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12 Great Holiday Jobs

There’s nothing like extra cash to brighten the season

spinner image retail gift wrapping is one of the best seasonal jobs
These great holiday jobs can put extra cash in your pocket.
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Hiring for seasonal jobs is heating up. So if you're looking for some extra income, there's no time like the present to go job hunting.

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Some positions you may not have considered, but that are in demand at this time of year, include parking lot attendants and florist shop arrangers and deliverers. Or how about playing Santa at the local mall?

Bob Dunn, a 76-year-old retired seafood salesman, played Santa at a mall for four years. He filled his stocking with $10,000 to $15,000 for the 10-hour-a-day, six-week gig, depending on his contract.

Here's the lowdown on 12 holiday jobs that could be just right for you. Pay ranges are generally from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and vary by employer and where you live.

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1. Santa Claus

This is not for the weak-kneed. Children of all ages climb and bounce on you as they murmur their wishes into your ear. Sitting for hours in a bulky red suit can also be demanding. If you're hired by an outside Santa distributor, a firm that places Santas at shopping malls, you might have to travel to the mall assigned to you and spend 40-plus days staying in a nearby motel room equipped with a small fridge and microwave. Contract Santas work typically six weeks, but jobs vary.

Pay range: From $10 to $200 an hour. Contract pay for the 40-day season can range from around $10,000 for a rookie to more than $50,000 for a more experienced Santa, depending on the mall and location.

Qualifications: It helps if you look the part. Santas can be any race but they must be male. Having a natural beard helps. Padding can be tucked in to get that roly-poly belly. Expect a criminal background check and drug screening.

Contact smaller malls, department stores, photo shops and special event party planners directly for openings. Check local classified ads. National staffing services typically provide Santa impersonators to the larger malls. Three of the bigger ones: Cherry Hill Photo Enterprises Inc., Worldwide Photography and Noerr Programs Corp. You'll need to apply online and go for an in-person interview. If they like your look and attitude, you'll slip into costume and makeup for headshots, which are sent to the mall reps for selection. If you're picked, the service will negotiate your contract and send you to Santa school for tips on appropriate behavior and conversations, suggestions for calming kids, and makeup help.

2. Cashier

You'll need basic math skills and stamina to be on your feet for hours. Scanners and computers are generally routine.

Pay range: $7.89 to more than $13.32 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Qualifications: Cashiers generally need little or no previous experience. Department and chain stores might offer a short training course on customer service, security, the store's policies and procedures, and cash register operation. Employers typically run a background or credit score check to make sure you're reliable to handle money.

3. Retail sales

Pull out those people-pleasing skills. You're there to help customers find what they're looking for without being intrusive. You might also be asked to man the cash register, stock shelves, mark price tags, take inventory and prepare displays.

Pay range: $8.09 to $18.66 an hour. Bonus pay is possible.

Qualifications: Previous sales experience helps but is not a prerequisite. Department stores may offer training programs. Employers might run a background or credit score check.

4. Product demonstrator

You boldly approach shoppers and say with a smile, "Would you like to try our apple cider?" Demonstrators are typically standing or walking, unless you're assigned to demo a blender or in-store cooking. Setup and cleanup may be part of the deal.

Pay range: $9.11 to $21.70 an hour.

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Qualifications: Persuasive public speaking and an outgoing personality. Visit a store that uses demonstrators and ask if personnel there do the hiring directly. You might also ask an in-store demonstrator how he or she got the job. If the store uses an outside agency, get the contact information. If you're interested in a specific product, go to the company website to check for openings and apply online. Kiosk operators in malls sometimes hire demonstrators.

5. Holiday decorator

You'll be setting up holiday decorations and displays, so an innovative style and an innate sense of how to make a place come to life with bows and bulbs are essential. Jobs range from gilding large offices and retail shops to hotels, restaurants and private homes.

Pay range: $8.14 to more than $17.23 per hour.

Qualifications: Past holiday decorating experience is a plus. Floral designer training helps. Some florists and decorators will train you as you go. Check with local florists, floral departments at grocery stores and event planning firms for openings.

6. Call center representative

You’ll be helping customers find a product, checking on the status of an order or collecting payment information. Prepare to sit for long periods. Some employers, such as Alpine Access, a call center service headquartered in Denver, and other virtual centers such as Convergys, LiveOps, Arise, West at Home and Working Solutions, allow you to work from home. You'll need an up-to-date computer, a high-speed Internet connection, a dedicated land-line for your use while working, a telephone headset and a quiet work area.

Pay range: $9.44 to more than $24 an hour.

Qualifications: Listening and verbal skills are key. For workers who correspond through email, good typing, spelling and grammar skills are essential. Basic to intermediate computer knowledge is vital.

7. Gift wrapper

Customers are generally watching as you cut, fold and tie a bow to make a gift look exquisite. Wrapping tables are usually found at gift shops, department stores and booths in shopping malls.

Pay range: $8 to about $13 an hour.

Qualifications: The ability to fold and wrap paper so it's taut and neat around a package, plus a knack for twisting ribbon.

8. Cinema or theater ticket vendor or usher

As holiday moviegoers hit the theater, the demand for workers to sell tickets and more increases. Theater owners count on you to make sure the receipts match the tickets sold. If you opt to usher, you'll be in charge of helping patrons find seating, sometimes by using a flashlight in darkened theaters.

Pay range: $7.83 to $13.63 an hour. One possible perk: discounted tickets.

Qualifications: On-the-job training and basic math for sales transactions. Contact your local movie theater chains and arts venues for openings.

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9. Restaurant greeter

You're in charge of creating the first impression for diners and for keeping operations running smoothly by the door.

Pay range: $7.83 to $12.21 an hour but varies widely.

Qualifications: People and organizational skills are prerequisites, and a warm, welcoming smile will serve you well.

10. Shipping clerk

Big package shippers such as UPS and FedEx need your helping hands, but the small boutique around the corner selling hand-dipped chocolate-covered candies might, too. Knowing how to pack an item so it arrives intact, applying proper insurance coverage, affixing labels, working a cash register, and arranging pickups and accepting deliveries may also be part of the job. Heavy lifting may also be required.

Pay range: $9.31 to $22.01 an hour.

Qualifications: Retail experience staffing a cash register helps. Background checks are standard for most positions.

11. Bartending/waiting tables/catering

Unflappability and a good memory are needed for these jobs. It goes without saying, of course, that a friendly persona and an ability to smooth ruffled feathers are part of the deal. A certain level of physical fitness is required. Catering companies also use bartenders and servers to work private parties. If you are hired for a catering gig, you might be involved in menu planning, food preparation and setup.

Pay range: Bartending: $7.89 to $15.76 per hour and up, plus tips. Wait staff: $7.84 to $14.33, plus tips. Caterers should expect an hourly range between $8.35 and $20.06, plus tips, according to

Qualifications: Past experience is helpful, but other positions where you've worked with people, even as a volunteer, are worth noting. Personal and professional references are valuable calling cards.

12. Baker

Whipping up a batch of holiday cookies is a sweet pleasure. If you can take the heat, get in the kitchen. Look for jobs at local bakeries and in the bakery sections at grocery stores.

Pay range: $8.32 to $17.84 an hour.

Qualifications: A love of baking and culinary chops.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Hapy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.


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