January 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.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
University of Maryland Global Campus
University of California, Los Angeles
Wake Forest University
Virginia Wesleyan University
Virginia Community College System
University of the Ozarks
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
Career and Professional Development Center, Academic Affairs
Dr. Tammy Manko Ed.D.: We'll see an increased need for change management and agile responses. We'll also see an increase in the number of interviews being conducted virtually. More workplaces will conduct onboarding virtually and use flexible and hybrid work schedules, more specifically those including work-from-home or virtual work, at least temporarily, if not more permanently. We will see continued hiring and organizational growth, despite concerns from many regarding the job market. All industries will experience an increased need for upskilling and reskilling of employees. Technological skills will be in high demand and so will human skills, such as emotional intelligence, negotiation, nonverbal communication, collaboration, and change agility.
Dr. Tammy Manko Ed.D.: I recommend all graduates and professionals become adept at virtual communication in all its forms, so they can be effective communicators in all settings and are prepared to work with various technological platforms and tools. I also recommend all graduates and professionals review the NACE Competencies naceweb and ensure they have and continue to hone the outlined career-ready skill sets as well as these additional career and life skills (or power/soft skills): adaptability, prioritization, positivity, emotional intelligence, and nonverbal communication (i.e., body language).
Dr. Tammy Manko Ed.D.: Aside from the recommended skills development mentioned in response to the gap year question, I encourage new professionals to find meaning in their work and to differentiate themselves in a positive manner by reskilling and upskilling, and to prioritize lifelong learning and the development of leadership/executive presence. All professionals will need to be able to mine data and analyze information. New graduates should take the initiative to join and be active members of professional organizations and engage regularly in professional networking to build and maintain relationships that will help them with their career development and management. That's especially important in the virtual world that we're facing today when face-to-face networking cannot take place. Taking professional networking one step further, I advise young professionals to identify a few mentors that will be there to help them learn and develop and several champions who have diverse skill sets and job responsibilities in their organization that will support, promote, and advocate for them within and outside of the organization.
University of Maryland Global Campus
Career Development Office
Dr. Francine Blume Ph.D.: There are some obvious changes that we are seeing, such as a more permanent move to telework or more flexibility in telework policies. We're seeing recruiting, hiring, and onboarding taking place virtually.
As services have shuttered, jobs have shifted to fulfillment needs. Amazon, UPS, CVS, and Walgreens have expanded hiring. We're also seeing a huge need for experienced biotech professionals.
I would say that many trends were already in process, and the pandemic exacerbated them. Traditional retail was already struggling against Amazon. Health services were already expanding with aging baby boomers. Tech continues to grow as does cybersecurity.
Other trends are dependent on the economy, economic stimulus, and other actions taken by the federal government. Which industries will get economic support, and which won't. We saw the beginnings of a speedier than expected recovery after the first wave of Covid eased and we were able to reopen parts of our economy.
Dr. Francine Blume Ph.D.: Skills that stand out depend on the field, but you always want to point out your tech skills, language skills and especially "soft" skills, such as communication and initiative.
For tech skills, you can demonstrate proficiency by citing certifications. For language skills, be as accurate as you can regarding proficiency in reading, writing, and speaking. For soft skills, make sure they are evident in the descriptions of your accomplishments and duties. Don't just say, "I have strong problem-solving skills and I learn fast." Anyone can say that, but you should quantify your experience and skills to demonstrate those soft skills.
Hassan Akmal: It's a time to pivot. More students - now than ever, are being forced to reskill, upskill, and explore new industries. The jobs of the future are being created now, and we will see much more career transitioning - a decrease in longevity, an increase in project-based work and micro internships, more side hustles, more careers over a 30 to 40 year runway, and finally, more careers at the same time.
Hassan Akmal: Transferable skills. Soft and hard. The soft skills are now referred to as "success skills" and include skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and problem solving, analytics skills, and people management.
Active learning, agility, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility are additional skills in demand that graduates need to consider.
Hassan Akmal: Due to remote opportunities, the playing field has widely opened up. You can essentially work for almost any organization from where you are at the moment, at least for the time being. This actually increases the number of opportunities for you, as before, if you were out of state, you may have not been considered. That being said, there are still hot spots. They include: Top Metro Areas for Sociologists Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov
Wake Forest University
Office of Personal and Career Development
Andy Chan: Grads entering the workforce in 2021 must be nimble and flexible. Organizations were forced to change in 2020 due to the pandemic and now employers are rethinking how work will happen in the future, said Wake Forest University Vice President for Innovation and Career Development Andy Chan. New workers will likely have to connect and develop relationships with their colleagues virtually, so being highly self-motivated and accountable, and having a positive attitude and strong communication skills will be more important than ever. It will be essential to take time for self-care and have a growth mindset bent towards learning, curiosity and appreciation.
Kathryn F. Hubbard Center for Student Engagement
Erin Duffy: The biggest trends we are seeing is a move to remote working and virtual meetings, including internships. We suspect that a hybrid of working remotely and on-site will continue in 2021 and perhaps beyond.
