You’ve probably already seen the signs: “Hiring for the holidays! Apply now!”
You can find them in nearly every store. And it’s hard not to be tempted by their promises of flexible hours, good pay, and store discounts.
This year, the National Retail Federation estimates that their represented businesses will hire as many as 690,000 seasonal or temporary workers. This doesn’t include the numerous other industries that also open their payrolls for people interested in making some extra cash.
For the last fifteen years, I’ve been one of those people with resumes in hand and an empty schedule from October through February applying for seasonal jobs. I’ve worked a variety of positions, from a cashier at a major big box store to singing carols with a Dickinson-style troupe.
With all this seasonal employment under my belt, I can say that there are some major pros and cons of working holiday jobs. Here are a few things you should consider before submitting your application.
What are seasonal jobs?
When we think of seasonal jobs, we usually think of cashiering at a busy department store on Black Friday.
But there are a lot of temporary job assignments that can be classified as “seasonal.” In fact, it doesn’t even have to be during the early winter months.
What’s more, seasonal employees are given the same protections and benefits as those who are part-time or full-time workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This includes being paid overtime and receiving at least a minimum wage.
In other words, your ideal seasonal job may be working as a tour guide during the busy tourist season from May through August. You could even work a holiday job that’s not during the winter, like dressing up as an Easter bunny or staffing a Halloween haunted house.
And once you’re done with your seasonal jobs, some businesses may guarantee you your position for the next season. Or, in some cases, working a holiday job could even lead to a regular, full-time job.
Pros of working a holiday job
When I was just out of college and struggling to pay my bills as a first-year teacher, I was genuinely scared of the holidays. I could barely pay my rent, let alone buy my niece a $10 gift.
That’s when I decided to ramp up my seasonal employment. My first year, I brought in over $10,000 in just three months. That was enough to pay my rent for the remainder of my lease, pay off a small car loan, and give my family presents for the holidays.
Instead of taking money out of your regular paychecks for extra payments, this “added” money can be used instead. And, you won’t miss it when it’s gone.
For those not working a steady job while working seasonally, holiday jobs can be a great way to tie you over through a period of unemployment. Or during a post-graduation job hunt.
However, if you’re currently receiving unemployment benefits and considering applying for a seasonal job, check with a labor expert in your state on rules regarding seasonal employment.
What are the benefits of holiday jobs?
There are also many store benefits employees can enjoy that make seasonal work more attractive. For example, a 20 percent discount at a favorite store could save your big bucks when you do your holiday shopping there.
Other seasonal jobs, such as travel-related industries, may provide free lodgings on top of your paycheck.
Finally, if you’re looking to transition or find a new job, taking on a seasonal job may be your ticket in. Inexperienced workers can build that resume with seasonal work and add a host of potential references.
Make an impression on your boss, and you may even find yourself with a full-time regular job with the same company.
Cons of taking on seasonal work
The pay and benefits attached to seasonal jobs probably sound amazing. But a couple of hundred extra dollars a week may not be worth it for some people.
For one thing holiday jobs take away from, well, the holidays! Many retailers expand their business hours during the holidays. This could mean longer shifts and the possibility of working during the actual holidays.
Also, it will most likely be difficult to take a day off. Or even a vacation. Although some businesses vary on this, most seasonal jobs aren’t set up to accommodate paid leave or sick days either.
Employee benefits may be limited, too. There are most likely fewer opportunities for raises or advancement, and health insurance or retirement plans may be limited.
Should you work this holiday?
Seasonal work has long been my ticket to finding financial freedom.
However, it has come at a cost. You may lose out on enjoying the holidays with friends or have to work long hours after your regular day job.
With the pros and cons staked each way, it’s important to weigh all considerations before taking on seasonal jobs in the future.
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