November 7, 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.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
Loyola University Chicago
University of Georgia
Shakopee High School
Alliance Water Resources, Inc.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
CAPE Industries, LLC
Department of Management & BusinessWebsite
Pushkala Prasad Ph.D.: Prospective employers like to see some concrete evidence of work in any organizational setting, whether corporate, non-profit, or governmental agencies. This is why I advise my students to take up internships in the summer, when they can spend at least a month or two honing skills and developing real-life work experience. This tells future employers that they have some familiarity with an organization's daily needs, show up on time, and meet deadlines.
In the last few years, I have noticed that competence in international awareness is also increasingly appreciated. I have students majoring in International Affairs and specializing in Africa, Latin America, and Asia who have been snapped up by Hedge Funds even though they have very little financial training. One reason for this is they bring a strong understanding of countries that are not usually on most Americans' intellectual radar.
Pushkala Prasad Ph.D.: The digital platforms have already started a trend that will only intensify concerning lessening long-term contract-based employment and replacing it with freelancing in such fields as commercial artwork, publishing, and industrial design. I anticipate that a time will come when even managerial skills can be transacted via digital platforms. One might serve as a manager in a software firm for a week and move to a financial firm the next, monitoring employees who are all engaged in some form of remote work or the other.
Pushkala Prasad Ph.D.: Indeed, in the immediate future. None of us can anticipate how long the job market will remain dry. Travel-related industries are going to take a while to get back to normal. I would also caution people that by the time this is all over, there will be a backlog of qualified young people who have not been able to get jobs in the fields of their choice. This will mean that the competition for most jobs is going to be more intense than usual.
There are likely to be jobs that are now created in response to the covid crisis on the upside. Even if the virus is more or less defeated, most governments will be very nervous about future pandemics and would like to be better prepared. I expect to see several initiatives at both the national and international levels that focus on managing global epidemics in the future. I see the opportunity for graduates specializing in public health administration and global health crisis management in the coming decade.
School of Business AdministrationWebsite
Ian Caullay: Adaptability is certainly one word that comes to mind. Whether technological advances, global events like the current pandemic, or only the evolution of job roles, people who can adapt will thrive. The workforce will continue to rely on leadership, teamwork, analytical, communication, relationship management, cultural awareness, and creative solutions skills.
Ian Caullay: Without naming specific companies, we've seen growth in financial analysis and comprehensive analytics, personal wealth management (with all the aging baby boomers), financial management consulting, commercial lending, audit, underwriting, and more. The large mortgage lenders have provided a high volume of early talent opportunities, especially at historically low rates. The main push is to develop skills learned at the university while expanding professional networks, emotional intelligence, and their professional brand.
Ian Caullay: Technology will continue to play a central role in any company's ability to remain competitive. Many of these companies, at their core, consider themselves technology/IT companies. That says a lot right there. Many components of traditional job roles have and will become more automated. This is why it's more important than ever for talent to evolve and focus as much on data interpretation and develop the ability to be strategic in decision-making for their company and clients' success.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Jeffrey Rankin: Considering the "entering the workforce" part of the question, students' critical success factor is the drive to secure one or two summer internships before completing their bachelor's degree in marketing. Training provides the student with real-world experience, including a better understanding of a particular field, which may or may not be a good fit for them, for example, despite initial thoughts that "I define work in minor league baseball marketing." Before I joined academia, I hired several recent grads. I can tell you that the "strong consideration stack" of resumes always included those with internships, with some candidates in that stack with lower GPAs than others who did not have training.
The tried and true skills employers continue to look for include the ability to use a framework for critical thinking and solving business problems (e.g., 5Cs or G-STIC), strong written and verbal communication skills, and an appreciation for the challenges of authentic leadership (building trust, checking your ego at the door, explaining "the why," and striving to achieve greatness, in themselves and those around them). While my colleagues and I have come to appreciate one of our students' favorites, Simon Sinek, we've also put them on to other authors like Peter Drucker, Dale Carnegie, Patrick Lencioni, and Jocko Willink to expand their thinking on leadership.
