Diving Into the Workforce

Entry-level jobs that may lead to careers

Whether you’re fresh out of school or just looking for a fresh start, it’s a challenge searching for work with little or no experience. Most jobs require a high school diploma or equivalent, so if you didn’t graduate, strongly consider taking the GED. A resumé and cover letter help to make a good impression, even if your experience is a little bit thin. And remember that many positions require a driver’s license, clean DMV abstract, drug screening or background checks, so prepare before you start hunting. 

Here are a few jumping off points for folks entering the workforce—working for the county, the nonprofit sector, restaurants and hotels.

Maui County 

The Maui County Department of Parks and Recreation is always looking for pool lifeguards. Unlike beach lifeguards, who often engage in search and rescue, being a pool lifeguard is nothing like Baywatch. It’s fairly low-key and involves some administrative duties—like opening and closing facilities and doing pool maintenance—as well as lots of whistle blowing and yelling at running kids. You must be physically able to conduct a water rescue. Certifications in CPR, First Aid, and Red Cross Lifeguarding are required, but may be included in on-the-job training. Hourly wages start around $18.

County park caretakers are always in demand. These positions involve building maintenance and janitorial tasks as well as landscaping and plant care. You should be in good health and have a valid driver’s license and you must pass a pre-employment exam. Pay starts at about $25 per hour.

Dreaming of being a first responder? Maui County firefighter trainees receive on-the-job training in firefighting, land and sea rescue, and other skills. Get paid to learn while doing practice drills, performing equipment maintenance and keeping those fire trucks shiny. Of course, you may also be exposed to hazardous conditions. Applicants must pass a physical agility test and obtain Ocean Rescue, CPR, and First Responder certifications. Trainees start at about $27 an hour. 

Maui firefighters stay busy responding to all kinds of emergencies, from car accidents to cliff rescues. Photo by Dan Collins.

Nonprofit Sector

If you have endless patience and love kids, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui are often seeking youth mentors for their seven facilities across the island. You must be 18 or older and pass a background check and drug test, since you’ll be entrusted with children. Mentors supervise club members during after school programs and maintain a fun, safe environment. Pay starts at about $17 an hour.

Lei Anzai started at Boys & Girls Club a year ago and likes to bring the fun to the activities she facilitates. Photo by Dan Collins.

Pacific Whale Foundation hires folks in Ma‘alaea and Lāhainā to book and check in passengers for their boat tours. Pay starts at about $15.50 an hour, plus commissions, and you must pass a background check. Deck hands make about a buck more per hour but must also acquire CPR, AED, First Aid and lifeguard certifications within 30 days of hire. Those serving drinks on the vessel must also get a liquor card. All applicants should be strong swimmers and not prone to seasickness. As with all boat crews, you may be subject to random drug testing by the Coast Guard. 

Animal lovers are often in demand at Maui Humane Society. Animal care attendants feed and care for the shelter’s cats, dogs, and exotic animals. Compassion for critters is a primary requirement, but there’s plenty of cleaning, disinfecting, laundry and kennel maintenance, too. You should be comfortable handling shy, fearful and sometimes aggressive animals, and you must have the emotional capacity to deal with euthanasia. Hourly pay starts at about $16.50. 

Naturalist Hunter Rumpp joined the Pacific Whale Foundation crew six months ago and she’s stoked to be learning the ropes, literally. Photo by Dan Collins.


The food service industry is a natural starting point for many job hunters. A good attitude and willingness to work hard—sometimes late at night, or on weekends and holidays—are the main requirements. Hosting is an entry level job that doesn’t require a lot of experience, but may be a gateway to other positions, like server or bartender. Neat appearance and a welcoming personality are important, but so is the ability to keep up a fast pace and seat people in an orderly manner. Pay starts at about $12 an hour, plus tips. 

If waiting tables is your objective, starting as a busser might get you in the door. You must be able to work quickly, lifting heavy bus tubs while keeping up appearances in front of diners. A tuberculosis screening and COVID-19 vaccinations are often required of food workers. Pay typically starts at about $12 an hour, plus tips, but can be twice that at fine dining establishments. 

If you don’t mind the heat in the kitchen, line cooks can make a good salary while mastering the skills to move up to sous chef. Most restaurants require some food service experience, so that fast food job you took in high school may actually pay off. A food handling certificate will likely be required if you’re hired. Kitchens can be stressful environments, so keeping a cool head and being a team player are essential job skills. Pay starts at $15-20, plus a share of tips, but some high-end restaurants pay upwards of $35 an hour.


Perhaps the easiest gig to break into in the hotel business is working as a valet attendant, greeting guests and parking cars. They’re really just looking for folks who are courteous and trustworthy, but a driver’s license is obviously required, and a good memory for car makes and models doesn’t hurt. Use this job as a springboard to something better by networking with your coworkers. Pay starts at about $12 an hour, plus tips. 

Housekeeping jobs at hotel resorts often don’t require a diploma and may hire non-English speakers. Be prepared to keep up a quick pace as you tidy up, launder and disinfect guest rooms because most hotels expect a certain number of rooms cleaned every hour. Pay starts at about $20 an hour. 

Dan Collins