September 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.
University of Akron
University of Oregon
Southern Methodist University
University of North Carolina Greensboro
Kent State University
Holyoke High School
National Board for Certified Counselors
Kennesaw State University
University of Akron
The School of Communication
Heather Walter Ph.D.: Those looking for a career in conflict resolution (mediation, arbitration, facilitation, etc.) should build and profile several important skills. The goal of all conflict interventions is to assist in the transformation of the conflict. Whether this process is part of a formal mediation or an informal meeting of the minds, the conflict resolution professional's job is to find common ground, seek meaningful concessions but not painful to either party and find a way forward toward a sustainable path. Some conflict situations are just misunderstandings, and a third party can help find the already existing mutual agreements. But other conflicts are emotional or explosive or, at the core, completely incompatible and come to a third party because there doesn't seem to be any way forward.
Depending on the type of position desired, there is industry knowledge necessary. So a divorce mediator needs a good understanding of the laws surrounding divorce, but a corporate facilitator needs a good understanding of the companies and their focus that brings them to the disagreement. Thus a conflict resolution professional should have the capacity and desire to build a repository of knowledge surrounding their area of expertise. Regardless of the context, all conflict resolution professionals should be process experts, meaning they can deftly employ the steps needed to lead parties through the conflict. The best way to build these skills is through practice and experience. Thus the greatest stand out in a resume would be internships or other opportunities to employ the theories and principles in real life or simulated situations.
Heather Walter Ph.D.: In addition, the conflict resolution professional has several "soft" skills. Among those skills are the capacity to listen and help individuals at odds to separate their wants from their needs. Helping to identify mutually agreeable outcomes requires building trust with both sides and moving past the emotional "my side" vs. "your side" that pits people against one another. Beyond listening to each party, the conflict resolution professional must allow equitable time for both parties to talk while enforcing rules that limit verbal attacks in the process and encouraging clear, less hostile statements. Ultimately, the third party is there to realign the communication climate, paving the way for reasonable options to surface and space for agreements to be made.
University of Oregon
School of Law
John Inglish: First and foremost, the ability to engage in collaborative problem-solving, whether between individuals, small groups, or diverse sets of stakeholders. This includes both the underlying theoretical knowledge as well as the ability to apply it in practice.
John Inglish: I would propose that the term "soft skills" is a misnomer. Many of the skills one gains in a conflict resolution program are critical skills, and this is now supported by empirical research. Chief among these are emotional intelligence-i.e., the ability to read one's own emotions as well as others and apply the appropriate navigational strategy in a given context. Another foundational skill is the ability to apply principled negotiation principles in a conflict. Conflict resolution professionals understand how to separate the people from the problem, identify underlying interests, and generate options that are focused on meeting the needs of the individuals or parties involved.
John Inglish: Dispute resolution strategies reside on a continuum, moving from informal to more formal, and may include conflict coaching, negotiation, mediation, facilitation, arbitration, or something else. Professionals must have the knowledge and ability to select the most appropriate method for the conflict at hand.
John Inglish: "Hard skills" (the kind often written down on a resume) may get one the job, but the less tangible critical skills like emotional intelligence will get one promoted. These are the skills that separate managers from leaders in the workplace.
Southern Methodist University
Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling
John Potter: Certainly. Each generation may have challenges entering the workplace. Imagine what it would have been like to be seeking opportunities during and after the Great Depression? The social isolation associated with the pandemic is unique. Socialization is an important part of our lives, and the pandemic has thwarted socialization for most graduates. Overcoming that challenge alone with be significant for anyone entering the workplace which is inherently social. Zoom is no substitute for human interaction. And, the pandemic has left many with mental health issues that should be addressed before or at the beginning of seeking opportunities in the workplace.
John Potter: Upcoming graduates are serious about the workplace. As a result, those with practical skills will find the workplace welcoming. Furthermore, graduates who can socialize well with others bring something special and desperately needed.
John Potter: Overwhelmingly, practical skills matter. Many employers have so many applicants for positions that their initial goal is to cull the number of applicants down to a small enough number as quickly as possible to work through to find the best person for a particular position. Therefore, applicants should be clear about their skills and also how they apply to a particular position.
Susan Thomson: I think job growth is stagnant as so many service jobs have been lost as a result of the pandemic. The lack of service jobs does provide an opening for entrepreneurship, but the opportunity to make one's job will disproportionately affect women (especially women with children) as well as young and minoritized job seekers. The pandemic has made it clear that the gig economy has no place in a post-pandemic society, as the failures of the American federal government to provide a safety net for workers is now stark.
