The average shopper is expected to spend nearly $800 this year on holiday purchases, according to the National Retail Federation. That means two things: Retailers are looking for seasonal help, and consumers are dreaming of ways to come up with the cash to cover their spending.
Walk any mall in America this week and you're bound to see "Help Wanted" signs in many windows. If you're looking for temporary seasonal work, now is the time to get out there. In most cases, you'll be expected to fill out an application on the spot, so arrive prepared with references, employment history and proper identification.
Focus on both your attire and your attitude. Dress to impress, as you would for any interview. Sloppy or too-casual clothing -- not to mention flip flops, chipped nails, multiple piercings and bed-head hair -- will do little to set the stage for a positive impression. Many people make the mistake of showing up this way, assuming the initial introduction is "just" to fetch the required paperwork.
Depending on the store's demand for new staffers, there's a good chance you'll be able to interview with a manager right away. Be ready for that conversation rather than saying you'd like to schedule it for a later date. You'll want to tout your customer service experience, your ability to deal calmly with tired and frustrated shoppers, and your interest in the shop's general merchandise. Saying you just need a job, rather than focusing on serving the store's needs, will not win you any fans.
Know the hours and days you're available to work, keeping in mind that your flexibility will be appreciated -- year-round staffers are more likely to get the premium shifts. There's a good chance you'll have to work some late nights and weekends, so don't scoff at such a schedule if your goal is to get hired.
You can call ahead to several stores of potential interest and ask about their hiring needs, the best time to come in to complete an application, and the likelihood of scheduling an on-site interview. This might prevent you from wasting time during their busy hours when nobody is available to chat with you.
Consider targeting stores that offer generous employee discounts since every penny saved helps. But resist the urge to select a store that you love so much that you're tempted to blow your entire earnings on yourself. After all, isn't the purpose of a seasonal position to help cover all of your holiday purchases, not simply to indulge yourself while incurring debt for everyone else's gifts?
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. To connect directly with Johnson, visit www.womenforhire.com.