April 1, 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 Nevada, Las Vegas
Montclair State University
Kansas State University
Middle Tennessee State University
The University of Memphis
University of Utah
University of South Alabama
Saint Peter's University
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Erik Beehn: I do think there will be an impact on graduates who are going through programs in the midst of the pandemic mostly in the sense of community. I think one of the benefits of school are the conversations between peers, the studio visits and the group critiques. I think there are other benefits that have come from video conferencing and remote teaching but ultimately there is a bonding experience that comes from those experiences which helps foster community that I think is missing.
Erik Beehn: I think one skill or class that may be useful for artists leaving school is a business in the arts class, something that may help with more than just building a portfolio and can give some insight as to how to manage a studio practice, how to submit grants and proposals, I think that is often information that is left out of a fine arts degree.
Erik Beehn: I think again the most important aspect coming out of art school is community, and on top of that knowing what the opportunities are within your field. As an artist coming out of school it's figuring out a sustainable practice, and finding ways to support that practice which can include art handling, working for a museum or gallery, assisting another artist, or a fabricator. I suggest students think about access when finding a job, so to work at a frame shop where you may have access to the woodshop on lunch or after work, or working at a printshop where you may get access to print your own work as finding access to equipment is often difficult right out of school.
Department of Art, Art History & Design
Morten Bustrup: Yes, based on the conversations I've had it seems like the new normal will likely be a hybrid model for everyone. It seems like people have learned to work as effectively remotely as they do on-site.
Morten Bustrup: Based on the above, they will be in a hybrid setting, at least in 2021. They will engage through a variety of digital collaboration tools and will most likely go through on-boarding virtually for their first job, at least in 2021. Some might enjoy more focused design time in a remote setting. They'll also spend more time in building relationships with their colleagues in a virtual environment. Sounds like Naomi might have some more info here based on recent graduates.
Morten Bustrup: In UX and design as a whole, not only is good design important but even more so their ability to back up they ideas by articulating their thinking and process in problem solving. They should also adopt a strong understanding and insight for the users for which they are designing. Proactively learning new tools and stay on top on trends will also be beneficial to them.
Montclair State University
Department of Art & DesignWebsite
John Luttropp: One of the biggest trends is the use of Zoom or similar videoconferencing for everything from interviews to presentations to clients. Graduates will need to develop a professional presence in their on-air persona, together with having good presentation and discussion skills over this medium, as it will most likely continue even after Covid-19 gets under control. Therefore, it is important that new graduates feel comfortable and competent with the medium.
John Luttropp: Designers are evaluated more on their work than by certifications or licenses, so they must be able to discuss their concepts and be able to explain their work in detail, especially their process of development of any project. Most entry-level designers are evaluated more on their skills as a thinker than on technical skills, and good thinking skills will also prepare them to adapt to changes in the industry, which are happening at a rapid pace. Certifications may be helpful, but are not a requirement of getting a job in the field.
John Luttropp: Salaries change based on demand, and current demand is in the areas of User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX), as well as the growing area of Motion Graphics and Augmented Reality (AR). Even in more traditional print-based areas-many of which are evolving into digital formats-designers need to be have a broad vision that connects print to digital experiences. Another area of growing demand is design related to analytics-display of information by the use of easy-to-understand graphics such as charts and graphs, many of which are now interactive.
Kansas State University
Department of IDFS / Interior DesignWebsite
Georges Fares: The pandemic has impacted graduates in two different ways, the first of which being that they were forced to adjust in a very short amount of time to doing everything from home away from campus and the comforting presence and support of their friends and teachers. They had to reconsider and replan everything, from their schedules, daily routines and commitments that they had set in advance and that took them a year or two to finally adjust to. They basically had to start all over. I do think this has prepared them, in a way, to better face the professional world that is prone to sudden changes and discomforts. The second impact, in my opinion, has to do with the fact that they will forever remember this difficult time and that will ultimately shape them into a stronger and more resilient generation who is better prepared for difficult times. This generation will hopefully use this experience to become the kind of graduates with a unique perspective and a willingness to face any challenges head on.
Georges Fares: Building a good resume is a great way to advance and stand out in our domain. But that doesn't mean it's all you will need to progress in the business. If there is anything this field has taught me it's that the biggest impact on our job prospects would be making yourself stand out as a job applicant by developing your skills as much as possible. Yes, you can get licenses and certifications in almost anything now, and some certificates you can even get from the comfort of your bedroom, but growing and developing skills takes time and patience; it takes effort and a will that is not reflected in those certifications. Such skills could be focused on technology, computers, learning new software, enhancing drawing skills, developing design thinking, so on and so forth. One can recognize such skills by sitting down with the applicant and speaking to them or seeing them work, and not necessary through their resume.
