The jobs that help make Christmas

Tis the season to be jolly and what better way to embrace the spirit than getting paid to contribute to the festivities. Though most yuletide job openings are reserved for retail and catering, there are some weird and wonderful opportunities out there that might be more to your liking. 

Whether you're trying to stretch your Christmas pay cheque or you fancy feeling festive all year round, these unusual jobs could just be your golden ticket to a very Merry Christmas. 

Reindeer walker

No no, you read that right, it definitely says reindeer walker. I know it's hardly your conventional job offering, but the role gained minor notoriety last year when a Hampshire-based garden centre advertised for a 'reindeer carer' as part of its festive display. 

While thoughts of Donner and Blitzen may only crash onto the roof of the public psyche at this time of year, reindeer herding is a role that far transcends the 24 doors on your advent calendar. This is a 365 day a year job that includes looking after the wellbeing of reindeer across all four seasons. 

So why might you see more job postings in November/December?

The events industry is booming as we enter the season of goodwill and this sees a spike in the number of fairs, parties and festive gatherings making a mark on our social schedules. Of course, no Christmas celebration would be complete without an appearance from Rudolph and the gang, thus creating a need for walkers, herders and mystical reindeer whisperers. 

Are you qualified?

Even though formal qualifications are largely non-existent, a mere love of animals is unlikely to be enough to secure the job. Handlers will have to be knowledgeable about the reindeer and be comfortable with controlling them, however training will typically be provided by more experienced herds-people. Other key skills include adaptability, flexibility and the ability to manage a crowd of squealing children. 

Where can you find a reindeer job? 

Unfortunately, the UK isn't exactly known for it's bustling reindeer sector and so those looking for a permanent career in the field, may have to look overseas. Scandinavian culture still relies heavily on reindeer, with the indigenous Sami people (also known as Laplanders) retaining this as a key source of livelihood. On these shores, the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd in Scotland is the only freerange herd in the UK, however events firms will typically provide most job openings at this time of year. 

Turkey plucker

That's turkey plucker by the way  ... PLUCKER, so get your minds out of the gutter. Although many of us will never have pondered the festive bird's journey from farm to table, the Christmas centrepiece (for the carnivorous anyway) has become the focal point of an entire industry. Turkey pluckers are a key cog in the Christmas dinner machine and the weeks prior to the big day are undoubtedly the busiest for these workers.

It might not seem the most glamorous (or jolly) of festive jobs, but poultry farming hots up as we approach the year's end. 76% of us will have turkey on Christmas Day, but very few will have considered how the main event became so oven ready. Step forward the turkey pluckers who, as the name suggests, are responsible for defeathering ...  well ... turkeys.

Fancy yourself as a plucker?

This job certainly isn't for the faint-hearted, but could prove to be a handy earner for those needing a few extra pennies for the present fund. Prior experience isn't needed (and is unlikely), but an understanding of the agricultural environment would be useful. Training will usually be provided on the job, however an appreciation of farming safety standards will stand candidates in good stead. 

On average, it can take around 10 minutes to pluck a turkey and workers would be expected to handle in excess of 50 birds a day. The job is a lot more skilled than it might first appear and it's no easy task to pluck so many feathers without damaging the meat. 

Although year-round positions are available, seasonality dictates the volume of plucking vacancies. This means that December is a great time to find short-term work in the profession, while unsurprisingly, demand isn't that high during the summer. If you're looking for a career in the field, you should pursue wider opportunities in turkey farming, although these will again be dictated by demand. 

Present wrapper

If you're anything like me, wrapping paper and sticky tape are certainly not your friends. Fret not though, as professional gift wrappers are here to save Christmas and replace Buddy as the real heroes of the season. 

Present wrapping is a fine art. From folding the corners precisely to doing that twisty thing on a bottle neck, the skills of the professional wrapper are not to be underestimated. It's not surprising therefore, that Christmas really sees these masters of aesthetics come into their own, and retail departments across the country will be looking to add them to their teams.  

What skills do you need?

You might think that you're a pro at wrapping everything from Toblerones to all things squishy, but are you so confident that you think people would actually pay for your services? If so, then maybe you could look at responding to the hundreds of gift wrapping adverts that currently swamp the job boards.

A keen eye for detail is essential if you're thinking of getting your scissors dirty, while dexterity and a tolerance for papercuts are an absolute must. The phrase 'that will do' is simply not in the lexicon of the present wrapper, so being a self confessed perfectionist will also work in your favour. 

