For many retirees and 50-plus workers looking for a short-term gig, the holiday season is a great time to pull in some extra dough. And you have what employers are looking for: They're keen on hiring people who are responsible and reliable.
See also: The surprising truth about older workers
Plus, you never know. Your temporary gig can lead to future employment after the holiday rush fades, particularly if the economy continues to be robust. You've got a foot in the door, and hopefully you've demonstrated your competence and built a relationship.
If you're interested in looking for a holiday job, here's how to get started.
1. Cast a wide net
At retailers, there's a seasonal demand not only for sales clerks, but also for customer service helpers, cashiers, stockroom workers and security guards. There are openings for stockroom personnel handling incoming and outgoing cargo, and at warehouses and shipping facilities. Other posts in demand are package wrappers, product demonstrators, online and call service representatives, distribution center associates and, of course, Santas and elves.
Retailers aren't the only ones looking for workers. You may also find openings at restaurants as greeters, wait staff, bartenders and baristas. Package delivery firms such as UPS and FedEx are inundated with a surge in demand and hire accordingly. Small boutiques, mall kiosks, catering companies and florists add staff at this time of year. You might even pick up work as a holiday decorator, party planner, babysitter or pet-sitter for those taking holiday vacations.
2. Tap your network
Ask friends and family members who work at companies that add seasonal workers for a heads-up if they know of positions that are unfilled or opening up.
3. Play the familiarity card
At slack times, stop by businesses where you're already a customer and talk to the person in charge of hiring seasonal helpers. Knowing you're a loyal fan of the business can make it easier for a manager to add you to the team.
4. Make it personal
Online applications are often standard fare at big national employers. If possible, an in-person visit to a specific location allows you to meet the store or restaurant manager and is hands-down the best way to get noticed. Be enthusiastic, energetic — spirited, if you will. Dress professionally in case your passing conversation turns into a formal interview.
5. Follow up
It's good business, and good manners, to call or email the person you met, or interviewed with, to say thanks for the time. If there's not an immediate opening, don't be a pest, but try to keep tabs on hiring plans. As customer traffic builds during the remainder of the year, opportunities may pop up unexpectedly. By staying in touch, you position yourself to be top of mind for last-minute hiring decisions. When someone doesn't show up for work, bingo, you'll be a go-to worker in a pinch.
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6. Be flexible
You'll have a better chance of getting hired if you're willing to work whenever they need you. Employers are often in the dark about just how many hours of help they'll require until the shopping season really gets going. So be clear that you can come in at the drop of a hat, work weekends and nights (if you can), and are open to tackling many kinds of jobs.
7. Have a future view
It never hurts to let a manager know during an interview that you can also be available at other busy times during the year. For some employers, knowing they have to go through the hiring and training process only once can be an incentive to hire you for now, but with an eye to the future.
Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.