SEATTLE -- When Michael Rogers was laid off by Pacific First Financial Corp. in January, it wasn't a complete surprise. He had received hints at the company, owned by Royal Trustco Ltd. of Toronto.
But when the news finally came, Mr. Rogers, a senior vice president, found the termination a shock, coming from a company that had treated him well for 19 years.
However, he didn't have much time to mope.
Pacific First referred Mr. Rogers to George Hodges, president and founder of Human Resource Transitions Group Inc., a Bellevue, Wash., company that specializes in corporate outplacement.
Mr. Rogers was lucky enough to be among the 25 percent to 30 percent of terminated workers whose employers give them extensive help in finding new jobs -- and in many cases, new careers.
Mr. Rogers is now executive vice president of Marketing and XTC Communications Associates Ltd., a company he founded this spring with three other partners he met during the extensive networking he did under Mr. Hodges' tutelage.
Outplacement companies work for employers who are eliminating jobs, not for individuals seeking jobs or career counseling.
Outplacement is not cheap. Standard fees easily can exceed $10,000 a person.
Nationally, the business totals more than $1 billion, Mr. Hodges said. Outplacement has grown rapidly in the past decade as more companies trim their staffs in mergers, acquisitions and various forms of what has come to be known generically as downsizing.
Mr. Hodges' fee for full-service outplacement is 12 percent of the employee's annual salary. The fee rises to 15 percent at Right Associates, a national company with an office in Bellevue.
Those fees are for extensive counseling and the use of an office with secretarial support.
Many employees get a downsized version of that service, taking their training in group workshops and through video and audio tapes instead of exclusive individual counseling. Those services cost considerably less.
Bill Levings, managing principal at Right Associates' Bellevue office, said he would charge a company $1,500 to $1,800 a day for working with a group of as many as 10 terminated employees.
As a packaged service, outplacement was born about 15 years ago as a way to prevent wrongful-termination lawsuits. The theory was that a former employee who has been helped to find a new job is less likely to sue the former employer.
Since then, outplacement has evolved into an employee benefit.
The outplacement package that Pacific First bought for Mr. Rogers included coaching that went far beyond writing resumes and answering advertisements.
Mr. Hodges' advice included exercise and diet regimens to make sure he felt and looked his best. Mr. Hodges stressed a positive outlook on life and urged that Mr. Rogers' wife, Mary, take part in the process.
"I saw that I had a choice," Mr. Rogers said. "I could either focus on the past or I could focus on the future. . . . . Choosing to focus on the future was an easy decision."
Making that choice is one of the first crucial steps in successful outplacement service, experts say.
"We usually have a first orientation meeting to defuse the anger and fear and the other reactions a person may have," Mr. Levings said.
The outplacement process -- ending with a new job -- can take from a few days to more than a year.
Mr. Levings said Right Associates' program stresses self-assessment. "The most important thing is that the process lets people take a good look at where they want to go in their life," he said.
"We are not just getting people from one job to another. We are giving them a process they can use for the rest of their lives in any career decision-making," he said.
Mr. Hodges' program includes career planning, goal setting and self-assessment. But he said its most important component is "power marketing."
Mr. Hodges said 85 percent find jobs in the first 90 days, and 95 percent do so within 180 days. The remaining 5 percent are "people who just do not get into the program. They feel uncomfortable with it and just refuse to go through the process."
That process requires designing and carrying out an aggressive marketing campaign.