This is especially true in the construction industry. Hard work, dedication, and commitment can go a long way in establishing yourself as a person worth respecting… and maybe even worth hiring.
Kick Start Your Career
The snow industry includes all different kinds of companies and contractors. It’s a unique world that creates an opportunity to network with people you may not be able to otherwise. Shoveling snow can introduce you to property managers, maintenance crews, heavy equipment operators, business owners, landscapers, construction companies, city employees, equipment rental houses… the list of connections goes on and on.
The overnight shift already creates a kind of unspoken bond that can be used to connect with all different industry people. If you show up all season and do so with a positive attitude, you will be known amongst this family. It’s a nice place to be as a young worker.
Use this culture, these connections, and the variety of people in the snow industry to kick start your career. It is also a great way to make yourself stand out as a “must hire” after the season.
“You can really make a name for yourself in that first season of snow removal.”
– Brent Giles, DOZR Director of Customer Success
Stand Out to Possible Employers
One of the hardest parts of the snow season is getting snow shovelers to show up. Unanswered phone calls and seasonal staff who simply walk off site are common. It’s known among snow removal companies that if you need 20 people to clear snow, you keep a list of 100 so that you have a plethora of backup contacts. You will need those contacts.
If you show up, every time, on time, with a good attitude, you will stand out. You set yourself up as a person willing to do the job and do it well. It’s a great way to stand out to the owners of companies and managers of teams.
Anyone who can face snow with a cool head will stand out as a team player. GIF from Outside.tv.
Tell Them What You Want
Don’t be afraid to make it known to your supervisor that you are looking to use snow as a stepping stone into the industry. Say it right in your interview. Let them know that you see this opportunity as just that: an opportunity into a successful career. If they know you take this job seriously, they will feel better about relying on you. They may even help set out a career path for you.
“As an employer and the one doing the hiring, presenting a clear career path that shows opportunities for growth can be imperative to maintaining a high employee retention,” says Brent Giles. Brent is the former Director of Operations for Clintar Landscape Management’s corporate head office, and DOZR’s current Director of Customer Success.
“Starting at the initial interview stage, I always made sure that potential employees knew that this could be an opportunity to grow. If they put in a single season, working hard and showing that they could stick it out with a good attitude, they would most likely be put into a next-level position the following year. You can really make a name for yourself in that first season of snow removal.”
The best way to get what you want is to ask for it. These career-centered conversations give you the opportunity to ask questions about the company and how you can best set yourself up for success moving forward. Curious about what skills they value in management? Ask them. Being upfront and straightforward with what you want says that you aren’t afraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. Being proactive and organized in planning your career indicate valuable skills associated with strong leadership and responsible project managers.
Enter this industry with determination, heart, organization, and curiosity, and then work hard all season to develop interpersonal and communication skills. If you embrace the opportunity presented by snow, snow will surely embrace you.
The Health Benefits of Shovelling Snow
According to Statistica, 53% of people make New Year’s resolutions to save money and 45% of people make resolutions to lose weight and get fit. By shovelling snow, you can do both.
Shovelling snow works out your legs, arms, back, core, and shoulders. The movement of shovelling and tossing snow incorporates all parts of your body and is ultimately a full body workout. It involves balance, strength and stability which engages your core the entire time you’re shovelling. A person weighing about 185lb could burn over 225 calories in 30 minutes of snow shovelling. In a 5 hour shift, that’s over 2,200 calories.
The act of shovelling snow aside, your body burns calories just by trying to keep warm. Although shovelling can be a great workout, these numbers also show the importance of eating before and during a shift as well as wearing warm clothes to help your body stay warm.
It’s rare that a job could open up your career options, give you an “in” into a competitive industry, and help you stay healthy while doing it.
Snow Shovelling Safety
Employers should be providing some information about safe shovelling body mechanics and proper tools for snow shovelling to keep shovelers safe on the job. Safety working around moving equipment should also be discussed to remind seasonal hires to be aware of reversing and moving equipment. Awareness and training is only a small side to safety, though. It falls to the shoveller – you – to take the time to keep yourself safe on the job.
Just like if you lift weights or do any other kind of workout, proper body mechanics and technique are important to keep you safe. While shovelling snow is a great way to set yourself up for career success, it’s important to get through the season injury-free.
The most common injury in shovelling snow is back strain. Reaching too far, bending at the waist and lifting with your back can cause serious injuries. Back injuries are particularly dangerous because they can get worse days later and can make you more prone to further injury. If you feel a weird tweek or twinge in your back, stop shovelling and assess your body.
Snow Shovelling Safety Includes
Using ergonomic shovels to assist in proper body mechanics and form
– Pushing snow instead of lifting it
– Taking many scoops from a big pile if you must lift it, instead of trying to shovel the whole pile at once
– Bending at the knees, not the waist
– Lifting with your legs, not your back
– Wearing proper boots to maintain a strong base for lifting snow
– Always wear proper PPE like reflective vests, hats, mitts, etc while shovelling
– Stretching before and after shovelling
For more safety tips for snow shovelers, check visit the websites for the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety or the American Heart Association.
Snow clearing is a difficult and important job. Although equipment is able to take over the role of labourers, there are still many aspects to snow removal that must be done by a person. The nature of the job, however, deters a lot of people before they even start.
Like most things in the construction industry, it’s important to put the role of shovelling snow in the perspective of the bigger picture; it has the power to act as a stepping stone to make connections within the industry and to set yourself apart as a great hire for any company. Snow shovelling may be hard, but one season of a difficult job could be nothing compared to a successful career in a profitable industry.