By Caroline M.L. Potter
As soon as the calendar turns over to September, retailers will know how much help they'll need to handle the holidays. The National Retail Federation predits retailers will add 585,000 to 625,000 seasonal workers in 2012, which is comparable to the 607,500 seasonal employees hired last year.
"Recent consumer confidence readings have been relatively weak and unemployment remains stubbornly high," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas in a statement. "The mixed picture is likely to compel retail employers to proceed cautiously when it comes to hiring extra workers for the holiday season. Look for many to start at last year's levels and hire additional workers only if strong sales early in the season warrant it."
If you want to get a distinct advantage over other would-be seasonal workers, plan your job search carefully using these tips.
Know Where to Look
"The best opportunities for seasonal job seekers will be at the large discounters like Target and Wal-Mart, which will be heavily favored by cost-conscious consumers this holiday season," Challenger says. But be prepared to look past retail sales jobs for other opportunities.
"The big-box stores need extra workers on the floor, but they also need extra workers in their shipping facilities and overnight stocking positions," he says. "Opportunities also exist outside of retail, in areas like catering and with shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx."
Employers already know how many people they'll need, so start searching today. Even if a job doesn't begin for another month, it's best to lock in an opportunity sooner rather than later.
Dress the Part
When you're looking for any kind of job, show up dressed in business-casual attire, at the very least. Even if the seasonal work for which you're applying is outdoors (think Christmas trees), wear neat slacks, polished shoes and a collared shirt.
If you're stopping into an establishment to shop for seasonal work, be prepared to fill out an application and participate in an impromptu interview. Bring your own pen, necessary documentation to prove you can work in the US legally, a resume if you have one and all contact information for your professional references. Be sure you block off enough time to meet with a few supervisors should the opportunity arise.
Know What You Want
If you're applying for seasonal work, know precisely what you offer to a potential employee -- and what you want in return. Determine what hourly rate is acceptable to you, what hours and days you're available, if you've got the wherewithal for a particular position (some may involve lifting heavy boxes or standing for the greater part of your shift), and if the location is viable in terms of fuel costs and transportation options. (Will you always have access to a reliable car or a convenient subway or bus line?) You don't want to make a commitment only to leave an employer in the lurch during the hectic holidays.
The best way to make sure you stand out from other seasonal talent is to present yourself as flexible -- but only if you really are. A hiring manager revealed that demanding a specific schedule from prospective employers is a sure way to jettison your chances at landing a job.
Instead, advises Challenger, "Temporary workers must be prepared to be flexible, whether it is hours or type of work. Either can vary as the holiday season progresses."
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