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.
Pacific Lutheran University
University of La Verne
SUNY Buffalo State
Azusa Pacific University
Pennsylvania State University
Mars Hill University
New York University
Marian University - Indianapolis
Gupta College of Science
Michelle Ceynar Ph.D.: How could there not? The pandemic will likely result in lasting changes to all facets of our lives. I think the pandemic will likely change the way that employers function and their expectations for employees. This might have some positive effects in that we know that people can be productive working remotely so more people may have access to that flexibility. On the other hand, we've learned that people really do need to have some in-person connection with others. Young graduates who are starting their careers will have the opportunity to reshape their working environment in meaningful ways, bringing the best of both worlds together.
Michelle Ceynar Ph.D.: I'm sure that, as a result of the pandemic, employers will be looking for employees who have the ability to effectively use remote work technology. Otherwise, I think young graduates will need the same set of general skills as employers have looked for in past years. They need to have excellent communication skills-both oral and written. They need to show initiative and a desire to learn; have effective time management and organizational skills; and they need to work well in team settings. For current students, these are skills that can be developed and demonstrated in both in-person and remote coursework. I think one skill that new graduates can demonstrate with the shift from in-person to remote learning is that they are able to adapt to challenging circumstances and continue to learn and grow as individuals.
Michelle Ceynar Ph.D.: Experiential learning experiences such as internships, research projects or service learning have the potential to make a student stand out from other applicants. Taking advantage of those opportunities can show a potential employee is willing to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real world situations.
Jerry Kernes Ph.D.: There will undoubtedly be an enduring impact on graduates. The landscape of the workplace has changed in various ways, some obvious and some not so obvious. The same sort of jobs graduates expected to be working in may no longer exist. They may have spent years in college, with a targeted plan, only to find that they have to quickly pivot and apply what they have learned in another way.
There are also a great many "unknowns." For example, what skills or knowledge base are graduates lacking from nearly a year of remote learning? Graduates will be entering the workforce with less real-world experience than previous students.
Jerry Kernes Ph.D.: Effective communication is going to be most important. Graduates' written and verbal skills need to be sharp. Demonstrating a sense of empathy for others is now more important than ever. Self-awareness, so-called "soft skills" are important as well. The pandemic has shown that graduates need to build up their resiliency reserves to help them navigate prolonged isolation from friends and loved ones.
Jerry Kernes Ph.D.: Demonstrating that one has found ways to go above and beyond, in the service of others, stands out for me.
Dr. David Shriberg Ph.D.: All of our graduates in May had their last few months of internship altered due to COVID-19 and now have entered the field during this time of a global pandemic. Long term, I think our program's graduates will remain extremely competitive and successful. In the short term, this situation has certainly forced all of them to adapt, so putting a positive spin on things perhaps this will help them to be more adaptive throughout their careers as they are learning early on the importance of flexibility and adaptability.
Dr. David Shriberg Ph.D.: In the work done by school psychologists, culturally-responsive relationships are king. It is important not only to have strong relationships with the children and families you are working with but also with your fellow educators. The most successful school psychologists are lifelong learners who stay up-to-date with the best practices and then are able to use their relationship and problem-solving skills to translate this knowledge into effective practice.
Dr. David Shriberg Ph.D.: For school psychologists, it is important to be really well-rounded, professionally and culturally. We are generalists, often the first set of eyes and ears on a number of challenging mental health and academic issues in schools. So, it is important to have worked in a variety of settings and to show that you are strong in adjusting your work to your environment since it is rare that an effort goes exactly as planned. Our program has a strong social justice focus, so we think it is important for our applicants to not only have a wide range of applied experiences, but also to be able to be critical consumers of research and of their environment. Being able to talk to prospective employers about how you are able to work effectively in their setting, including working effectively across elements of diversity, is crucial.
Dr. Robert P. Delprino: Patience - recent graduates have contacted me to discuss with some frustration that they are not making advances in their career as quickly as they wish or expected. They may need to be reminded that they are just beginning their career and that there are no short cuts to developing the knowledge, skills, and abilities that will allow them to be successful.
Most undergraduate programs, and this may be especially true in psychology, provide a survey of the field of study. Students are exposed to a smattering of information of the many areas of psychology. This may be true of most undergraduate degree programs.
Just as there are no shortcuts to acquiring the knowledge of the field, it also takes time to develop the practical skills and knowledge that allows one to successfully operate within an organization and with others. Most students are never introduced, even in some business programs, to the value of understanding and evaluating the behavior of others or how the organization influences its members behavior.
