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5 Great Holiday Jobs for Retirees

Need to earn extra money? Help wanted in gift wrapping, shipping, retail sales and more

En español | Holiday hiring is kicking into high gear. For many retirees, it's the perfect time to stay busy while pulling in some extra cash for gifts and quite possibly finding employment that'll last beyond Christmas.

The retail industry, a key employer around the holidays, is expected to hire the most seasonal workers since 2007 at stores, distribution centers and credit operations nationwide, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Sales clerk positions at stores and seasonal kiosks are the usual suspects for job hunters, but there are other job opportunities that may not be as obvious.

Earlier this month, Ann Heckart, 61, reported for duty at specialty retailer Brookstone's distribution center in Mexico, Mo., for her fourth holiday season. She's working an eight-hour shift, five days a week, in quality control, checking each package to be sure that what's in the carton, say, a Boogie Board LCD writing tablet or iPod stand, matches the order slip.

5 Great Holiday Jobs for Retirees

The job suits her. She's detail-oriented, comfortable with numbers, and is able to lift moderately heavy packages, perhaps 15 pounds, if needed. Hours can swing each day, depending on the order volume, but Heckart expects that she'll be working seven days a week when peak shipping hits in mid-December, and then her hours will quickly taper off in early January.

Hourly pay is minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, but her checks can swell thanks to overtime. That said, it's neither the money nor the job duties, per se, that keep her coming back to Brookstone for the holidays. "I just like working," Heckart says.

Whatever your motivation, there's a great holiday job out there that satisfies it. Here are five possibilities to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and where you live, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.

1. Retail Salesperson

The nitty-gritty: It should come as no surprise that the heart of this job is having them at hello. You need to connect quickly with customers in a warm manner. You're there to help them find what they're looking for, and that might mean a little sales razzle-dazzle, product demos and know-how of certain model features. It's possible that you'll be asked to reel off financing options if it's a big-ticket item. In addition, you'll need to be at ease at the cash register and packing up purchases. Depending on your shift, you may have to open or close cash registers, which can include counting money and separating charge slips, coupons and exchange vouchers. In addition, you may stock shelves, mark price tags, take inventory and prepare displays. Since you'll be on your feet for long stretches, it makes sense to spring for a pair of comfortable shoes.
The hours: During holiday crunch time, plan on working evenings and weekends.
Median pay range: Pay can range from median hourly wages, including commissions, of less than $7.37 to more than $19.14 an hour.
Qualifications: Previous sales experience helps, but it's not a deal breaker. Greenhorns can apply. Expect on-the-job training by a more experienced employee. This can be on the fly at this frenzied time of year. Don't be shy about asking questions. In department stores, training programs are more formal. Topics often include customer service, security, store policies and procedures, and cash register operation. Insider knowledge helps. If you're hawking computers, a sense of the technical distinctions between products is vital. People skills are de rigueur. Employers might run a background or credit score check on you, to make sure you're trustworthy. Best arrows to have tucked in your quiver: patience and persuasion.

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