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4 Steps to Help You Get a Holiday Job

The prospects for seasonal work are better this year, but competition still will be stiff. Here's how to improve your chances of finding employment.

Are many companies hiring people this year for seasonal holiday jobs? And what can I do to get one?

A seasonal job can be a great way to earn some extra cash for the holidays -- or get your foot in the door, if you’re unemployed or looking for a new line of work. This year’s prospects for seasonal jobs look better than in the past few years. Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas forecasts that U.S. retailers will likely add about 600,000 jobs this holiday season, which would be the biggest spike since 2007.

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Part of the increase comes from temporary pop-up stores that retailers are opening in malls and shopping centers just for the holidays. Toys “R” Us, for example, plans to hire 10,000 more seasonal workers this year than it did last year -- doubling its regular workforce -- to help staff its 600 new pop-up stores, in addition to its regular stores and nine distribution centers. Toys “R” Us started hiring seasonal workers in June and will continue hiring right up until Christmas, says spokeswoman Katelyn DeRogatis.

Shipping companies also expand their staffs significantly during the holidays. UPS, for example, plans to hire approximately 50,000 temporary employees this holiday season. A majority of the seasonal jobs will be driver helpers -- people who help a driver make the deliveries on their route -- and package handlers who sort, load or unload packages. Most of the company’s seasonal hires are part-time, and wages start at about $8.50 per hour or higher, depending on the job, says spokeswoman Donna Longino.

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Nearly half of the hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder in a variety of fields expect to pay $10 per hour or more for seasonal employees, 9% expect to pay $16 or more per hour, 32% said they plan to pay between $8 and $9 per hour, and 19% expect to pay $6 to $7 per hour.

Some seasonal employees will stay on the job full-time after the holidays. About 40% of the employers who are hiring seasonal workers this year said they will likely transition some of them into full-time, permanent positions, up from 31% in 2009, according to the CareerBuilder survey. UPS’s holiday employees, for example, will have an opportunity to apply for a permanent position after December 31. This has traditionally been a way to get in the door at UPS, so competition for a full-time job is stiff.

Competition for seasonal jobs is also fierce because of high unemployment rates. If you’re in the market for a seasonal job this year, the following steps can help you land one:

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Apply now. Most employers want their seasonal workers to be trained and ready to go before the holiday crush starts after Thanksgiving. Although many employers started accepting applications in October, it’s not too late to get a job if you apply soon. Some employers have been waiting to see how their holiday season starts off in November before deciding how many extra employees to hire, so keep trying even if you don’t find a job right away.

Expand your research. Many companies have Web sites that make it easy to search for jobs and apply online. UPSJobs.com, Ruscareers.com (Toys “R” Us), Target.com/careers and job-search pages on other company Web sites make it easy to see which jobs are available and apply online. You can also apply at local stores -- consider visiting a local mall, stopping by the stores where you like to shop and making yourself known to the manager. You can also look for holiday jobs at sites such as CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com and Craigslist.org. Temp firms can help you find a holiday job, too; search for a firm in your area through the National Association of Personnel Services or the American Staffing Association.

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Be creative. When people think of the holidays, they think of retail jobs, but even retail companies tend to offer a wide variety of seasonal jobs -- in sales, customer service, shipping, security, merchandising and receiving, for example.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, the top five areas in which employers are recruiting holiday help are: retail (33%), customer service (31%), administrative/clerical support (17%), shipping and delivery (12%), and hospitality (10%). Employers are also hiring seasonal employees in inventory management, accounting and finance, non-retail sales, marketing, technology, and public relations.

Some manufacturers need extra help with shipping and customer service; hotels, restaurants and catering companies often need extra staff for holiday parties. And even businesses that don’t have a big holiday spike in sales may need some administrative help as they’re closing out their 2010 books.

Be flexible.You’ll generally have the most luck landing a holiday job if you can work flexible hours. Retailers look for employees for peak shopping times in the evening and on weekends, and caterers generally need people to work late into the night. Shipping companies and manufacturers generally need staff round-the-clock. You may have an edge on the competition if you’re willing to work on Christmas Day, especially at hotels and restaurants that don’t close for the holiday.

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