For some individuals, reaching some level of achievement, such as a degree or title within an organization, means the learning process ends. Gaining knowledge of one's field of study as well as insight of one's strengths and weaknesses are a continuous process. Regardless of the stage of a career, there is value in honestly assessing one's abilities. By doing so, they may find greater success and life satisfaction in pursuing their strengths rather than weaknesses, but this means taking the time to self-assess and seek feedback from others.
A graduate beginning their career should realize that the hard and difficult work they are doing now is exactly what they need and should be doing to achieve future mastery and success in their career.
Dr. Robert P. Delprino: Given the rate of change in technology, this is a challenge to answer. An answer may be to stay adaptable to change in technology and to develop a baseline set of skills that are transferable. However, given current events, technology related to virtual interactions may become more prominent as a means to conduct counseling sessions and research collaborations.
Dr. Robert P. Delprino: In psychology, the name of the game is typically to earn advanced degrees as a way to earn higher salaries. In time, salary will typically increase with experience. For a graduate beginning their career, a consideration in addition to salary should be the opportunities for growth and the development that a job provides. There are no guarantees that a degree will result in a certain salary. It is up to the individual to take advantage of opportunities provided and to create opportunities that will allow for a career that is both personally and financially rewarding.
Chong Ho (Alex) Yu Ph.D.: No doubt, there will be a long term impact. According to Goldman Sacks, the US job market won't fully recover until 2024. It is obvious that in many companies and organizations, positions are eliminated, or hiring is frozen. Some small businesses shut down. The bright side is: The pandemic further affects the US-China relations, and thus, some US corporations might move parts of their operation back to the US, resulting in more job opportunities.
Chong Ho (Alex) Yu Ph.D.: In the era of big data analytics, many positions require analytical skills. Traditional statistics become insufficient and even outdated. Young graduates need to equip themselves with data science skills, such as AI, machine learning, ensemble methods. I don't mean they have to learn how to write a computer program. But at least they should learn the basic concepts and applications.
Chong Ho (Alex) Yu Ph.D.: Two things can make the resume shiny. Students should go beyond their classes and textbooks. First, when they work with faculty in research internship programs, they can co-author research papers and co-present them in conferences. These research projects and presentations show that they can apply what they learned in professional settings. Second, if they cannot be a presenter, they should, at least, attend conferences, seminars, and workshops related to their field. Most of these conferences and workshops are free to students. Due to the pandemic, today, almost all of them are online and; therefore, there will be no travel expenses at all.
Gina M. Brelsford Ph.D.: It is hard to tell what the enduring impact will be for current college students and graduate students. The economic challenges may pose difficulties in certain industries more than others. The upside of psychology graduate students and undergraduates is that they have skill sets that are highly desirable during and after this pandemic. Unfortunately, mental health needs are skyrocketing and will have a ripple effect for years to come. Thus, the need for both bachelor's level and master's level of psychological work will be more important than ever.
Gina M. Brelsford Ph.D.: Although this pandemic has certainly brought its share of challenges, it has highlighted the need to think creatively and explore flexibility in life and in how one engages and works with others. There is also a need to explore how to balance needs for one's own mental health with that of the workplace. Setting boundaries and limiting online engagement will be important as much of the workload may shift to an online platform for various aspects of work. This will even be true for telehealth and counseling. As a result, there may be a greater ability to reach clients who have not had access to counseling in the past, but there may also be a difficulty with setting work/life boundaries that is imperative when the compartmentalization of our lives looks very different at this time.
Ann Peiffer Ph.D.: - Contact hours with client populations that match an agency's clients make one a natural fit for a company. Be sure to research the employer's client base and highlight the experience you have that matches. In addition to contact hours, consider your volunteer work and life experience as well.
- Be sure to gain exposure to billing insurance and office organization during your training.
- Grant writing is a definite skill to market with many non-profit agencies and would provide a stand-out item on the resume.
Ann Peiffer Ph.D.: -Telehealth has been adapted in the mental health field and has room for improvement in therapeutic intervention delivery. Several pieces of the therapeutic experience, however, have not adapted to this delivery system. Therefore, advances could be made to assist clients by enhancing the connection between therapists and clients over telehealth. This will benefit rural availability to therapy if it remains as a billable hour once the pandemic situation clears.
