Shake off the pink-slip blues

By Bryan Corliss

Herald Writer

Don’t wait. Start now. Those are the messages career counselors have for Boeing Co. employees facing layoffs next month.

"Begin a serious job search immediately, if you haven’t already," said Dean Tudor, a program administrator with the Ed Wells Initiative, a joint Boeing/union training program for engineers and technicians.

Related story:

Information, advice available in event of layoff

The 7,000-some people who will lose their jobs on Dec. 14 actually are the lucky ones, he told Everett Boeing workers at a voluntary meeting on layoff benefits last week. Over the next six months, tens of thousands more will get pink slips as Boeing moves to slash its payroll as a result of the post-Sept. 11 crisis in the airline industry.

"You’ve got a jump on the competition," Tudor said.

Boeing and its employee unions are offering a number of programs and seminars for the soon-to-be former aerospace workers. As many as 1,600 workers have attended career transition briefings such as the one Tudor spoke at, which Boeing has scheduled at Auburn, Everett and Renton.

Plan for the worst

Anticipating a layoff? Plan for the worst, says Boeing Solutions, a contractor that Boeing hires to assist employees with personal issues.

It suggests:

  • Cut back spending right away.

  • Take advantage of your medical benefits – see your doctor and dentist, and if need be, a mental health professional.

  • Stay positive at work. Don’t burn any bridges. Someday you’ll need a reference from your supervisor, and maybe from a co-worker, too.

  • Talk to your spouse or partner. It will help them cope.

  • Take care of yourself. Release stress.

  • Start looking for new job – now. Start personal and professional networking.

  • Others are flooding career counseling centers such as the Quality Through Training Program office on Evergreen Way in Everett. That program, a joint effort of Boeing and the International Association of Machinists, is hiring a fifth career counseling specialist to handle the increased workload.

    In some ways, getting laid off from Boeing is old hat, said Scott Walter of Arlington, who works on the second shift on the 777 line. He was laid off in 1999, only to be hired back nine months later.

    But this time, "It doesn’t feel the same," he said. "Most people don’t believe that a lot of us are going to be coming back."

    These layoffs will include people who have worked steadily at Boeing for 20 or more years, said Lisa Boenitz, a counselor at the Everett Quality Through Training Program center. Their employment predates the launch of the Boeing 767.

    Those people are "frustrated, angry and confused," she said. "The morale is really low. There are people who are struggling."

    The good news, such as it is, is that "there are a lot of people out there who are highly sensitized to what’s going on at Boeing, and they’re going to help you," Tudor said. "Be patient. Be persistent."

    Boeing has career transition centers that can help laid-off workers train for and find jobs. There’s one in Everett, in the 7-124 Building at Paine Field. The centers provide a number of programs, including career counseling, job-search assistance and resume-writing help.

    They also can navigate the different state and federal programs that provide education and job training, along with the process involved in filing for unemployment insurance. And they can give referrals to community and social service aid programs.

    Quality Through Training Program assistance is available for Machinists immediately. The union contact allows laid off workers to use the center for free job hunting help and free training for three years after a layoff.

    Some Machinists laid off in 1999 still are using the program. Jennifer Green of Marysville is one. She’s become certified as a heating/air conditioning system designer, and hopes to land a job in that field rather than ever return to Boeing.

    In the meantime, she’s also taken a range of computer classes, just to make her more marketable to employers.

    "A lot of people are going to get laid off, and they need to use these resources," she said. "It’s all free. All you have to do is show up."

    Funding for some job retraining programs is up in the air, the counselors said. Some state-funded programs already have spent all their money. There’s talk of extending federal programs, but Congress hasn’t passed anything yet.

    "That doesn’t mean don’t think about training," Tudor said.

    But it’s certain that you won’t find work without trying, the counselors said.

    Boenitz says she encourages her clients to go back to basics and "start looking at the newspaper." The help-wanted ads in the classifieds at least will tell you who is hiring.

    Also, call companies you might be interested in working for, she added. Find out what kinds of qualifications they look for.

    If you’ve been at Boeing a long time, you may feel you can’t do anything else, said Jeanine Quincichet, a spokeswoman for a consortium of King County community colleges.

    Not so, she said. "You have a lot of transferable skills."

    It helps to get them down on paper, she said, so "get those resumes out, dust ‘em off, get them updated."

    And don’t wait.

    "There are several thousand individuals in the same situation you’re in," Quincichet said. "You’re going to have to be at the top of your game."

    You can call Herald Writer Bryan Corliss at 425-339-3454

    or send e-mail to corliss@heraldnet.com.

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