December 25, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Fordham University Gabelli School of Business
The University of Findlay
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Illinois Wesleyan University
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Kent State University
University of Dallas
Eastern Kentucky University
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
Central Connecticut State University
Anthony DeFrancesco: Yes, there will. Many businesses are changing their headquarters, operational infrastructure and buying communications protocols. Effective vertical prospecting, networking and selling skills will still be as important as ever as sales engagements will continue to become more complex. According to McKinsey sales engagements of course have moved mostly to digital and remote which is a trend that started before the pandemic. A McKinsey survey of B2B companies finds that, "Almost 90 percent of sales have moved to a videoconferencing(VC)/phone/web sales model, and while some skepticism remains, more than half believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19." (The B2B digital inflection point: How sales have changed during COVID-19) April 30, 2020 McKinsey Article)
Anthony DeFrancesco: Young graduates need to be very familiar with the various digital communications platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others. Also, as important is to understand the nuances of communicating content in a way that is clearly understood on the client side. These graduates must learn to not be afraid to treat these meetings like a regular face-to-face meeting as they engage and build relationships with existing and prospective customers. Effective phone communication skills are also critical.
Anthony DeFrancesco: Knowledge and experience with sales technology tools and effectively navigating Omnichannel hybrid sales environments. Social selling and analytical skills are also highly important. Product and industry knowledge for the targeted verticals also stands out. Experience with specific industry vertical prospecting tools can be a major differentiator. Finally, important to complement the aforementioned ATS keywords are leadership and team collaboration.
Christopher Sippel Ed.D.: The focus on remote working will continue to expand rapidly and transform how we define the workplace. In many ways, it will also make the job market more competitive as anyone, anywhere can be a candidate. Lots of international business will be centered on global health reform and there will be increased understanding of the interdependence of nations. This may encourage a stronger focus on the social responsibility of companies and organizations in promoting the well-being of all people. The job market will continue to shift quickly and in unanticipated ways. Job candidates will need to monitor and flex to these changes.
Christopher Sippel Ed.D.: Evidence of continued engagement with the world despite the pandemic will be important. As mentioned above, this might be in a virtual, remote way, but most organizations are seeking candidates that show a willingness to continue to move forward despite the pandemic. A commitment to a diverse number of cultures and countries is also very important. Diversifying your experience and demonstrating to potential employers that you are not one-dimensional in your international interest becomes even more important when COVID requires extreme flexibility. Additionally, evidence of intercultural communication skills are paramount. In the time of COVID, industries need recruits that already have these skills and can quickly create positive relationships with diverse international colleagues. Lastly, the resume should demonstrate an individual's engagement with technology and provide evidence of skills in creative problem solving.
Christopher Sippel Ed.D.: A silver lining to the pandemic may be that the location of an individual in many industries no longer dictates which company or organization someone can work for. When travel restrictions begin to ease, successful candidates will be willing to go wherever they are asked to go. In these challenging times, organizations will need people that are open to working where they are needed.
Laura Sansoni: I think the changes we will see in the job market will have to do with how employers recruit and how we will work. Many employers had to transition quickly to virtual recruiting without changing their usual recruiting schedule. In the last few years, I have seen a shift to virtual interviewing and recruiting; the pandemic simply sped up the process across industries, occupations, and geographic locations. Virtual recruiting has allowed employers to expand their reach and connect with institutions and students they would not have had the opportunity to otherwise. Some employers also reimagined their internships from in-person to virtual experiences in direct response to travel and social distancing guidelines. Being able to still offer internship programs in a virtual setting offers more possibilities for students to gain work experience and new skills.
Moving forward, employers will likely focus again on in-person recruiting and working, but I believe virtual recruiting and remote work will become a much larger offering in the future. Here at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) we have transitioned to offering more courses and programs online and we plan to continue to offer career services programming virtually to accommodate the growing number of online students. I think that working remotely or the ability to work remotely on an ad hoc basis will remain prominent but will look different based on the needs of the company and position.
Laura Sansoni: I think taking a year between high school and college or between a bachelor's and master's degree can be incredibly beneficial if the individual approaches this time with intentional purpose. If they want to gain work experience and/or save up money for school, seeking a position with ties to a career that interests them is going to help them narrow down their academic path once they begin their higher education.
