Seasonal Employment: Is it a good idea?

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October 18, 2018

Q: I’ve been out of work for a while and am looking to get a seasonal job. Is it worth it? How should I look for work? Are there any downsides?

A: If you’re thinking about getting a temporary position during the holiday season, you’re in luck.

Economic research firms are predicting that companies are going to hire in record numbers this year. With the recession lifting, stores are expecting a rebound in consumer spending to follow. As such, they are expected to hire more than 800,000 people for the holidays.

If you’re a career homemaker or a student looking to supplement your family income for the holidays, getting a seasonal job is a great way to put a little extra money in your pocket. If you’re already employed, marginally employed or between jobs, it might be a good idea to look. To better answer the question of whether or not a seasonal job is worth it, let’s look at the benefits and consequences.

The obvious benefit to getting a seasonal job is the salary. While it’s unlikely you’ll get more than minimum wage, you will probably have as many hours as you want (or more!). Working for an extra few thousand dollars can make the financial troubles of the holiday a little easier.

Seasonal positions may also offer a few other benefits. You may be able to get store discounts or financing programs. In the long term, you can add to your resume with recent experience and get an inside look at companies you might be considering as a potential employer. In many cases, you can turn a dedicated holiday season performance into a full-time job.

The costs are equally apparent. The holidays are already a stressful time of year, particularly if you’ve got a lot of family. Your free time is already stretched to the maximum with family celebrations, shopping, decorating and parties. Adding a seasonal job can make an already stressful time of the year that much worse.

You’re also unlikely to receive much in the way of on-the-job training. This can make it difficult to translate the skills you learn in these positions to other, more permanent jobs. Because of the lack of training, most of the tasks tend to be dull and repetitive, too. The hours are typically long, the pay is poor and the benefit package is usually non-existent.

If your calculation comes up in favor of a seasonal job, there are a few places you might want to look. Retailers are the obvious source of jobs and putting on your interview clothes and showing up with a resume is a great way to find work. Be flexible, as most stores will need as many backroom and loss-prevention workers as they will cashiers and salespeople.

If retail isn’t your speed, though, you might consider the “backbone” industries. UPS is planning to hire 90,000 drivers and warehouse workers. Malls are likely to increase hiring of security and information kiosk workers. Grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and catering companies are also likely to need additional help with holiday parties and other functions.

Even your neighbors may need help with cooking, cleaning for company, child care during breaks from school, wrapping presents and many other time-consuming situations. Finding these jobs can be as simple as asking around or posting on Craigslist. You may also consider getting the word out through churches and other community organizations about your skills and willingness to help.

As far as timing, you need to start getting your resume ready in the start of October. Most companies want to have their seasonal staffing done before Halloween. Twenty percent of seasonal jobs are staffed in October, and having an application already filled out before they start looking is a great way to get a head start on your competition. It shows that you’re ready to anticipate their needs. They’ll need that speed to deal with the next grueling three months.

While getting seasonal work may seem like a no-brainer, there are some costs to consider. If you’re already employed, your work is likely to suffer due to the extra hours and additional stress of another job. This can make it harder to get promotions or even to keep your job.

There’s also less time for job hunting. If you’re looking for a career, taking a dead-end job can eat into the time you can spend looking. You won’t be available to work full-time for a company you’re really interested in pursuing.

You need to decide quickly if a seasonal job is right for you. There’s a lot that can go into the decision, but you need to pick what’s best for you and your family. Don’t let the stress of job hunting interfere with enjoying what’s really important this season: spending time with those you love.