If your favorite retailers have your email address, you’ve probably already gotten an email suggesting that, if you love shopping there, you might like working there (and getting an employee discount). Whether you got one of those emails or not, now — yes, well before Halloween — is the time to begin considering your options and filling out applications.
The National Retail Federation says retailers expect to hire between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, in line with last year’s 714,000 temporary positions.
So the jobs should be plentiful. And if you’re trying to pay off debt or simply trying to keep this year’s holiday expenses from tanking your budget, seasonal work can be a time-limited way to make a meaningful difference in your finances. You can see, using this credit card payoff calculator, just how much a few extra bucks can help in your efforts to get debt-free. (And, as an added bonus, lowering your credit card balances can boost your credit scores too. You can see how your spending is impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) In fact, some workers do it year after year. (And if you haven’t begun to figure out what you plan to spend this holiday season, and where the money will come from, it’s past time, though late is better than never.)
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Where to Find a Holiday Job
Some of the obvious places to try to find a retail job: discount, jewelry and toy stores. Think about where it’s hard to find a parking spot during holiday shopping season — those are places that are almost certainly doing holiday hiring. Many will have kiosks in-store for applicants. Some very small stores may have “help wanted” signs in the window and take applications inside.
You also may be able to apply online. It can be hard to make your resume stand out when you go this route, but there are ways around that. You can apply online and then go in with a resume, explaining that you’ve already filled out an online application, but want to reiterate your interest in working for that particular store. If you go this route, make sure you’re dressed in at least business casual clothing — no dropping in on your way home from the gym.
Also, look for job fairs; those can be a route to being hired quickly.
How to Score a Position
Employers are looking for workers who are reliable, helpful and, most of all, flexible. You could end up working in a different department than you expected, doing a different job than you were originally hired for, or ringing up those shoppers who rise before dawn for after-Thanksgiving sales. The retailer wants you to be able to step into different roles, and to do it (at least seemingly) full of cheer.
Hiring will ramp up well before Thanksgiving, with stores training new workers before the crowds move in. And then, surprisingly, there is a window during which a prepared applicant may find work very quickly. Some temporary workers will decide this gig is not for them, and they will quit, leaving the retailer potentially short-handed.
Of course, the temporary position could lead to a new career path. If you’ve never worked in retail, the holidays can be a way to test the waters to see if you enjoy the work. Or, alternately, because you come into contact with so many people at the stores, you never know who you will meet or where that contact will lead. (And, even if it’s not a career boost, you’ll get what you were promised — a paycheck.)
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Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians, where she helps edit the Credit.com blog. A former editor of MSN's Smart Spending blog, she's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping. More by Bev O'Shea