January 11, 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.
University of Alaska Anchorage
School of Social WorkWebsite
Donna Aguiniga Ph.D.: The pandemic will have an enduring impact on all of us. Students have experienced illness, job loss, rapidly changing educational environments, family upheaval, and death-to name just a few of the outcomes of the pandemic. Yet, despite the pandemic, many students are pushing on with their goals and graduating. Social work students are utilizing technology more than ever to successfully complete their coursework while collectively becoming more digitally literate than their predecessors. The pandemic has created a greater need for social services and social workers and, though there will be challenges in the delivery of those services, graduates are well-prepared to enter the profession at this time.
Donna Aguiniga Ph.D.: Social work graduates must be prepared to work at any system level. For example, they should be able to interview a client, facilitate a group meeting, and analyze proposed legislation. Strong writing, communication skills, and digital literacy are a must, and I encourage students who are weak in these areas to seek out ways to improve them. Graduates need strong information literacy skills so they can parse out sound sources of information to continue to grow their professional knowledge. They need to be adaptive, flexible, and creative to address client and agency needs while maintaining ethical standards.
More than ever, graduates must prepare themselves to be stretched upon entering practice, meeting demands within ever-changing contexts. For example, I had a graduate with a bachelor's degree in social work accept a leadership position with an organization, start providing direct services to clients, and successfully write for a federal grant to increase the agency's programs all within a few months of earning her degree. While the graduate's education grounded her in the basics of these practices, she continued to develop her professional skills within the context of her employment.
Donna Aguiniga Ph.D.: I encourage students to self-evaluate, to think now about how they can make themselves stand out amongst their peers and gain additional practical knowledge. There are many ways to do this. Participating in volunteer work, service-learning classes, study abroad, and student organizations can provide a way for students to gain experience and help their resumes stand out. However, many students have to work full-time and are limited in their opportunity to participate in activities and programs. A strong work history, regardless of the field, demonstrates responsibility in a way that is attractive to potential employers and can showcase desirable skills such as teamwork and problem-solving. In addition, all social work students are required to complete practicum experiences under the supervision of a professional social worker. The practicum is invaluable experience for a resume and has often led directly to job offers.
The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, & Special EducationWebsite
Dr. Richard Hazler Ph.D.: Schools still need to hire, but there is hesitancy as they figure out what their budgets are actually going to look like next year. The bottom line is that the pandemic has only upped the amount of stress and emotional problems for children that directly interfere with student learning. Everyone in a school (teachers, administrators, staff, and parents) want people who can help with these problems and who know how to work within the school context. The need and hiring of school counselors continues to increase.
Dr. Richard Hazler Ph.D.: Schools want counselors who are independent and committed to the school system, parents, and individual students. They want people who are competent in dealing with mental health issues and understand how to help in ways that promote attendance and academic success. They also want people who can work with teachers and parents to make things work better for the children.
Dr. Richard Hazler Ph.D.: Any place in the country that is growing in suburban population is looking for counselors. Over the past ten years, areas of eastern Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and areas in California and Florida have been consistently hiring.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Office of Public and Governmental Affairs Public Affairs Division
Erik Longnecker: ATF Deputy Assistant Director of Human Resources & Professional Development, Peter J. Forcelli, who oversees Training & Professional Development for the agency commented, "There have been a number of challenges in 2020 to onboarding new ATF Special Agents. COVID restrictions made changes to the way we were recruiting. In the past, we primarily recruited in person; in March we turned to technology and the use of the internet to participate in virtual job fairs. We followed the recommendations on the wearing of masks and using appropriate social distancing and continued to get Special Agent applicants through the examination, the Physical Task Test, the panel interview, the polygraph and medical examinations, and a rigorous background investigation, in order to receive a Top-Secret Security Clearance. In addition to continuing these requirements, I am happy to report that in Fiscal Year 2020, despite challenges from COVID and the civil unrest, 186 individuals from very diverse backgrounds became ATF Special Agents. Many have already completed the entire training regimen to include the Criminal Investigator's Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, followed by ATF's Special Agent Basic Training Program at the ATF National Academy, which is 14-weeks long, and involves extensive training in firearms technology, interviewing, case management, tactics, post-blast investigations, arson investigations, and federal firearms laws. Law enforcement is a calling for most who enter this field, and we persevere. As a former NYPD Detective and having been an ATF Agent for almost 20 years, it is a rewarding career - and I have never looked back. I expect the young men and women who became ATF Special Agents during this unpredictable year to feel the same way. I'm proud they chose ATF and confident in their abilities to meet our mission and continue protecting the American people from violent gun crime.
Erik Longnecker: Information about the eligibility for careers at ATF can be found on our website at: link
Erik Longnecker: ATF hires special agents for locations in every state and other territories of the United States.
Erik Longnecker: Hiring continues throughout the pandemic. Special agents enforce federal arson, explosives and firearms laws. Violations of these laws have continued throughout the pandemic, requiring the unique skills and abilities of our special agents and other employees to combat violent crime and protect the public.