En español | For many retirees, taking on a holiday job is a great way to pull in extra cash. It might even lead into a longer-term position, if that's the goal.
See also: Looking for a work-at-home job?
Cashier and sales positions at retail shops and mall kiosks are the most plentiful for job hunters, but there are other opportunities that might not seem as evident.
Bob Dunn's blue eyes twinkle, and his cheeks grow rosy when he talks about his seasonal job. No surprise, he's Santa Claus. The 74-year-old retired seafood salesman travels from his home in Dover, Del., to Norman, Okla., to commandeer the jolly man's chair at the Sooner Mall for the holiday season.
He's got the obligatory white beard and hearty "ho-ho-ho." Plus, Dunn has a knack for putting jumpy kids at ease. "I'm a people person. The job is pure joy," Dunn says. "For 46 weeks out of the year, you're just another old man with a white beard, but for that six week period, you're Santa Claus!" he chuckles.
The contracted pay is enough to keep his reindeer flying in style too. He might fill his stocking with anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the contract, for the stretch of 10-hour days (with two meal breaks), which starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve. The only day off: Thanksgiving. His hotel room, rental car and airfare are also covered.
For the past two years, Dunn has been employed by Cherry Hill Photo Enterprises Inc., a privately held company based in Cherry Hill, N.J. The company is one of the big players in the Santa business. Last year, it placed more than 350 Santas in malls and department stores in 44 states. The firm negotiates the contract with the venue and provides three costumes per Santa. It also runs its own "Santa University" to train new Santas on how to do the job and prepare for the potential pitfalls.
What does Santa need to watch out for? "Kids throw up," Dunn says. "They cough in your face. There are messy diapers. Some cry, and others pull your beard. Your glasses break. And you've got to protect your nose."
He doesn't mind the fact that the Santa's sleigh takes him away from home and his wife, Kathleen. "The hours are so demanding that it's to my advantage," he says. "I can focus on the job."
Kathleen agrees. "I could join him there, but we'd have to put the dog in the kennel and pay for someone to keep an eye on the house. It would impact our bottom line."
Dunn's sales training is clearly an asset. Being "Santa Claus, you're still in the sales business," he says. To be a successful Santa, you need to have an upbeat personality and a darn good memory. That's because one of the keys to the job is returning year after year and building a clientele that comes to see you. "The kids remember you, and if you can remember them too, it helps," Dunn says.