Erin Duffy: If students take a gap year, we recommend that they work to build connections in areas of industry interest as well as gain any additional skills that might be helpful. For example, if they are interested in IT and tech, maybe work on learning coding or other tech platforms. If they are interested in finance, work on learning some accounting. If they are interested in sales and marketing, read some books on current sales techniques, write some articles, or start a blog.
Erin Duffy: Find a mentor, whether that is within your workplace, with alumni, or someone you respect.
Jessica Harrington: Realistically, new graduates should expect some impact. New graduates, depending on their field, may struggle to find full-time employment directly after graduation, which could have effects on lifetime earnings and, as a result, major financial decisions.
Jessica Harrington: Competitive new graduates will need a variety of soft skills, some of which they have likely already developed, such as adaptability and advanced written and oral communication skills. Strong technical skills and certifications will benefit new graduates as they enter what is often a virtual work setting.
Jessica Harrington: Relevant work experience is always best. New graduates should keep in mind that an internship is a form of relevant work experience and should be placed toward the top of their resume. I also encourage new graduates to place their education at or near the beginning of their resumes. A college degree has helped prepare a new graduate for their field and should be highlighted.
Mandy Plybon: With the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are almost exclusively performing virtual hiring processes. Recent and upcoming graduates need to be educated on and prepared for what it means to be recruited virtually from intake to the final interview. The Office of Advising & Career Development at Westminster College encourages students to access our resources, complete practice interviews, and meet with our career counselor and advisors to help them through this unprecedented time.
Kimberly Green: Career Technical Education (CTE) instructors are the backbone of high-quality and equitable delivery of CTE. Today's educational landscape brings new challenges to the delivery of CTE but in that challenge is the opportunity for CTE instructors to be creative in developing and delivering high-quality CTE programs in virtual or socially distanced environments. Designing with equity and quality in mind, especially for learners who face multiple barriers to engaged virtual learning, is vital. Facing the dual challenge of being a new educator and doing so in a remote and/or hybrid environments, we encourage new instructors to look to their state CTE agencies as their partners and sources of best practices, support and information. For more information on your state CTE agency, visit https://careertech.org/cte-your-state.
Virginia Community College System
Celeste J. Hall: While the pandemic is changing the work of the school counselor and the ways that they interact with students, it seems that the demand for school counselors will not decrease because of the pandemic. In fact, because of the need to schedule courses based on virtual and face-to-face instruction, meeting the needs of students with disabilities and the increased mental health needs of students, families, and school personnel, the demand for school counselors may increase. The work of career specialists may be more heavily impacted by the challenges of less face-to-face interaction with students, and career development programming may be seen as less vital in the face of the pandemic. Career Specialists will continue to compete for classroom time, whether it is in person or in the virtual space.
School counselors and career specialists may find opportunities in companies that offer virtual school programming and to support those students who decide to continue with home-schooling, post-transition.
School Career Counselors and Specialists could use this time as an opportunity to pivot away from the notion that the future is stable and predictable and; therefore, students can focus on choosing one occupation for life. They can instead help students to understand that the world has many uncertainties and teach them how to plan with flexibility and build resilience in the face of unplanned or unexpected events. They can emphasize the value of work-based learning experiences and the benefits of considering a variety of educational pathways to prepare for a career. Coming out of the pandemic, four-year colleges will need to focus on proving the value of their program, relative to their costs, and students may be willing to consider options other than traditional dormitory living and on-campus, in-person learning.
Celeste J. Hall: School Counselors and Career Specialists will need to continue to hone their skills with technologies that help them connect to students in the virtual environment. They will need to learn to apply helping skills to virtual platforms and use verbal interactions when they may have been able to read body language pre-pandemic. They will need to reach out to students through e-mail or text, and learn how to make and post videos to provide information and to demonstrate processes. School and counseling websites will need to be upgraded to include more information and ways to connect with counselors and career specialists.
Ethical considerations will need to be applied to the virtual world. Student privacy, crisis interventions, and student engagement are issues that need to be considered with the use of digital and virtual platforms.
Celeste J. Hall: The enduring impact of the pandemic on school counseling graduates and those who provide career development, I believe, will be that there will no longer be the assumption that services will primarily be provided in person. Assumptions about career and work opportunities being tied to the geographic location will change. We will need to consider virtual options for post-secondary education and realize that work opportunities will continue to change and that flexibility in planning is essential. The idea that the world is a stable place and that planning can assume that will no longer be a realistic assumption. Technical and transferable skills will need to be the focus.
Counselors in training will need to meet the expectation of being competent with counseling and career development skills in the virtual environment, and follow ethical guidelines related to providing services both in person and in the digital environment. Mental health issues will provide challenges in the virtual space. Counselors and career specialists will need strong partnerships with community mental health providers and strong parent outreach methods in order to ensure that students with whom they interact virtually are supported related to their academics, mental health, and career development.
Raina Gandhi: First impressions matter and will stay with you, so remember to bring your most professional self to work, maintain a positive attitude, and put in the hours. When you make mistakes, learn from them.
Also, take the time to get to know your colleagues and workplace norms, make sure you understand how performance is measured, and don't be afraid to ask for feedback. As you get comfortable with your role, look for ways to take on additional responsibilities to expand your skillset and build your reputation within the company.
