February 27, 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.
Governors State University
Valerie Cronin-Fisher Ph.D.: One of the benefits of being a graduate in Communication is the range of opportunities our graduates have access to in the private, public, and government sectors. Communication graduates secure and build careers in professions such as advertising, consulting, customer service, digital marketing, human resources and training, media management, media writing, public affairs, public relations, and sales, leading to advanced positions such as Project Manager or Director of Communications. As the market changes, our graduates are able to adapt. Over the last year many Communication graduates are working remotely and faced with new challenges given the shift to digital meetings, marketing, and project management. Our graduates have the skills to manage complicated work environments effectively despite the challenges of the Pandemic.
Valerie Cronin-Fisher Ph.D.: A recent National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook Survey found that employers identified the ability to verbally communicate with others inside and outside the organization and the ability to create and/or edit written documents as among the top ten skills they seek when hiring new college graduates. Graduates who majored in Communication bring these critical skills to the workplace. They demonstrate strong verbal, nonverbal, and written communication skills and have considerable expertise in speaking well in front of small and large audiences (National Communication Association Website).
Organizations seek employees who can communicate across a limitless and evolving range of platforms in today's highly connected world. With a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Governors State University students gain the knowledge and skills to communicate with a variety of audiences through advertising, media, public relations, and one-on-one communication, which drives organizational success, human relations, and improves conflict management.
Valerie Cronin-Fisher Ph.D.: It is difficult to say what a day in the life of a recent graduate currently looks like as the careers they pursue are highly variable. However, a common theme among Communication graduates is the positive impact they have on their organization and community. Many Communication graduates are interested in public service and social justice. They have honed their critical thinking, interpersonal, and writing skills and because of this they make the world a better place no matter the career path they choose.
Dr. Sarah Mayberry Scott Ph.D.: Absolutely. There is no way to escape the fact that the pandemic has changed us. Students attending college during the pandemic have had to try to maintain their studies while the rules of the game keep changing. Students have had to be flexible - taking courses online, in the classroom, or a combination of both. Students have had to learn to be Zoom and technology experts. Students have had to navigate new (and changing) social and educational expectations. And some students had to do all of this while worrying about their own health and safety, trying to find or keep a job, educating their children or younger siblings, caring for sick or aging relatives, and managing their own education with new requirements and fewer resources. It is impossible to think this won't have enduring impact.
Dr. Sarah Mayberry Scott Ph.D.: In my area of Communication, strong verbal and interpersonal communication skills are imperative. Courses like Oral Communication and Interpersonal Communication help equip students with the practical communication tools needed in almost any career. Oral Communication, additionally, helps to teach students how to find credible source material to advance a logical, well-researched argument - a skill crucial to help fighting misinformation and for promoting critical thinking. Classes like Argumentation and Persuasion can help for students who want to pursue careers in law or sales.
Courses in Strategic Communication use public relations, social media, and advertising to establish relationships with stakeholders and craft effective messages. A certificate in Social Media Management could help students wanting to learn how to craft, and measure, social media content that helps to meet organizational goals.
Dr. Sarah Mayberry Scott Ph.D.: Communication skills are often viewed as "soft skills," and for that reason they are often overlooked by students. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "I communicate every day, why would I need a class in that?" But these so-called soft-skills - interpersonal communication, teamwork, listening, presenting information - are called skills for a reason. The ability to communicate effectively, concisely, appropriately across multiple contexts, for a variety of occasions is not innate. The good news is that these skills can be taught! These oft-neglected skills are some of the first things potential employers look for in hiring new people. Taking courses that help you find, present, share, and create well-researched, credible, logical, and organized information are crucial for students wanting to increase not only their chance of getting hired but also their opportunities for promotions.
Dr. Tom Hallaq: The pandemic has brought about a great shift to remote work, allowing more employees to work from home or elsewhere. I believe this trend will continue into the post-covid environment. Another benefit to this shift is that employees can work from companies far from their hometown while still living close to family and friends. Conversely, companies can hire employees from many states away without required to pay re-location costs.
Dr. Tom Hallaq: In our field there are no required certifications or licenses needed for an employee to practice their craft. However, some software companies offer certifications noting a user is at a specific level of knowledge or competency with the named software. Additionally, the Public Relations field offers certifications for members of specific organizations. Employees without these certifications can still have successful careers.
In terms of coursework that has an impact on job prospects, I see those courses that provide hands-on opportunities for students to practice the associated skills are the most beneficial, along with internships which allow a student to sample the professional workplace and allow employers a sneak peek in to the students capabilities.
Dr. Tom Hallaq: The current generation of students want very different things from a job than the traditional employee. Many students are unwilling to take a low-paying job just to "pay their dues" to their chosen career field. Graduates want higher pay and more flexibility than what has been offered in the past. Jobs that pay $40-$50k per year are sought out more than lower paying jobs... and graduates are finding them. Graduates are also finding jobs in larger markets than were available in the past. It is common for these graduates to find jobs in markets that have traditionally been second-job locations, or even in some cases, major markets where an employee may remain for their entire career.
As remote work becomes more commonplace, many graduates no longer find it necessary to head to the "big city" to find successful careers.