December 23, 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.
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Vivek Pande: Long-term chronic unemployment among certain demographics especially older workers unfortunately. I think graduating college students with business degrees will still get jobs but they may have to look harder. Certain sectors are obviously continuing to do well such as e-commerce and tech.
Vivek Pande: There are two skills all business students and graduates can always work on. The first is computer skills - basic knowledge of, for example, SQL or advanced Excel wizardry is always useful for career advancement. Secondly, students interested in global business can always learn/improve foreign language skills. Spanish is not even a "foreign" language anymore and some basic knowledge of, for example, Arabic or Mandarin can obviously be very useful.
Vivek Pande: The same advice as always - work hard, shut up, pay your dues, be useful, be reliable, then move on up!
Kansas Wesleyan University
Department of Business and AccountingWebsite
Dr. Hassan Niazi: Unfortunately, the obstacles this pandemic has created in learning experiences of graduates are a matter of concern for both graduates and their prospective employers. Graduates will have to resort more to experiential learning at their workplace to meet the deficiencies in their learning caused by the pandemic. With that said, the batch of 2020 is definitely a different class of graduates and has the potential of becoming the most self-initiative, creative, and collaborative leaders of the century.
Dr. Hassan Niazi: The post-pandemic workforce is likely to have a more remote, collaborative, and perhaps work-from-home type of environment. Hence, this would require deeper understanding of the IT tools at their disposal with emphasis on their limitations and security aspects. To complement these hard skills, graduates will also need effective communication, problem-solving, and crisis management skills to overcome some of the inherent IT limitations.
Dr. Hassan Niazi: Although each employer values experiences differently, some experiences on a resume may stand out more than others. Experiences that show competence with different types of technologies, especially those pertaining to remote, flexible, and collaborative work environments, are essential. Additionally, experiences as a team lead and collaborating with remote teams or providing them training are also very important. These experiences do not necessarily have to be in a workplace setting and can be acquired in an academic or even personal setting. However, relevant prior work experience is the most valued part of a resume as it provides assurance about prior understanding and familiarity with professional workplace environment and its demands, policies, and expectations.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Department of AccountingWebsite
Lindsay Andiola Ph.D.: I do not envision an enduring impact on accounting graduates, in terms of job opportunities, looking out to 2021 or 2022. While, certainly, there has been flux this year with some firms making strategic cuts and others altering start dates, accounting students are getting hired. Over the last few months, a number of public accounting firms inquired with me looking to fill internships, as well as full-positions, in the Spring and Summer of 2021.
Lindsay Andiola Ph.D.: The accounting field has been rapidly evolving over the last 5 years. The pandemic really hasn't changed anything about the skills needed of these graduates. Most importantly, accounting graduates entering the workforce need to have not only the technical knowledge of accounting but also the ability to communicate well (both written and verbally). They need to have analytical and critical thinking skills, and comfort and willingness to use technology. The accounting field is changing, and in my opinion, accounting students have an amazing opportunity to be part of that change and innovate the profession. Companies and firms looking to hire accounting graduates are looking for those who are interested in driving change in the profession.
Lindsay Andiola Ph.D.: When hiring accounting students right out of university, I do not believe that firms and companies are expecting students to have these amazing work experiences already. They are looking for students who have a base that can be built upon. This base could come from a variety of experiences. From a leadership role in an organization at the university, to taking courses that are not necessarily required, but provide additional skills (e.g., data management, data analytics, statistical modeling, engineering courses). To an internship in an accounting firm, or a managerial role in another type of company. Companies and firms are not looking to hire one specific type of accounting student anymore. They want diversity in who they hire.
University of Oklahoma
Steed School of AccountingWebsite
Joseph Dulin: Virtual interviews and internships. Hiring remains strong.
Joseph Dulin: I think that a gap year is great if you have the financial means. We have had some students do this. One hiked the Appalachian Trail and another the California trail. Some interview and find good jobs in accounting when they are done exploring. Some leave accounting by leveraging the degree into other careers such as teaching. Another decided to use his financial skills to serve his ministry. The thing about an accounting education is that it does not lose its value over time as the achievement of an accounting degree says a lot about a person's ability and potential. If you can through an accounting program, especially a top competitive program such as the one we have at OU, you are very talented and will be in demand. A year away. Not really a big deal.
Joseph Dulin: Stay single. The rookie Accountancy life does not give one a lot of time for relationships. Work hard and work on things that are outside your comfort zone. Develop relationships with the people you work with and the firm's clients. Those relationships will pay huge dividends down the road. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Eventually you will find your niche and can control your work life balance and you will have a rewarding career.