Now is the time many retailers increase payroll to help deal with the holiday shopping surge and workers who play their cards right could turn a seasonal job into full-time employment.
Last year, retailers added 660,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., expects 700,000 new jobs created this year.
“Most employers are hiring now for the holiday season,” says Jolynn Cunningham, director of Talent at career website Indeed.com. She cites retail, hospitality and transportation as industries signaling strong growth this season. “It’s been a slow climb out of the recession.”
Even though you’d like full-time work, a part-time position offers flexibility to continue your job search while providing an income, says Cunningham. Recent part-time work is attractive to potential employers and can increase your odds of getting full-time work.
It’s also possible to turn part-time work into a full-time position at the end of the season by proving yourself a hard worker by being dedicated, efficient and responsible. Experts recommend looking for seasonal work in a field that resonates with you to improved performance.
“There are so many amazing holiday jobs—if you love toys or fashion, go get a holiday job but think about the fact that you’re working in the industry that you care about,” says J.T. O'Donnell, a workplace consultant and founder of Careerealism.com. If you believe in the industry, your enthusiasm for the product and brand will show and could help propel you into a permanent job in retail or corporate. “Companies hire people who believe in their products.”
If you’re a student interested in retail, a seasonal job could help your candidacy for corporate jobs with that same or a different retailer after graduation, says Challenger. “If you want to work in retail, it helps if you show you’ve worked at the store level.”
A holiday job can give you a working education about business or crafts but you have to sell it that way, says O'Donnell. “Each job is a stepping stone to where you want to be.” Consider every job a learning experience and leverage that experience to advance your career.
“First and foremost, when it comes to competing for seasonal work or any job, applying early is absolutely vital,” says Heather Huhman, career and workplace expert for Glassdoor.com. About 50% of hires applied during the first week and 75% of hires during the first three weeks, according to StartWire.
Cunningham warns the competition is stiff with most retail jobs getting 100 applicants for every opening. She suggests tailoring your resume to only include past experience that relates to open positions.
Always research the companies you want to apply to and focus on those that align with your career goals, says Huhman. “If you want to make this part of your next career move, don’t take any job but one where you can see yourself long-term.”
Stand Out from the Crowd
With a saturated job market, you need to make an impression with employers. “You can’t beat face-to-face interaction of going in and asking to speak to a manager,” says Cunningham.
Visit a store near where you live and learn the merchandise, recommends Challenger. “Go early or late when it’s not crazy busy and the manager has time to talk to you. Dress appropriately and mirror how the staff is dressed.”
Ask to meet the store manager and introduce yourself. In-person meetings will make a store manager more comfortable with a hiring decision, according to Challenger. “Show him or her how you come off, that you can connect with customers, are easy to work with and are flexible with your hours.”
When talking to managers, experts suggest asking about the possibility of full-time work after the holidays.
“If you’re looking for a seasonal job because you have bills to pay and are accustomed to earning a different salary, keep your ego in check about the pay otherwise you will lose out,” says Huhman. Be prepared to have frank conversations about why you’re looking for work.
Turn Part Time to Full Time
Retailers use these seasonal jobs as auditions to make better hiring decisions for their permanent staff, according to Challenger. Don’t just do the job but make an effort to get along with your coworkers and boss. “Fit into the organization in a way that makes you a good addition to the community. When you join a company, you never know where you’ll go.”
Once hired for seasonal work, make sure your bosses know you are open to long-term work. “Stores will over hire,” says O'Donnell. Talk with your potential employer about the number of hours per week that you’d like to work.
There’s a wealth of available workers but employers want someone who’s enthusiastic and engaged and not just collecting a paycheck, says Huhman. Switch your mentality as if you’re representing the brand as a full-time employee. “You need to impress the right people and network with everybody—customers, clients, colleagues and managers.”