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November 11th, 2009Holiday Help to Full-Time Hires

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by Sarah E. Needleman
Online.WSJ.com

Every year around this time, thousands of workers are hired for jobs catering to holiday shoppers and usually ending in January. The work can be a short-term way to generate a paycheck. But for a select few—particularly recent graduates and prospective career-changers—the seasonal jobs could become even more.

A small percentage of these temporary recruits are offered staff positions in the months that follow—and not just behind a register, but also eventually in areas like human resources, management and finance.

Michelle Cantor, 49 years old, joined a Maison Blanche store (which later became a Macy’s) in Lafayette, La., in 1980 as a gift wrapper while in high school. When the stint ended, she was hired as a part-time sales associate and later switched to full time. After graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, she moved to the company’s human-resources department. Now she works at Macy’s Inc. headquarters in Cincinnati overseeing the retailer’s online recruiting site, macysjobs.com.

Ms. Cantor says she didn’t plan on a career with Macy’s but the early experience she gained, plus the encouragement and support she received from her bosses, prompted her to reconsider. “A lot of time people have perceptions of what retail jobs are,” she says. “But once you get in and learn the culture, you learn about opportunities that you never knew existed.”

“A seasonal job is like an audition,” says Terry Foy, a human-resources vice president for Macy’s. The retailer is looking to hire an undisclosed number of support people this holiday season for its more than 850 retail stores and 25 call and distribution centers nationwide. “It’s your time to really showcase your skills.”

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