Ask Kim


7 Steps to Get a Holiday Job

Kimberly Lankford

Competition will be fierce, so here's how you can increase your chances of finding employment.



How can I find a job for the holidays, and when and where should I start looking?

Many companies beef up their staffs during the holidays, providing a great opportunity to find a temporary job if you’re out of work or to earn extra money to help pay for holiday gifts. Plus, a seasonal job can help you get your foot in the door for a permanent position.

But competition for holiday jobs can be fierce. A study by the Hay Group, a human-resources consulting firm, found that 62% of retailers are seeing more seasonal applicants this year compared with a year ago, but 40% are hiring fewer seasonal workers. Here are seven moves you can make to help land a holiday job.

Apply now. Most employers -- especially retailers -- do the bulk of their hiring by mid November so they have time to train new hires before the holiday rush begins at Thanksgiving. Some businesses, such as caterers, are busiest when the holiday-party season picks up in December. Depending on the industry, the jobs generally last through New Year’s.

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Be creative. “When you think about seasonal employment, you automatically think of retail,” says Jennifer Sullivan Grasz, of CareerBuilder.com. “But you can also find administrative and clerical work, IT jobs, and accounting and finance positions as businesses wrap up 2009 and ramp up for 2010. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door.”

Even retailers offer a wide variety of seasonal jobs -- including positions in sales as well as customer service, shipping, security, greeting, merchandising and receiving. Also check out jobs with delivery companies. UPS is hiring 50,000 temporary workers during the holiday season this year, primarily as part-time drivers’ helpers (who often travel with the driver and help deliver packages to large buildings or big residential areas), as well as loaders and sorters in package operations.

Some manufacturers need extra help with shipping and customer service; hotels, restaurants and catering companies have to staff holiday parties. And some companies need people to dress up as characters or demonstrate products for promotions.

Research your options. Many companies have Web sites that make it easy to search for jobs and apply online. MacysJobs.com and UPSJobs.com, for example, let you search by location and job category. You can also look for holiday jobs at general sites, such as CareerBuilder.com (and its niche site, www.workinretail.com) and Monster.com, and find a variety of local listings on Craigslist.org.

Temp firms can help you find a holiday job, too. Search for staffing-agency contact information by field or location through the National Association of Personnel Services (click on “Directory”) or the American Staffing Association (click on “Job Seekers”). Visit your favorite stores in person to see whether they are hiring.

Be flexible.You’ll be most likely to get the job if you can work flexible hours. “A retail or hospitality employer may need someone to work nights and weekends,” says CareerBuilder.com’s Grasz. “A corporate office may require daytime hours. There are a lot more people competing for seasonal jobs this year, so it’s important to be flexible, especially if you want to turn the position into a long-term opportunity.” The work shifts can vary significantly at a round-the-clock firm, such as UPS. “It could be evening package loading or sorting,” says UPS spokesperson Susan Rosenberg. “And we have several different spikes of sorting activity throughout the day and evening, so the opportunity could be from 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.”

Learn about the company. Because so many people are competing for a limited number of holiday jobs this year, it’s important to put the same amount of care into your search for a temporary job as you would for a permanent position. Do your homework: Learn about the company and its business, visit its Web site and talk with anyone you know who works there. Nearly a quarter of the hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder.com said that in the past, they had been deterred from hiring a seasonal-job candidate who had no knowledge of the company or its products. And spend time on your application and interview preparations.

Be particularly careful about your appearance if you’re applying to work at a retail clothing store -- the CareerBuilder survey found that 11% of hiring managers said candidates who interviewed for a job in an ensemble purchased from a competitor were ultimately not considered for the open position.

Keep trying. Some retailers have been slow to take on new employees up to this point, but they may add more temporary workers if their business starts to improve during the holiday season. “There have been some signs that retail is picking up, so we could see a surge in November employment gains,” says John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consulting firm. “If you are looking for a seasonal job, it would be wise not to give up the search. Retailers are taking a wait-and-see approach and could decide to bring in extra workers at the last minute.”

Look toward the future. A holiday job can be a great way to eventually land a full-time position. UPS, for example, is hiring only part-time temporary workers during the holiday season, but those workers will be given the opportunity to apply for permanent positions after December 31. “This has been common at UPS,” says Rosenberg. “In fact, some of our executives started as seasonal part-timers and have risen to be members of our leadership.”

Got a Question? E-mail Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com

Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.



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