If they want to use this time to travel, they should consider documenting their experiences to reflect on their personal growth and any new skills they gain such as learning a new language. If they simply wish to take a break from their studies, take the year to explore their personal interests and hobbies by trying new things and meeting with people doing work that interests them. Lifelong, fulfilling careers stem from your passions and interests. Discovering both early will help guide them in educational pursuits as well as fulfilling work throughout their life.
Laura Sansoni: Whenever I work with a new graduate, I see them experiencing many emotions ranging from excitement from completing their education to anxiety about starting their careers.
For the graduates that have a job, I highly encourage them to take advantage of any opportunity presented to them. Participate in workplace events, take advantage of professional development opportunities like attending conferences or trainings, and volunteer to work on projects when asked to. Taking advantage of these opportunities in your workplace will increase your skills and experiences while deepening your connections to your colleagues and growing your personal network.
For graduates that are still looking for jobs, I remind them that the worst things that can happen in the job search are an employer saying "no", "we went with another candidate", or not responding to your application at all. While that can be scary and defeating at times, think about the positives of the situation. You didn't get the interview or the job, but you didn't lose anything either. Instead, you gained more experience in the job search process that you can improve upon for the next time. I also remind new grads to let the employers decide if they are the right fit for the job instead of counting yourself out too early. If you meet 75 percent of the qualifications in the job description, apply for the job and let the recruiter decide whether to set up an interview. Don't be so afraid of the next "no" that it prevents you from finding the next possible "yes".
Fred Hoyt Ph.D.: The biggest trends I believe in the job market will be the search for employees who have mastered (or at least adapted to) the demands of online everything: sales, fulfillment, working at a distance with minimum supervision in groups with minimal supervision, positive mental attitude, and an ability to self-motivate.
Fred Hoyt Ph.D.: If a student (or graduate) needs to take a gap year, I'd recommend training in computer skills and other analytical techniques that were not covered in their curriculum. There are incredible applied courses available on Coursera and Udemy and Lynda, many of them taught by the same professors at schools that charge $50,000 tuition. Many are also offered by the companies that provide the software students will be using, and lead to certifications that indicate one is "proficient" in a program.
Many career centers, including the one at my school, tell students to put "proficient" on a resume. "Certified by Salesforce" is a more powerful statement. I'd also recommend in a cover letter, students point out they realized they needed additional skills, and these are the steps they took to ensure they would be able to hit the ground running. I'd also recommend taking something really different - perhaps a foreign language, perhaps the art course they always wanted to take but could not fit into the curriculum. That would indicate curiosity and motivation.
Fred Hoyt Ph.D.: Some of the advice is contained above. Some is to reflect on the collapse of the world in March, and what they've had to grapple with since. As I told my students in September, in many ways, even business classes are "history" classes. Much of what you've "learned" that will help you will be, ironically, the shift to online communication via various platforms. I suspect that many of the distance communication platforms were as new to your business peers as to you, and in fact, by adapting to distance learning, you may be at least as well prepared for the new work environment as your fellow employees. Be prepared, too, to adapt, to change, and to learn on your own. You're the tech-savvy generation, at least that's what you tell us (and that's what your coworkers expect). Live up to it by learning how to learn without classes. To some extent, the chaos in higher education in the past year has paralleled the chaos in business, and you've had to adapt. Just like the businesses that have survived.
Business Administration Department
Brian Abraham Ph.D.: The current generation of graduates entering the workforce seeks flexible hours and more socially responsible employers. While the pandemic has instilled the desire for remote work, it certainly has hastened the process. Moreover, traditionally in-person arrangements - such as teaching - have been recast in a remote workforce environment.
Brian Abraham Ph.D.: If a graduate needs to take a gap year, I recommend they:
Learn a new language, ideally through immersion.
Perform at least 250 hours of pedigree-level volunteering. This is volunteering at a high brand name organization.
Learn how to code in a current software language.
Learn a professional skill set such as Quickbooks or Salesforce.
Brian Abraham Ph.D.: While it is exciting to be starting your first job as a recent graduate, don't be too hasty. Be sure you are entering a positive atmosphere with strong leadership. Take time to ask about the company culture and turnover rates. You can find low and high turnover rate ratios on the Internet for your industry. A high turnover rate company likely has a poor working atmosphere.
