Seasonal jobs aren’t just reserved for the holiday season. Here's how to decide if one is right for you.
This time of year there’s a whole new crop of jobs that pop up. As we careen past summer and head down the home stretch to the holiday season, there are a lot of retailers and other businesses that need a few extra hands to help them handle all of the extra traffic.
Whether you’re looking for a part time job, a full-time career or just need a little money on the side, seasonal jobs are an interesting option. During the autumn there are a lot of seasonal jobs that pop up for the holiday retail season, but they are far from the only positions out there.
Besides retail help during the holidays, you could find work at a resort during the tourist season (think skiing or camping), picking berries or other produce during harvest, or even doing some basic taxes during the tax season (with a little training). You could work with kids at summer camps or help out at a local festival. There are seasonal jobs to fit just about any season and any talent level.
But here’s the question: are they worth it? Before you brush up your resume and fill out that application, here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind.
Pro: You can build your resume.
If you can find a seasonal position that features work that will help fill a gap on your resume, then by all means go for it! For instance, let’s say you are looking for work as a retail manager, but you don’t have a lot of front-end/register experience. Then, you see a position open as a cashier/supervisor at a local store open for the holiday season. Two or three months working behind the counter and possibly in the cash office could fill that hole in your resume and prepare you for the next step in your career. Just make sure that you’re thoughtful in how you present your seasonal job on your resume to get the most out of it.
Con: Low Pay.
Because most seasonal jobs don’t require much previous knowledge or special training, they also tend to be low-paying jobs. By low-paying, I mean minimum wage or close to it. If you’re currently out of work, there isn’t a lot of downside here. At least it’s paying work. Or if you’re looking for a little extra spending cash for the holidays or to save up for a trip, it could also be a good move. If you’re careful in your job search, you may even find a decent paying seasonal job, but there aren’t many.
However, if you’re working on your career and thinking about something that can take you to the next step, you might need to consider whether or not the extra hours and will be worth it. Do you have a family who needs some of your time? Does your day job exhaust you already? Taking on a seasonal job at minimal pay if you think you have a shot at better paying jobs may not be your best move.
Pro: Get a foot in the door.
Perhaps the money isn’t your biggest objective. If you know of a company that you really respect, but just haven’t been able to get your foot in the door there, seasonal jobs could be just the opportunity you’re looking for. If you can work for a few months and really show them what you have to offer, there’s a good chance that they won’t want to let you go when that seasonal gig is up. You can’t assume you’ll get hired on full-time, but at least you’ll have an opportunity to show them what you’ve got.
Con: Little (if any) training.
Don’t expect to get hired on for a seasonal job and get some really good, detailed training before you get to work. Due to the short nature of the season (whatever season it may be) and the need to get things done quickly, you can expect to get a quick how-to speech and then be thrown into the fray. Don’t take a job at a bookstore expecting to learn all of the ins and outs of book retailing. You’re there to help customers and ring them up. The end.
For this reason, it’s best to choose a seasonal job where you already have some rudimentary knowledge. If your goal is to learn more about the business, you may have to take it upon yourself to learn as much as you can on the fly.
Pro: Beats a gap on your resume.
If you’re facing a period of unemployment, you may think that a seasonal job isn’t going to pay you enough to make it worthwhile. Is it below your professional level? Probably. The hard truth is, a gap on your resume raises eyebrows when prospective employers are looking at your work history. What did you do for those three months? While there are ways to handle a gap in your resume, it may be better to just avoid having one.
If you can take a seasonal job, there’s always a way to spin it as a learning experience and talk about what skills you developed over that time. Even if that’s not the case, it presents you as a person who is not content to just sit around. You’re a hard worker.
The low pay can be a deal breaker, but if that’s not bad enough, you’ll probably be working a tough schedule. Holiday retail seasonal help as well as tourist-based jobs tend to be heaviest on evenings and weekends. That means if you’re already working full-time, you’re giving up a lot of the free time you did have. If you’re not working full-time, you’ll end up working when you least want to.
If you’re looking at an agricultural or production-based seasonal job, you may be working evenings and weekends as well as days and maybe some nights. These jobs are in a crunch to get as much work done as possible, so you may be looking at heavy hours. At least there may be overtime involved.
Any way you look at it, seasonal jobs are opportunities. The key is figuring out if there is a position that matches what you would need out of it to make it worthwhile. Consider the pay, the hours, what you could learn, and the company involved. Make your own pro and con list and figure out if that job is worth the sacrifices you may have to make to take it. The best case scenario would be that it sets you up for a better job with that company or another. The worst case would mean that your miserable for just a few months. It’s your choice, but hurry, those seasonal jobs won’t last long.
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