First, the bad news: This holiday season, competition for seasonal work is expected to be brutal. A new survey of more than 1,000 hiring managers revealed that employers plan to hire more than 40 percent fewer seasonal employees than they did in 2007. • "It's a rough market out there," said Cathy McCarthy of SnagAJob.com, the employment Web site that commissioned the survey. • But take heart, because there's some good news as well: If you do manage to land a seasonal job this year, your chances of having that job morph into a permanent position aren't bad. Of the managers surveyed, 51 percent said they plan to keep temporary workers on after the holiday rush ends. • Here are tips to help you find seasonal work this year, despite the grim outlook:
1 Start your job search now. October is the peak month for hiring seasonal workers. You could wait until November, of course, but the competition will be that much tougher then.
2 Focus on retail's bright spots. Competition can be intense because so many people try for part-time retail jobs to help them cover holiday expenses. But you may be able to find work at discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, dollar stores, convenience stores, craft stores, photo studios and toy stores. Toys "R" Us told SnagAJob.com it plans to hire 35,000 seasonal workers, for instance, and JCPenney Portraits said it needs people to take holiday photos.
3 Get presents where they need to go. You could land a part-time shipping-related job handling packages or working as a seasonal driver with an employer such as UPS. This also is a good time of year to help out with packaging, shipping and receiving at online retailers' warehouses and distribution centers. To look for such a position, do an Internet search for the word "warehouse jobs."
4 Help people with taxes. Tax preparation companies begin hiring people well before their busy season, which typically is February through April. You may feel unqualified for such a job, but don't. You'll be trained. "Jackson Hewitt, for example, starts hiring now because they have to put tax preparers through a 10-week training program," McCarthy said.
5 Remember food-related jobs. No matter how bad the economy is, people still eat. They just don't want to spend a ton of money on what they eat. With that in mind, you could look at fast-food restaurants, restaurants near malls, catering companies (which get busy this time of year) and in pizza delivery.
6 Return to where you've worked before. You will greatly increase your chances of landing a job. "A significant number of employers say, 'We like to rehire people we've already worked with,' " McCarthy said. "Basically, you're cheaper to train, you already know the system, and you already know how things work at that particular employer."
7 Have a targeted strategy. Be sure to apply for multiple jobs, not just one or two. Also, tailor your resume to the employer you're approaching, highlighting details about your work experience that are related to this particular position. "If it's a customer-service position, highlight your customer-service experience," McCarthy said. "Don't just cut and paste."
8 Demonstrate a positive attitude. In the survey of hiring managers, three in 10 said they viewed a positive attitude as the most important trait in any prospective employee. Employers also like to see previous experience, but an enthusiastic, can-do attitude can get you noticed more than you think.
9 Find other ways to shine. You also could make a lot of headway with potential employers by offering to be as flexible as possible with your work schedule, and by sending handwritten thank-you notes to those who interview you.
10 Take any job you get seriously. Even if a certain seasonal job doesn't tie in at all with your ultimate career goals, it's still providing you with a steady paycheck — and that's no small thing in an economy like this. Remember, this position could become permanent for you — or at the very least, it could lead to seasonal work again next year.
Laura T. Coffey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.