How to Score (and Keep!) That Seasonal Job

cashier working at commissary
(Sara Jenkins/DVIDS)

Christmas commercials? Check. Cold weather? Check. Black Friday ads? Starting. Time to apply for a seasonal job? You betcha.

We know that seasonal retail jobs can be a way to earn some extra cash for the holiday season -- and a way to potentially get a foot in the door for something longer term. Working retail may not be your ultimate dream, but if you want something in a pinch or are looking for a way to get out of the house and make a little cash at the same time, it's not a bad option.

Seasonal work can be the time to make a great impression on a potential employer. It’s a fact that employers today more readily hire the seasonal worker, intern, employee referral or volunteer, rather than the stranger who applied online with a cut-and-paste resume.

After working in the human resources field for close to 18 years (and having worked with temp-to-perm staff), I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. The following tips may help you to turn your job search on its head and land full-time work.

10 Tips for Seasonal Workers

Apply early

Be deliberate and engaged in your job search. Start now and don’t just limit it to online search engines or job-boards. Ask family and friends if their companies are hiring. When you go to the movies, look around at nearby stores -- are there any help wanted signs in the window? Regulars such as Nordstrom’s and Macy’s are sure bets, but check other retails such as Lowe’s and Best Buy.

Be honest

The interview is your opportunity to audition for a full-time job. Let it be known that you’re very interested in this seasonal job, including any opportunities that can lead to a full-time gig. Then list all the reasons why you are the best candidate for the job. Being straightforward and expressing your desire to move into a regular, full-time position shows an employer that you’ll also be motivated to do well at given tasks (as a temporary). Remember, it may be seasonal, but still conduct your research on the company, dress professionally and go prepared with questions.

Express interest

Once you start, be sure to introduce yourself to management and get on their radar. Let them know what additional skills and experience you have to offer beyond the position, and that you’re interested and available for more work. Also, develop rapport and meaningful connections with peers and co-workers. One of them might be a potential gateway to another opportunity. When you leave, remain in contact via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Be dependable

Showing up for work on time means you care about your job, and being available at short notice says you’re someone the boss can rely on in a crunch. Don’t just collect a paycheck and go home, make it less about you and more about fulfilling the company’s needs.

Stay flexible

Further, offer to fill in the scheduling gaps and take advantage of the days and hours others don’t want. Being willing to work nights, weekends and holidays make you stand out. Flexibility also signals a willingness to partner with your employer in meeting their needs and it shows that you’re a team player. By offering to work different shifts in various departments, you’ll also receive additional training which will make you well-rounded.

Be a problem-solver

Don’t wait for a molehill to turn into a mountain. Be proactive and find solutions if you spot an issue—don’t let it become a crisis. Also, volunteer to help with ongoing problems and be a self-starter. Show that you’re self-sufficient and don’t stop there—continue to show initiative. Be confident and resourceful and demonstrate your value.

Keep it real

Don’t play games, either. Don’t do all the right things to get noticed then fall of the wagon near the end of your stint (or when you’re hired permanently). If you’re being productive and giving it your best effort—do it all the time (regardless of your employment status). Viewing seasonal work as a long-term job helps you adopt the right attitude. Be honest with yourself and above all be your best self at work.

Be professional

Dress appropriately for your work environment and look the part. Dress a bit above the norm because you are being watched. That means no flip-flops or pajama-like attire, and no jeans with thigh-length holes, either. Pay attention to accessories and makeup and keep it workplace appropriate.

Stand out

Your work ethic, flexibility, attitude and enthusiasm will go far in helping you achieve your goals. Also, pay attention to what matters in your specific work environment. Find out what the company’s mission and goals are and align yourself early.

Be money-wise

Budget wisely and after you pay your bills, put a little in savings each paycheck ... just in case you do get called back to work after the holiday season. You’ll need to make ends meet until your first paycheck. Also, if you work at a retailer that sells attire, etc., use your employee discount to score on the things you need to complete your career-look.

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