Susan Thomson: I fully support gap years (both of my college-aged sons took them) so long as the student has a vision for what they want to do during their year off. Learn a language. Volunteer. Deliver pizza. Work at a ramen shop. I don't think it matters what students do during their gap year, as long as they use the time to learn about themselves, their passions, and their priorities as individuals who also belong to communities.
Susan Thomson: In terms of general advice for students entering the job market, I always advise my students to know their worth so that they can negotiate a wage or salary package that suits their needs. I always remind them to remain curious about the people with whom and the place in which they will work. Lastly, I urge them not to compare themselves to other recent grads - if they are following their passions and have found a good place to practice them (whether on the job or in graduate school), then they are doing great!
Jeremy Rinker Ph.D.: From what I see, it looks like a lot of layoffs, as well as changes, in the way we work. I think many of the jobs that were previously on-site will be moved online where possible. This makes the skills in communications and conflict resolution all the more important. Skills in reading people (on a screen rather than in person) will become increasingly important. Also, skills in reflective adaptability - reading a situation and making subtle changes through a project timeline are key to success.
Jeremy Rinker Ph.D.: Related to what I have said above, I think the ability to be a reflexive thinker and reflect-in-practice, as things change, will be (and are) a critical skill in today's marketplace. These are skills that our program at UNCG teaches. Not only how to design interventions that address ongoing conflict, but thinking creatively about how we set problems as problems will be critical as we address major existential issues like Covid-19, environmental degradation, and capitalist shortcomings.
Jeremy Rinker Ph.D.: I tell students all the time that in this marketplace, one needs to be a social entrepreneur - by that, I mean they need to network continuously and continue to develop and display their conflict transformation process skills throughout a career trajectory that will likely NOT be stable but always evolving.
Dr. Tatsushi (Tats) Arai Ph.D.: The pandemic makes the long-standing issues of social inequity, alienation, and discrimination more explicit. These issues adversely affect many vulnerable wage workers, lower-income households and people of color, disabilities, and other minority backgrounds. The increased public awareness of racial justice is inseparably linked to these issues. Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and socially responsible companies will, therefore, increasingly value employees' awareness and skills in promoting inclusive and equitable business and social practices in all aspects of their activities.
Public health institutions coping with the rising number of patients and the unprecedented challenge in rolling out vaccination campaigns require a significant amount of conflict management and resolution skills and public relations skills in general. Whether these needs are converted into job opportunities is still to be seen.
Dr. Tatsushi (Tats) Arai Ph.D.: Advanced skills in conflict resolution, applicable regardless of the pandemic's effects, and the new trends described above.
Also, more practical skills in the development of social equity and inclusion and conflict resolution in public health and communication technologies will be an asset.
Dr. Tatsushi (Tats) Arai Ph.D.: Get your hands dirty. Volunteer to gain relevant and practical experience, even if you are not paid initially. Experience, including internship, matters.
Have a longer-term goal and vision than the immediate need for job hunting. In the field of conflict resolution, young graduates, fresh from an undergraduate degree, may or may not land on a career opportunity one may hope to get. Yet, the first job is a starting point on which to build relevant experience.
Think carefully and creatively about how to talk about conflict resolution skills and how to market them. Interpret conflict resolution skills broadly and develop different expressions (relationship/team/consensus-building, facilitation, collaborative leadership, negotiation skills, to name a few) to describe what you have learned and what you are good at.
Holyoke High School
Special Education Department
Natalie Mayko: My biggest piece of advice would be to use your resources. Throughout your graduate school experience, you have been able to establish connections with not only your peers but also your professors who work in the same field. As you take your first steps into the professional world, do not be afraid to reach out to ask for help in finding a job. These connections will truly be one of your biggest assets.
Natalie Mayko: In the next 3-5 years I believe that remote learning, will only become a more common occurrence. With this being said, the platforms that we currently use to engage in this type of interaction will improve and hopefully become more secure. I do think that as we move forward as counselors, we need to remember to educate ourselves in any advancements. This will allow us to continue to provide the best social emotional support to our clients.
Natalie Mayko: Before this pandemic, the support, respect and starting salaries of professionals in the ,counseling field did not reflect the impact that our work has. Unfortunately, it took this unprecedented event to shed light upon how much counselors help support an individual in all areas of their lives. Much like majority of careers out there in the world, with experience and length of time in the position the rate of pay increases. However, I do still believe that for how important our work is,counselors do not always receive pay that equals the significance of the positive work we do everyday.