Dr. Cyrus Patten: I anticipate we'll see continued adoption of remote work, even after the pandemic subsides. Office space is expensive and represents a significant fixed cost that companies will look to eliminate now that it's clear many jobs can be done remotely. The fears that remote working arrangements can't yield productivity have been widely disproven during the pandemic. Many companies are realizing not only that the job gets done but also that workers are putting in more time than ever before. As the boundaries between work and home have become blurred, so too has the notion of a "workday".
The tech and consumer goods sectors have done quite well during the pandemic. Consumption has only increased, and large online retailers were well-positioned to meet the need. Businesses in these sectors will continue to thrive even after the pandemic, with extra cash on hand to invest in new ventures or expansions.
Dr. Cyrus Patten: The skills that stand out the most are not always what you'd expect. In a recent update to the IBM Institute for Business Value Study, it's clear that executives crave applicants with critical human skills. These are skills like agility, adaptability, and teamwork. For the first time, these skills have surpassed the "hard" skills like computer skills and other core technical skills.
Personally, I always look for applicants who have demonstrated a concern for their community, ethics, or social justice. I can train a skill. I can teach competence, but I can't train someone to be an involved citizen or an ethical business leader.
Dr. Cyrus Patten: For starters, the pandemic has shown that you can work from almost anywhere. So I expect recent grads to flock to areas that offer a high quality of life (like Burlington, Vermont) and a well-equipped communications infrastructure. They'll move to cities with gigabit connections, a strong outdoor lifestyle, and lots of bars and restaurants. If I were graduating with a business degree right now, I'd be looking to move to one of the entrepreneurial and technology hubs like Austin, Miami, San Diego, Boston, or Boulder.
Jonathan Byers: -The increase of remote or home-based job opportunities and internships on job search websites and platforms.
-The increase in virtual recruitment (interviewing, networking events, career fairs, etc.).
-The possibility of jobs that may begin as remote/virtual experiences and then transition to in-person experiences over time or become a hybrid of remote and in-person activity.
- Professional skills related to career development competencies such as strong oral & written communication, teamwork & collaboration, leadership, problem-solving ability & creativity, and professional integrity, but we recommend that applicants do not just list these skills. They should provide evidence of how they have used them in their work experience, volunteer experience, academic experience, etc.
-The ability to use technology effectively to solve problems or improve collaboration; this could relate to social media management, computer hardware or software skills, proficiency with general programs like Microsoft Office Suite (also being able to demonstrate the use of these skills in various experiences).
-With diversity, equity, and inclusion becoming more important in 2020, the ability to appreciate different points of view, accept and appreciate different cultural backgrounds & types of identities, and increased awareness of one's own cultural biases and assumptions can also be important to market on a resume.
Jonathan Byers: Like most Liberal Arts graduates, people with History degrees will most likely develop a number of the professional skills mentioned above that can be applicable in many different industry areas. In today's job market, college graduates are not bound to one type of job opportunity. History majors from Virginia Tech have found employment in Higher Education, Law, Politics, Public Policy, Business, Marketing, Information Technology, Information Management, International Affairs, Local & State Government, and the Federal Government. They have found opportunities in many different locations across the United Students. A person who finds a job depends on how much they are willing to network with other professionals and be strategic and intentional with their job search strategies.
John Rose: For accounting students, the job market is good. There was a dip at the beginning of the pandemic, but CPA firms are still hiring. The number of interns for the winter season is comparable to the previous year.
John Rose: Many of our students obtain their entry-level accounting after completing an internship with the organization. Students that do not receive an offer from the organization they interned with typically receive an offer with another organization. An internship on a student resume increases their chances of obtaining an entry-level poisition.
John Rose: Many accounting graduates start in public accounting. It is easier for entry-level accountants to first start with the office of a CPA firm that recruited them and then, after a year or two, to request a transfer to an office in a city they desire.
Dr. Tammy Leonard: "Some students have flourished in the online learning environment, and others have not. I fear employers may interpret these differences as indicators of something more than they are. Indeed, some students are more capable of managing their time than others, which is one factor that employers care about. Still, students also really learn in many different ways -and the sudden change in learning formats affected some learners more than others.
