Your Seasonal Job Doesn’t Have to End. Here’s How to Keep It

A man smiles as she delivers packages to a person's door.
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During the holiday season, major employers like Target, FedEx, and UPS hire hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers. When the last heavily discounted flat-screen TV is sold and the final gift-wrapped package is gently placed on the stoop, what happens to all those seasonal jobs?

In most cases, the seasonal workers clock out and collect their last paycheck. Maybe they use the extra money to offset their holiday gift giving, or maybe they tuck that money away for college or some other financial goal. The positions often sunset until the next big hiring initiative.

For Dan McMackin, a decades-long UPS worker, the opportunity didn’t fade away. And he says the opportunity doesn’t have to fade away for you either.

He started at UPS as a seasonal package handler in 1978. He worked his way into a permanent part-time role, then a full-time one. He moved into management, pivoted into HR as a seasonal employee recruiter and finally moved into his current corporate position as a public relations manager and spokesperson.

McMackin shared advice with The Penny Hoarder about the ins and outs of holiday hiring and how to turn a seasonal job into a permanent one.

Can a Seasonal Job Become Permanent?

UPS, one of the nation’s largest seasonal employers, commissioned a survey about seasonal work. The company found that nearly three-quarters  of respondents want their seasonal or temp gig to turn into a full-time position.

The majority of workers certainly hope  seasonal jobs are good foot-in-the-door opportunities, but what about the employers’ perspective? Do they want to keep seasonal workers on permanently?

The short answer: yes! Nearly a third of UPS employees in the US started out in seasonal positions.

The long answer: yes, but you have to stand out. Major seasonal employers like UPS typically have “built a pipeline” to retain seasonal employees, according to Tony Lee, a vice president at the Society for Human Resource Management.With each batch of new recruits, managers watch closely to tap the high-performing ones to stay on long-term, Lee said.

So how can you beat the competition and turn that seasonal job into a career? We asked the experts.

How to Turn a Seasonal Job Into a Permanent One

Each employer operates a little differently, but this battle-tested advice holds true for almost all seasonal employment situations.

Treat It Like an Extended Interview

Scott Waletzke, an executive with staffing agency Adecco USA, recommends changing your mindset so you no longer view the job as temporary.

“View that job as just an extended interview,” he told The Penny Hoarder.

Some managers may already be drafting a short list of permanent candidates. If you approach the seasonal position as a pathway to a new job from the get-go, you’re sure to be on the top of the list.

As with any job interview, you’ll want to get a good reading on the company and its culture. Sure, you want to make a good impression, but use this time to see if the company meets your needs, too.

Prove Yourself

Seasonal work can be tough. It’s a busy time of year, and that’s why the company needs so many hands on deck. The nature of the work may lead seasonal employees to not take the job very seriously, McMackin suggested. That’s where you have the advantage.

“Because it’s a temporary gig, I think some people only want it for a short time,” McMackin said. “If you’re not one of them, you need to make it known, and you need to stand out as a hard-working, caring individual.”

He says simple (but crucial) things like demonstrating a strong work ethic, punctuality and flexibility will go a long way in setting yourself apart.

Ask Your Boss or Supervisor Directly

If you decide that you want to stay on with the company, let your supervisor know. It’s the most overt step you can take to secure a permanent position, but many people often skirt this conversation to avoid potential awkwardness.

It’s OK to make your intentions known as early as the job interview, but be sure to pull your direct manager aside after spending some time growing into your role.

McMackin notes that seasonal work is fast paced, and there may not be a lot of down time during your shift for a career discussion with your manager. He says the easiest time to talk about it is right after a shift.

“Do you have five or 10 minutes after work?” McMackin recommends asking.

During the conversation, highlight that you want to stay on after the hiring season and express your long-term goals. Let them know relevant things you’re doing in college, if applicable.

“Many people want to come back permanently,” McMackin said, “but what if they didn’t do very good at the job?”That’s when you swoop in with a proven track record and clear interest in the position.

With any luck, you can stay on long after the seasonal sales end and the crowds disperse – no longer a faceless new recruit but a permanent employee.

Adam Hardy is a former staff writer for The Penny Hoarder who specializes in stories on the gig economy. Ciara McLaren contributed to this report.