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Cropped shot of a young woman doing seasonal work handing a parcel to a customer over the counter

The Job-Seeker's Guide to Seasonal Work

Posted On10/23/2018

ContributorKaila Prins

Regardless of the weather, as soon as Starbucks announces that its PSL is back, the season for seasonal work begins.

In other words: we’re well into the fall already, and if you’re looking for seasonal employment, it’s time to get your resume seen before it’s too late.

Why Take a Seasonal Job?

Seasonal work is, by its nature, temporary employment. So why should you take a seasonal job?

There are a number of good reasons:

– If you’re currently unemployed and looking for work, seasonal jobs can help you pay the bills while you apply and interview for long-term roles. You can even ask your seasonal employer for a reference for the long-term roles to which you’re applying!

– If you’re a student, seasonal work can help you earn while you study, without asking for a long-term commitment (especially if you don’t yet know how heavy your load will be next semester).

– If you’re trying to make a little extra money to pay for holiday presents or travel or get ahead on your savings or bills, seasonal employment can help you fill in the gaps.

– If you’re trying to change careers or want to learn new skills, seasonal employment offers you the opportunity to add something different to your resume.

– If you’re hoping to get a long-term role with a company offering seasonal work, a temporary role can help you get your foot in the door.

Seasonal work allows you to remain flexible while employed. If you’ve got a full-time job elsewhere, you can take on a part time seasonal job on the side; if you’re looking for work but not ready to commit to a company for the long haul, seasonal work helps you make rent while you prepare yourself for your next role.

Seasonal Work versus Gig Work

Why should you seek seasonal employment over joining the “gig economy?” The decision is ultimately up to you, but there are a number of factors that you should consider:

First of all: what’s the difference between a gig and a job?

Simply put, gig work is freelance work. And freelance work is project-based. You’re paid on contract (what is known as a 1099, for tax purposes), and you’re paid based on the number of tasks or projects you do. Freelance gigs can be anything from driving an Uber to selling your crafts on Etsy or walking dogs with Rover.

A job is more regular employment by a company, and you’re paid based on a W2. Instead of basing your pay on projects, companies base employment pay on time. An employee may have many tasks during the course of a work day, and you get paid for showing up instead of for how many projects you complete.

There are pros and cons to each, but they’re helpful to consider as you decide what kind of work is right for you this holiday season:

Pros of Gig Work

Gigs are even more flexible than seasonal employment. If you’re already employed and just looking to make some money on the side, it can be helpful to have a gig so you can decide when, where, and how much you want to work in your free time. With gig work, you’re in control – you decide which jobs to accept. (For example, as an Uber driver, you can decide when to log into the Uber app and when to turn it off and go home. As an Etsy shop owner, if you want to knit a sweater and list it for sale, that’s up to you.)

You can take as many gigs as you want and diversify your investment of time and resources. If you want to be a TaskRabbiter during the day, take on freelance writing gigs through Upwork in the evening, and charge Bird scooters at night, have at it! If you want the night off, that’s your choice, too. Some people are drawn to gig work for the promise it offers to those who “hustle”; others like it for the perceived flexibility and autonomy.

Cons of Gig Work

While the gig economy seems to offer untold flexibility and instant riches, there’s a lot more to the story. First of all, gig workers are independent contractors, which means that there’s no company paying your employment taxes. Taxes on 1099s are much higher than taxes on W2s, so it’s up to you to budget your earnings accordingly.

Gig work can be costly in other ways, too: in most cases, you will be required to furnish any equipment you need to carry out the job, from knitting needles to a car or bike to computers and phones to doggie waste bags. Most gig platforms don’t pay you back for any charges you incur while fulfilling your gig, so you may end up having to budget a large portion of your earnings to cover your expenses.

Gig work is also not assured work – tasks and projects can be inconsistent, as there is no employer promising you hours. You will have to go out and “hustle” for gigs, often competing with others who are trying to do the same. There’s also not much room for advancement, the way there is with employers; you may get new “badges” for engaging with an app, but there’s very rarely an opportunity for promotion, career growth, or flexing into full time.

Why You Might Consider Seasonal Work Instead

Seasonal work differs from gig work in that it involves a contract between you and an employer regarding your hours, your pay, and the start- and endpoint of your employment. If you’re hired to take on a seasonal role, your employer provides all of the equipment you need to do the job; all you need to do is show up. While your training may be abbreviated, there may still be chances for advancement into longer-term employment after your seasonal contract runs out.

Seasonal work offers a happy medium between the complete flexibility but insecurity of gig work and the more structured but stable long-term employment. No, you won’t get benefits, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be offered a long-term role once the season ends, but, if you’re looking for a role to help you generate some earnings this fall and winter, seasonal work is worth consideration.

Where to Look for Seasonal Work

What do you think of when you think of seasonal work? The first thing that may come to mind is retail – and that’s definitely a good place to start. However, there’s more to seasonal work than employment at the mall!

(That said, if you do apply for retail jobs, make sure you start soon: retail employers often start hiring at the end of summer/beginning of fall, because they want to be prepared for the busy shopping season well in advance of Black Friday.)

Here are few other ideas to spark inspiration for your job search:

  • – Manufacturing
  • – Warehousing and packaging
  • – Package delivery
  • – Customer service
  • – Food service
  • – Vacation/resort-related jobs (check out vacation spots near your area for ideas, like ski instructors, hotel staff, and more)
  • – Event-based jobs (‘tis the season for party planners, caterers, musicians, and mall Santas!)

You may also find companies hiring for professional roles from marketing to software development to help them finish projects before the new year.

How to Prepare for a Seasonal Job Interview

Prepare for a seasonal job interview as you would for a long-term role. Do your research on the company, dress professionally, and be on time.

Your interviewers may ask you about your long-term plans and your seasonal flexibility. Make sure you’re up-front with your answers! If you’re interested in growing with the company, don’t be shy about it – let them know that you understand that this is seasonal work, but ask if there are opportunities for working toward a non-seasonal role with the company afterward. (It’s helpful to understand what they’ll be looking for in employees as they make decisions about extending employment after the holidays; if you start the job armed with that knowledge in advance, you can make sure you’re making the right impression from day one.)

And be honest about your ability to take on the demands of seasonal work. If you have travel plans, an inflexible schedule, or other commitments, your potential employer needs to know so they can decide if you’re truly a good fit. Being open doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get the job – it means that your potential employer will have enough information so that you don’t end up over-scheduled and they don’t find themselves unexpectedly understaffed.

Even if you don’t plan on seeking employment with the company after January or February, the interviewer may still want to gauge your commitment to this short-term role. Before you go into your interview, think about the reasons why you want this job beyond just a paycheck: the skills you want to learn, the excitement or fulfillment you get from doing this type of work, the chance to build a career in this industry, etc. What is true for you? Make sure you know how you’ll answer this question before you go in for the interview.

Ready to Look for Seasonal Work? 

So, you’ve made your pro and con list, and it seems like seasonal work is a good fit for you. You know what industry you want to search in or what roles might be a good fit for your skill set and schedule. You know what you’re looking for from this role, and you know how to answer the interview questions you’ll most likely be asked.

Now what?

If you’re not sure where to start your job search, why not take a look at Nelson’s job listings? There, you’ll find seasonal, temp, and long-term roles to help you take the next steps on your career journey.