-Artificial intelligence is advancing as computing power enhances to process more complicated algorithms for describing, labeling, and predicting human behavior. These algorithms will be seen as "objective" measures of human ability and mental fitness; however, there are ethical implications to these and the adaptability of these algorithms for changes in society's normalcy view. Is mental health-driven an adaptation to the environment, and changing the environment changes mental health, or is it biologically driven and treated as a condition? Is it both? What does it mean to label and carry a stigma? Finally, we have to keep in mind that looking back and explaining how someone got to where they are is often much more comfortable and definitive of critical periods or situations than taking a person and predicting where they will end up.
-There is the current development of emotional intelligence toys and games to establish prosocial and empathetic behavior in children. It will be interesting to see the impact this education will have on developing the next generation of individuals and how they interact with digital technology.
Ann Peiffer Ph.D.: -It will be a defining moment in the same vein as the 1918 influenza or WWI and WWII. Those who met this event in a growth mindset will adapt and pivot to position themselves for a changing employment market and ethos. Mental health is beginning to be discussed in broader terms, and the idea that you see someone to assist your thinking and processing of your life is becoming better accepted. I believe the enormous challenge for mental health professionals will be to discern life coaches' role and position compared to mental health counselors or therapists.
-Interruption of training and impact on contact hours will be a hardship for those most economically vulnerable. It will need to be addressed to enable those at the most significant economic risk to participate in the system. Unpaid internships only work for those financially secure enough to gain experience from a position with no pay.
Karthik Gunnia Psy.D.: In the field of counseling psychology, I think we will see an increase in openings and hirings over the next few years. The pandemic, in many ways, has both increased access to therapy (via teletherapy) as well as the need for therapy, due to the myriad of psychosocial stressors created, in addition to the anxiety and uncertainty created by the virus itself. I think we will also see a trend in wanting to hire individuals with experience with teletherapy, as well as demand for those that are licensed in multiple states, as regulations require counselors to be licensed in the state the client resides in.
Karthik Gunnia Psy.D.: In addition to secure, HIPAA compliant video conferencing platforms for counseling sessions, I also envision a continued increase in phone apps used in conjunction with therapy. These apps may help clients track and monitor symptoms, complete take-home practice assignments, and learn and use skills. Mindfulness meditation apps are also popular and can be a powerful supplement to therapy.
Karthik Gunnia Psy.D.: I strongly believe there will be a significant increase in demand for graduates over the next five years. Given the pandemic, more people than ever can benefit from counseling. Teletherapy, in eliminating a commute to and from an office, makes accessing treatment more convenient. I think even after the pandemic "ends," there will be a lengthy adjustment period and substantial effects from the challenges and trauma experienced during this time. In that sense, I believe the increased need for adequately trained counselors will persist for at least the next 3-5 years.
Dr. Daniel Holland Ph.D.: I believe the rising demand for mental health care, combined with the limited access to counselors that many face, will continue to drive the increased role of technology in the counseling field in the next five years. Its use in delivering mental health services during COVID-19 demonstrated its effectiveness and importance in today's ever-changing world. I envision the delivery of counseling through technology becoming even more normalized and expected as an option by clients.
Dr. Daniel Holland Ph.D.: As our nation's landscape continues to experience a level of polarization, graduates entering the workforce will need the ability to connect with individuals empathically, even those who hold values different from their own. They will need to walk with the hurting through difficult seasons, which will require them to develop and maintain healthy self-care practices. Firm, ethical boundaries, self-awareness, and sound judgment will continue to be highly valued.
Dr. Daniel Holland Ph.D.: The increasing awareness of the importance of mental health care, the widespread acceptance of the benefits of counseling, and the retirement rate among many providers will likely continue to create an increased need for counselors, no matter where one would like to practice.
Dr. Daniel Holland Ph.D.: The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the need for counselors to adapt to meet their clients' and communities' needs. This unprecedented season of global unrest, lack of control, and lack of predictability have dramatically increased mental health professionals' demand. The enduring impact will meet the growing need and the methods of delivery of those services to those who are suffering.
Brenda Ingram-Wallace Ph.D.: The most significant trend for counselors in the future will be to integrate technology into their clinical practice. Although telehealth has been around on a limited basis, the pandemic has forced everyone to become comfortable using it. Understanding the ethics surrounding telehealth will be necessary for anyone who plans to work directly with clients.
Brenda Ingram-Wallace Ph.D.: Internships and practicums, where you can work with clients and incorporate some technology aspects, will help recent graduates stand out from their peers. Possessing familiarity with therapeutic computer applications and their utility for various mental health concerns will be a plus.
Brenda Ingram-Wallace Ph.D.: Interestingly, with the increase in telehealth, geography becomes less of an issue. There are initiatives already in the works to make it easier to work across state lines. Students must research the licensure requirements for the states where they desire to work and ensure that they gain all of the credentials for those states. A time is coming where geography limits will be less important than the breadth of knowledge and skills.
