by Courtney Llewellyn
There are two main seasons for “seasonal” work – the school break during the summer months, and the month or two leading up to the traditional holiday season. Efficient, qualified workers can be hard to find during both seasons if employers don’t know what to look for – or when to look for them.
During the last holiday season, retailers hired about 615,000 seasonal employees, according to the National Retail Federation – but retail jobs aren’t the only ones available.
“With the unemployment rate as low as it is, it could be tough finding help this year,” said Kathi Noaker. She works with the website CoolWorks.com, which advertises “jobs in great places.” It focuses on connecting seasonal jobs with seasonal employees. Noaker’s official title is “Director of Employer Happiness,” and she’s been in the position since 1997, so she is well-versed in holiday hiring trends.
“Employers really need to market their jobs. Recruiting can start as early as June for holiday work,” she explained. CoolWorks.com lets job seekers search for what they are passionate about on its homepage – states, seasons or National Parks. “In the past, we have had employers work with us to find people to string lights and to cut and sell trees.”
Seasonal work is almost always full-time, according to Noaker. Christmas tree farms can be open seven days a week during the peak selling period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24. The key to finding quality employees for those eight weeks is proper timing. Posting job listings earlier can mean better employees later.
While a lot of college students work summer jobs, the holiday season sees a different demographic of employee, Noaker said. “There will always be people who will travel to work,” she explained, whether they’re retired and traveling the country or working from season to season is their main source of income. Noaker said one of the best ways to draw in good seasonal help is to offer housing, if possible.
Another way to draw in the type of employee a business needs is an advertisement that matches what they are searching for. Take, for example, the headline of this listing, posted on Craigslist: “Tree Ninjas and Christmas Tree Help Wanted!”
“We get so many applications, we do so many interviews,” said Shannon Von Eschen of CreekSide Tree Nursery in Boulder, CO, who posted the help wanted ad. “What matters to us is attitude. I think most workers and employees should use that criteria. Our employees have to love life! Nursery experience and retail experience are not necessary.” Von Eschen is looking for someone who will smile at the job listing – and keep smiling at the job site.
“The applicants need to be open to opportunity. Those are the people that rock,” she said. “It’s the holiday season. Customers don’t want to talk to a grumpy person.”
Their ad reads that they are “seeking jovial but hard-working individuals who want to be immersed in all things Christmas during our season.” They must also be prepared to work outside all day, every day; not be afraid to sweat and get dirty; and “consider yourself to have a high level of respect for nature and your co-workers.”
“This is our tenth year selling Christmas trees. We want to give a better experience,” Von Eschen explained. CreekSide sells at two locations, offering living trees, fresh-cut trees and trees customers can cut themselves.
“Everybody sells trees. You see lots next to each other. You see trees at the big box stores,” she said, “so we sell the experience. We need someone who can really do that.” The bonus for her holiday help is that longer, higher paid positions are available at their tree nursery through the spring, depending on skill level and work ethic.
“Good seasonal jobs have changed a lot of lives,” Noaker said. “They can change people. They travel to new places, meet new people, learn new skill sets. There are lots of career opportunities that can come from a few weeks of work.”