Seasonal Odd Jobs: From Elves to Vampires
CNBC.com News Editor
Seasonal employment evokes images of sales clerks and package-delivery drivers. But what you might not realize is there's also demand for everything from elves to vampires.
"There is a huge demand for vampires right now!" said Father Sebastiaan van Houten, a professional fang maker who also throws vampire balls several times a year.
More than 500,000 seasonal jobs are expected to be created this year, according to the National Retail Federation. And, according to job search site Indeed.com, the top 10 jobs employers are hiring for right now are: sales associate, merchandise associate, nurse, store team member, customer-service representative, driver, manager, clerk, cashier and material handler. Some of the companies doing the most hiring include Macy's, Target, FedEx and Tiffany, Indeed reports.
But this time of year, van Houten is also recruiting performers and DJs for his vampire balls (www.endlessnight.com) — there was one last week in New York, and the big Halloween ball is in New Orleans on Sat., Oct. 27. They get a free trip to New Orleans — airfare and hotel included. He said he's also getting a ton of requests for vampires from his vampire network (which spans from New York to New Orleans and across the Atlantic to Europe) to perform at corporate parties and events, many of which are from videogame and financial companies.
"People love to hang out with our vampires!" van Houten said. "Our parties are just pure fun." However, he said, one thing you won't get from his vampires is drinking blood. (You were gonna ask about the blood, right?)
Speaking of blood, Mike Jubie, a former police detective, hires more than 100 actors every fall to scare the crap out of visitors to his Halloween fright fest called the Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses in Ulster Park, NY. The hayride includes a variety of scenes such as a bartender who serves up a severed head, "bone collectors" chasing the hayride with chainsaws and, for the big finish — a headless horseman. (Those with heads may apply.)
Up at the North Pole, as in the holiday amusement park in North Pole, NY that includes Santa's house, a stable full of reindeer, an elf village with everything from cookie makers to toy makers and amusement-park rides, they're also doing a lot of hiring. They've got positions listed on their web site for shop supervisors, restaurant managers, ride attendants and characters including toymakers, blacksmiths, reindeer trainers and — kids, close your eyes for this next part — Santa Claus (real beard required).
Over at OddJobNation.com, there are a couple of different seasonal-job listings you might not have expected, including one for a vote collector for the presidential election in Worcester, Mass. ($50), one for a "real beard" Santa Claus in Delaware, one for a dwarf/little-person talent for a Halloween party in Northern Kentucky ($100) and another for a ski nanny in Steamboat, Colo. ($150 per day).
You might not look to ski nannies and dwarf entertainers as indicators of the health of the economy, but job listings are up 10 to 15 percent at OddJobNation.com, said Jeremy Redleaf, a filmmaker and the founder of the odd-job site.
You know who else is feeling the economy humming again — Lou Nasti, a professional mechanical-display maker who makes giant mechanical Clauses, dancing dolls, bears and other holiday delights in Brooklyn's famously decked-out Dyker Heights neighborhood. He also does some buildings in New York City and some extraordinary projects around the world, including a recent Halloween display for the King of Morocco. Typical professional holiday decorators get paid $50 to $100 per house, but in Dyker Heights, it's not uncommon for homeowners to spend $20,000.
Given the global nature of his business, Nasti said he's stayed busy through the recession. He did notice that many people in the U.S. didn't want to be extravagant during the hard times — but that's changing.
"People get laid off, the last thing you want to do is go into a building and see elaborate Christmas displays," Nasti said. "But it's changed. We're back."
Nasti has seven full-time carpenters/mechanical builders year-round, and for the holidays, hires about 10 more to help with moving and lifting the massive mechanical displays. They unload trucks, bring displays into the buildings, etc.
Nasti said for him, it's not just a seasonal business — his team works year-round, starting with Toy Fair in New York in February.
"For us, Christmas starts in February!" Nasti said.
Of course, no one has to wait for Christmas for holiday hiring — there's even a lot of hiring for Halloween. Do a job search for keyword "Halloween" on SimplyHired.com and it turns up over 5,000 listings, including store managers for Spirit pop-up Halloween stores (owned by mall novelty chain Spencers), a Halloween character at a farm in Candia, N.H., and a supervisor for a Halloween party in West Milford, CT — to watch the kids while the adults have fun at a separate party downstairs!
Though, if you love getting into the spirit of things, malls all over the U.S., including the great Mall of America in Minnesota, are hiring for mall Santas and Macy's, according to listings on their web site, is still hiring for "Santaland Support Elves."
What do you have to do to qualify? Well, for the Santa jobs, having a real beard gives you an edge (or in the case of some of the high-profile jobs, it's required) and the skills needed to be a good elf include: energetic and positive attitude, experience working with children, being a "team player" (there is no "i" in elf) and punctuality, according to Macy's.
Would-be Clauses who want to get an edge are in Midland, Mich., right now getting trained up as the 2012 Class of Santas at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, the biggest and most prestigious of the Clausian institutions. CBS's Bill Geist once called it "The Harvard of Santa Schools."
And, while demand for everything from elves to vampires ramps up this time of year, odd jobs are year-round.
"A lot of companies are looking for seasonal help in advance of the holiday rush; Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah are always economic drivers," Redleaf said. "But most odd jobs are timeless...seniors always need help, flyers always need a poster and magicians always need a plucky assistant to cut in half."
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