For many retirees, taking on a holiday job is a great way to pull in extra cash. It might even lead into a longer-term position, if that’s the goal. Cashier and sales positions at retail shops and mall kiosks are the most plentiful for job hunters, but there are other opportunities that might not seem as evident.
Bob Dunn’s blue eyes twinkle, and his cheeks grow rosy when he talks about his seasonal job. No surprise, he’s Santa Claus. The 74-year-old retired seafood salesman travels from his home in Dover, Del., to Norman, Okla., to commandeer the jolly man’s chair at the Sooner Mall for the holiday season.Holiday Jobs for Retirees
Want a holiday retail job? ReadProduct demonstrator jobs. ReadGet paid for decorating. ReadTry bartending for extra cash. Read6 steps to landing a holiday job Read5 more holiday jobs to consider. ReadLooking for a seasonal job? ReadYour Turn: Are you looking for a job?
He’s got the obligatory white beard and hearty “ho-ho-ho.” Plus, Dunn has a knack for putting jumpy kids at ease. “I’m a people person. The job is pure joy,” Dunn says. “For 46 weeks out of the year, you’re just another old man with a white beard, but for that six week period, you’re Santa Claus!” he chuckles.
The contracted pay is enough to keep his reindeer flying in style too. He might fill his stocking with anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the contract, for the stretch of 10-hour days (with two meal breaks), which starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve. The only day off: Thanksgiving. His hotel room, rental car and airfare are also covered.
For the past two years, Dunn has been employed by Cherry Hill Photo Enterprises Inc., a privately held company based in Cherry Hill, N.J. The company is one of the big players in the Santa business. Last year, it placed more than 350 Santas in malls and department stores in 44 states. The firm negotiates the contract with the venue and provides three costumes per Santa. It also runs its own “Santa University” to train new Santas on how to do the job and prepare for the potential pitfalls.
Bob Dunn does some yard work at his home in Dover, Delaware. During the holidays, Dunn works as a Santa Claus. — Bill Cramer/Wonderful MachineWhat does Santa need to watch out for? “Kids throw up,” Dunn says. “They cough in your face. There are messy diapers. Some cry, and others pull your beard. Your glasses break. And you’ve got to protect your nose.”
He doesn’t mind the fact that the Santa’s sleigh takes him away from home and his wife, Kathleen. “The hours are so demanding that it’s to my advantage,” he says. “I can focus on the job.”
Kathleen agrees. “I could join him there, but we’d have to put the dog in the kennel and pay for someone to keep an eye on the house. It would impact our bottom line.”
Dunn’s sales training is clearly an asset. Being “Santa Claus, you’re still in the sales business,” he says. To be a successful Santa, you need to have an upbeat personality and a darn good memory. That’s because one of the keys to the job is returning year after year and building a clientele that comes to see you. “The kids remember you, and if you can remember them too, it helps,” Dunn says.
Next: If you’ve got a jolly old soul, you may enjoy this job. >>
Underneath all the packages and tree trimming, though, this is a business of selling photos. That is not Santa’s job per se. No bonuses come Dunn’s way from the number of “Me and Santa” images sold, but he knows why he’s there — to make kids smile.Last Christmas season, he had his picture taken roughly 13,200 times — and it wasn’t always children. Enlisted military stationed at nearby Tinker Air Force Base stopped by for pictures with Santa to send home, and brawny football players from the University of Oklahoma arrived at his North Pole set. “I sat on their laps.”There are plenty of great holiday jobs out there for you, and there’s always the potential to extend beyond the peak season. Here are five to consider. Pay ranges, which will vary based on factors such as experience and where you live, are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data.
1. Santa ClausThe nitty-gritty: How’s your kid-side manner? Wearing a Santa suit even made the Grinch grin. But it does have its challenges. For starters, it’s not a gig for the weak-kneed. You can expect to have wiggling children of all ages climbing up on your knees to whisper a Christmas list into your ear. And the truth is some of the little ones can be heavy to lift up and hold steady on your lap. Sitting for hours and smiling in a bulky red suit can be trying. By all means, don’t try to amble over to the food court for lunch. You’ll be mobbed. If you’re hired by an outside Santa distributor, a firm that places Santas at the thousand-plus enclosed shopping malls, you will probably travel to the mall assigned to you and spend 40-plus days camped out in a nearby motel room equipped with a small fridge and microwave. But if you’re prepped, rested and armed with breath mints, tissues, hand sanitizer and a kind disposition, it’s pure magic.The hours: For contract Santas, typically six weeks starting at Thanksgiving, 10-hour days with meal breaks. Varies by job for private parties, events and independent stores.
