January 25, 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.
Marília Chiavegato Ph.D.: I do not think there will be an enduring impact. I believe the impacts were short-term and mainly related to delays on new job start and fewer opportunities due to company's hiring pauses and economic uncertainty.
Long-term impacts will likely be related to skills needed to face the constantly changing environment we are live on nowadays.
Marília Chiavegato Ph.D.: This year has shown us the importance of adaptability and collaboration. Young graduates will need to be creative in changing environments, adaptable to different scenarios and requirements, and motivated to find quick, simple solutions to small and big problems.
Collaborative personality is also key. The problems we face currently in the world are complex, they need different perspectives and approaches. In Animal Sciences specifically, graduates need to keep in mind the relationships between animals, plants, and especially the environment. It is important that young graduates are able to find reliable sources of information and avoid disseminating false concepts and generalizations. They need to understand that decisions regarding animals' management affect plants, water quality, soil quality, and the atmosphere. There are plenty of opportunities to use animals to preserve and enhance environmental sustainability.
Working in groups is essential. Being able to lead different people or groups is a big differential. The ability to lead diverse groups of people is indissociable from the ability to listen and engage respectfully, despite difference in opinions.
Marília Chiavegato Ph.D.: Leadership, collaborative, and interdisciplinary experiences show adaptability and ability to work in diverse groups.
Murray State University
Animal and Equine Science
Shea Porr Ph.D.: In the animal science area, I don't think we're going to see a lot of big changes. There are many opportunities that students are simply unaware of. People still need to eat, so opportunities in the food animal industries haven't diminished. Indeed, some industries are really hurting for qualified employees. We have a lot of students coming into the animal and equine science programs who have less and less experience with animals. They didn't grow up on a farm, and they really don't know what it takes to manage an animal operation, nor do they know what opportunities are available.
They usually know what a veterinarian does (at least relative to dogs and cats), but they don't know what meat science is all about. Maybe they took riding lessons during summer camp, but they have no idea what it means to manage all the horses at that camp. Maybe they want to be a vet, but they don't realize that there's more to being a vet than just general practice. There are state and federal veterinarians as well as those that work in places like the Breathitt Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Both veterinarians and animal scientists work in areas like nutrition, reproduction, and exercise physiology. Some animal scientists work in extension, such as with 4-H or FFA programs. Others teach and do research. I don't see any of that going away anytime soon.
Shea Porr Ph.D.: Any of what are being commonly called "soft skills" would be very useful. This includes things like communication, both writing and speaking; problem solving, both in a team and as an individual; and the ability to prioritize and accomplish tasks in a timely manner. One of the best ways to do some of these is to get involved in an internship. Many of those pay, and they're often designed to help students get a better feel for that company's particular part of the industry. If they're working a job for that gap year, step into leadership positions, even if it's something like being a shift lead. Get involved with a community organization-don't just be a member, but participate and really get involved. Many of the skills that aren't directly related to working with or managing animals are highly valuable to any employer and you can work on those skills in nearly any setting.
Shea Porr Ph.D.: Watch and listen. There are a lot of things that are taught in the classroom that aren't necessarily the only way to do things. Different employers will have different experiences or situations, and though the concept may be the same, the delivery may not. Don't assume that just because you have a degree, you already know how to do it "right." Doing something a different way doesn't make it wrong, and you may learn another way to do the same thing.
Be willing to move. You may want to end up working a job back in your hometown, but that's not always going to happen right after graduation. You may need to move to another city, state, or even country, and earn some experience before moving back home. There's a lot to be said for what you can learn and bring back with you. And who knows-you may fall in love with a completely different part of the country!
Take a chance. Step outside your comfort zone. There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there, and you don't want to let one slip by because you were afraid of a little challenge. Or even a big one!