As companies hire extra workers for the holidays, some of these seasonal employees are already wondering: How do I turn this temporary position into something permanent? And, in this economy, can I?
Retailers who are typically big seasonal employers are suffering through a prolonged slump in consumer spending that's forced many to cut back staffing. Other employers such as the Postal Service have implemented hiring freezes. So, while these companies are employing temporary help, they don't expect to make many permanent offers.
Still, personnel consultants and company executives say there are plenty of opportunities for hard-working seasonal employees to stay on even after the new year. Shipping giant UPS Inc., for one, says it could eventually hire thousands of workers who make it through the frenetic holiday season.
The first step in nabbing a job: make it clear you're interested, and looking for a permanent role. Most seasonal workers never get a chance at other jobs because they simply never ask, said Jeff Joerres, the CEO of Manpower.
But be tactful, and don't pester management. "Make yourself available for additional opportunities," he said. "But don't overextend yourself."
REMEMBER THE BASICS
Even when a job is short term, employees need to behave as they would in a full-time, permanent position. So, arrive on time, follow your schedule and don't request time off work unless it's absolutely necessary.
Seasonal workers do to tend to get the less desirable shifts. But to make a good impression, just smile and keep working hard.
"In a temporary employee, that's the No. 1 thing: reliability and dependability," said Craig Rowley, vice president of the global retail sector for the Hay Group, a consulting firm.
Along with that, show that you're willing to be flexible. If managers ask you to work longer, do it. Likewise, if they need someone to pick up an extra shift, be the first to volunteer.
Small gestures can go a long way, Joerres said.
"There's an amazing amount of people who show up for work and want to collect a paycheck and don't show that they want anything more than that," he said. "And I think that disappoints employers."
AUDITIONING FOR A JOB
A seasonal job, like an internship or temporary gig, is truly a multiweek job interview.
Supervisors watch to see how well employees fit with the company, and they quickly judge how easily workers pick up on new tasks.
That's because many companies treat seasonal positions as "auditions to find some of their best people," said John Challenger, chief executive of consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
To stand out, look for ways to "wow" customers and demonstrate a mastery of the business.
At the high-end kitchen retailer Sur La Table, CEO Jack Schwefel says the best seasonal workers are ones who interact with customers on a personal basis while also explaining the key differences between products, such as a copper-bottomed pot versus a steel one.
Sur La Table will hire about 2,000 seasonal workers this year to work in its stores and distribution warehouses, essentially doubling the size of the company's work force. Schwefel said up to 20 percent of those could eventually be offered either permanent part-time or full-time jobs.
Companies across a variety of industries say they're still interested in hiring temporary workers, even amid the recession.
UPS plans to hire about 50,000 seasonal workers this year. Some of those employees will work in the company's hubs, loading and unloading trucks, while others will be on the road with drivers going door-to-door to deliver packages.
The jobs can be exhausting, given that the holidays represent the company's busiest time of the year.
But spokeswoman Karen Cole said employees who make it through peak season could be in a prime position to land a permanent job. The company hopes to hire about 20 percent to 30 percent of its temporary work force this year.