Median pay range: From $10 an hour to thousands per season. Contract pay for the 40-day season can range from around $10,000 for a rookie to more than $50,000 for a more experienced player, depending on the mall and location.Qualifications: It helps if you look the part — older, plump, a white beard and a jovial laugh. Santas can be of any race — depending on the venue — but they must be male. (There are some openings for Mrs. Santas and Santa’s helpers, too.) Having a natural beard is often a prerequisite. You can dye it if necessary. Padding can be tucked in to get that jelly belly. Contact smaller malls, department stores, photo shops and special event party planners directly for openings. Check local classified ads. National staffing services typically provide Santa impersonators to the larger malls. Three of the bigger ones: Cherry Hill Photo Enterprises Inc., Worldwide Photography and Noerr Programs Corp. You’ll need to apply online and go for an in-person interview. If they like your look and attitude, you’ll slip into costume and make-up for headshots, which are sent to the mall reps for selection. If you’re picked, the service will negotiate your contract and send you to Santa school for tips on appropriate behavior and conversations and suggestions for calming kids and make-up help too. There is a criminal background check and drug screening. Don’t forget your flu shot.Next: Are you cheerful and good with money? Read on. >>
2. Retail sales cashierThe nitty-gritty: Cha-ching. Smoothly manning the cash register is one of the most important jobs in the store. While there’s a great vibe when people are in the gift-buying spirit, it’s often repetitious work. You’ll need a grasp of basic math, keen attention to detail and be OK with hours on your feet. At some shops, you’ll fold and box items, too, and you might handle returns and exchanges. The basic duties: Entering charges for all items minus the value of any coupons or discounts. Taking payment in cash, personal checks, and gift, credit, and debit cards. Requesting additional identification from the customer or calling in for an authorization is standard procedure. Scanners and computers make the job pretty perfunctory, but some registers require price and product data to be entered by hand. Depending on your shift, you might have to open or close registers, which can include counting the money and separating charge slips, coupons and exchange vouchers. Forgo fashion and pony up for comfy footwear. Practice saying, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”The hours: Variable. Plan on working evenings and weekends.Median pay range: Pay can range from $7.15 to more than $12 an hour.Qualifications: Cashiers need little or no previous experience, although that helps. Training is generally on the go with a more seasoned co-worker. Department and chain stores might offer a short training course to get you up to speed on customer service, security, the store’s policies and procedures, and cash register operation. Employers generally run a background or credit score check on you to make sure you’re trustworthy to handle money. You should be at ease with financial transactions and basic computer commands. Remember — the customer is always right.
Next: If you’re eloquent and outgoing, consider this job. >>
3. Product demonstratorThe nitty-gritty: Don’t be shy. This is “meet and greet” show time. Talk to people with snappy banter and product know-how. You boldly step right up to a shopper and say with a friendly, earnest smile, “Would you like to try our apple cider?” You’re not actually selling the elixir, but you’re getting folks in the buying mood. Demonstrators are typically standing or walking, and it can be fairly fast-paced. This is not a job for the couch potato. Think energizer bunny. Prepare to pass out food samples or product coupons or brochures. Performances might be on tap if you’re assigned to demo a blender, new software program, or you could be asked to try your hand at in-store cooking. You might face some grunt work — set-up and clean-up, as well as bringing the goods to and from the stores. Extra bonus: Tantalizing tidbits at your fingertips.The hours: Vary by store. During holiday crunch times, evenings and weekends are the norm.Median pay range: $8.28 to $21.19 per hourQualifications: On-the-job training to glean sales techniques is standard fare. Smooth public speaking and communication skills and an outgoing personality will serve you well. This is a performance in many ways, so you’ll want to channel your inner entertainer. Humor and friendly chit-chat attracts customers. Past jobs in retail, sales or customer service make it easier, but any volunteering or public speaking experience is noteworthy on your résumé. If you know a shop, even a “big-box” store that uses demonstrators near you, stop by and ask if the store does the hiring directly. If so, put in your application. You might also ask an in-store demonstrator during a break how he or she got the job. Some companies pay a kickback for bringing in a new worker.. If the store uses an outside agency, get the contact information. If you’re interested in a specific product, go to the company website to check for openings and apply online. Kiosk operators in malls sometimes hire part-time product demo help. Pump it up.
