February 4, 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.
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Susan Epstein: Clearly the pandemic has had both an emotional and financial impact on recent graduates, as it has had on everyone, really. For some college students, the financial implications mean postponing completion of their degree. For those who are completing their degree this year, the job market will be tight. There are many unemployed professionals with far more experience than a recent grad. It is a time of extreme uncertainty.
But I don't think the picture is all bleak. I think current students and graduates will be some of the most flexible and technically savvy candidates out there. They have proven their ability to pivot. They have had to change their style of learning, practically overnight. They have had to perfect their communication with classmates, teachers, and potential employers over Zoom, as opposed to having the benefit of face to face interaction - and they have done a great job! I think the perspective of these graduates will be quite different than those who graduated even 5 years ago. They have experienced first-hand how to adapt to the unexpected. They left campus in March, 2020 and likely have not been back.
This year's graduates are to be admired for their ability to stay focused amid such chaos. They have endured disruption and loss, yet are still working hard in school and in their communities, and as such are setting a wonderful example for the rest of us. As future leaders, I think this experience will influence their empathy, their relationships, and their willingness to think critically and consider alternate perspectives. And if that is the case, the future looks very bright.
Susan Epstein: The best job for a recent graduate is one for which her or she is passionate and prepared. The pandemic has not changed that. Taking a job that does not meet those criteria, regardless of what is going on in the world, will not be satisfying for the long term. In addition, working for an organization whose culture aligns with your own personal values is extremely important. Your first professional position sets the tone for the rest of your career. You want to ensure that there are challenging responsibilities and room for advancement. You should also take advantage of the networking opportunities within any organization you join. Feeling good about what you are doing and who you are doing it with affects not only your performance, but also the relationships you have with those around you. This is important as you pave the way for a career, as the reputation you create now will influence the way others respond to you going forward.
Susan Epstein: Technology-based skills such as software proficiency and data analysis are important in today's business environment, but obviously this will vary by industry and even job specifications. On the other hand, soft skills transcend job and industry. Strong interpersonal skills (including listening, often a weakness in our communication skill set), critical thinking, and time management make strong leaders and equally strong followers.