As far as holiday traditions go, one employment practice is nearly as familiar as swigging eggnog or lighting a menorah: Retailers always need to hire seasonal workers to satisfy swelling crowds of customers.
These temporary jobs, typically lasting from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, can be a great way for you to check out the retail sector or to try out another retailer if you're already in the industry. And if you play your cards right, you may be able to parlay that seasonal gig into a permanent job.
How to Choose a Gig
When most workers take on holiday retail jobs, they don't have career objectives in mind. They're just looking to make a few extra bucks. But if you're considering converting a seasonal stint into a full-time job, you should look before you leap. Here are some things to consider:
* Prepare a list of five or more retailers you would like to work for.
* Inquire about seasonal work as early as possible.
* Distinguish your application from others by putting care into its preparation.
* Be specific about the kind of work you want to do, but indicate your flexibility.
* From the start, declare your interest in eventual full-time or permanent part-time employment.
Set Your Sights on a Permanent Position
When a retailer invites you for an interview or offers you a seasonal position, it's time to ask some probing questions:
* What are the prospects of being offered permanent employment?
* Will the company evaluate my performance as a seasonal worker? How?
* What can I do to demonstrate my superior value as a permanent employee?
* What percentage of your seasonal employees is eventually offered regular jobs?
If the potential employer sees your questions as overly aggressive or out of place, consider looking elsewhere for seasonal work.
Prove Yourself on the Job
As soon as you start a seasonal retail gig, you need to show the boss you're serious about converting your opportunity into a permanent position. Here are some concrete steps you can take:
* Demonstrate grace under the pressure of the holiday shopping season.
* Be 100 percent reliable; work all the hours you've agreed to and more if possible.
* Volunteer for a variety of tasks; show you're eager to learn all aspects of the retail operation.
* Show your ability to keep customers happy.
* Periodically remind your supervisor of your interest in a permanent position.
Clinch that Permanent Gig
How do you turn your supervisor's attention to your interest in a permanent job when he is working 80 hours a week at the peak of the holiday season?
* Ask your supervisor how you can find out on your own what permanent positions may be available -- via a jobs bulletin board, a Web site or the human resources department, for example.
* Use the human resources department to learn how to apply and when.
* Give your supervisor and the human resources department a summary of your responsibilities and accomplishments as a seasonal worker with your application
After your seasonal gig is over, what if you don't successfully land a permanent job? Let your supervisor know you're available to work during special sales, inventory and other peak times throughout the year. And look forward to brighter prospects for the next holiday season.