Jeffrey Rankin: When it comes to students with a passion and proven skills in social media marketing, events, or hospitality management, I think these opportunities can be found in nearly all medium to large metropolitan areas and smaller firms in smaller cities. The key here is to build and nurture your LinkedIn network. For B2B selling, a graduate may have fewer location options, especially if they have an interest in a particular field like medical or pharmaceutical sales; however, sales is genuinely an excellent area to get started, as many CEOs of companies either started in or had at least an early stint in sales. I also think this can be institution-dependent; at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a fair number of our graduates seem to land in a handful of locations, including Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, California, and Pennsylvania.
Jeffrey Rankin: COVID-19 has changed the business landscape dramatically.
In B2C marketing, this bodes well for larger companies who can keep pace with Amazon in meeting customer expectations. Anecdotally, I think mid-size retailers will be hardest hit, while large firms (that make the right moves) will survive. At the same time, I believe small, local retailers may well benefit, but they should have a digital presence, to attract customers, that demonstrates their unique knowledge and offerings.
To see how things may be changing in the B2B arena, I suggest readers have a look at Gartner's report, "The Future of Sales 2025", which points to leading firms adopting a rich, digital channel process, which comes as a result of not only COVID-19, but that offers benefits in-and-of-themselves, considering that younger buyers are involved in the process and with the more significant insights that can be garnered from the rich data sets that can arise.
All this means for students is that they must become familiar with the video meeting technologies, but that's only a part of it. They still need (perhaps, more than ever) the listening and speaking skills to be able to engage others-whether it's in person or on Zoom.
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
Hospitality and Tourism Management DepartmentWebsite
David Preece: Most employers look for indicators of character and "soft skills" related to leadership, problem-solving, teamwork, initiative, diligence, responsibility, and integrity. Naturally, each company and job position requires some minimal technical or functional capabilities, but many of those skills can be taught to new employees with strong potential. Character is more difficult, if not impossible, to develop in entry-level employees, and these soft skills are proven to impact organizational culture and productivity.
David Preece: Any time a graduate intentionally takes time off before beginning work, they should focus on activities and experiences that contribute to personal growth and professional development. This could take the form of volunteer service for a charity or community, working as an intern to gain first-hand professional experience, expand career networks, or even travel to new and different destinations that allow for learning about unique places and cultures.
David Preece: The hospitality and tourism field is undergoing a massive transformation, driven by new technologies-and by COVID-19. Integrated travel planning and distribution platforms in mobile and app formats allow broader access to all products and services. Contactless check-in at airports and hotels was being implemented, even before the pandemic, to raise operational efficiency, but COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. The prevalence of web-based meetings may be staying with us, even after reaching post-pandemic "normalcy," and it remains to be seen how this might impact business travel over the long term. Professionals who have the flexibility to work remotely are likely to take more "workcation" trips for a refreshing escape from their home office and even take their family members with them.
Department of Experiential Learning
Missy Gutkowski: As remote and flexible work continues to penetrate industries across the country, daily office check-in conversations and hallway chatter are rare. New employees should be prepared to bring to the table analytical skills to gather, review, and synthesize information for further review, clarification, and report outs.
New employees should be prepared to communicate well and often, not only expressing expectations of what they need to complete their work but also to frequently updating supervisors and coworkers. Quickly learning the communication preferences and style of a supervisor and organization will set a new employee up for success in any industry.
Missy Gutkowski: Healthcare and technology fields are continuing to grow and bring business majors into the industries, from anything to operations management, finance, and marketing roles. Locations across the USA, where healthcare and technology organizations set their headquarters, can be a good place to look for employment. Check into remote work opportunities, as some roles may offer location flexibility.
Missy Gutkowski: Technology has offered many employees workplace flexibility, over the years; however, it is also responsible for burnout and screen fatigue. In the coming years, technological innovations will allow for better synchronization of data, messaging, and workflow.
New employees who can research and appropriately adopt these innovations in their work, will be well suited to become leaders in their organizations.
Loyola University Chicago
Department of BusinessWebsite
Eve Geroulis: The capacity for synthesized thought. We need to approach education with an eye to stoking an imaginative and integrative approach to learning, thus empowering students to enter the workforce equipped with the capacity to connect myriad realms of life into a new cohesive whole. Today's education paradigm still draws from the 19th century when education was dramatically reformed to reflect the contemporary realities and needs of the first industrial revolution - driven by automation, and mass-production, and Adam Smith's "pin factory" where literalists and order-takers and processes drove the engine of the economy. But when thrashed against 21st Century realities, the needs of education extend far beyond memorization and learning specific, redundant skills.
