I have recently interviewed two early-career jobseekers in New York City. With the severe restrictions caused by the pandemic, I wanted to hear how they were doing and better understand the impact of COVID-19.
Situation:Annie was furloughed from her position as a marketing associate with a luxury global travel agency. When COVID-19 hit, travel across the world came to a standstill and the business had no choice but to furlough most of its employees.
Jacob is a video editor, photographer and writer. He often juggles a host of per diem jobs including production assistant, camera operator, videographer and video editor, often in the sports industry.
Their willingness to trust me with their circumstances and share their reality with COVID-19 was humbling. Sorry if that sounds cheesy.
Big picture: what Annie and Jacob are up against:Early career jobseekers, the Millennials, are trying to establish their identity in the business world. They have a lot to prove; to their friends, their families, and themselves. Today’s new hiring practices include a swamp of technologies including Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, data analytics, and algorithms that identify, select, and interview candidates.
They are feeling the stress and it is deep, personal and there are no simple answers.
When did you realize that you were a victim of the pandemic? What were your first thoughts?
“I thought I was untouchable in my job. At first I thought it wasn’t really bad and we’d get through it. But I realized how vulnerable I was.”
“I was angry. I felt fooled because we had been told it was no big deal.”
“Before the shelter-in-place order, I left NYC to be with family. As I read articles about people leaving NYC and carrying the virus, I felt guilty because I had left. It was all very confusing.”
Jobsearch challenges during COVID-19Managing a job search under any circumstances is difficult. But COVID-19 pushes the limits of challenge. Consider:
- With the massive layoffs, there is higher competition than at any time in US history; and that includes the Great Recession.
- Many companies have had to close, especially small businesses that employ over 57% of the US workforce.
- While only essential businesses have remained open for two months, the non-essential businesses have had to close. Whether this is a temporary or permanent condition is yet to be seen.
- Working from home has been helpful for those employees who can do so, but it isn’t an option for everyone.
- Companies that want to hire have had to reconsider their timetable and many have delayed their hiring process. One client received a response to an application that indicated the process is delayed 4-6 weeks. Another was told that the delay for the position was on hold indefinitely.
What has been the biggest challenge? What’s been hardest?
“It’s hard to relax. There’s all this extra time. All the activities I used for stress relief have been misplaced.”
“Since I’m at home, I’m in really close contact with my family. We end up in petty arguments; and then it’s hard to focus.”
What have you been doing to deal with all the time you have?
“I’ve worked hard to be productive while looking for a job.”
“It’s hard to get into a routine, to get up and have a ‘regular day.’ It’s hard not to focus on all the news and watch too much TV.
“I’ve been trying to get through my day and then do active hobbies, like roller blades and a balance board. I keep up with my friends.”
Have you focused on the news?
“I don’t focus on the news.”
“I’m watching too much TV. It’s all bad news and fixated on death, flattening the curve…it’s overwhelmingly negative.”
Life and work after COVID-19
What are the positives that are coming out of this? Are there any good take-aways?
“I took a course on Project Management. I’m becoming more productive and focused and learning to turn off the distractions.”
“I’m giving a lot more thought to sanitization procedures. People are more thoughtful about handshakes and more conscious about handwashing.”
“I’m talking to my friends more and trying to do some fun things, like virtual exercise classes with friends and cousins.”
I’m better are shutting off. Usually it’s ‘Go-Go-Go!’ and I thrive on that. Now I’m kindling relationships with people that I’m not super close to.”
“I’m an introvert, but I’m ready to get back to people. Technology makes it easier to keep relationships going.”
“I think we’re getting creative as we think about and maintain our relationships.”
“This has made it more about ‘we’ instead of ‘me.’”
Do you think we will get back to “normal”? If so, when? What’s the first thing that you want to do?
“Yes, but it will be a new normal. Maybe by June we can have in-person interactions again.”
“Eventually we will be back to normal, but it could be a few years. It will be a new normal. I hope for it to begin by mid-June.”
“I just want to hug all my friends and hang out together.”
“I want to eat out somewhere, the neighborhood diner on Flushing Ave. It’s part of my morning ritual…with the breakfast special.”
How long do you think you’ll be talking about COVID-19? What do you think you’ll remember and say about it?
“We’ll be talking about it our whole lives. There were so many new things to do and the news kept changing. When to wear a mask, whether to wear gloves or not.”
“I wasn’t able to see my friends and I couldn’t go out. I try to take it seriously, do what I can to stay active and healthy. It’s hard when helping others means ‘not helping’.” [I.e. Helping means not being around others and risk spreading the virus to them.]
“I want to look back at this and see that I made the most of my time and that I was dedicated to learning new things.”
“I try not to multi-task and make each thing I do a separate activity.”
“I want this time to contribute to my future success.”
Commentary: Hope for our futureNone of us have been through the challenges wrought by COVID-19, but those trying to carve out a place for themselves in the business world are trying to make their way through both the pandemic and a job market that changes daily.
The concerns of these two early-career jobseekers are no different than mid-career and late-career clients that I work with. However, these young people do not have the life-experience that older jobseekers have. After living through numerous career and relational disappointments, we learn how to move forward. We know what has helped in the past and what hasn’t. We know that we will get through. Early career people today do not have that experience to rely on.
These young people are having to mature very quickly. The world that they were promised has once again delivered a life and career blow that has caused their lives to come crashing down.
These two individuals have been added to my “hero list.” They are tackling the struggle with tenacity and determination. Their job search is filled with disappointment, but they keep on moving forward. They are concerned about relationships, their independence, and their ability to help others as they climb the mountain on their journey to their future.
Hey Annie and Jacob. Thank you for your trust! I encourage you to hang in there. You’re going to make it. And you’re going to bring others through this with you. I salute you.”
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