By Samantha Sunne Herald Writer
EDMONDS — Mark Howen has worked in a Redmond QFC’s meat-cutting department for 15 years. But recently he’s seen many coworkers laid off or forced to take pay cuts, and he’s worried his employer is trying to replace him with someone younger.
“They’re trying to replace me, and I see that, and I understand that,” he said. “So you gotta find something else.”
Last year Howen joined E-SOUP, an Edmonds-based networking group for the unemployed and underemployed. The group aims to help members find employment, or to help them expand their businesses if they are self-employed.
“For me, at least, it’s answered all the things I expected of it,” Howen said.
Howen, who lives in Bothell, uses the group to connect with other people looking for income sources besides their day jobs.
Michael Reis started the group two years ago when he was laid off. He got nothing but silence in response to more than 100 resumes he submitted, which he said is not unusual for mid-career people who find themselves out of work.
E-SOUP stands for Edmonds Social Outlet for the Underemployed Professional. Members share conversation and contact information at the group’s monthly meetings.
“Maybe you’re trying to get an informal interview with, I don’t know, Expeditors in Seattle,” Reis said. “Well, maybe somebody knows somebody in Expeditors. Heck, you might be sitting round a table with somebody whose dad is president of operations out there.”
Michele Powell, another member who lives in Bothell, has been in and out of work for the past couple of years. She said the group gave her several leads on new employment but hasn’t led to a job yet.
“I met some great people there and a lot of us have kept in touch,” Powell said. Networking “is a lifelong thing now.”
The group also includes the underemployed — people who are not making the wage they are accustomed to or used to make, Reis said. He counts himself in that category. He works out of his home in Edmonds as a business consultant but doesn’t work as much as he’d like.
“A lot of talented, middle-aged Americans are trying to reach that level of income they used to have,” Reis said.
Though E-SOUP went dormant for more than a year when Reis found employment, he and some other original members restarted the group this year.
The next networking session is Feb. 8 at Gallaghers’ Where U Brew, at 180 W. Dayton St. in Edmonds. Learn more on the Web at www.meetup.com/E-SOUP/.