It's almost Thanksgiving, which means that the holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. Many businesses bring on additional workers during this busy period, and if you'd like to earn some cash during your holiday break from school, it's a good idea to start looking at the opportunities that exist.
College Confidential sat down with Blake Pinard, Head of Snag Work at Snagajob, to get the scoop on how to best improve your chances of getting a seasonal job this holiday season.
College Confidential: What types of businesses typically hire seasonal workers?
Blake Pinard: Our data indicates that there are big spikes in several areas: retail, restaurants, catering, hotels – what we think of as the core hospitality industries. But also manufacturing, warehousing, shipping and logistics, and I think a lot of teenaged and young adult workers don't often think of these types of jobs, but it's not as tough a job as you may think. The industry is called "pick and pack" and consists of things like filling holiday gift baskets for monthly subscription services. Those things spike round the holidays, so these companies are always looking for holiday help.
CC: What if a student interviews for a seasonal job and the hiring manager says they want someone year-round? Some students come out and say they'll stay on post-holiday season even if they don't plan to.
BP: We never recommend lying -- but the great news here is that students don't have to. When we survey employers year after year, what they say every time is they expect to keep about 50 percent of seasonal hires after the holidays, so employers go into the relationship with the same expectations. If you only want seasonal work, that's no problem. But also, if you want to stay on longer, that's also something employers are looking for, so it's cool that it really is 50/50. If they hire 20 workers, they expect to keep about 10 on afterward.
CC: What should be the approach of a student who wants to stay on staff after the holiday season ends?
BP: As hiring gets harder for workers, they look at other employees that can fill bigger roles, so your employer might want you to stay as much as you want to. The first thing to do is express your interest in the opportunity from the very beginning. We always say when you're talking to your boss, talk early on about how exciting you find the opportunity and reinforce the fact that you'd love to continue working together going forward.
The second thing is make sure you build some skills. A lot of holiday hiring positions are designed for work that can be trained pretty quickly so you have an impact on the business, but a lot of the post-seasonal jobs may require more experience or skills. However, you may be able to pick those skills up during the holiday season, so look for ways to build your capabilities. For instance, you may be working as a cashier at a retail store, but if you learn how to work the POS machine, you may be a good fit to stay on after the holidays.
The third thing is always keep your options open on what you may find. We talk to workers all the time who say "I took this job thinking it would just be a holiday job and I just really enjoyed it." So it's always a good idea even if you go into an opportunity thinking it may always be a seasonal, always have a good attitude, make friends and learn more so if you want to extend it you can.
CC: When should students start searching? Is now too early?
BP: About a third of employers start posting for holiday hiring in August. But the good news is the employers we surveyed continue to hire regularly through November, so now is a perfect time. Start applying as early as you're ready. I'd also say last year, 62 percent of employers said they use social media to recruit quality workers during the holidays, so it's important to check the social channels of anywhere you're interested in working.
CC: Are there things beyond the hourly pay that students should look for in a potential employer?
BP: Always ask about unique benefits. Unemployment right now is at a record low, so hiring has never been more challenging. Therefore, employers are trying to put their best foot forward to attract great talent and may be offering new types of benefits to attract people, like better employee discounts, paid sick days, better hours, special training and development classes, etc. So it's good not to just understand the pay but also the other benefits, since employers are trying to differentiate themselves. For instance, Starbucks came out very early on with things like tuition reimbursement and we see that expanding to a lot of other groups.
CC: If a student finds that companies near them aren't hiring, but they want to work over the holidays, are there other things they can do?
BP: Yes, right now is a good time to join the gig economy. About 57 million Americans today participate in some way in the gig economy. Traditionally it wasn't thought of as a space for high school and college students because, for the most part, you had to be over 21 to drive for Lyft and Uber, but there are a number of ways younger groups can join the gig economy.
For instance, at Snagajob, we have a shifts platform, Snag Work, which is an on-demand gig platform in which employers can post single shifts and employees can take shifts whenever they like, so it gives workers the flexibility to take as many or few hours they want in a week and to pick the types of jobs they have. It's really appealing because people want a diversity of experience rather than just pay and hours, so the gig economy can sometimes give access to a diversity of work environments which is great for experience and their resume, and it's also very flexible.