March 26, 2021
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.
Appalachian State University
Walker College of Business, Department of AccountingWebsite
Kevin Eller: I think the biggest pandemic-related trends in public accounting involve remote/virtual work. The pandemic forced employees at all levels, as well as clients, to embrace remote work. Public accounting firms have generally reserved remote/virtual work for manager-level and above, but this changed literally overnight. From my discussions with firms, it seems that some level of remote work is here to stay even after the pandemic ends. For instance, many audit clients have realized that a portion of the audit can be completed remotely rather than on site, which results in a cost savings to the client. I think remote work is here to stay in some capacity at all levels, including entry-level positions. New hires should be expecting this, especially at larger firms.
Kevin Eller: Skills in data analytics really stand out to potential employers in the field of public accounting, particularly in larger firms. In addition, firms are looking for employees who are always striving to learn and willing to seek out answers. I heard a story from one firm about an intern who was given a task with a time budget of around 12 hours. Using resources and tutorials found on YouTube, the student figured out a way to complete (and essentially automate) the task in Excel, and it only took around two hours (and in the future the task would take just a matter of minutes due to the automation). The firm was extremely impressed by this student's initiative, and the student received a full-time job offer. The firm representative commented, "that is the kind of employee we are always looking for." Lastly, communication skills and critical thinking skills have been and continue to be important to employers in accounting.
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)
Magdy Farag Ph.D.: This is difficult to gauge right now. The transition to online teaching happened so quickly with very minimal preparation. Online teaching is very challenging to instructors and students, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, both instructors and students did not have a choice. The educational system had to quickly transition to this remote environment that many resisted for a long time. Due to this quick transition, teaching delivery was not very effective, students' comprehension of knowledge was disturbed, and students' evaluation was less strict. All of these factors might impact the quality of graduates temporarily. Graduates will have the opportunity to catch up on what they missed through their professional experiences. This is why "an enduring impact" is a very extreme statement. I would rather use "temporary impact" to reflect on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates.
Magdy Farag Ph.D.: The world is now more accepting of the idea of remote work. A traditional nine-to-five accounting job is definitely changing. Recent graduates should be prepared to work more from home with more flexible hours. They are now trained for online and virtual meetings. Virtual communication is an essential tool that is needed for any recent graduate. Supervision is also going to be different as completing a task will be measured by the final results. I would expect that directions from supervisors will be reduced as recent graduates are expected to rely heavily on their own research to find answers and to complete tasks in their own way using their own tools. Recent graduates should be aware of the importance of improving their skills to adapt and work in a virtual environment that the world is heading to right now.