Challenger Offers Free Job-Counseling Call-In

Outplacement firm is hosting a free call-in for the 16th year, but a recession and terrorist attacks have made the mood among the jobless quite different this year.



Queen Elizabeth declared a particularly awful year in the mid-1980s as her family's "annus horribilis." Many who've lost jobs in the United States are about ready to give the same name to the year that's coming to a close.

And that's no small number: nearly 1.8 million Americans found themselves out of work between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. More than a third of those job losses--624,411 to be exact--came in the 10 weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

To help displaced workers cope, the firm is offering a free job-counseling call-in for job seekers through Friday, the 16th year it has offered the complimentary service.

But this year is different because job seekers are more discouraged than in the previous few years, says John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm. "The greater concern right now is on the economy and whether it will be too difficult," he says. "Job seekers are saying, 'It's so bad, why should I bother to look?'"

It's particularly stressful for those IT professionals who got used to the stratospheric salaries, project fees, and perks that rapidly are becoming a historical artifact. "A lot of free agents were feted in the late 1990s," Challenger says. But, since the economic downturn began, "they failed to adjust."

Even though the job outlook is very different this year, Challenger says job seekers continue to ask questions such as how much time they can take off after a layoff without looking bad, when to bring up salary-related questions, and how aggressive to be in the job search.

One caveat for the free call-in: It's not a job line. Challenger says it's for providing job counseling to help callers sharpen their job-search and interviewing skills. Only employees laid off by their client companies are eligible to become clients, he says.

The job counseling will be available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST through Friday by calling 312-332-5790.

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