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Seasonal Employment Creates Opportunity for Job Seekers

Photo by Shawn Fenn/FEMA
Photo by Shawn Fenn/FEMA

Job seekers, take heart: The holidays are nearly upon us. That means seasonal hiring is swinging into full effect.

Seasonal employment can be more than an extra paycheck during the holidays. It is also a great way to get your foot in the door with an employer.

Marked increases in seasonal employment

The great news this holiday season is that seasonal employment is actually up from recent years. Let's say it again: More employers -- specifically, 43% of retailers -- have said they will be hiring seasonal employees this year. 

The numbers are actually astounding. As you would guess, much of the hiring happens with Big Box retailers like Target and Walmart. But the Gap is currently looking for 7,400 employees, and Best Buy (a good gig for all you techies) is right behind with more than 5,000 jobs still waiting to be filled. UPS has announced that it is planning to hire 95,000 employees nationwide, and Amazon is also filling positions across the country.

Even organizations outside of the retail industry report strong end-of-year temporary hiring in the fields of information technology, accounting and finance, and marketing. Seasonal work offers more opportunities than just stocking, shelving and greeting customers. 

Opportunity gets its foot in the door

For the long-term unemployed and underemployed, seasonal employment can be both a financial and emotional boon. It's also a great opportunity for frequently moving military spouses to show an employer what they offer -- and why they should be kept on full-time at the end of the season.

"I worked at Barnes + Noble at the mall two years ago on the holiday shift," says Army wife Shalene. "I had been trying to get a job there for months, but they had not been hiring. When they were, I got the job, and I wanted to be made full-time."

Shalene says that working through the holiday season allowed her to show her potential to her employer. "The manager was always impressed by me, she would say. I came early. I stayed late. I did things that weren't my job. I showed them I was someone to keep on after the holidays."

And for more and more spouses like Shalene, seasonal hiring is becoming just that: An opportunity to get your foot in the door with an employer, show how great you are, and make an on-the-job case for being retained after the holiday season is over. So how do you do it?

Don't Treat it as a Temporary Job

Shalene started the job intent to prove her worth as an employee. "I worked hard, stayed longer than I needed to." Eventually, she says, she was able to take on a leadership role among the other new workers. "They didn't have guidance in how to do the work, so they came to me for help."

By taking the opportunity to demonstrate her leadership skills to her supervisor, Shalene positioned herself not just to do well during her time as a seasonal worker, but to lay the groundwork for her superiors to think she would make a great full-time employee. 

"Hard work. Reliability. Those are the things they wanted, and I spent six weeks proving I could do it," she says. For Shalene, the payout was great: When her peers all ended their temporary job, she was offered the opportunity to stay on part-time.

"I was full-time within three months," she reports.

Connect, connect, connect

Navy wife Tanya frequently turned to seasonal work to make ends meet while her husband was deployed.

"During all three deployments, things got tight at the holidays. I would spend much more than normal to make up for Dad not being there," she admits. "I knew the extra cash would help."

During the last deployment, she signed on with a local Target. She had not seriously considered the option of working past the holiday season, but she wanted to make sure that her supervisors knew who she was and that she was a strong worker.

"At Target, employee relations are really important," she said. "You need to be nice to your peers and you need to make sure the team leaders know you."

Tanya wanted to work hard and have that work be appreciated, so she took the initiative to introduce herself to everyone in leadership positions. "I wanted them to know me as a real person," she explains. "I think it's important for your work that they know you."

While Tanya ended her seasonal job as expected, it wasn't a month later when she received a call from her old boss. "They were looking to fill a leadership position and they thought of me," she said. "You think that would have happened if I didn't go around meeting them?"

Make Your Intentions Known

You do not need to beat your boss over the head with the fact that you might want to stay on after the seasonal employment is over, but you do need to say something.

"I thought everyone either wanted to stay on or we were fighting for what few jobs there might be," confesses Air Force wife Dara. "So I never said I wanted a job."

Seven weeks into her gig working in logistics at a department store and with one week left on her contract, rumor had it that several employees were being offered full- and part-time jobs. "I hoped I would be one of them, and I said so to my friend. She was working there as her steady job. She said to me that she doubted it since no one knew I wanted a job."

While Dara was not offered the job, the company quickly rehired her the next time it was looking for personnel.

"My boss said I was a strong worker and shows that, but he also said [my friend] was right. They just didn't know. If I spoke up, they would have known I wanted a job and thought about me."

It is OK to tell your supervisor in the beginning that you hope your seasonal job might lead to more permanent work. "Be bold! Just tell them," advises Shalene. "That way when they see how good you are, they know not to lose you."

If you are looking for work, considering signing on for a seasonal job right now. Not only might it turn into the work you are looking for, but it will help you build your resume and connections along the way.

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