Not every job lasts years and years -- some positions are tied to seasonal demand.
Perhaps the most obvious example of seasonal employment is retail during the holiday season. Many stores add help on sales floors, in warehouses, and in customer service to deal with the gift-shopping rush. Of course, there's also seasonal holiday work in shipping, delivery, and even less-obvious areas such as child care.
The holidays are not the only time of year when seasonal work comes up, though. Tax firms hire during the busy tax-reporting season, and summer provides a whole other set of seasonal opportunities. These jobs may not be permanent, but they can teach you a lot, or set you up for future success.
Grab that income while you can
Maurie Backman: It was the winter break of my senior year of college, and my plan was to spend it lounging around, hanging out with friends, and traveling locally. But when my former employer called and asked if I could work from late December through the middle of January, I was instantly willing to forgo that leisure time.
It turned out my employer needed extra help for a major initiative my old department was rolling out. Since I'd worked there the summer before, I immediately came to mind as someone who'd be willing to take a job spanning just a three-week period.
Of course, it wasn't easy giving up my plans for a restful winter break, but I did it because I had plenty of student debt and knew the money would be good. Which it was. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who's benefited from that sort of opportunity. The truth is that demand for labor tends to be high around the holidays, so if you're willing to put in the effort, you could earn enough to improve your financial picture.
Though I hadn't planned on working over what would ultimately be my last real official break, I realized it was important to snag some extra income while it was being offered. And ultimately, my earnings from that brief period helped me pay off my student debt within a year of graduating, which was an accomplishment I'm still proud of to this day.
You can earn permanent work if you treat a short-term position like permanent work
Jason Hall: In a prior career, I managed a large retail store that added about 20% more staff during the holiday shopping season. We hired these folks as purely temporary help, but also set the expectation that there would be some permanent opportunities after the holidays.
Of course, many of the temp workers weren't interested, such as students and people who already had full-time jobs. But every year, we would end up offering permanent jobs to a handful of the best workers, and in my almost-decade with the company, I saw a few people who started as seasonal workers work their way to management.
If you want to turn a seasonal job into permanent work, my best advice is this: Treat it like it's a permanent job. Be a great partner to your co-workers and your bosses. Show up early. Stay late if needed. Even if the company doesn't need a permanent employee when your seasonal gig is up, you'll probably at least get a good reference out of it, and that could help you land your next job.
But this much I can promise you: If you treat the job -- and your employer -- like it's disposable, you definitely won't get a chance to stay on full-time. You probably won't be asked come back next year, either.
You can gain skills a long-term job may not teach you
Daniel B. Kline: During my later high school and college years, I worked as a summer-camp counselor. Clearly, that's not a job that can turn into a permanent position, but it's one that offered me some unique opportunities.
Summer camps, even overnight ones like where I worked, tend to have very young staffs because older, more-established people usually aren't available to work seasonal, summer-only jobs.
Because most of my camp's upper management (aside from the director and assistant director) were college kids, I got to be in charge of people at a very young age. I wasn't particularly good as a manager at first, but I learned quickly. While 20-year-olds are rarely in charge at other businesses, as a camp counselor I had the chance to have a go at it.
For two summers I supervised the oldest campers who served the meals in the camp's dining hall. One summer I managed a group of counselors in charge of our youngest kids. In addition, during the two years I had the oldest campers, I also got to work on programming, coming up with ideas for new activities for all the age groups.
Having this type of responsibility at such a young age gave me invaluable perspective on what managers do. It also taught me a lot about the difference between being a good boss and a bad boss, lessons that continue to help me to this day.