Georges Fares: Interior Design intersects with and is influenced by many other fields. It's hard to be specific about what can increase the earning potential of designers as different firms and departments have different requirements, but if there is anything I am sure of it's that if students were successful in connecting to different fields and working on a multi-disciplinary level, then they can be a great fit anywhere which will make them a desirable asset to anyone. Interior Design can connect to all disciplines, such as psychology, medicine, education, and so on. And by working combining various disciplines or fields in your work, you can show that you are passionate about Interior Design and can work on a level that will definitely increase the success of the firm, and ultimately raise your earning potential and allow you to carry more responsibility that can definitely create a rapid change and development on a personal and professional level.
Middle Tennessee State University
Department of Art and DesignWebsite
Noel Lorson: Creative agencies-in-house through big advertising firms, will hire on a short-term contract basis. The emails that I receive requesting recent graduates and alumni back this up. Companies are hesitant to hire full-time, which is understandable, but work is picking up and they need assistance.
Noel Lorson: There are long lists and even sub-categories for soft skills, so it is difficult to pick only a few. I think confidence, social-ability and gratitude are some of the most important. Students have been so stuck with screens and in screens that they are not able to easily communicate in group settings, make quick decisions or be assertive. I have been working with my students via a series of quick exercises that we do weekly to grow these soft skills. I added gratitude because people should be kind, respectful and say thank you. And by thanks I don't mean send an emoji. Gratitude should be expressed by words or actions. I got a text from an alum yesterday and it alerted me that they got a short-term job with a great company that I had directed them to. The text read, "the two jobs I've gotten since graduating came through you", ending with the laughing hysterically emoji, sadly no thank you.
Noel Lorson: I have been in the field for 25+ years so I have seen quite a bit of change. The biggest has been with the addition of Interactive Design. They make the bigger bucks. I lean towards print design, problem solving and ideation, so it baffles me why a genius idea that is carried out in print is not often given as much funding.
Arts Technology & Administration DepartmentWebsite
Jessa Wilcoxen: As creative departments pivot to better serve industry needs, designers will be asked to also do creative media jobs outside of the one they were hired for. Small and medium size businesses will expect their creatives to wear many hats. For instance, they may have to build the website, run the digital campaign on social media, host the interviews or workshops, shoot photography or videography for the event and write about it afterwards. Employers will expect creatives to use a variety arts technology tools and that they enter the workforce with some breath in their training of these different mediums.
Jessa Wilcoxen: For many employers having at least some of their staff work remotely may become not just a safety decision to prevent the spread of the virus but also a financial one. Smaller start-ups have been working with digital teams for years without the overhead of financing an office space. It is also reasonable to believe that while difficult for those with some family or life circumstances other employees enjoy working from home. This culture shift of expecting work flexibility will remain even as it becomes safer to work in person. Graduates will be expected to be adaptable to various work environments and to be able to use digital project management tools to provide updates on various tasks, show prototypes, and communicate with clients.
Jessa Wilcoxen: One hard skill has always advanced the earning potential of designers is the ability to code at some level and to create interface designs. Employees that can design and code cannot only serve many needs themselves but they are also set up better to properly communicate with experts in those areas, lead innovation teams and more.
A soft skill to develop is an entrepreneurial mindset. Designers at their core are creative problem solvers. Graduates who can showcase design thinking and leadership skills will become critical members of entrepreneurship teams helping to create systems, products and services that solve real pain points for a group of people.
Portfolios have always been an essential tool in the job seeking process. Employers will still expect to see a high level of craft, creativity and technique but will also place value on samples that show a candidate's role on an interdisciplinary team. In a world that will continue to be impacted on many levels by the COVID 19 virus, there will be no shortage of problems to be solved. Designers should be a vital member of the teams working to solve those problems.
The University of Memphis
Department of ArtWebsite
Leslie Luebbers Ph.D.: For museum studies graduates, the job market will be very tight in 2021. Covid-related closings have severely impacted museum revenues, which largely rely on gate receipts. Most museums have had to plunder reserves to keep their most important staff while shedding valuable personnel. The entire museum field is likely to shrink for the foreseeable future. The good, or at least better, news is that many laid off staff from the baby-boomer generation will not return, and museums are seeking younger employees. The entire profession has changed toward community engagement as a core mandate, and recent graduates are more equipped and eager to pursue this goal.
Leslie Luebbers Ph.D.: The most successful museum professionals must, in addition to content knowledge, possess essential soft skills required to manage the complexities of working with a variety of stakeholders to develop strong, productive community relationships. These same skills are valuable for resource development, which is certain to be an urgent need for museums. Empathy and imaginative program development, problem-solving and consensus-building are crucial.