Dr. Laurel Camp Ph.D.: Once the pandemic is under control, I think that there will be long-lasting social and economic impacts. Regardless, I believe that jobs in the helping professions and information technology and communication will continue to grow. We already see a shortage of workers in retirement communities, childcare programs, and facilities that serve children and adults with disabilities. Social work agencies continue to be overwhelmed by the increasing number of people who need various support services. The need for mental health support services (remote and in-person) also continues to grow in schools, frontline workers, and society.
Finally, more jobs will emerge in nonprofits and informatics, logistics, and distribution companies. These are all areas that psychology majors are prepared to do well in. However, to be competitive in an uncertain job market, they will need to highlight the transferable soft skills they have refined and provide evidence, such as individual and group projects and internships.
Dr. Laurel Camp Ph.D.: During the pandemic, technology has served a critical function to keep people connected to their job, friends, and family and provide a way to order food and supplies needed for daily life. From a psychological perspective, while technology allowed people to stay socially connected, many people crave shared experiences and a type of intimacy that only in-person contact can provide. In psychology, teletherapy will continue to be an essential option for people who have barriers that prevent them from getting mental health services and those who prefer the convenience of teletherapy.
Developers of technology communication will need to be even more creative in the future. Psychologists have noted that people are finding the monotony of interacting in the same remote ways, making them less motivated and socially engaged during video conferencing and chats. Some indicate that they now prefer a phone call or a handwritten letter because it seems more personal and intimate. However, even the best technology cannot provide the in-person contact that people, as social beings, need, so psychologists will need to help people navigate productive use of technology and safe, in-person connections.
Dr. Laurel Camp Ph.D.: I think that there will be an increase in demand for psychology graduates in the next five years. Psychology is a people-oriented major that flexibly adapts to a wide range of careers. Psychology majors tend to be good problem-solvers, communicators, adaptive learners, and good team workers. I think that the ability to apply these soft skills and an understanding of human behavior to diverse fields in medicine, law, politics, social services, business, and many other areas makes psychology graduates valuable in uncertain economic times.
Careers related to mental health are likely to see a massive increase in demand. Increased mental illness, mental fatigue, and emotional dysregulation leading to acts of violence are being seen in children, frontline workers, parents, and many other groups today. People in general report feeling overwhelmed, incompetent, and lonely. The pandemic and unhealthy political climate have also contributed to increased anxiety, depression, addictions, and family violence. Most psychology majors can think creatively (outside-the-box), take on leadership roles, gather, organize, and analyze data, communicate effectively with diverse people and through social media as they adjust to emerging jobs. It will be necessary for students to understand how their soft skills and experiences have prepared them for a specific job and communicate that to employers.
Terry Pettijohn Ph.D.: My general advice for a new psychology graduate would be to be flexible and draw upon your undergraduate training in psychology to highlight your excellent communication and critical thinking skills. Given changes to the way people are working today, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, communication skills have never been more urgent. Flexibility is needed to meet the changing work environment, whether working in a newly designed office space, out in the field, or from home.
The critical thinking skills learned from studying research methods and psychology content areas will be crucial to solving new problems in the future. Just think of how your life is different today than it was a year ago, before the pandemic hit with lockdown orders, social distancing, and mask-wearing. Psychology graduates are specially trained for dealing with people, emphasizing creative and adaptive ways to solve problems, communicate, and think critically to help others. Psychologists will be quite valuable to tackle the unique challenges of increased mental health issues related to COVID-19.
Terry Pettijohn Ph.D.: New ways of communicating, such a virtual conference tools like Zoom, will be especially important and prevalent in the field in the next several years. Luckily, many of us have become experts on using these new software packages to communicate with teachers, clients, co-workers, family, and friends. It's incredible to think of how quickly the world moved to adopt these new technologies in response to COVID-19 to keep us all connected while safe. The availability and popularity of providing psychological and health services virtually have exploded, and new communication methods are being developed and enhanced due to this shift. Being mobile and providing psychological services and work from wherever you are will make the psychological services more available to everyone in the future.
Terry Pettijohn Ph.D.: While psychology graduates do not always earn high salaries as business and other specialized fields, psychology graduates do vital and rewarding work. In response to COVID-19, psychology is predicted to see job growth to meet the demand for an increased need for mental health services and other psychological skills. There will be plenty of new positions studying human behavior and mental health and finding ways to apply psychology to encourage mentally and physically healthy behaviors in a post-COVID-19 world.