It's that time of year again. That's right, wreaths begin to adorn front doors and holiday lights start decking halls. With the approach of the holiday season also comes the possibilities for seasonal part-time employment.
According to a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released by ManpowerGroup, there's elevated confidence as 2013 sprints to a close. Eighteen percent of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed anticipate an increase in staff levels in their fourth quarter hiring plans.
Sunny Ackerman, vice president and general manager for Manpower's U.S. metro markets, explains, "The biggest areas that we'll see hire during the holiday season - definitely retail, that's a given. Package delivery, any mail handling services, distribution centers, warehouses, of course. Call centers taking inbound/outbound calls and the manufacturing space as well."
If you're in the market for a retail job, be realistic with your expectations. Just take it from journalist Caitlin Kelly, author of "Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail." Several years ago, Kelly landed a retail job to supplement her income. She worked as a sales associate for The North Face for 27 months. In an email, Kelly advises: "It's hard work! It doesn't look like much ... it's physically very demanding - you don't sit down (especially during holidays) for four to six hours at a time. Literally. Treat it like a marathon; each shift bring power bars, bananas (eaten quickly with no mess); nuts, hand wipes or sanitizer, moisturizer. (Your hands will get really dehydrated if you are folding or touching fabric for eight hours.) You need to be as comfortable, hydrated and decently fed as you can be."
Ackerman says landing one of these jobs is as simple as seeing companies advertising for seasonal opportunities. "Also word of mouth, if you know people in the industry, ask them, get referrals specifically in the retail sector."
Once you make those connections, connect the dots to sell your transferable skills. Kelly made a one-sheet résumé listing her skills before landing her retail job. According to her, not having experience in retail isn't that important if you know "how to relate quickly and easily to a wide range of shoppers." Showcase what makes you distinguishable from other candidates. "If you speak a foreign language or several, mention that," Kelly suggests. "I think any sort of customer-facing, service-oriented work (lifeguard, waitress, hotel clerk, etc) is transferable."
Transferable skills aside, follow your interests. Kelly adds: "If you are passionate about cooking, apply to work in a grocery store or a cookware shop. If you are an 'end user' (i.e. wear a lot of makeup - apply to Sephora), you will have a very good idea how to relate to customers for that product, because you know and love the product or brand already. Enthusiasm is infectious."
There are other pockets where seasonal hiring opportunities may exist, such as the leisure and hospitality field. Ben Chambers, associate director of sales at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, says there are ways to not only get your foot in the door but hopefully parlay a short-term seasonal job into a longer one. (In this field, the busy season might also be the summer months, when resorts are at a peak for accommodations and consequently, staff additions.)
"Busier seasons call for more hands on deck and if you can show a willingness to be flexible with your own time, you could have more opportunity to pick up more shifts," Chambers says. "This also speaks well of you when busy seasons slow down, as you may have made enough of an impact for management not to want to let you go."
Above all, to succeed, "Don't forget to smile, and make people feel welcome," Chambers says.
Vicki Salemi is the author of Big Career in the Big City and creator, producer and host of Score That Job.
This New York City-based career expert and public speaker possesses more than 15 years of corporate experience in recruiting and human resources. She coaches college grads individually with an intense Job Search Boot Camp, writes and edits the MediaJobsDaily blog on Mediabistro, and conducts interviews as a freelance journalist with celebrities and notable names. BlogHer named her one of the country's top 25 career and business women bloggers worth reading.
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