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'Tis the season -- to find a job

Many employers swell their ranks when holidays arrive

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Ahhh, the holidays.

With a gift list that keeps expanding and a budget that doesn't, is it any wonder workers are taking on additional seasonal jobs? Such jobs bring extra cash, generous employee discounts and even a chance for a long-term career. (That is, if you can deal with managing harried -- and sometimes unruly -- customers.)

Last year retail employers hired 629,000 seasonal workers, about 20 percent more than the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation. The average hourly wage for non-supervisory retail employees, including benefits, is $15.47, according to the federation. The average hourly wage for non-supervisory retail employees, including benefits, is $15.47, according to the federation.

Retailers aren't the only ones hiring. You could be a mall gift-wrapper, a Santa or his helper.

UPS, for instance, plans to hire 40,000 to 60,000 temporary workers across the country. In the Baltimore area, the shipping company is looking for some 600 seasonal employees, a majority of whom will work as driver's helpers, says Harry Brown, a hiring supervisor at UPS' Hunt Valley office.

UPS requires no experience for the entry-level position, which pays $10.50 an hour.

"We train them in how to deliver the packages," Brown says. "Drivers make 160 stops, but at peak season, it's 300 or more."

Before rushing to the nearest mall to pick up those job applications, there are a few things to consider.

For starters, be prepared to give up your nights and weekends. (UPS does not deliver on the weekends.) Employers are looking for prospective seasonal workers with the most flexible schedules, says Shawn Boyer, chief executive officer of SnagAJob.com, a job posting site that specializes in hourly positions.

Experience is a plus for some positions, such as in sales at high-end department stores. But it's not always required, Boyer says, especially for such jobs as merchandise stocking.

Sometimes, having the right attitude and tolerance for holiday-frenzy customers is equally important, especially in the retail environment, Boyer says. Employers will "ask people about their energy level, about their love of interacting with people and the ability to stand up on their feet for a long period of time," he says.

Take into account your interest, whether in clothes, electronics or toys, when looking for a seasonal position. And consider retailers whose employee discounts can come in handy when buying presents for friends and family.

Borders Group Inc., which operates Borders and Waldenbooks stores, offers a 33-percent employee discount.

The company expects to hire about 5,000 temporary workers, says spokeswoman Anne Roman. A majority of these hires will work at the company's Day by Day calendar outlets, which are set up at mall kiosks and temporary stores.

For some workers, a seasonal job is a way to get inside the company permanently.

Brown, the hiring supervisor at UPS, says he hires up to 70 percent of its seasonal workforce as part-time employees, who then often work up to full-time status. (Brown notes that part-time workers get full-time benefits.)

Take Dale Bolt, 38, of Upperco, who started his UPS career as a seasonal worker last year. He sought the temporary gig in hopes of becoming a full-time driver.

Now, Bolt expects to get his own seasonal worker to help deliver packages on his route in Carroll County, which includes the Town Mall of Westminster.

"My season is well started now; I'm delivering 120 packages to up to 200 plus," Bolt says.

Have you been a seasonal worker? What was your experience like? And what else is on your mind about life at work? Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city.

Subscribe to Hanah Cho's podcast

Figures on seasonal workers provided by the National Retail Federation were misstated in an earlier version of this article. The Sun regrets the error.
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