You may not land your dream job right away, but this first job is critical for building your experience and gaining transferrable skills. Stay current in your field by reading articles, subscribing to email newsletters, and following relevant people and companies on LinkedIn
Raina Gandhi: In general, more companies will incorporate a digital workforce that utilizes AI, robots, and augmented reality. Specific technology would be near field communications, and software would be Tableau.
The latest consumer group is Generation Z, and this consumer group is still shaping and will take time to mature and shape its behavior and purchasing habits.
Raina Gandhi: "Starting salaries for marketing majors are likely to be below business majors, but that shouldn't dissuade students from entering the field as the long-term earnings can be just as good. For entry-level positions, it's more of a supply and demand issue keeping salaries down." - Quote from Dr. Michael Clayton, Program Director of Masters in Marketing program.
Marketing starting salaries can vary significantly, based on the marketing area in which one works: sales management, PR management, advertising, market research, marketing management, etc.
Marketing job growth will vary, based on the marketing area in which one wishes to specialize and where you work. While newspaper publishing, which is a top employer of advertising managers, is declining, electronic media outlets will see employment growth.
At American University, undergraduate students can either major in business and earn a marketing specialization at the Kogod School of Business, or earn a marketing minor through the university. Kogod also offers residential and online graduate programs in marketing to help students who want to advance their careers in or pivot to the marketing field. All of our programs provide experiential learning through class projects, internships, leadership opportunities, and/or case competitions, and students leverage their business knowledge and skills to negotiate competitive salaries.
Ruth Walton: Let's face it. The work world has changed, as we know it. My nephew accepted a new job offer early on in the pandemic from a major telecommunications company. Hired to understand the position was remote temporarily, months later, the company decided to turn his work into a permanently remote one.
If we think about this scenario, we need to prepare our young graduates to be independent thinkers, adaptable, flexible, and collaborative in a virtual environment. A strong work ethic, coupled with excellent time management skills, is necessary. Employers list the following skills as critically important for the workforce:
Ruth Walton: There are tons of employment opportunities across this country. During the past few months, there have been more and more remote jobs too! Yet, there must be a realization that the job market is very different for each geographic region. According to Bloomberg.com, in August 2020, there was an increase in the Performing Arts, Motion Pictures, and Electronics, and a decline in Facilities Support Services, Lodging, and Travel. According to the Bureau of Labor, if we research the fastest-growing occupations, we find 57% of the growth is in Healthcare, split pretty much in half by jobs requiring less than a bachelor's degree, and half requiring at least a master's degree.
Salary.com lists the seven best careers for the future as:
If we narrow down our top growth sectors and jobs per Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, we can see other industries.
Each of these three states shares top growth in Healthcare and Professional & Business Services. In Texas, we add Education and Engineering, and in Oklahoma, we add Education.
It is not to say that there are not Education jobs in Arkansas; it means that Texas and Oklahoma will have much more growth. Arkansas will still need teachers.
Ruth Walton: The information age began in the 1980's and changed the workplace forever. I remember it well because I was working on my Master's Thesis, and I used a word processing program named Word-11. No more typewriters and no more whiteout. When I entered the world of work, computers were not a thing. I had a typewriter. Then, in the mid-'80s, each staff person received a DEC 350 computer. Hard drive. Large Computer Screen. Separate Keyboard. Within a decade, my office migrated from a DEC to a MAC to an IBM platform. That was a lot of technology to learn. Then, the blackberry, followed by cell phones that fit in a pocket with computing power. Therefore, as we look into the future, technology will continue to affect the workforce. The next big technology leaps will be in 5G, Artificial Intelligence, and Biotechnology.
Nola Pearce: The skills that any young graduate needs, prior to entering the workforce, are the same across all engineering fields - the desire to be inquisitive, communicate, solve problems, take initiative, ask questions, listen, set goals, achieve goals, learn from mistakes and move forward.
Materials Science Engineering provides an education with a wide range of career possibilities - the merger of physics and chemistry to develop or improve upon the properties and applications of materials. This improvement of materials and applications can be supported with careers in Research, Product Development, Process Development, Equipment Development, Property Characterization, Process Engineering, Product Management, Project Management, Supply Chain, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Leadership.
Materials Science curriculums will provide the education foundation of Ceramic, Glass, Metals, Polymers, and Composite materials. If you enjoy chemistry (high temperature reaction processes), physics, math, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and problem solving, Materials Science is an area that would be of interest to you.
The skill a young graduate needs to walk away with is the ability to apply their materials knowledge in a way that allows them to continually learn, listen, and solve problems.
Nola Pearce: Depending on your chosen career scope, there are opportunities across the United States - urban, suburban, rural. If you have a wide range of interests and career experience, geographic possibilities are endless. If you are very specific within an industry, material, or application, there are pockets of locations that might be better than another. I recommend that you reach out to professionals within the industry or profession that you have interest in.
Nola Pearce: Examples of technology improvements that impact the Materials Science field include: improved data analysis, characterization techniques, sensors/controls systems for finer process control. These improvements result in both a gradual improvement in materials properties/performance and periodic significant breakthroughs.