Also, Covid impacted the external situation of some students much more than others. The pandemic could further amplify disparities between different types of learners and students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. One way to remedy this is for employers to be very forthright in asking students how they adjusted to the changing learning environment. It's unlikely the learning environment will ever go 100% back to what it used to be, so this change (and asking about this change) is here for the next several years. Employers need to be aware of the vast heterogeneity in pandemic impacts; those differences are large and likely will endure for some time.
Employers that care about equal opportunity and diversity need to be even more aware that the landscape has changed and disparities are potentially more extensive than ever before. For example, I have one student who has moved from a solid A student to an A/B student during the pandemic. That same student is managing more than one job and relying on an old computer. Another student has moved from an A/B student to more of an A student. That student is still good, but they benefit from the fact that many exams are an open book because of the online format, and there are fewer social distractions. Employers need to seek out this information when making comparisons-now more than ever."
Dr. Tammy Leonard: The acceleration of remote working has amplified the need for strong technical communication skills. Face-to-face communication is a rarer commodity than it was before the pandemic, and I believe some of that will endure. Graduates need to understand that communication is not one step of the process but is incorporated into everything they do. The way an Excel workbook is structured, how they organize their boss's requests, and the way they phrase questions-these are all necessary forms of technical communication that occur before the point at which most graduates think that the "communication part" of a project begins. Students are getting a chance to understand this if they critically examine how course content is being taught throughout the pandemic. What styles work well? When something doesn't work...where did it start going off track?
Dr. Tammy Leonard: I always tell my students that the experience that stands out is the one they own. It's been tough for students to get the same "traditional" internship experience during the pandemic. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to contribute to those willing to own those responsibilities. At UD, my Community Assistance Research (CARE) group leads an academic-community partnership with local nonprofits. We have had students creating internships out of volunteer opportunities with these organizations serving the many households adversely affected by the pandemic. Even if it's a tiny part of a project or an unpaid role, students who take ownership of something ultimately exemplify leadership, responsibility, and impact. When students go off for internships, I often encourage them to check in a month or so into the engagement, and we talk about what they can own and what they are going to do with it.
Eastern Kentucky University
School of Business
Dr. LIsa Gardner Ph.D.: More employees are working from home (and many will continue to do so after the pandemic, as many employers will no longer provide office space for employees). Expansion of jobs at companies that can ship almost any good you want to your home within, say, 48 hours (e.g., Amazon). Growth of employment in health care and those who manufacture PPE, provide testing for COVID, or produce home-diagnostic tools like thermometers and pulse oximeters. Expansion of jobs in health insurance claims processing, as utilization of health insurance, goes up as a result of COVID. Some development of jobs at companies providing streaming services as demand increases for them. Contraction of jobs at places where people usually gather in large groups (restaurants, bars, movie theatres, sporting events); these jobs won't all come back. Some are leaving the job market altogether after being unable to find work. This will result in a shortage of labor in some areas.
Dr. LIsa Gardner Ph.D.: Interviewing skills - if you don't interview well, it's hard to find a job. Coaching about these skills can be gained through university career placement offices, friends who work in HR, and role-playing with someone who will give you feedback. Be clear about your strengths and how they relate to any position you may apply for. Self-knowledge, input from those who know you best, and a tool like Clifton Strengthfinders can be helpful here. Expand your network of contacts by reaching out to friends and family members, as well as classmates. Use LinkedIn. Attend virtual job fairs and professional conferences, if possible, and network there. Ask people for their perspectives about job skills and how your match-up. Let people know that you are looking for work.
If it suits your interests, developing additional computer programming skills in Python, SQL, and R will help you open opportunities.
Dr. LIsa Gardner Ph.D.: "-Be open to new opportunities, even if the options do not match up perfectly with your college major.
-Find a mentor. Also, be a mentor.
-Keep learning. Read, read, read. Listen to informative podcasts. Take classes, attend conferences, and keep refreshing what you know because the world is changing rapidly, so what you need to know keeps changing.
-Volunteer with a non-profit. This will extend your social circle, perhaps give you a chance to gain skills other than those you develop at work and make you a more interesting person.
-Don't be afraid of change, especially if the change is inevitable."
