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Bruzzese: Finding seasonal work could be a full-time job

If you were counting on a seasonal job during the upcoming holiday period, you may not want to count on that paycheck too soon.

That’s because one employment expert says it may tougher than ever to land either a full- or part-time seasonal gig this year. In a survey by SnagaJob.com of hiring managers from 1,000 companies, half reported they plan to make do with current staff to handle holiday work, while 29 percent say there’s simply no extra money to hire more staff. Some 21 percent said they expected slower holiday business, so they would not be hiring.

Further, what makes this survey especially dismal news for those seeking seasonal work is that it was conducted from Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 – well before the severe stock market dive, the September unemployment figures and the Congressional rescue package for Wall Street.

“I suspect that if we did the same survey today, the results would be even worse,” says Shawn Boyer, SnagAJob.com CEO.

Boyer says that another reason it will be tougher to get seasonal work is because so many of those seeking full-time work are willing to take part-time jobs now.

“Not only do we have a significant number of people looking for second jobs, we’ve got people who really want full time, but are taking what they can get,” he says. “For economic reasons, there are 1.6 million more people working part-time jobs this year as compared to last year.”

Even online jobs declined: The Conference Board reports that for September, there was a drop of 216,000 vacancies.

According to the SnagAJob.com survey, last year employers averaged hiring about 5.6 seasonal workers, but this year that is expected to be only 3.7 seasonal workers, a drop of 33 percent. These jobs, Boyer says, normally start in mid-October and last until the end of January. He says those wanting to nab seasonal work should start applying immediately, especially if they’re looking for something a little more permanent.

“A lot of people end up getting full-time jobs based on how they perform during seasonal employment,” Boyer says.

Still, Boyer cautions that those seeking seasonal work need to understand that competition is going to be tougher than ever before. In order to improve your chances of getting hired, Boyer advises you should:

1. Be flexible. During the holiday season, many employers will need workers for night and weekend shifts. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (24 percent) said this was the most important aspect for hiring. If you say you can only work certain daytime hours, chances are good your application may get tossed out.

2. Be positive. Showing up for a job interview with a friendly smile, a solid handshake and an upbeat attitude is the most critical aspect for 34 percent of those surveyed. Managers look for good attitudes during the hiring process that can mean you will provide great customer service.

3. Highlight your qualifications. One quarter of hiring managers said experience was the most important aspect for them, so make sure you list your skills on the application and mention them again in the interview.

4. Do your homework. When interviewing, tell the manager how much your love the company, the service, product, etc. “A lot of people may be afraid it sounds cheesy, but it’s important to managers,” Boyer says.

5. Be committed. Seasonal work doesn’t stop until the end of January. Many students can’t work that long because of school commitments, so the person who promises to work as long as needed may have a leg up on the competition.

“People do need to understand that finding a seasonal job may be tougher in some areas of the country than in others,” Boyer says. “Anecdotally, we know that our clients in the New York area are in a tougher place. There’s going to be a lot of competition this year.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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