While the pace of job creation has accelerated significantly over the last year, it is, by no means, “easy” to find new employment. To help those struggling to land a job, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. will suspend normal business operations for two days so that its staff of professional job-search coaches can provide free advice to callers from across the country.

The firm’s 29th annual two-day national job-search call-in will be held December 29 and 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CT. The telephone number is 312-422-5010.

As an outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas provides job-search training and transition counseling to individuals who have been laid off. The firm’s services are typically available only to those who receive outplacement benefits from their former employer. The two-day call-in is the only time that anyone in the general public can take advantage of Challenger’s job-search expertise.

“The job market continued to improve in 2014, with the national unemployment rate falling to 5.8 percent, down from 7.3 percent at this time last year. Furthermore, payrolls have grown by an average of 241,000 net new workers each month since January. Despite increased hiring, finding a job remains as challenging as ever. The competition for openings, from both the unemployed as well as the employed, is intense,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to Challenger, searching online job boards and sending out ‘hundreds of resumes,’ is not going to cut it in this job market. It is critical to aggressively build and take advantage of one’s professional and social networks in order to uncover the hidden job market and gain entry into the recruiting process through back channels.

“The vast majority of available positions in any market go unadvertised, because companies are able to fill them with employee referrals, candidate pools from previous job openings, temporary employment firms, etc. In fact, as little as 20 percent of the job openings can be found online or in the newspapers. When employers do advertise openings, resumes will be filtered through the human resources department or computer software to weed out as many candidates as possible.

“Job seekers who can get their foot in the door without even showing a resume will have an advantage over those utilizing a more passive, resume-centric approach. In order to do this, you have to build strong relationships with people who can help advance your search. The more people you have on your team, the better positioned you are to be in the proverbial ‘right place at the right time,’ which is vital to job search success,” said Challenger.

“As much as we would like to, our call-in is not intended to place callers into open jobs. Nor, can our coaches review callers’ resumes or point them toward specific opportunities. What they can do is help callers with networking strategies and interviewing techniques; provide advice on how to answer employer questions about a long absence from the workplace or a termination; or suggest ways to uncover the hidden job market.

In the past, we have fielded calls from recent armed forces veterans about ways to translate their military experience for private-sector employers. We have helped older job seekers overcome doubts about finding employment ‘at their age.’ We have provided advice to stay-at-home mothers and, increasingly, stay-at-home fathers re-entering the job market after several years of child-rearing. Our coaches will help in any way they can in the short time they have to interact with individual. Many times, it just takes a new perspective or strategy to jump-start one’s job search,” said Challenger.