Next: Do you take holiday decorating very seriously? >>
4. Holiday decoratorThe nitty-gritty: Do you have a passion for decking the halls with boughs of holly? This job calls for creative flair and a way with bows and bulbs. You’ll be making and setting up holiday decorations and displays. You might need to tap into your electrical smarts, too. Sometimes a touch of brawn and a strong back is required if you’re responsible for moving large poinsettias, boxes of ornaments, setting up Christmas trees or stringing lights outdoors. You might have to clamber up ladders to get to rooftops and high trees if offering outside decorating services. Expect to get your hands dirty. Demanding clients and last-minute flourishes can be a little nerve-wracking. Jobs range from adorning large offices to retail shops to hotels, restaurants and private homes.The hours: Potentially long and variable, but brief stints. Early-December to early January. Some late night and weekend work required for installation and dismantling.Median pay range: $8.14 to $17.23 per hourQualifications: Past holiday decorating experience is a plus. Floral designer training helps. If you’ve got a flair for this type of work, a good attitude, and you’re willing to learn, many florists and decorators will gladly train you as you go. Check with local florists and floral departments at grocery stores and event planning firms for openings. If you’re confident in your own decorating panache, you might opt to start your own business. You can land clients through word of mouth. Ask friends and family to help spread the word. For starters, decorate a few friends or family member’s houses gratis or a bargain price to build up a portfolio or website with display pictures to show to potential clients. If you’re interested in floral design after the holiday rush, many vocational schools and community colleges award certificates and degrees in floral design. You’ll learn the basics of arranging flowers, including the different types of flowers, their color and texture, cutting and taping techniques, tying bows and ribbons, proper handling and care of flowers. The American Institute of Floral Designers offers an accreditation examination. Whistle while you work tune: Tis the season to be jolly. Fa la la la la.
Next: Spread holiday joy with good food, drink and your smile. >>
5. Bartending/waitressing/cateringThe nitty-gritty: Smile though your feet are aching. Food and beverage service positions are in high demand during the end of year holiday party season. From restaurants to local pubs to private parties, there are typically a wide variety of places hiring. Patience, a good memory and organizational skills are part of the job. It goes without saying, of course, that an amiable persona, charm and uncanny ability to smooth ruffled feathers of disgruntled customers are expected. A certain level of physical fitness is required. Catering companies, too, search for bartenders and servers of all ages to work private parties. Caterers who handle food preparation are usually behind the scenes. You might be in charge of menu planning, food preparation and set-up.The hours: Flexible schedules. Nights, weekend and lunch times can peak during the weeks before New Year’s.Median pay range: Bartending: $7.33 to $15.11+ an hour, plus tips. Waiters and waitresses: $7.54 to $14.41, plus tips. Caterers should expect an hourly range between $9.82 and $11.89, but can run up to $20 an hour, plus tips.Qualifications: A pleasant personality and ability to banter with customers is essential. Math and memorization skills come in handy, too. Past experience is helpful, but other positions where you’ve worked with people even as a volunteer are worth noting. Personal and professional references are valuable calling cards. Before you apply: Do your recognizance as a customer to see how the wait staff and bartenders dress and get a feel for the venue and menu. Read up on part-time bartending jobs. One tip: If you’re considering bartending, for example, as a post-holiday part-time job, you might enroll in bartender training school that offers two-week programs. Catering per se will require more stove time in the kitchen to earn your culinary chops and references to back up your claims. There can be stiff competition from professional chefs. Expect upfront costs for sample menu preparation. Not for the hot and bothered.
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