6 top retail jobs this holiday season and how to get them

Written by Kate Lopaze

As the weather gets colder, that means two things: the holidays are coming, and there will be a lot of seasonal retail jobs opening up. Whether you’re looking for a side gig to make extra money or a right-now job to get you through the holidays, retail is the place to be from October until January. The seasonal holiday job is a perennial classic opportunity for temporary work, or an experience-building job that can be your entry point to a longer career working in retail.

Let’s look at six of the top retail job opportunities available this holiday season.

Retail Sales Associate

This is kind of the classic seasonal job. Brick and mortar stores are busier than ever around the holidays, and they need the kind of all-hands-on-deck staffs that will let them boost those crucial holiday sales while keeping the store running smoothly. Retail sales associates may be responsible for stocking shelves, merchandising, cashier-ing, or working directly with customers. They may also be behind the scenes, assisting with incoming shipments and helping to manage inventory.

Holiday sales associates are usually expected to work long or late shifts to accommodate for expanded store hours, and potentially on holidays (especially as more and more stores creep their Black Friday specials into Thanksgiving Day). It’s a hectic pace and you may be expected to be on your feet for most of it, so it’s important to have the physical stamina to withstand the holiday rush. This job may also involved a certain amount of heavy lifting and reaching.

To get started as a retail sales associate, the bigger retailers (think Target, WalMart, Kohl’s, Toys ‘R Us, etc.) are almost always hiring seasonal help, but also be sure to check out smaller stores, who may also need holiday associates.

What you’ll need: A solid retail resume, for starters, and also a strong set of customer service skills. You’ll also need general retail skills like good organization, time management, the ability to work independently without constant oversight, and math skills. You’ll also need to be flexible on your availability to work.

Customer Service Representative

More customers means more customer needs, and many stores and companies bulk up their customer service departments for the holidays. In retail, that often means manning the phones, internet chat programs, or social media platforms to make sure that customer issues and complaints are being handled quickly and appropriately. Customer service representatives may also be tasked with giving information to customers, processing returns or refunds, escalating customer issues appropriately, and troubleshooting specific issues. Because customer service doesn’t necessarily coincide with a store’s hours (and even less so if a store does a brisk holiday business online), the shifts may be overnight, over weekends, or over holidays. This can be a good job for night owls, or someone who has daytime obligations.

What you’ll need: A solid customer service resume. You’ll need customer service skills first and foremost, as well as tech skills like handling multi-line phones, recordkeeping software, and internet chat programs. You’ll also need strong problem solving skills, as much of your time may be spent helping to diagnose and resolve problems for customers.

Holiday Actor

Many malls and stores (especially department stores) have a holiday display with some kind of interactive component (like Santa visits and photos). If you resemble the jolly old head elf himself, all the better. But people of all shapes and sizes are often needed to help out with these displays, shepherding kids through, or acting as elves/reindeer/other holiday characters. You don’t need to have an Academy Award-winning resume, but if you’re interested in working in a retail store without being an associate on the floor, this can be an option. You may be assisting with photo setup, or working on crowd/line management. The name of this position may vary by store. For example, Macy’s calls their fleet of seasonal Santas and elves “Santaland Sales Associates.”

What you’ll need: Great people skills, especially kid-friendly ones. If you’re interested in being Santa himself, there are actually schools for that. Otherwise, skills like organization and time management also serve you well, as stores are just as interested in having these customers spend money in the store as waiting in line to see the holiday display.

Retail Housekeeping Associate/Janitor

With all of the holiday shopping chaos, stores can get cluttered and disorganized. Enter the housekeeping staff. Like just about every other retail department, stores often need extra help in the cleaning department as well. These associates may be responsible for cleaning the store before or after hours, maintaining clean public areas during business hours, restocking things like boxes and bags in checkout areas, and generally cleaning up messes that occur in all the holiday hubbub. The housekeeping staff helps the operations of a store run more smoothly.

What you’ll need: Good time management and organizational skills, and the ability to work independently to do what needs to be done.

Warehouse/Shipping Associate

Warehouse staff are more important than ever in the ecommerce boom, and are essential to more traditional retail stores as well. These associates keep products on shelves and arriving at customers’ doors, and during the holidays, companies hire more staff to accommodate the higher volume of orders. Warehouse associates may be responsible for assembling shipments, preparing shipments, processing outgoing and incoming shipments, tracking inventory, and using heavy equipment (Iike forklifts) to move goods and shipments around. Many companies (like Amazon) hire warehouse staff all around the country to make sure their warehouses and shipping facilities are operating at peak capacity during the busy holiday season.

Most companies hire seasonal warehouse associates on a part-time basis, but there may also be full-time opportunities available through the holiday season.

What you’ll need: Good physical stamina, as this is often a very physical and demanding job. You may need to be on your feet for shifts, and may be required to perform heavy lifting or other physical tasks. You will likely also need to be flexible on scheduling, as many warehouse jobs have shifts around the clock to accommodate holiday volume.

Loss Prevention/Asset Protection Associate

With holiday crowds come holiday shoplifters, unfortunately, and stores are aware of the need to bring on more security staff than usual to keep an eye on shoppers. Loss prevention and asset protection associates (perhaps better known as security guards) are responsible for ensuring that employees and customers are stealing, and for ensuring the general safety and security of the store. These associates may be stationed at particular points in a mall or store, or may be tasked with circulating and monitoring potential threats. Security associates may also work behind the scenes, monitoring cameras or other surveillance equipment to maintain order and safety, and catch would-be criminals in the act. You may need to work with police or other law enforcement as necessary, and will likely receive on-the-job training about store safety and security procedures and best practices.

What you’ll need: A high school degree or equivalent, and prior security experience is ideal. You may also need to pass a background check. And this job also requires strong people and customer service skills.

Retail jobs can be pretty diverse, especially when it’s the holidays and stores need more people to do just about everything you can think of. If you feel at home out on the store floor in the holiday crowds, great—but if your skills lean more toward behind the scenes customer service, or maintaining the store’s logistical status quo, there are plenty of opportunities there as well. If you’re interested in finding a holiday retail job, the time to get started is now. Hiring is usually done in a fast and furious way to make sure all the staffing is in place before Black Friday ads start hitting the airwaves, so you need to be able to jump on opportunities as you find them.

We’ve got all the tools you need to get started in retail, create your resume, and prep for the interview. Good luck, and happy holiday job hunting!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.