Frustrated, but not Giving Up, Job Seekers Call in for Help

For two days last week, counselors with Challenger, Gray, & Christmas fielded calls from more than 1,500 job seekers seeking advice on everything from resume-writing to finding job openings.

Some were so discouraged about their plight they didn’t have anything specific. “They were frustrated,” reports James Pedderson, director of public relations for the global outplacement firm. “They just wanted to talk with someone about it.”

While most of the callers taking advantage of the free service were unemployed (80 percent), almost half (47.5 percent) have been out of work for a year or more. Nationally, the percentage of those unemployed for more than 26 weeks — the ‘long-term unemployed’ — was a seasonally adjusted 41.9 percent in November. For the Challenger, Gray, & Christmas’ call-in service, 62.5 percent reported being out of work for more than half a year.

When you contrast this year’s callers with those who took advantage of the service in 2007, the depth of the national jobs crisis becomes clear. Then only 55 percent of the callers were out of work.

Still, many harbored more hope this year than last that they would find a job in the coming months. Almost 40 percent (39.4) said they expected to find a job by June. Last year, 24 percent thought that. Only four percent thought it would take them more than a year, down from 2009’s 16 percent.

There’s good reason for their optimism. The jobs data shows employers are adding positions, slowly, to be sure, but increasing headcount nonetheless. The Wall Street Journal today reported (subscription required) that companies, flush with cash and seeing quarterly profit growth, are poised to spend “on factories, stores, and even hiring.”

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Whether hiring at rates large enough to put a dent in the unemployment numbers materializes is still to be seen. However, most surveys say the private sector will add jobs in 2011.

“We expect private-sector hiring to continue to ramp up in 2011. However, this will not necessarily lead to an easier job search. In fact, it could be even more competitive. As hiring accelerates, two things will happen. First, people who abandoned their job search last year out of frustration will re-enter the labor pool as prospects improve. Second, people who are currently employed will start seeking greener pastures,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray, & Christmas.

That may be one reason why the largest number of callers last week were concerned more with improving their job search strategy. Learning about unadvertised openings and getting the interview topped their list.

What they were told was to use their network and especially to use social and business networking sites. “Your network should include friends, family, former business associates, former college professors, fellow college alumni, etc. You basically need to broadcast to your entire universe of acquaintances that you are looking for a job,” said Challenger.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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