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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Should You Take a Seasonal Job?

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There are no two ways about it: The most expensive—er, wonderful—time of year has arrived. Even with an inbox full of holiday deals, most of us are feeling our wallets pinch this month.

But there’s a financial and professional silver lining that you may have overlooked: The holiday season brings a huge surge of seasonal job opportunities.

While we usually associate seasonal jobs with traditional retailers (Target alone is hiring 120,000 temporary employees this winter), other high-demand industries such as restaurants, travel, event planning, and e-commerce also increase temporary hiring during the holiday season.

What does this mean for you? Seasonal jobs offer a win-win opportunity to try out a new company or industry on a short-term basis while providing much-needed extra income during the holiday season.

In my job at an e-commerce company, I have hired and managed over 30 seasonal employees over the past year and have seen the unique opportunities of seasonal roles—as well as some downsides people don’t always consider. To decide whether or not a seasonal job is right for you, here are a few common pros and cons of temporary employment.

The Good

It’s Resume-Building

If you’re straight out of college or struggling to fill your resume, adding a seasonal job is a great way to show additional job experience. Alternatively, if you’re looking to switch industries, but have no experience in your new field, adding a seasonal job can help bridge the gap.

If this is what you’re going for, try to land a seasonal job at a big-name company in your new field—even though your role is seasonal, that experience on your resume can impress potential full-time employers.

For example, if you’re interested in a full-time customer service role, a seasonal retail job at a company known for outstanding service, such as Trader Joe’s or Nordstrom, will stand out on your resume. Similarly, if you’re looking to switch into an operations role, seasonal jobs with logistics leaders such as Amazon or Apple, even if they are basic retail or warehouse roles, can really help you shine.

You’ll Test Out a New Company

View a seasonal job like an internship opportunity: It gives you a rare inside glimpse into how a company actually operates—and a chance to test drive it, relatively risk free. If you love the job, great! You have a foot in the door to pursue full-time opportunities. If not? Well, you have an out at the end of the season.

While you’re working, try to pick up on the company structure, goals, and culture, and see if they’re the right fit for you. When you’re not on the clock, don’t be shy about reaching out to full-time employees to ask them about their experience and day-to-day job. This, coupled with your on-the-job experience, can give you a great idea of what a role with the company would really be like.

On that note...

You’ll Open Yourself Up to Full-Time Job Opportunities

From an employer perspective, hiring full-time employees from seasonal staff is ideal. In the same way you get to try out a company, an employer also gets to see just how well you’d fit in.

For example, I managed a large seasonal retail staff last summer and continually made mental notes on who stood out. As the season came to an end, I met with other hiring managers to make recommendations on which of my employees were right for long-term roles. After working closely with these employees for months, my feedback became more valuable than any resume or cover letter, and all of my recommended candidates were hired for full-time roles.

If getting a full-time job is your goal for your seasonal job experience, put your best foot forward every day. Arriving five minutes early, dressing professionally, offering to help others, and finishing your work quickly and carefully are a few ways to help you get noticed by management.

Finally, if you’re interested in a full-time job at the company, the most important thing is mentioning your interest directly to your manager—you want to stay top of mind when the company is considering candidates for full-time roles.

The Bad

You Probably Won’t Have Extensive Training

Due to the temporary nature of seasonal jobs, employers often don’t want to invest in extensive training or development for their short-term employees. In fact, the training you receive on your first day may be the only training you receive throughout your employment! And without a lot of training, job tasks for seasonal roles tend to be basic and even repetitive.

So, be realistic with yourself about the day-to-day tasks of your seasonal job, and ask yourself if you can stay positive and motivated throughout your employment. If you think that training and adding new skills may be more valuable to your full-time job search than adding another company to your resume, consider spending your time on activities that will help you gain those new skills, like taking a class, instead of a taking on a seasonal job with little training.

Your Free Time Will Disappear

If you’re adding a seasonal job to a full-time job, you can expect your free time and social life to all but disappear. If you have a more flexible schedule, expect your temporary employer to ask you to work full time—or even more. It’s likely that your seasonal job will conflict with holiday parties and your holiday travel plans, so be sure to understand the commitment level expected by your seasonal employer before accepting a job.

Most importantly—if you are unemployed and looking for full-time roles, be careful to consider how a seasonal job may impact your job hunt. Writing cover letters, networking, and interviewing are all very time-consuming, but critical, steps in landing a full-time job. If getting a permanent job is your top priority, make sure that that your seasonal job doesn’t overload your schedule and slow down your search.

You’ll Likely Have Low Wages With No Benefits

Seasonal jobs are not known for their huge paychecks or impressive perks. Full-time employee benefits (health insurance, retirement) will definitely not be offered in seasonal roles, and other perks (company discounts, company outings) may also not apply. For a short-term gig, that might be fine, but if these perks and benefits are important to you, ask your employer about them before signing on the dotted line.

All in all, a seasonal job can be the perfect opportunity to make career advancements in a short period of time while padding your wallet—just make sure it’s the right fit for you and your goals. If you decide a seasonal job is right for you, start checking company career pages, job websites (like The Muse!), and even good old Craigslist.

Happy holiday job hunting!