National Board for Certified Counselors
Dr. Tina Lott EdD, LCPC, CADC, ACS, NCC: As graduates enter the counseling profession, they are going to be encountering the greatest need for mental health services our world has ever experienced. In the face of COVID-19, mental health needs and behavioral health challenges have skyrocketed in communities across the globe. Counselors are on the front lines of the efforts to meet these needs, and diverse professional skills are required. Foundational counseling skills, including, but not limited to, active listening, attending, focusing, and building rapport, remain at the heart of a counselor's work. The era of telehealth has further expanded the need for professional skills that enable counselors to quickly and effectively build trust with clients and other health professionals in virtual spaces.
Additionally, counselors must be able to interface with integrated health teams using telehealth modalities, so competence in the safe and effective use of technology and knowledge of regulations, ethical codes, and compliance requirements for counselors are critical. Another skill of great importance is the ability of new graduates to identify and address stigma in the counseling session as it relates to mental illness. So often, counseling services are not fully utilized, largely in Black and Brown communities, because of stigma and people's views on mental health conditions. Stigma is often present in the counseling session and has a significant negative impact on the effectiveness of the treatment provided. Young graduates will be charged with the responsibility of being able to recognize stigma and approach it with the intent to educate.
Dr. Tina Lott EdD, LCPC, CADC, ACS, NCC: Counselors are needed in communities across the United States. Approximately 77 million people in the US live in geographic regions facing stark mental health professional shortages. Though the number of counselors has increased in recent years, due to vigorous capacity building work by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the NBCC Foundation, and other professional organizations within counseling, including the American Counseling Association (ACA), mental health needs have also rapidly expanded due to COVID-19 and other public health issues.
Graduates of counseling programs and licensed counselors can find great opportunities serving rural communities, military populations, student populations in school and higher education settings, individuals dealing with addictions, and with many other populations that seek counseling services. Moreover, working in areas that are underserved or never-served creates new and unique opportunities as well, so if there is a particular area of interest that grads want to explore that may not have been serviced, it is welcomed! Geographically, the job market for counselors is strong across the U.S., and counselors are needed in rural, urban, and suburban communities. An individual with a passion for helping others and the necessary counseling credentials can certainly find opportunities for work that align with their personal needs and professional aspirations.
Dr. Tina Lott EdD, LCPC, CADC, ACS, NCC: Technology is having a dramatic impact on the field of counseling, as we see with many of the health professions. Counselors have faced the need to transform rapidly to service delivery in the virtual space, and in this space, as in site-based service delivery, the connection between the counselor and client remains an essential element for successful counseling outcomes. Counselors must not only be competent with using technology effectively; they must also have a clear and comprehensive understanding of the necessary ethical responsibilities and obligations and the compliance requirements impacting their practice.
The Board Certified-TeleMental Health (BC-TMH) professional credential offered by the Center for Credentialing & Education (CCE) offers counselors and other mental health professionals recognition of their competence and professional preparation for telemental health practice. Holding professional credentials can help to ensure a counselor's clients that the counselor is highly prepared to practice successfully in the brave new world we are all facing as technology has transformed our services in response to the pandemic. Telehealth regulations are quickly evolving, and counselors need to be engaged in active, ongoing continuing education to ensure that they are versed in the necessary regulations, expectations, and responsibilities that structure their work with clients. This evolution is going to continue to impact our profession over the next five years, and counselors who view the impact as an opportunity for positive innovation will find their practice stronger and more vibrant five years down the road.
Kennesaw State University
Dekalb Dispute Resolution Center
Kizmat Tention: Absolutely. There will be an enduring impact on everyone, graduate, or not. However, I truly believe that if you accept the fact that things are not going back to how they used to be, and adjust to our new norms, things can truly work out in your favor. Our world is full of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict right now, and, as recent graduates, we are equipped to handle a lot of these conflicts by providing alternative dispute resolutions.
Kizmat Tention: Every field and industry has conflict, so my suggestion would be to get creative and show some of these industries why they need a conflict resolution specialist working for them. The majority of U.S. companies are facing situations that they've never had to deal with before. Such as having to adjust to employees who now need to work from home because they're also parents required to be present during virtual learning. Well, this sounds like a perfect opportunity for someone trained in conflict resolution to come in, as a neutral party, to facilitate a solution that works for all parties involved.
Kizmat Tention: We've seen the importance of technology in this field in the last five months, so I can only imagine what it will look like in the next five years. For example, in the field of mediation, many cases have gone from in-person to virtual (via Zoom). Many court cases are being held virtually as well. So with technology, I think it opens the possibility of resolving conflict all over the world while being in the comforts of your home.
Technology will also expedite the timing of conflict resolution because coordinating multiple schedules for a meeting won't require as much effort virtually as it would in-person. Now is the time for those in our field to think ahead of the technology so that when the demand arises, we are already in a position to be sought after as conflict resolution professionals.