Leslie Luebbers Ph.D.: Museum salaries, like corporate salaries, have been characterized by huge disparities, especially in large museums, with CEO's making disproportionately more than middle-management and lower tier staff. That situation is much less prevalent in small, i.e. most museums. Across the entire field, museum salaries resemble those in education, which is to say that they are livable and improving, but museum work is still not an avenue to wealth.
University of Utah
Film & Media Arts DepartmentWebsite
Sonia Albert Sobrino: The long-term impact of the pandemic is certainly difficult to predict, some indicators foresee one of the worst job markets in decades, in many ways a reflection of the now omnipresent "job freeze" strategies implemented by large corporations and institutions. Young filmmakers and visual artists might see their careers take off later in life and/or at a slower speed, but we are confident that while financially hard, these experiences will enrich their art ultimately delivering a stronger portfolio; one informed by the human experience and with a deeper meaning. Resilience and confidence are key in reducing the negative consequences of the pandemic on the career of these young creatives.
Sonia Albert Sobrino: Understanding how collaborative endeavors take off and focusing on entrepreneurship is fundamental. Any course, certificate or training that helps young filmmakers and visual artists understand the process of creation from a collaborative standpoint is going to be most rewarding. We are at the height of independent creation, recent graduates have the tools and knowledge to make, they just have to use those instruments to identify needs and satisfy them. In film, specializing in cinematography, be that, earlier on, through lighting or camera work; or on editing and graphic design can help proficient artists start joint successful endeavors and/or increase their hiring potential. Furthermore, interdisciplinary opportunities that put together specialized forces from different, but relating fields, will quite likely better their job prospects. Working together, expanding and adding on individual strengths is the answer.
Sonia Albert Sobrino: Institutionally, financial help to support new endeavors. At the individual level, a proactive drive is a must. Rather than waiting or stalling for opportunities, it is important to create new ones. While risky, both financially and emotionally, it is the time to take action, try things and seek a break where others haven't ventured yet. Failure is a scary, sometimes incapacitating threat that, more often that not, stops promising endeavors from taking off. It's never too late to try new things, but the sooner we attempt those, the better. A failed endeavor, if anything, speaks of a motivated, bold and driven individual and those qualities are some of the most important things needed in any job market.
Department of ArtWebsite
Eric Sung: There are some expected trend changes, and some were already in place but expedited by COVID-19. In the near future, in general, it certainly will be more challenging to find ideal jobs for all. The job market is driven by the market itself and with having a great pause caused by the pandemic resulted hire freeze for months. Of course, this is a generalized and simplified statement with multiple exceptions but in general, this would be an accurate observation. Now that the job market is slowly settling, it will improve but that does not necessarily mean that there will be more jobs created to catch up time of 'pause'. For the meanwhile, about the same number of college students graduated in the May of 2020 compared to the previous years and about the equal number of students are graduating in 3 months. The new wave of job seeks out of college and the ones who were recently released from their previous employment are all in the job market that already is bottlenecked.
For the process of interview, there will be greater interest for remote interviews by both job seekers and companies. Due to its benefits related to cost and time efficiency for the company looking to hire and job seekers, it will be the new normal for the interview process. However, with recognized lacking elements of remote interviews in general, both for the algorithm-based services and video conference call with an hiring agent, the trend will be to hire generously first with 'probational period' to evaluate the ones' performance based on real-world tasks.
Another notable trend in the job market would be transition from hard asset-based hiring to experience or performance-based hiring. In the time of uncertainty, hiring someone solely based on certificate or diploma creates a greater risk for companies so job seeker with relevant experience with proven performance would be preferred.
In terms of the trend change for the kinds of jobs, it will take a long time for Job market in the tourism industry, transportation, restaurant, apparel, and beauty to come back to pre-COVID. But the job market for IT will continue to be strong certainly for awhile. Pandemic presented some profound challenges for us which obligated the market to address deeply foundational questions. What became clear from the recent experience is that the current job market model needs to change from the deeper level and the interdisciplinary as much as meaningful innovation are required for us to sustain. It will take at least a few years for this to be translated in the job market but it would be important for the potential future job seeks to know how the market will change in the coming years and how this change might be expedited caused by the pandemic.
Covid influenced the job seekers' interests as much as it did for job market. In the past, salary has been singularly the most dominating factor for job seekers for their search but now, more are interested in the quality of life, exposure to health risk, and possibility of alternative working method such as working remotely for the obvious reasons.
Eric Sung: Hard assets may assist job seekers to get one hired but soft skills are immensely critical for one to excel after once hired. Multiple studies confirm that higher ranking positions require increased portion of soft skills compared to hard or technical skills.
