Trying to remain active becomes the new job

November 22, 1991|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Evening Sun Staff

WHEN he was laid off in 1990, Carl Weinberger, an engineer, fought off despondency, hit the bricks and eventually found work.

When he was laid off again this year, Weinberger did the same. It wasn't easy, he says: "You've got to help yourself. Otherwise you get stuck in a terrible morass."

Bernard Lloyd is no closer to finding employment than when he was laid off nine months ago. His jobless benefits have expired. Yet Lloyd, also an engineer, remains active by writing a book and attempting to patent several inventions of his own.

Bob Lightman has a full-time job. It is searching for a full-time job. His days are a blur of phone calls and meetings with prospective employers, and friends of employers, and friends of the friends of employers.

"You've got to keep moving, always moving," says Lightman. "If you stop moving, you break the chain. And the longer you stop, the longer it takes to put the links back together."

Here and across the country, professional or managerial status no longer provides protection from layoffs. From the summer of 1990 to last summer, at least 18,000 white-collar workers in Maryland lost their jobs, a 300 percent increase over the previous 12 months. Moreover, people over 40 often are cut from the payroll.

Carl Weinberger is 61, Bernard Lloyd is 60 and Bob Lightman is 50.

Weinberger, a resident of Timonium, endured a double whammy; he was laid off twice by different firms in a period of 14 months.

The second layoff was in April by the Howard County government, which had hired him as an environmental engineer seven months earlier.

So Weinberger began assembling his resume again. He also began to doubt himself. Who wouldn't?

"Depression sets in. You feel unwanted. You wonder if anyone out there really appreciates what you do," he says. "You think, What did I do wrong? And, Why me?"

He rattled around the brick rancher he shares with his wife, a homemaker, and two of their six children.

"There were days when I just stayed in bed," he says. "I wasn't physically sick, I was mentally demoralized."

Weinberger snapped out of his lethargy. He sent out 200 resumes, called five manpower agencies, answered countless newspaper ads and contacted virtually everyone he knew in hopes of landing a job.

His persistence paid off: In August, Weinberger found employment through a fellow churchgoer at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Towson.

Conversing with the laity at coffee hour one Sunday, Weinberger mentioned his predicament.

"Call my boss, he's looking for an engineer," one man volunteered. Weinberger made the call and was subsequently hired by the Maryland Public Service Commission.

"I felt like I had won the lottery," he says.

And not a moment too soon.

"I was starting to bite into our savings," he says.

Before the first layoff, he earned $60,000 a year and now earns 25 percent less. But, he said, "Getting this job was like a life raft. I love it. I feel wanted; I feel useful."

Though he is 61, he says that retirement "is not a part of my daily thoughts. I just want to earn my salary."

Weinberger hopes he'll never face unemployment again. But he has memorized the recipe for preparedness.

"Anyone who goes through [a layoff] should keep a sense of humor, an upbeatness, and think positive. Otherwise you can get mired in a depression that's real tough to get out of without professional help."

*

In January, Bernard Lloyd's employer presented him with an expensive watch for meritorious service to the company.

One month later, Lloyd was laid off from his job.

He kept the watch, which he says represents "the expediency that corporations follow."

Lloyd, a mechanical engineer who lives in Pikesville, was one of 1,200 workers laid off by Westinghouse last spring. His salary was $51,000 and he had worked at the plant in Linthicum for nine years.

His last day on the job, Lloyd was told by his supervisor that his work was fine but . . . he was being terminated.

"When I walked in that room, I knew what was happening," says Lloyd, who had been laid off from a previous job many years ago. "It was a feeling of closure."

That afternoon, he broke the news to his wife, a schoolteacher in Baltimore.

"Thank God I've got a job," she said. The Lloyds are now living on her $40,000 salary.

In a bizarre way, his layoff was well-timed, says Lloyd. "I made the last college tuition payments for our two sons in January," he says.

L Fortunately, the Lloyds own their home, a large split foyer.

Lloyd, who has three college degrees, sent out 100 resumes without success. But he keeps plugging. With the help of a career counselor at the Jewish Vocational Service, he has punched up the resume, using more active verbs and less technical language.

Lloyd also bought a new pair of bifocals to impress prospective employers. "The old ones made me look like a stick-in-the-mud," he says.

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