How to Land a Seasonal Job
Sleigh bells are ringing in American malls, which means merchants have begun hiring for seasonal jobs. If you'd like to get in on that cash cow -- about $10.20 an hour on average for retail -- brush off your application skills because now is the time when businesses are thinking about extra staff. Between 25 percent and 50 percent of total annual retail sales take place during the holidays, so merchants usually increase their workforce at least 4 percent to ensure they don't miss a single dollar.
Nor are Christmas retail jobs the only openings available. Employers need to add delivery people, resort workers and temps for vacationing staff. Restaurants and caterers need extra help to handle holiday parties. Online merchants also add employees to handle order placements as sales and free shipping offers blossom closer to the holidays and attract buyers.
In general, Christmas creep means early Christmas cash for those willing to put in the hours. Competition will be fiercer than ever for jobs this year, so if you want to help make cash registers ring, here are 13 tips on getting hired for holiday jobs.
1. Look to the Big Stores
Luxury stores are struggling, but big-box and discount stores are thriving. Experts predict toy and electronics sales will be up this year while retail clothing sales will be flat. Look to such stores as Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Target for short-term work, but not necessarily a career. Toys R Us, in particular, is opening 600 temporary stores for the holidays. Other chains are expected to follow suit. Keep an ear to the ground for such possibilities, but be wary of merchants close to bankruptcy as you may never receive that final check.
2. Stay Out of the Malls
Malls are decaying while lifestyle centers and downtown shopping centers are blossoming. Grocery stores also expect an increase in business as people turn to home entertaining, traditional holiday meals and homemade gifts. (Seasonal jobs might be easier to land at grocery stores, as well, because job hunters often forget about them.) Basically, forget the normal routes for Christmas jobs and think outside the box.
3. Retool Your Resumé
You may have acres of experience in public relations or the financial sector, but a two-page resumé detailing all those qualifications won't land you a seasonal job. Craft your resumé to indicate how your life experience will relate to the job for which you're applying. For example, retail employers are looking for customer service, sales and cash-handling skills. Even if you have to dig back to your college days, list those abilities and combine them with your present expertise. De-emphasize or remove irrelevant information -- aka dumb it down. Now is no time to explain how you earned a coveted award for designing a transflux capacitor.
If you're just starting out, mention every bit of experience, including your summer job at McDonald's and two years editing the high school newspaper. No matter what seasonal position, be ready to transfer that info into a pre-made application as many employers aren't interested in looking at individual resumés. They want to scan standardized applications, although it's appropriate to attach a resumé with bullet points of your relevant experience.
4. Research the Company
Google the employer's "About Us" page so you won't walk in cold. Show a passion, knowledge or loyalty to the company or their products. Know a temp agency's target employers or the type of food served by a restaurant or catering service. Even if you don't end up talking to someone, you can adjust your application to suit the needs of that particular employer.
5. Apply in Person
Employers want to see how you present yourself. Dress appropriate to the job and present a friendly, positive, can-do attitude. It's important not to over or under dress. Scope out the dress code for the industry and try to hit just a tad above that level.
6. Apply Early and Follow-Up
Merchants have a drawer full of applications before the holiday season even begins. Send your resume or application to the top of the stack early and often. Apply now and follow up on a regular basis, but don't pester. An in-person appearance is preferable as phone calls will end up in a stack of ignored messages. Remember that persistence is a positive quality but nagging is not. Once a week should do it, depending on the industry.
7. Be Flexible About Shifts
If feasible, express your willingness to work a wide variety of shifts, including the difficult ones. Managers aren't interested in applicants who can't work Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, evenings or early mornings. Commit to the entire holiday season, including the post-Christmas rush. This also applies to call centers. Many people do their online shopping at odd hours, particularly when there are special sales and free shipping offers involved. An applicant who's willing to man the phones during lunch hours, nap time and after work will likely turn from applicant into employee.
8. Ask for Unwanted Jobs
Nobody wants to bus tables, work the late-night/early-morning shifts or spend hours filing papers. You're more likely to land a job if you indicate a willingness to accept even the lowliest of positions. Of course you'll need to actually be able and willing to work such jobs or brave pounding the pavement again.
9. Show Respect for the Industry
Working outside your career area may not be a thrill -- it can even be humiliating -- but it will help pay the bills, and that's your ultimate goal, isn't it? Consider how many people have lost jobs since the recession began -- 868,000 in the retail sector alone -- and you'll better appreciate landing a Christmas job.
10. Sign On With Temp Agencies
Temporary agencies often seek additional staff for their clients during the holiday season. In addition, year-round temping has become one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the country. The range of available positions has increased significantly since the Recession began, from simple filing to industrial to tech support. Many turn into long-term temp positions and even occasionally permanent jobs. Kelly Services, Snelling & Snelling, Manpower and several smaller agencies all provide online databases of temporary positions.
Don't overlook non-Christmas temp jobs. The IRS and state tax departments annually need help in processing tax returns starting in early January. Tax preparers begin hiring in December to help filers with year-end investments and paperwork.
11. Apply for Delivery Jobs
Package delivery services add staff, including drivers and handlers, to deal with the deluge of holiday boxes. FedEx has a searchable jobs database that allows you to apply online. DHL, UPS and the U.S. Post Office also have employment information available online.
12. Go Outdoors
Are you more of an outdoors type? Selling Christmas trees isn't your only option. Ski areas and resorts hire extra help for the holiday and winter season, including ski instructors and patrol members, as well as snowmaking, hotel and restaurant staff. Some positions bundle housing and discounted lift tickets into staff pay -- a real plus for ski bums. (Or is it snowboard bums?)
13. Feed the Masses
Americans eat more during the holidays, whether at home, in restaurants or at catered parties. Somebody has to feed all those people. From bagging groceries to busing tables to serving steaming platters, there's a need for people to serve consumers (and we do mean consumers.) Don't overlook this industry when passing out your resumés. After the holidays, you might look for work at a health club, as the same people look to lose all that extra weight.
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