Today, we create value by NOT following commands and being told what to do. There are few jobs right now in our jobless recovery, and the jobs young people seek aren't jobs where you're told what to do. The work of the future hinges on thinking off-the-grid on a universal scale. We need to retool education to create fewer "order-takers" and more inventors. Where the factory-model of education is replaced with a new understanding of what "knowledge" means and where curriculum for life aims to engage students in real-world problems, addressing issues important to humanity, and asking questions that matter.
Eve Geroulis: Graduates entering the 'new economy' sectors - whether environmental, tech, digital - will find that jobs are out there. They are. But they require a new skill set and a willingness to contribute to building the solutions and not just selling. Solving problems through our professions, which empathy, honesty, transparency, and authenticity, will be increasingly in demand.
Eve Geroulis: Technology has and will continue to change everything. From how to shop, research, monitor our homes, our work, travel, and it will demand that the next generation of leaders embrace that technology revolution with an eye to solving problems and contributing, providing a critical service ...thinking for the long term, work without bias and strive to improve the lives of people and planet .... before only profit.
The economies of tomorrow haven't even been expressed yet and shall change when viewed in the quantum light of a world inhabited by 10, then 20 billion people. The more we encourage students to reflect critically, the better equipped they will be to think their way into and out of problems. Because technology has changed our world, and will continue to, we need to rekindle the flame the great social historian Max Weber referred to as "scholarship as a vocation." And encourage today's students - tomorrow's leaders - that life then career.
University of Georgia
Small Business ManagementWebsite
Donald Chambers: If you do not smoke or hate smoking then do not work for a startup Vape Shop - right! I tell my students, day #1, in the intro "If you are not engaged with something you are passionate about - you will not always put in 100% and will quit when things get tough - and they will get tough." I have a student right now exploring options... He is into Health and Wellness, and this firm has a unique glucose testing device - a good fit! I also urge them to try something out of their comfort zone. For example, take a job in a city unique for you - if you are from Georgia, do not settle for a career in Atlanta, if possible, go to Kansas City, Denver, NYC, or even Charlotte, but get away. This forces you to 1) Focus on the task at hand and; 2) Exploring opens the mind, and small business folks need to have wide-open minds - that is how they innovate and compete with bigs.
Donald Chambers: Ooh... well, definitely data - there is so much, but we are still scratching the surface of what to do with it...but the part of data that gets less attention is the privacy side. Hence, some think the government ought to step in. There will be opportunities for those that can develop ways (like say an app on my iPhone that blocks what apple can read) to keep our data private, even when the bigs are doing so much to extract it. I also like augmented reality...gaming has been huge for some time and we are now exploring ways to have adventures without leaving our homes. Finally, I see health becoming more personalized and self-managed. There, again, is the data that can drive things, such as knowing that if my mom had hypertension, and so did her dad, then I have a 90% (I am making the pct up) of getting it by age 40 - so plan for it. More things like that we can self manage and leverage telehealth when we are unsure.
Donald Chambers: I may be contrarian here, but I would say no (in terms of enduring)... this is a medical challenge, and with many medical matters, we find solutions. This is the "scariest" time with so much uncertainty, yet those of younger ages are having none of it and are first to "hit the beaches." If they are not wary now, what would make them more so once treatment and vaccinations come into play? I graduated in 1988 after a recent oil embargo, mortgage rates over 10%, and a stock market crash in 1987 - so life moves along, and we make small course corrections, but I went out and got a job, rented for a while and started a 401k. So I do not see "enduring" impacts on the masses. I do not believe much in the term "new normal" rather see life as a series of continuous improvement with some occasional "shocks" to the system, but we get back at it, perhaps making small course corrections. If there is a lasting impact, it may very well illuminate the power of innovation after seeing how much and how fast the world came up with solutions. Yet, even that will be short-lived, and we will be on to the next challenge.