Dr. Vallari Chandna: The pandemic is indeed likely to have an enduring impact on graduates. There will certainly be more interview questions about how the candidates managed in the pandemic, what they do, how they would behave in a crisis, etc. Additionally, more long-term, we can expect more jobs to be remote and more flexible work schedules in others. Graduates will certainly gravitate more towards such jobs, having seen the direct impact of the pandemic. Many employers will also adjust salaries for remote work as they don't need to account for the high cost of living in the cities in which they are headquartered. More specifically, for sustainability graduates, a more receptive market is in the offing. There is an increased focus on green practices and Corporate Social Responsibility as companies look to make their positive employee, public, and planet "credentials" more visible.
Dr. Vallari Chandna: Critically, for all graduates, expertise or interests, in sustainability will be important. The reason behind this is the shift in looking at sustainability holistically and not just as something one-person does. This would also give an edge to those with degrees, specifically in sustainability. Graduates with degrees related to sustainability will often be asked to oversee or manage these across-the-board sustainability endeavors. Also, soft skills are highly desired. The ability to be better at time management, work in teams, and have a strong work ethic, will be more desirable. These are all interconnected with remote work as well. Employees who "thrived" in the pandemic were those able to manage their work-life balance, work remotely in teams, all the while performing well. The skills are thus "transferable" to both modalities of work in this way.
Dr. Vallari Chandna: For all job seekers, certifications are an important way to indicate your interests and show your desire and propensity to "upskill." Additionally, sustainability graduates' experience with grant writing and any major endeavors or projects that are communication-related is a plus. Also very noticeable would be any sustainability expertise in the specific industry being applied to, e.g., eco-friendly purchasing if one is applying to a buyer position or expertise in green supply chains for anyone applying to a logistics position. It's important to customize your resume to the job responsibilities and the company's sustainability plans.
Central Connecticut State University
School of Business
Kaustav Misra Ph.D.: Analyzing the job market is complicated since many factors influence market dynamics daily. The biggest change in the job market will come from the following factors: business, type of industries, and demand for foreign laborers. Remote working is not new, and many industries have been pushing it to for a while for very different reasons, but the industries experienced a variety of challenges.
Interestingly enough, this pandemic forced us to adopt remote working. Undoubtedly many industries learned to do new ways of doing business during this pandemic, and working remotely is definitely one of them. Of course, the effectiveness of remote working varies, and it is hard to believe that all industries will convert their business to remote working. Still, it is conceivable that many industries will start shifting their business completely from in-person to remote. For example, information technology services and service industries will most likely adopt remote working more than other industries. It will not be surprising to see that many industries adopt a mixed model, in-person and remote work, for continuing their business effectively and efficiently.
Small Medium Enterprises will be much more conservative in the next couple of years to hire new employees keeping the recession in mind. Multinational companies or big companies will also hire less as they develop more efficient ways of doing business. Many companies will require less labor than they used to with the increased use of automation. Another interesting change is that adapting to a new world will be challenging for senior workers, which may lead to early retirements for many, which means positions will open earlier than expected. Some leading companies in technology, pharmaceutical, and alike will be thriving and adding more jobs into the economy. A global trend, "staying local," will be predominantly visible in worldwide trading. Thus the demand for foreign workers will shift significantly over time. As you imagine, we are yet to understand the pandemic's full effect, but there are no doubts it will be a different world.
Kaustav Misra Ph.D.: This pandemic taught us many things and one important thing that we have an efficiency gap.
The way of doing business will be much more technology orientated. Hence graduates should be ready to unskill and upskill their credentials. This time it is necessary to forget the old way of doing business and learn new skills to get a job or stay in a current job. Soft skills have become much more important than before, but a different soft skill set would be essential to interact with future market participants. Thus, a gap year should be utilized to unskill-upskill and enhance relevant credentials by getting into short-long term programs, training, and workshops would be highly recommended.
Kaustav Misra Ph.D.: I have spent almost two decades in the higher education industry and about a decade in administration. I often advised students, and it is astonishing to see how many of these students do not plan for their future. A good plan is a starting point to lead a good and successful career and life. Hence, by all means, it is worth noting that developing a future-oriented focus is important, so taking time to streamline the plan should be an important exercise for every graduate before they begin to do anything.