In Civilian life, the term has been used for any job that allows an employee to work at any location rather than a specific one or one. For example, a Sales Manager may provide training & guidance as needed to all of his salespeople in several different cities. Or an Arborist may travel around to different sites to inspect trees and deliver services as needed. It can be any position that requires you to “float” from place to place.
What is a Floater Job?
The term “Floater” originated from the Military. They use it to describe a person who has no permanent assignment/position that they must report to but rather is on call for any emergency or special duty (such as riot control) as needed.
As one career soldier described it:
You’re floating around in the sea of military bureaucracy, but you have no port to call home.
As a result, the term has become somewhat derogatory (at least in my experience), and in most cases, it seems to mean that they put you anywhere & everywhere and leave you to figure it out yourself.
What are examples of Floater Jobs?
There are many different types of floater jobs that could be considered Floater Jobs, but a few stand out as the most common:
Sales Manager, Salesperson, and other Service-oriented roles Customer Service Engineer/Technician Web Developer (or any other job where your location is not important) After-Hours Shift Worker – E.g., ER Night Nurse, HVAC Repairman, etc.
Office Administrator (Secretary)
What are the Benefits of a Floater Job?
While there are some benefits to this type of job arrangement, there are also some serious downsides as well:
Flexibility – In general, you have much more freedom in your schedule and location to do other things. For example, if you have a family, you don’t have to worry about working the hours your boss is available or try and find something closer to home. You can work whatever hours are best for you & your children/family – And if they change your schedule on short notice, it’s not usually a big deal (more on this later, though).
If you have a question/problem that needs to be resolved with your boss or the company, it’s usually much quicker & easier to call him than have to sit through layers of bureaucracy. You can go directly to the top and talk directly with the people who make decisions, whereas if you aren’t on-location, you have to jump through more hoops. Convenience – This seems counter-intuitive given the word “Floater.” Still, for most floater jobs, there is a lot of work done outside of normal business hours, and many people (especially those in the service industry) must be able to respond at any time, day or night. A floater position allows you to do that more easily than other jobs. For example, if you have to go to a customer’s house at 11 pm on a weeknight to fix an issue, it would be much harder in most cases as someone who only works M-F 8 – 5 pm. Or, if your boss has an emergency and wants you to come in on your vacation day, it’s easier as well.
And the most important one of all…… Money – In most cases, you’ll be making more money because many positions require that you work after-hours, during weekends, and even holidays. Thus, if you get stuck with an employer that can’t fill their schedule with local talent and has to bring in outside help, you can usually make a lot more money than if you were at an office working 9-5 every day.
There are many more pros & cons as well (and I’m sure there are some that I missed), but these are the biggest ones I’ve experienced during my time as a floater.
How does a floater job work?
You have a boss who is often in another location/state – Normally, you’re just reporting to their superior that’s local to the city and who will then forward your reports/requests/etc. up the food chain as needed.
Like any other job, your schedule will vary depending on whom you work for. For example, if you are a Sales Person, your schedule will vary much more than someone working in a particular job with set hours (e.g., Office Administrator).
This is especially true when it comes to working holidays/weekends – Some of the best paychecks I ever had came during Christmas, New Year, Summer Holidays, etc.
If you’re floating around trying to find your next position/boss, this will be especially important as there definitely isn’t an “average” schedule.
In general, you’ll make more money as a floater. There are many reasons for this, but the main ones being that your boss doesn’t have to pay benefits and is also not confined by local competition. Therefore there is more need/demand (and thus higher prices) for what you are offering.
Be careful, though, because a floater job can be a double-edged sword – As you work more, your employer is also allowed to take more money from you, which can have serious implications for your financial situation.
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