Shakopee High SchoolWebsite
Jeff Pawlicki: Establish solid work habits early in your career. Be patient. The right fit is out there for you, but it sometimes takes a little bit of time. Maintain a positive mindset and find happiness and satisfaction in the work you do.
Jeff Pawlicki: As we've learned through this pandemic, how we work and communicate with each other looks much different than it did only months ago. I anticipate we will continue to see technology that allows us to communicate with each other more efficiently and work in multiple settings.
Jeff Pawlicki: It's hard to say what the long-term impact will be. The effect will be felt for the next handful of years. Over time, the job market will adjust, opening up new opportunities that we don't fully realize yet.
Alliance Water Resources, Inc.Website
Bart Downing: For those seeking a stable career with growth opportunity, the water and wastewater industry wants you! It is an industry that will always be essential, and that fact has never been more evident than today, given the current pandemic the world is facing. It offers long-term growth and advancement, as well as one in need of your talent.
Bart Downing: The enhancement of GIS (Geographic Information Systems), AMR (Automated Meter Reading) and Leak Detection Technology. The advancement of these technologies will significantly help control and sustain the rates customers pay for water and wastewater services.
Bart Downing: There will be an enduring impact on everyone, but today's graduates, I feel, will be more prepared to embrace the technology that will allow us to function under what is becoming the "new normal." From virtual meetings to operational technology that can be controlled remotely. The youth entering today's workforce are much more prepared for this type of work environment than those in the industry for several years.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Department of Economics & FinanceWebsite
Alicia Plemmons: Develop mentor relationships. Graduating and moving on to bright and beautiful careers is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning. For the past four years, we have helped you build a strong foundation, but now you must make the metaphorical house. Meet people in positions that you aspire to be in. Invite them to coffee and ask them questions. Have multiple mentors teach you about career ladders, while another may inform you about networking or stress management. Know when it is time to talk and when it is time to listen. You will never know when these mentor relationships may lead to a new job, a unique skill set, or a new friendship. Then, when you eventually make it, when you reach your goals, give back and mentor others.
Alicia Plemmons: Learn basic coding. This is true for any field. I am an economist and use coding languages to develop policy recommendations daily. Every area - from music teachers using AI to detect feelings, to the humanities using text analysis to search through thousands of ancient books, every field is integrating coding. The basics are easy to learn, and can be used in a wide variety of tech platforms and services. In determining your first language, you develop a way of thinking that can be transferable to any other type of coding and make it that much easier to pick up. Necessary coding skills will help you be competitive in the market because this is a job attribute that is not going anywhere.
Alicia Plemmons: I would be lying if I said that the economy would recover overnight, when this pandemic is over. Students who graduate in economic downturns often struggle, but I want to offer hope. Our recent grads have something that no other set of students graduating in an economic downturn ever had before: fiber internet. The world is more interconnected than ever before, and telework has become a massive billion-dollar backbone of the industry. This gives graduating students options. A student in Southern Illinois can apply for a policy position in Washington, a research position in Florida, a marketing position in New York. If the jobs exist somewhere else, with the rise of teleworking, graduating students can apply for and work these jobs practically anywhere. Their job search range grows from within a few hours driving to a global market. I think this shift in our business structure will have long-enduring impacts, but not all of them are bad. Instead, some are opening brand new doors to opportunities.
Dr. Diana Jones: General advice: I would encourage graduates to find a mentor who can guide them in their careers, stay on top of the latest technology, not be too hard on themselves, be flexible, be team players, be present, and care about their students.
Dr. Diana Jones: Technology in the next 3-5 years -- That is a tough question because technology is continually changing. However, I would say whatever learning system their school provides (e.g., Canvas, Blackboard, etc.), they should get to know. Also, the technology that involves making/editing videos of teaching would be necessary. The technique that includes exercise, fitness, sports; such as heart rate monitors, Fitbits, etc. Finally, a technology that allows interactions between teachers and students, and students and students.
Dr. Diana Jones: Enduring impact -- Yes. I think graduates will look back at this time and remember some of the isolation, stress, and emotional turmoil, BUT also realize how resilient they are and how they are capable of rising to the challenges of life. I would also like to believe that the impact will cause them to be grateful for what we have in our lives and live in the moment.
