Free job advice hotline opens

December 27, 2010 5:17:59 AM PST
The employment situation is slowly beginning to show signs of recovery.

However, even as hiring accelerates in the coming year, the job market will remain competitive and difficult to navigate. To help the nation's job seekers overcome the obstacles and improve their chances of success, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas will suspend normal business operations on December 27 and 28 to provide free job search advice to callers from anywhere in the U.S.

The firm's 25th annual two-day national job search call-in will run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST both days. The telephone number is 312-422-5010. Job seekers can get more information about the call-in at http://challengeratworkblog.blogspot.com/.

A new component of this year's call-in will be a group of job-search counselors dedicated to taking calls from current and former military personnel, including veterans, those approaching the end of their period of service, reservists and any other members of the military conducting a job search.

"Those making the transition from military service to the civilian workforce face a unique set of challenges. Most of them possess all these great skills learned through their service, but many struggle to articulate how those skills translate in non-military careers. Additionally, many of these individuals have little experience conducting a traditional job search. The may have entered the service shortly after graduating high school or college and are now making their first foray into the civilian labor pool," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"By dedicating a group of counselors to these callers, we will hopefully be able to ensure that military personnel are able to be connected quickly to someone who can help address their unique needs. After all, these men and women put their lives on the line in service of our country; the least we can do is try to get them to the front of the line, when it comes to providing job-search advice," he added.

Despite the significant experience and skills gained through military service, unemployment among veterans remains relatively high. Overall, 8.6 percent of veterans 18 and older were unemployed in November, according to the latest non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is up slightly from 8.5 percent a year earlier. The youngest vets -- those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- are faring even worse than those who served in previous wars, with an unemployment rate of 10.0 percent in November. That is up from 9.6 percent in November 2009.

Last month, the national unemployment rate among all entire civilian non-institutional population rose to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent a month earlier. More than 15.1 million Americans are jobless, with nearly 42 percent of those out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

"The situation is definitely frustrating right now. There are some positive signs, such as 11 consecutive months of job gains in the private sector. However, the gains have come at a very slow pace. It often looks and feels like every two steps forward is met with one step back," said Challenger.

Challenger remains optimistic that the job market will improve steadily in 2011. Planned job-cut announcements tracked monthly by Challenger's firm declined dramatically in 2010. Through the end of November, employers have announced a total of 497,969 job cuts, down 60 percent from 1,242,969 job cuts announced between January and November 2009.

While job cuts have slowed significantly, one might conclude from employment data that no one is hiring. However, Challenger points out that nothing could be further from the truth.

In the six-month period ending September 30, employers hired 25.7 million workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. The impact of this is somewhat offset by the fact that total separations (including voluntary and involuntary) during that period totaled 25.4 million, meaning the net change in overall employment was only about 300,000.

"It is important to remember that the employment market is a fluid environment ? it is constantly changing. Not every job loss is due to cost cutting. Some people retire. Others quit. Some are let go as part of layoffs, but many are let go for cause or because they simply were not a good fit for the job. In many cases, companies are seeking replacements for those who leave voluntarily as well as those who are asked to leave," said Challenger, whose firm's services are typically available only to those who receive outplacement benefits from their former employer.

"Part of a successful job search is being in the right place at the right time. What we try to impart on callers seeking job-search advice are some strategies to increase the odds of them being in the best position when job openings do materialize," said Challenger.

"It is critical to aggressively build and take advantage of one's professional and social networks. Let everyone know that you are seeking a position. When more people know, the greater your chances of hearing about new opportunities, meeting the right people and getting a foot in the door," he added.

"One of the most common complaints we hear from callers year-after-year is that they have sent out hundreds of resumes and responded to dozens of online and newspaper help-wanted ads and never hear back from anyone.

"Unfortunately, simply posting resumes on Internet job sites and answering classified ads rarely work, even in a good job market. These activities are even less effective in a weak job market. Under current conditions, it is critical that job seekers expand their job search through networking. Job seekers may also want to consider expanding their parameters to include a wide variety of industries, companies and cities. Do not rule out companies that are struggling, as they are looking for talented individuals who can help turn around the business," Challenger advised.

HOW TO FIND A JOB IN A JOBLESS RECOVERY

Advertise your job loss.

If knowing the right people helps to get your foot in the door, then it is essential that the right people know you are seeking a job. An unfortunate obstacle to job search success is pride. Too often people are embarrassed to tell anyone about their job loss, but this secrecy will not provide any job leads.

The minute you lose your job or decide you want to change jobs, start telling everyone you know that you are looking. Begin with friends, family and neighbors.

Talk to former co-workers and even casual business acquaintances you may have dealt with in your position. Share your plight with people at your house of worship. You can also join new social groups, professional associations and volunteer organizations to expand your circle of potential contacts.

Meet with new people every day (or as often as possible).

Whether it is an official interview, an informational interview or just meeting over lunch with a friend who has extensive contacts in a variety of industries, it is critical to meet face to face with people in your network frequently, if not daily.

Electronic mail has made staying in touch with contacts faster and easier, but face-to-face meeting remain the most powerful and effective way to communicate your skills, experience and qualifications as well as obtain the most useful help from your contact, in terms of job search advice, potential contacts and new opportunities.

OBTAINING INTERVIEWS

Once you have created a list of contacts and job leads, the next step is to begin making phone calls to arrange interviews. In each call, your goal is to contact an "action person," someone who can see you and then offer you a job.

Contact the Hiring Authority, Not HR.

Human Resources rarely makes the final hiring decision, unless the job opening is in that department. The heads of the various departments determine when new people are needed, so it is critical to get their names. If you want to work in sales, then get the name of the head of sales.

The best way to obtain a manager's name is simply by calling the company.

(Avoid telling the switchboard the call is about a job or else face transfer to human resources).

Seek Interviews When Others Are Not.

Oftentimes, the key to obtaining an interview is having the flexibility to fit into the interviewer's busy schedule. Since you are meeting with a manager, not human resources, chances are the person is very busy with several projects in addition to hiring someone. Let the interviewer know that you are willing to meet before or after hours, on the weekends or at a location other than the office.

Do Not Take A Holiday From Interviewing.

Many job seekers take a vacation from the job search during the holidays, figuring that no one is hiring. This is a mistake on their part, but one that can be used to the diligent job seeker's advantage.

The fact is employers are hiring all of the time. If there is a need for workers, then it does not matter if it is the week of Christmas. And, while it is true that some of those you wish to interview with are on vacation, there are going to be many others who are working throughout the holidays.

Job seekers who keep up their interviewing schedule during the holidays, or even try to increase their activity, will likely be rewarded with several interviews


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