3Qs: ‘Tis the season to find employment?

It’s that time of year when retail stores keep longer hours, delivery companies work around the clock to move holiday packages, and seasonal job opportunities increase. Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center, discusses the state of seasonal employment this year in terms of the current economy, and how those searching for full-time employment can use the holidays to their professional benefit.

Does the current state of the economy have an effect on seasonal hiring? Are companies still increasing their workforce regardless of tough times, and what can be expected in terms of post-holiday retention?

In spite of the economy, companies are hiring seasonal employees. There is often a lot of seasonal hiring in retail, delivery services and back office functions — such as companies that process credit transactions and generate billing for stores.

Temp agencies are also a good source of seasonal employment — don’t overlook the obvious. Jobseekers should find an agency that specializes in the types of jobs they are interested in. Some companies start new employees as temps to “test drive” them before hiring for full time.

Not all seasonal opportunities will lead to a full time job, but those employees who stand out are often considered for longer-term assignments.

What is the competition like among jobseekers for these positions? Are more people looking for seasonal employment than last year?

With unemployment still high, there is a lot of competition for all jobs, including seasonal employment. As a result, flawless execution and making a positive impression throughout the process will differentiate jobseekers from the masses. That means checking résumés for typos, dressing professionally for interviews and sending handwritten “thank you” notes.

How can people who may be looking for a longer term, full-time job use seasonal employment opportunities to their advantage?

For those out of work for a while, seasonal work shows that they are taking initiative and doing something to get back in the job market. It will be tough to find a new job by the end of the year, but this is still a great time to make progress and prepare.

Some people think they should put their job search on the shelf over the holidays, but in doing so they may miss out on one of the best times of the year to network and set themselves up for success in the new year. Many companies have new budget years starting Jan. 1 that often include budget approval for new positions. Hiring freezes often expire at the end of the year, as well.

Jobseekers should use the holidays as an opportunity to network like crazy, leveraging their personal networks as well as professional ones. Time spent defining plans and researching target companies, the roles you are interested in and the qualifications for those jobs will position you for success in January. More than other times of the year, there are often multiple positions open in the same timeframe, and it is not unusual to see a flurry of hiring early in January for new positions and replacement hires.