Is there a downside?

In the run up to Christmas, working schedules can be relentless. Shoppers will typically come to you late in the day and will want their gifts wrapped before they go home, so be prepared for some long hours. You'll also probably become so sick of the sight of wrapping paper that thoughts of packaging gifts for friends and family could push you over the edge, so it might be best to invest in some gift bags for your nearest and dearest. 

If your wrapping is more akin to Edward Scissorhands than Kirstie Allsopp though, definitely put the present down and step away from the ribbon. 

Grotto elf

While the bearded man with the rotund belly may get all the seasonal acclaim, his plucky little helpers are just as in demand at this time of year. From Santa's grottos to children's parties, elves are highly sought after for a range of events and this offers a great opportunity for temporary part-time work. 

Although the ad might read 'elf wanted,' it's important to remember that this is essentially an acting job and not a magical calling from the big man himself. The role playing position is popular amongst students and combines a number of functions including customer service, child care and entertainment. 

Although the ad might read 'elf wanted,' it's important to remember that this is essentially an acting job and not a magical calling from the big man himself.

More than 2 million children queue each year to see jolly Saint Nick, but it's the diminutive helpers that help set the scene. Whether you're till elf, photographer elf or the all-important head elf, there's an elfling vocation suited to all levels of extroversion. 

What makes a good elf?

As much of the role is built around 'making memories', a friendly and personable nature will undoubtedly be required. This also extends to being good with children, so anyone with an aversion to toddlers need not apply. Due to the nature of the job, performing arts students are favoured, but all charismatic and outgoing candidates will be considered. Costumes will usually be provided by the employer and you should always ALWAYS remember, that there is only one Father Christmas and he's definitely sat right here in the middle of *insert name here* shopping centre!

Who wouldn't be up for the job? 

If you're not really 'feeling' the festive season, then you just might not be suited for the bell adorned shoes and felt green hat. Not everyone's cut out for spreading Christmas cheer and this job certainly isn't for the habitually introverted. Unfortunately, the role doesn't always live up to expectations and jaw ache from one too many fake smiles is just par for the course. So if you find shopping centres uncomfortably warm and you wouldn't list 'people person' amongst your list of skills, then definitely avoid this job at all costs. 

Mince pie taster

Believe it or not, someone really gets paid to eat mince pies. Usually employed by supermarkets or food manufacturers, the mince pie taster will set the festive wheels in motion well before the Coca Cola truck does. More than 300 million mince pies will be eaten over Christmas (7 million by santa) and it's the job of these wise tasters to ensure that each one is of a high standard. 

Getting a product from idea to shelf is a long process though and there's still a considerable way to go even after the taster has given their verdict. This means that jobs will start months before your tastebuds crave an accompaniment for your mulled wine. 

What does the master pie taster look for?

Mince pie testing isn't necessarily akin to gluttony and the master taster has many things to consider before recommending a particular brand or recipe. Combining flavour, texture and filling quantity, the perfect mince pie is a delicate balancing act that requires the approval of  an experienced palate. 

Usually employed by supermarkets or food manufacturers, the mince pie taster will set the festive wheels in motion well before the Coca Cola truck does.

Opinions differ though on what makes the best mince pie and predicting what the consumer wants can be an arduous task. Of course, there's no pleasing everybody, but your product will at least have to appeal to the majority (or on the flipside, find its niche). 

What's the path to becoming a taster?

I'm sure there's plenty of foodies out there who think they're more than qualified for a career as a food developer (or taster), however employers will require more than just a few nice photos of your breakfast before you'll be considered for a job. While a culinary background is undeniably helpful, a history within chemistry or a lab environment is arguably as important for the role. 

Unfortunately, there will be very few (if any) taste experts that solely specialise in the humble mince pie. Food technologist / developer / tester is a full-time career that will require the consumption of a whole range of products. In fact, you can even get a job as a pet food taster. Mmm. So if you really want to break into the industry, you need to log out of your food blog dashboard and get some real credentials and experience.

Still fancy a Christmas job?

While for many of us, Christmas is a time to kick back and relax with a neat measure of scotch, others will use the demands of the season to gain new employment. There's no reason why work and Christmas can't coexist happily though and there is an abundance of seasonal job opportunities that can help ease the pressure on the December purse strings. Be warned though, obligatory merriment can be too much for some people, so you might be downing those drams for other reasons.