John Alpers: Without a doubt, YES. There are good and not so good outcomes of this new learning environment. The bad is we cannot see the looks on people's faces as much as before. The good is everyone; students and faculty, are learning how to handle adversity. The students coming out these days will be more adept at conversing virtually than any other group leaving college.
My concern is this lack of human contact is changing the way we communicate, so that people are losing some necessary socialization skills.
John Alpers: In my opinion, technical careers will continue to grow and flourish. Some of these skills can be taught virtually, but not all. I think anyone who can parlay this new environment and find a way to create value for an organization will be in demand.
John Alpers: I can see the technology growing to a point where many of the things we do in education could be depersonalized. By this, I mean, the advent of all of this virtual learning has taken away some of the touch-points for smaller colleges and universities. These institutions will have to find another way to differentiate themselves from these more extensive, more technologically advanced institutions. If all you are doing is participating in Zoom calls and watching videos, why do you need to go to a small college?
I also think the industry is on the verge of several consolidations. Small colleges and universities are joining forces, instead of working against each other.
Rebecca Sarver: Listen more than you talk. There is so much to be learned from clients, seasoned human service workers, and the community that you work within. By listening and observing versus always feeling compelled to speak, you will learn job skills, people skills, and your clients' needs.
Rebecca Sarver: The use of remote and virtual meetings will continue, even after COVID-19. Face-to-face meetings may still be the preferred method of contact, but the reality is that many clients who need to access services do not have reliable and consistent transportation to get to the services. Phones and computers enable more convenient meetings that are less costly in terms of time and travel. Some clients may prefer not to leave their homes.
Rebecca Sarver: Yes, coronavirus pushed many disciplines, including human services, into virtual service provision. Some clients and some staff may prefer to work remotely. I have read that some organizations found their employees to be more productive when working from home. Conducting some work from home and having virtual meetings with other service providers, even while at the job site, can be a real time saver and money saver for all parties involved.
Matthew Burr: Ask many questions and be open to challenging opportunities. Look for additional continuing education training and certifications. Learn the business and build relationships.
Matthew Burr: ERP systems are critical to know and understand. HIS and payroll systems are necessary for accounting professionals to understand. Microsoft Excel is also a program all need to be subject matter experts with. Look for evolving technologies and apps. The internet of things.
Matthew Burr: The industry will become more competitive, and any professional needs to evolve and adapt their work style, use of technology, and how work is done. Self-management and time management skills are critical. Self-care is also going to impact graduates
CAPE Industries, LLCWebsite
Allen Gibson: IRR - Initiative, Respect, and Responsibility. My adult children will tell you that this may have been over-used in our home, but I am very proud of how they work with others, so maybe it has value to share with recent graduates. I will expand:
Take the initiative in everything you do (job search, new job, volunteer opportunities, etc.). You will create more opportunities in all areas of life when you are the first, or at least early, into the "game."
Demonstrate respect to everyone, and to the processes required, as you enter the workforce. Peers and managers will return their connection when they see that you treat others with respect.
Take responsibility for your actions. The first two items (Initiative and Respect) may, at times, put you in uncomfortable situations, and you will make mistakes. The critical outcome is how you handle your successes and, more importantly, your failures. People are always watching to determine if they can trust you. Taking responsibility for your actions is critical to building trust in all aspects of life.
Allen Gibson: Remote office technology and virtual meetings, of course, will be more prevalent than any time in our history. What platform this will take, I am not sure.
Managers will need to measure the results of their teams, so I think we can expect to see more productivity measurements within remote office platforms.
Allen Gibson: Indeed, these 2020 graduates are already feeling the impact. They have experienced non-traditional graduations, missing the social interaction of celebrating their success with family and friends. Also, entering the workforce during this pandemic can be frightening on many levels. A first-time career job search is always intimidating and challenging, and these graduates now have additional fear-factors to manage. Whether it is their safety or the economic outlook of many potential employers, these graduates are enduring challenges that many of us could not have imagined. As parents, friends, recruiters, or prospective employers, we need to recognize the additional anxiety that these graduates face. We must support them and help them network to find the place and the career where they can demonstrate their level of IRR!