April 13, 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.
Anita Corbett Ph.D.: Yes--we all agree that there will be a back log of eligible applicants due to hiring freezes and lack of ability to gain relevant experience due to limited access to research experiences during the pandemic.
Anita Corbett Ph.D.: It depends on what job they have- also are we talking graduates from undergraduate education or from graduate training?
Anita Corbett Ph.D.: They should appropriately market their skills--and seek additional training to enhance their core skills--certificates that demonstrate this additional training has been obtained can be valuable.
Edward Bozzi: I think the pandemic has emphasized the value of Biotechnology. Right now, eight recent graduates of URI's Biotechnology Program are working on the vaccine at Moderna. Local companies like EpiVax, a vaccine design company, are collaborating with a number of vaccine producing companies. Our Biotechnology students routinely intern there, and some are hired permanently. I see even more opportunities for Biotechnology graduates post COVID-19.
Edward Bozzi: If graduates have very good wet lab skills, i.e., cell culturing, and that need will continue. Bioinformatics will be of increasing importance in the future. And graduates will have to be more knowledgeable in that area.
Edward Bozzi: Having had one or more successful internships with a biotechnology company or organization is most important on a resume. I also think listing practiced lab skills is important.
Kevin Hovel Ph.D.: What stands out is research experience in which a student has completed an independent project. Being involved in an ongoing research program in a university lab is excellent and very valuable. Still, the extra value is placed on the completion of an independent research project by the student. This demonstrates self-motivation and follow-through. Typically an independent project culminates in a presentation or report, or both. These also are precious experiences to list on a resume. Limited ability to communicate the results of research projects is a common weakness for students, in written form or orally.
Kevin Hovel Ph.D.: This is pretty much the same answer to question 1. Look for opportunities to volunteer in research programs. Helping graduate students with their projects is very common. One thing that is sometimes overlooked when students are getting research experience is experience handling data. This involves organizing data, doing quality checks, and visually assessing the data (graphically) and statistically. Statistical analysis is another area in which students also tend to have less experience entering graduate school. A student will have a leg up on others if they have at least the basic understanding of standard analyses used in their field of study.
Kevin Hovel Ph.D.: This is a hard question because Biology is extremely broad as a discipline. I am an ecologist, and my research is mostly outdoors and underwater. My research is pretty "low tech." For cell and molecular biologists, or evolutionary biologists, the technology applied is vastly different. I think many of those folks would answer with things like genomics (in particular, CRISPR), metagenomics, and bioinformatics. But your best bet is to ask some of them. I suggest Ricardo Zayas (email@example.com) and Lluvia Flores-Renteria (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Maria Kalevitch Ph.D.: Well-rounded experience, along with technical skills, soft skills should be included like customer service/sales, ability to present and communicate with the customer, innovative approach to tasks, thinking about systems not just a part of the project, teamwork but also ability to think independently, life-long learning and passion to the profession, to name a few.
Maria Kalevitch Ph.D.: Technology will be disruptive in the best sense possible; as an example, it will combine the tools like AI with humans/human factor to strengthen the educational field, and as an ROI-better prepared college graduates with industry input and collaboration.
Maria Kalevitch Ph.D.: In each obstacle, we should see an opportunity; this opportunity can be used to better the future of higher education; it is an evolutionary process that helps to use what we learn and bring it to the next level. To add - being adaptive, flexible, and agile