The National Retail Federation has high hopes for this holiday shopping season. Spending is projected to reach $630 billion, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales.
[blockquote quote="We strongly recommend people to attend job fairs, because then they get that one-on-one face time with the employers, which can leave an impression," source="Bill Watson, Columbia Basin Work Source" align="right" max_width="300px"]
The uptick in sales also means a boost for employment as retailers add seasonal workers to the payrolls. The organization projects that more than 750,000 people will be hired on this holiday season. WorkSource Columbia Basin’s Bill Watson said that in Benton and Franklin counties, about 600 seasonal jobs will open up for November and December sales. As a business services representative, Watson studies labor projections and meets regularly with local employers to assess their hiring needs.
Employers begin preparing for the seasonal hiring influx well before leaves start falling and winter coats are unearthed from the back of closets. Because employers need time to interview, hire and train new staff members before the shopping season kicks in, WorkSource hosted a job fair in October to match employers to potential employees.
“Macy’s was there, and they indicated that 50 plus jobs were available—some seasonal, some year-round,” said Watson, naming off a couple of the businesses that attended the event. “Fred Meyer was there and they were looking to fill up to 40 positions.”
Altogether, 17 employers attended job fair, including Lowe’s, Amazon.com, PetSmart, Toys “R” Us, Kennewick Grocery Outlet, Jimmy John’s and Hollister Co. The event lasted for three hours and brought in more than 140 people, said Watson.
“We strongly recommend people to attend job fairs, because then they get that one-on-one face time with the employers, which can leave an impression,” he said. “At a job fair, people have the opportunity to impress the employer with themselves and not just their résumé.”
Those looking for jobs were encouraged to bring their résumés to the event, although Watson said most employers these days ask people to apply online and upload a résumé as a file. Whether attending a job fair or not, it’s important to make sure the résumé is error free, Watson stressed.
WorkSource provides a variety of no-cost classes, including one to help job seekers polish their résumés. It’s offered in both English and Spanish and is the most popular class WorkSource offers—and for good reason. Jack Fitzgerald, executive director for the Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council, said one of the biggest mistakes people make is not matching their skill set in their résumés to the desired skills sought by potential employers.
“I’m retired military, and when I first started doing résumés, I had a hard time recognizing my skill set that I used in the military and translating those skills to the rest of the world,” said Fitzgerald, whose job includes meeting with the Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Councils and various service providers to align the business needs of the community with the workforce.
“The WorkSource specialist has the ability to listen to what you do and help you recognize your transferrable skills. If you’re a truck driver and you want a job here at home, there are skills you have that might work for an office job, such as your logbook you kept or budget keeping, for example.”
Seasonal jobs are a great way to get your foot in the door if you’re looking to change or start a new career. Watson said companies are looking for hard workers with solid customer service skills with the potential for full-time employment. Some of the biggest retailers hiring this season are Toys “R” Us, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Target, Wal-Mart and Macy’s, the latter of which boosted its staff by more than 40 percent to meet holiday demands in 2014.
The National Retail Federation’s latest survey found that holiday shoppers plan to spend $463 on family members this year, up from $458 last year. The average per-person spending is expected to hit $805 with more than half of shoppers expected to splurge on non-gift items for themselves.
Job seekers unable to land a job before the holidays aren’t completely out of luck. Watson said spring is the “Christmas season” for home improvement companies, which will start filling positions in January to meet demands. Mindy Davis, human resource manager for Lowe’s, said while November and December are not their big sales months, they keep their eyes out for potential team members year round.
“We try to participate in as many job fairs as we can,” said Davis. “Both our Pasco and Kennewick stores have openings. Between the stores, we have 40 to 60 positions open, and those can parlay into full-time work.”
Job seekers can find out more about Lowe’s positions, as well as a variety of seasonal and full-time employment opportunities, by visiting the WorkSource website at go2worksource.org. Employers are encouraged to register and post jobs at no cost. Fitzgerald said the website will become more interactive in the future as it’s being redesigned by Monster.
“It will actually link to Monster’s website as well,” said Fitzgerald. “And there will be chat links for people to interact with an employment specialist at WorkSource during normal business hours. It’s a step into the new generation.”
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