Ask Kim


How to Find a Holiday Job

Kimberly Lankford

Here are several resources to help you get seasonal work at retailers, shipping companies, manufacturers, entertainment venues or other businesses.



I’d like to get an extra job during the holidays to help pay for holiday gifts (and maybe even get an employee discount). What are the prospects for seasonal work this year? When should I start looking, and what can I do to improve my chances of getting hired?

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This is the perfect time to look for a job because many companies are beefing up their workforces and hiring extra employees for the holiday season. Outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas is predicting that retailers will hire about the same number of seasonal workers this year as they did a year ago, when employment grew by 627,600 from October through December. That was nearly double the number of seasonal jobs that were available in 2008, when seasonal hiring hit a 26-year low of 324,900.

Retailers tend to staff up more than most other employers during the holiday season. Macy’s plans to hire 78,000 seasonal employees this year (up 4% from last year), Toys”R”Us plans to hire more than 40,000 seasonal employees, and BestBuy plans to add 15,000 seasonal workers, for example.

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There can even be a wide range of jobs available within retail companies. In addition to hiring sales associates, for example, Macy’s is hiring people to work in the stock rooms, distribution centers, online fulfillment centers and call centers. The location of the jobs can be surprising. Macy’s has three main fulfillment hubs that are more than 30 miles away from big cities, in Portland, Tenn. (near Nashville), Goodyear, Ariz. (near Phoenix) and Cheshire, Conn. (near New York City). You can find information about all of these jobs and apply online at MacysJobs.com. Toys”R”Us is also hiring seasonal workers at its nine distribution centers across the country, in addition to its retail stores. You can apply online for any of their jobs at www.ruscareers.com.

Retailers aren’t the only ones boosting their hiring during the holiday season. Shipping and delivery companies, caterers and other hospitality businesses, entertainment venues and manufacturers (especially those that create holiday gifts) tend to hire extra workers during the holiday season. And even companies that don’t seem to have a holiday rush often hire extra administrative workers and accountants during November and December to ready their books for year-end. A survey by CareerBuilder.com says that although employers are hiring primarily for customer service positions (30%), they are also increasing hiring in the following categories: administrative/clerical support (16%), shipping and delivery (15%), technology (12%), inventory management (10%), nonretail sales (9%), accounting/finance (8%) and marketing (8%).

In addition to companies’ Web sites, you can find job listings through temporary agencies (you can find local staffing firms through the National Association of Personnel Services or the American Staffing Association), job-search sites (such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com), Craigslist.org and other local job listings. It can also help to drop by businesses in person to introduce yourself to the managers.

It’s best to start searching now -- Macy’s stores typically hire seasonal employees from early to mid November so they have plenty of time for training before the holiday rush begins on Thanksgiving weekend. Distribution centers usually start hiring as early as late September, but it’s never too late to apply, says Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski, because they may need to replace workers who can only work for part of the holiday season. The CareerBuilder.com survey found that 33% of the employers who are hiring seasonal staff reported that they are still recruiting for open positions in November, and 11% said they may still be recruiting as late as December.

Even if you don’t get hired right away, some companies save the contact information of good prospects and contact them in late November or early December if holiday sales are strong. “Job seekers should be prepared to be on standby,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Retailers may conduct interviews in September and October and prepare a list of hirable candidates that they will call only when it becomes obvious that more manpower is needed.”

Flexibility can be a key to landing a seasonal job. “When you go online to apply, you’re asked about your availability and timeframe,” says Sluzewski. “Staying flexible is really important because customers tend to shop at night, evenings and on weekends. It’s best to be as flexible as you can. If you want to succeed, you may have to work in a shift, such as an overnight shift, that you don’t usually think about.” Macy’s seasonal employees, by the way, get the 20% employee discount.

Seasonal jobs can last throughout the holidays -- and sometimes even longer. Production jobs usually end by about December 15, says Jill Silman, vice-president of Meador Staffing Services, near Houston. “Most of the time, if it hasn’t shipped by then, it’s too late,” she says. Some retailers keep holiday workers through January 15, the gift-return season.

A seasonal job can help you get a foot in the door for a longer-term position. UPS, for example, is well-known for its seasonal part-time jobs that can become a launching pad for full-time positions. Some companies automatically extend some seasonal jobs after the holidays or give holiday workers first crack at applying for full-time jobs -- or at least give them an advantage because they’re already in the system. “It’s very common for individuals, once they are done with their seasonal period, to find there’s an ongoing job, and they’re in the right place at the right time to fulfill that opening,” says Sluzewski. “Now there’s an individual who knows the company and we know them, and we’ll go back to them.”

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



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