CHICAGO (CBS) – With so many people looking for work, it may seem impossible to set yourself apart from the rest.

But according to Chicago’s Challenger, Gray & Christmas, there are ways to do it. The firm is offering job-search counseling free of charge to anyone who needs it, CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports.

As soon as the phone lines opened Monday morning, people looking for a leg up in the job market started calling. Perry Ditore was just one of the job-search coaches trying to get them on the right track.

He says many are surprised by how much the job market has changed, and how old-fashioned face-to-face networking has become the best way to find out what’s really out there.

“If they spend 90 percent of their time networking, that’s where the ‘hidden’ job market is,” Ditore said. “That’s where 80 percent of the jobs are.”

Also, the Internet’s not the job source it used to be.

“Unless you are a perfect fit for an online job position, something’s that out there on the Internet, you’re just going into like the pool of a million people. It’s crazy,” another job-search coach, Maralyn Meshenberg, said.

The job coaches say in this tough market knowing yourself and what you have to offer is the key to getting hired.

“You have to be able to tell them what you bring to the table,” Meshenberg said.

The coaches say the easiest way to do that is identify your strengths and skills, then figure out which are transferable to the job you’re seeking and — more importantly — how they can help your prospective employer. Practice saying it out loud in 30 seconds or less.

“You’re marketing yourself, absolutely,” Ditore said. “So what does your brand look like?”

This is the 25th year Challenger, Gray and Christmas has offered the free job search advice.  The phone lines will be open again Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The number is (312) 422-5010.

 New this year is are dedicated lines for military personnel for veterans, reservists and service men and women approaching the end of their service period.

Watch & Listen LIVE