Job Search with Purpose in the Time of COVID-19: A Conversation with Kieran Lenahan
The past several weeks I’ve been talking with several of my good friends and clients about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on their livelihoods. There are a million question marks surrounding how we are going to move forward to a healthy vibrant world economy again. In particular, I’ve heard many concerns from those who have lost their jobs or seeking to find their occupational purpose. This situation is frightening for people who are unemployed or underemployed and can feel insurmountable which is perfectly natural given the uncertainty ahead. With this in mind, I called on the expertise of my good friend Kieran Lenahan, of Lenahan Coaching. Kieran coaches people who are seeking to find not just a job but to align their career with their life’s purpose. He’s really good at it, and because of this I thought he would be the person to talk to about the many concerns I have about the current job market. The economic climate the way it currently is, it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that there won't be any jobs available. With record setting unemployment levels rising every week, one of the first things that I needed to know was if companies are still hiring or if all the jobs are gone like Charmin at the grocery store. “It's just not the case. Companies are still hiring. Certain companies and industries have ramped up.” Kieran explains. “Any companies that have to do with remote working are all still hiring. In general about half of start up companies are hiring and half have frozen the hiring process. Even in the past few weeks I have known several people who have landed a job.” For all the industries that have taken a hit, there are others that can’t keep up with the high demand. Technology, logistics, transportation and consumer deliverables are all growing tremendously right now and need qualified people to meet growth. Think Amazon, Zoom, E-commerce and shipping companies. Online learning companies and online schools are hiring too, as well as healthcare and essential services. Other industries have made pivots to stay both relevant and liquid. For example, a manufacturing company that produces parts for luxury vehicles is now producing components for medical equipment. Some retail clothing companies, like Zara, are producing PPE. These companies need employees who can quickly adapt their skills. The demands of this time are requiring companies as well as individuals to tap into their creativity. For those who work in creative fields, you may have been told your talents and skills are “non essential,” forcing you to get REALLY creative. How can you leverage your unique talents? In what way you can develop an online or remote business? What new skills can you develop or resources can you access to be “essential” in this time? Kieran recalls a woman who raises wool and teaches knitting to a specific niche market of 200-300 clients. She's built a virtual community of knitters who understand the value of her unique style and are happy to spend significant sums to learn from her. In this case of course, her business wasn't developed overnight. The key factor was that she knew her market and had the right positioning. I admire the flexibility of performers who are offering concerts and shows online. One of my favorites, comedian JP Sears, has taken his comedy online offering a weekly comedy show brought directly to your living room. You can find him on IG @awakenwithjp Which brought me to my next question for Kieran: What about shifting, pivoting or developing a new skill set during this time? “I think that is going to depend on the person,” Kieran begins. “Of course there are great resources like Udemy (udemy.com) or Coursera (coursera.org) where you can learn hard marketable skills. Those things are out there and they are good resources.” Kieran went on to explain that yes, while we are in unprecedented times, it's very important to learn a new skill that is in alignment with who you are and what interests you. You want what you do to have energy(!) and enthusiasm(!!) behind it, rather than doing something because it’s what you're “supposed to do.” It wouldn't make sense for a musician to learn Microsoft Excel to get a job sitting at a computer in an office all day, unless this was something that was in alignment with that musician's purpose. “It's got to be something that you care about. Start with asking yourself what you are really interested in. Most people have a handful of things that they are truly curious about and interested in that they just haven't had the time to pursue. We have limited time and a broad range of interests so there's almost always things that they haven't been able to devote time to to learning about. This would be a good time to uncover these things again and then consider whether this might be something that could help to become more marketable or pivot into a new job.” “The alternative is coming from a place of fear, lack or scarcity. It’s understandable that people would feel that way, when life has been flipped upside down by unemployment or underemployment. I don't want to downplay how difficult that can be to switch to something that's in alignment with your purpose. It's really hard to do when your back is up against the wall and you're struggling to make ends meet.” Many of the people I’ve talked to are in this place right now, facing real bottom line concerns. There is an epidemic of anxiety and shame around unemployment resulting in panic. What Kieran is suggesting begs us to shift our focus onto finding solutions, rather than putting our energy on the problem. “I think if people can get to that purposeful headspace even a little bit, that can be all the difference. It’s what turns this pandemic into a huge opportunity to actually reevaluate if what you were doing in the past was aligned with what you care about. This is an opportunity to rethink ‘OK, if I am starting with a blank slate, what might I do?’ And from this place of imagining, being very open and tapping into that side of creativity it’s a lot more fun and energizing for people. If you can come from this headspace it's a more enjoyable and I think fruitful endeavor.”
So knowing all this, the next step is getting yourself to the market. Kierans' perspective surprised me. He warns the number one thing to be aware of is that applying to a job online blindly results in a less than 5% success rate of actually getting a job. Turns out that a lot of those positions are already filled or aren't real or accurate. Many times job postings are listed online simply to be in accordance with company policy. From his perspective, the job search is still a relationship game. “Today's world is still built on connections to people and relationships. The best practice is before is to have a touch point with someone who works at the company before you apply. If you don’t, your resume is going into a pile and may likely never be seen by a human. Have that person voice to HR to look out for your application and suggest considering an interview with you.” Building these relationships is key. Kieran suggests whether it’s an acquaintance or a friend or even a friend of a friend, try to get your potential connection on the phone. You want to ask the person about themselves, how they got to the company and how they got to their position. He explains, “Instead of asking, ‘Hey, can I have a job at your company?’ ask them, ‘What advice would you have for someone like me who is looking to get into this field?’” He explains, “Typically people want to help you as long as it's been a good conversation and there has been some trust built there.” Kieran points out that so much of our job seeking effort is focused on having a strong resume, yet building a good relationship is really what gets your foot in the door. The resume happens to be the other foot. Many companies use software that scans resumes looking for keywords and without having those words in the resume, yours could be looked over, no matter how strong it is. Of course, there are ways to navigate this, but time and time again he’s seen that it's far more effective to focus on building relationships. If the immediate need is to create income, there are many companies that need help immediately. Grocery stores, pick up orders, anything delivery, are all hiring to keep up with demand. And of course, help is needed in healthcare. In times of uncertainty, it's completely natural to feel stressed. We are wired that way and if you weren’t concerned, I would be worried about you. Even though the job market is different than it was only a short while ago, there are certainly plenty of positions available. And for some people, the silver lining in this could be the opportunity to step back, take a good look at your career and pivot toward a truly rewarding and purposeful occupation. Hiring a professional coach such as Kieran or myself can make the process far less daunting and actually much more enjoyable.
To learn more about Kieran Lenahan you can visit Lenahan Coaching https://lenahancoaching.com/ or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact Anna Scelfo or to learn more, go to https://www.newgrowthcoaching.com Here are a few helpful articles and resources: “Here’s who’s hiring right now” by Andrew Seaman https://www.linkedin.com/feed/news/heres-whos-hiring-right-now-4525187/
“4 Industries That Are Still Hiring In The Midst Of COVID-19” by Ashley Stahl https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/04/01/4-industries-who-are-still-hiring-in-the-midst-of-covid-19/#c4f144515eee Angelist https://angel.co/ is a job portal for startups. Candor https://candor.co/hiring-freezes/ lists companies that are currently hiring and also freezing hiring.
A HUGE thank you to Kieran Lenahan for his contribution to this article.
Anna Scelfo CPC ELI-MP
New Growth Coaching LLC