How to Get a Job on the Big Island

by | Jul 3, 2020

When Pat and I moved from Southern California to the Hamakua Coast, I was unemployed. My job with the San Bernardino National Forest Association as their buyer/operations manager for eight gift stores could not be duplicated on this island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Pat had retired from the Riverside Fire Department with two work-related back surgeries. He had a pension, thank the good Lord, but we had zero savings due to the 2008 financial and real estate collapse. Our unsold home in Big Bear was on a fast track to foreclosure!

What an awesome experience! I absolutely love what I lovingly refer to as “my final career.”

A few months after renting and moving into our Hawaii Realtor®’s vintage yurt in Paauilo, I finally had some time to consider my “immediate employment options.” After all, I was still able bodied, and I felt like I had much to offer. I just didn’t know to whom! As a previous business owner, with over 30 years of retail, fine jewelry and marketing experience, I tried to re-create that source of income. The challenge came in the reality that I now lived in a very rural part of the island. Retail paid next to nothing, regardless of my management expertise. And, there was only one fine jeweler within a 30-minute drive. As a consultant to fine jewelers nationwide for over 20 years, I figured I could still offer my services, but on a local level. Nope!, was the answer.

Thinking outside the employment box!

One day, a neighbor I hadn’t yet met stopped by the yurt. After chatting for a while I asked her what she did for a living. She shared that she was a property manager. I had no idea what that was, but soon discovered she managed rental properties along the Kohala Coast. I really needed a job, and offered my services if she needed help in the near future. She liked the way I decorated our tiny yurt and said she might call me. Within a week she actually hired me, and I humbly began my four-year stint of cleaning houses and condos – first as her employee, then as the owner of my own company, Room2Room. I had discovered there was a need, so I decided to jump in and fill it. In addition to cleaning, I also offered decorating, organizing and move management. I hate to say it, but I mostly spent my hours cleaning. The good news is that I made a lot of great friends through the process, and was surprised to discover that my hourly wage was twice what I had made in my corporate job in Big Bear! Not bad for a woman wielding a mop and vacuum!

I love homes, particularly those with history and design character. About a year and a half into owning Room2Room it hit me…I would rather sell homes than clean them! It truly was an AH HA! moment. I thought about all the homes I had bought and sold over the past 35 years, the home Pat and I had designed and built in Big Bear, how I adored the challenge of decorating, my vast marketing experience, finally realizing that I was primed to become a Realtor®.

A new career at 62

When I told Pat about this revelation he was 100% supportive. When I told my family and friends, they, too, gave me the green light. Four months after making this career-changing decision, I passed the two very difficult real estate tests and signed on with Clark Realty, the largest brokerage on the Big Island. During that four-month period, I still had to clean those houses and condos, but I had advertised the sale of my business and was in the process of training the new owner while he worked off what he owed me. He was a young father with a wife and child in another country. My little business was affording him the opportunity to eventually bring his family to Hawaii! I just loved that.

Once the cleaning business was sold, and I could focus 100% on real estate, I was in heaven. What an awesome experience! I absolutely love what I lovingly refer to as “my final career.” Why? Because it successfully weaves together all my past work experience, and my God-given gifts and talents. Helping others realize their real estate dreams is a dream come true for me. And if we hadn’t moved to this island I am pretty sure this career would never have materialized.

At the forefront, you may not see something that truly interests you. But, give it some time. Talk to people.

how to recreate yourself in the area of business

So, what can you expect in the area of employment when you move to this paradise? Let’s say you are not re-locating for a job you already have, or can do virtually. Let’s say you have work experience and now you need to figure out how best to put it to good use.

Hawaii’s hotel and service industry is by far the largest industry state wide. Whether luxury hotels and fancy restaurants along the Kohala Coast, high-end to moderate retail shops, food service, short term rentals, tourist attractions, cruise excursions, or a plethora of companies providing any small element of product or service to the afore mentioned, it’s service, service, and service. At the forefront, you may not see something that truly interests you. But, give it some time. Talk to people. Visit groups like Business Network International (BNI), Pau Hana, Rotary and other clubs. Talk to your friends and neighbors. And then listen. Listen to hear what is needed but not yet available in your area, or needed more of. That was definitely the case with my cleaning business.

Chances are you will need to re-create yourself using the tools already in your tool box. It may not happen right away. You may need to take baby steps, starting slow but starting. My girlfriend worked for a small company called Home Tours Hawaii – A few years later she bought the company and hired me. I worked for her seasonally part-time for about six years, and we had a blast. HTH conducts culinary home tours for cruise ship guests. But, she saw an opportunity to expand with coffee and cacao tours, ultimately increasing her tour options while doubling the occupancy of each tour! A huge success!

The key is to see a void and then fill it using your specific gifts and talents. To think outside the box. To see this time as an opportunity to spread your wings and go where you never dreamed of going. For me, becoming a Realtor® was never my dream even though I come from a family with two Realtor®s. On the Big Island, it not only became my dream but a dream fulfilled.

NOTE: In addition to standard websites for job seekers, CraigsList is an excellent source for full time, part time, gig and seasonal work.

What Clients Are Saying

“Jen was very proactive in all aspects of selling our property and found contractors to keep the property looking good throughout the listing period. She also provided advice throughout the process and was very helpful in getting the transaction done at a distance (we were on the mainland throughout the process). Her knowledge of the Hamakua Coast was very helpful in helping prospective buyers understand the regulatory and practical issues associated with shoreline properties.”

Read Testimonials