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Strategies to get holiday jobs

By Eileen Alt Powell
AP Business Writer

People who want to earn some extra money during the holiday season should get their job applications in now.

Retailers expect a modest pickup in holiday spending this year, despite higher gasoline prices and rising interest rates that some feared would put a damper on the season, according to the National Retail Federation, a U.S. trade group.

Employment experts say that should translate into work opportunities for students, stay-at-home mothers, retirees and others who would like some extra cash in the final months of the year.

"Retailers are a good place to start," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the job placement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in Chicago. "And the time to start looking is sooner rather than later."

Former employers

He suggests that people who previously held seasonal retail jobs should first approach their former employers.

"Your experience will be valuable there," Challenger said. "You know the merchandise, and the retailer can get you up and running quickly."

Those who haven't done holiday sales might consider filling out applications at their own favourite stores.

"You know the store, and not only do you get paid, you also get discounts on merchandise," he said.

Retailers may be the obvious place to look for holiday work, but there are other businesses that may also need seasonal workers, Challenger said. These include call centres, which will be busier taking orders and dealing with billing issues; travel and hospitality firms, which may see more demand for catering or hosting dinner parties; shipping and transportation companies and security companies.

Challenger also recommends networking as a way to find work.

"If you know someone working in a store you're interested in, ask them if they'd introduce you to the store manager," Challenger said. "That can get you an edge in hiring."

John Putzier, a human resources consultant based in Prospect, Pa., says job seekers generally are more successful if they apply in person rather than via a website or by mail.

"Every major store has somebody doing the hiring, and they want to see the applicants to make sure they'll fit in," he said.

"Some managers may be very turned off by body art, tattoos and piecing," said Putzier, author of Weirdos in the Workplace: The New Normal -- Thriving in the Age of the Individual.

"But that could be a plus in trendy boutiques or edgy clothing departments."

He also advocates people get their job applications in to retailers soon, pointing out that the Christmas season starts after Halloween.

Variety of industries

Bill Tate, a vice-president with Manpower Inc., a temporary employment agency based in Milwaukee, said the company expects more demand for seasonal workers this year than last in a variety of industries.

Some are obvious, like catalog sales operations and call centres. But others have seasonal demands, too, such as financial services companies that have to handle more credit card receipts, consumer products industries that have to ship more goods and printing plants that have holiday orders for cards and custom stationery, he said.

Tate said some college students return to the Manpower rolls every summer and every holiday season.

"For them, it's a chance to experience a variety of work opportunities" before they launch their careers, he said.

Some, like stay-at-home parents who are looking for some extra holiday cash, "are happy with a short-term assignment," Tate said. But they can also use seasonal work as a stepping stone back into the work force, he added.

"If you're a good employee, a seasonal job can lead to an extended assignment at a company or turn into a permanent position," he said.

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