Considering the market trend change during and past COVID, where more jobs will require specialized skills with less human interaction, the needs of having someone with communication skills, conflict resolution and mediation skills, negotiation skills would be far more preferred. Knowing that large part of what some of the current jobs require us to do eventually will be assisted or entirely replaced by AI, the skills that may be unique to humans will gradually became more important. Other critical soft skills would be adaptability, foundational problem-solving skills with diversified perspective on matters. and relatability to the other thoughts.
Eric Sung: Since my job and how I train my college students are not directly related to one specific occupation, it is rather difficult for me to present a pin-point answer for this question. However, I see that salaries in general are being more polarized. Entry-level jobs' starting salary changed to downward while management or higher ranking position salary have been increased in the recent years.
University of South Alabama
Art and Art HistoryWebsite
Matthew Johnson: I believe the most obvious trend in Graphic Design is the realization that many of the duties carried out by designers can be performed remotely. Although there are many benefits of working in an office or agency environment, it is highly likely that you will see more and more individuals having the option to work from home. I have had the opportunity to speak with designers working through the pandemic. Many feel that working remotely gives them more freedom and a sense that their employers trust them to manage their time. Surprisingly, the majority of those I have spoken to have been more productive, doing their best not to let their employers down in such a unique situation.
In addition to working remotely, I feel as though the pandemic will change the designer's portfolio. It's no question that between the lockdowns and social distancing, that there has been more of an emphasis on people coming together remaining hopeful. Optimism seems to be an underlying concept in many campaigns that have been rolled out in the past year. Moving forward, a designer's portfolio should change to reflect this new climate. The new portfolio will require more up-beat and positive design examples than ever before. It won't change completely, but I see a noticeable redirection coming. Besides, culture is what drives Graphic Design.
Matthew Johnson: Because Graphic Design is such a diverse field, the technical skills that stand out to employers depend on that employer's needs. However, the field is becoming very digital and UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) designers are becoming very valuable. You see many designers leaning toward that area of design. Although UX/UI is a specialization, the background of the designer is often foundational Graphic Design. This tends to make those individuals stand out as a very versatile designer that can create at the print level as well as at the higher digital, interactivity, level. This gives them an edge over their more traditional, print-based, peers.
Matthew Johnson: Although there are many variables that go into salary ranges, the average hourly rate/yearly salary for graphic designers has continued to rise each and every year. For starters graphic design is an ever-changing field of study. It models itself based on trends and technological advances. Design evolution tends to continually create new, specialized, areas in the field that keep the designer valid and valuable. This results in maintaining high salaries. Design is a value-based industry. Because it recreates itself regularly the value of the designer is steadily rising. Employers and clients see this value and are willing to comfortably pay designers for their skills.
Saint Peter's University
Department of Fine ArtsWebsite
James Adler: The biggest trend in the music market, during and likely post-Covid-19, is towards streaming. While in-person concert bookings and Pop-field "gigs" are not happening in-person, more and more artists are turning to:
(a) Live streaming over YouTube, and other platforms
(b) Recording a concert, a solo work, a "pop" song, or chamber ensemble with a few, socially distant-sitting or -standing artists, then uploading that product to social media outlets
Some artists are offering their performances gratis. This is a good way to keep their audience (base) interested in their music. I've done that, several times, after my live concerts have been either cancelled, or postponed.
Some sources, such as The Metropolitan Opera here in New York, are streaming for a fee. The Met "On Demand" streaming service can run $14.99 per month. Apple, Amazon, Samsung Smart TV, make these concerts or operas available to their subscribers for less. Other performing organizations are offering shorter streamed concerts for a suggestion donation, or small fee of $10 USD.
The important take-away from this: Artists, as well performing arts organizations and concert booking folks, need to "think outside the [proverbial] box," a result of Covid-19's effect on the industry.
James Adler: Through my own company. AdlerOaks Music Library, I have engaged artists for concert performances, collaborations, and for recording projects.
(a) First, and foremost, is the quality of the artist to be engaged or hired
(b) Do they possess the performing "chops?"
(c) Has the artist or performer prepared and learned the music, in advance of the first rehearsal, or run-through?
(d) Does he/she/they show up on time?
As they say, one gets a first chance to make a "first impression." The above-listed components will go into a hire.
James Adler: Absolutely! When I started out, fees were higher than they are today. Why? There is more competition. Also, grants -- national, local, and from individual sponsors or underwriters -- are more difficult to come by for the concert or "gig" presenter. So artists' and performers' fees may be out of the producer's or presenter's own pocket. Hall or rehearsal space rental is more expensive, now. On-site recording engineers are more expensive.
For songwriters, lyricists, composers, royalties will likely not be able to pay the rent. Certainly, not at first. So it's a good idea to have that back-up career, some way to make money. It will help support the dream, and provide that solid base.