April 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.
California State University - Stanislaus
West Los Angeles College
Gulf Coast State College
University of Houston
Prairie View A&M University
Eastern Washington University College of Business
Kansas State University
University of Central Missouri
Metropolitan State University of Denver
California State University - Stanislaus
Department of Communication StudiesWebsite
Dr. Veronica Radeva Dawson Ph.D.: According to Nicholas A. Christakis, the author of "Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of the Coronavirus on the Way We Live," the coronavirus pandemic will have long lasting impact on the economy, new graduates job market, and the processes of doing work for everyone (among other things). While we are already hearing about projections of the economy coming back stronger than ever in late 2021, those seem to refer to the stock market, and the stock market isn't the job market. I expect that our graduates will have a harder time getting that first professional position as companies are trying to figure out how work will be done, especially in the near future. So, my advice is to remain flexible and focus on gaining experience, even if it happens that it isn't in a graduate's "dream career." Communication remains the top skill sought after by employers, regardless of occupation (see for example, LinkedIn's 2020 Grad Guide to Getting Hired ) and our graduates are obviously in a unique position to claim expertise in this area.
Dr. Veronica Radeva Dawson Ph.D.: A day at work for a recent graduate could look much like a day at school, if the student went to one of the universities where instruction remained virtual. Most job ads at this time, still come out as "temporarily offsite," which means that new hires would work from home. And while recent graduates might have the hang of using Zoom or Microsoft Teams to get their work done, working remotely comes with its own set of challenges. Perhaps most relevant for a new hire is the different onboarding experience and the absence of traditional socialization activities and learning processes (onsite trainings, social gatherings, and impromptu Q&A sessions with co-workers). I think that this precisely (remote organizational socialization) would be one of the biggest challenges for companies that choose to embrace a remote workforce for the foreseeable future. Additionally, familiar challenges from the virtual classroom would remain, such as mastering time management, fostering self-motivation, and avoiding overwhelm and burnout.
Dr. Veronica Radeva Dawson Ph.D.: As the Internships Coordinator for our department, I have seen an increased demand for communication studies majors who are able to contribute in the areas of web design, videography, photography, and digital media/ graphic design, in addition to more traditional areas, such as public relations. So, I would recommend that prior to graduation students seek out opportunities to take courses that may help them in these areas. Not many Communication Studies programs offer such courses as part of their curriculum, although some might. One of the surest ways to increase earning potential, especially in a time of economic recession, is through more education. This could mean securing a spot in a graduate program where students can mature and hone their interests and skills. Over time, an employee with a graduate degree will earn more (money, opportunities) than someone without one. I do want to caution students and new graduates about going the graduate school route over the job experience route, however, as it comes with a cost, financial of course, but also in terms of work experience. To some degree, and especially early in someone's career, employers value specialized work experience over graduate education.
Economics and Business DepartmentWebsite
J. Ian Norris Ph.D.: There is little doubt that workers will continue some of their work remotely. This was a trend already underway before the pandemic that was greatly accelerated during the pandemic. In marketing specifically, many businesses had to shift business to online that had not been online before. It is likely that this will also have a lasting impact on how business is conducted. This was particularly true in the service industry and in arts and entertainment. The big take-home lesson for marketing graduates is that digital literacy has never been more important. All marketers are digital marketers, to some degree or another, today.
J. Ian Norris Ph.D.: Digital marketing skills are essential for any area of marketing. Luckily there are many online certifications available for this purpose. On the research side, Google Analytics offers a certification. It will also be valuable to know the analytics platforms on social media sites such as facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Conversely, all of these sites also offer training on digital advertising and promotion, such as Google AdWords. Any coursework in digital marketing that provides instruction in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) will also be highly valuable. Finally, digital video and editing skills are also quite valuable, as all kinds of companies and organizations are using the short video format for storytelling and brand advertising.
J. Ian Norris Ph.D.: No matter what area of marketing you are working in--in fact, no matter what job you are working in at all, statistical literacy is essential. There is so much data out there that data literacy will confer significant competitive advantage to those who can leverage it. This doesn't mean everyone has to be able to do regression modeling, but being able to interpret correlational patterns and draw actionable meaning from it will be a foundational skill. A big bonus would be some basic coding skills. Finally, it is worth mentioning that while most social media marketing still happens on Facebook, it will be essential to know platforms such as Instagram and TikTok for any products or services targeted to younger consumers.
West Los Angeles College
Anthony Cuomo: We have changed the ways in which we communicate with each other. Now, more than ever, we know that technology is pervasive and has revolutionized the way we communicate personally and professionally. Virtual interviews, online group meetings and presentations are the new norm. Job seekers who are able to communicate effectively online will have an advantage in our new context. I don't think Zoom meetings or Skype are going away any time soon. So, practicing how to sustain eye contact with a camera, being personable and communicating enthusiasm virtually will set you apart from other applicants.
Anthony Cuomo: A job that you are passionate about and helps you begin your journey. Pursue jobs that spark your interest and also provide opportunities to learn, grow and seek out mentorship. Think long term and how you a strengthening your professional foundation while also providing opportunities to support yourself and your lifestyle.
Anthony Cuomo: Personally, every unpaid opportunity I pursued early on in my career led to a paid opportunity in the future. We should know our worth and expect our labor to be compensated, but we should also look at the bigger picture and identify service opportunities, volunteering and working outside of our required job duties provide new prospective, skills and a chance to develop our resumes. It pays off in the future.
Gulf Coast State College
Business and Technology DepartmentWebsite
William Covington: In my opinion, the job market will continue to stagnate for smaller businesses especially. With the hike in what people can receive in unemployment and the ability to not have that amount taxed It is very probable to be able to live on income from unemployment and a stimulus check. The issue is not, "where are the jobs?" So many small businesses are looking to place people in entry level positions. However many students just out of a secondary institution are looking, or demanding a high salary position. Thus the implementation of the $15 minimum wage, which many small businesses just cannot do. There in lies the "catch 22."
William Covington: Most employers understand that today's world revolves around technology. Therefore having a skill set that may include, web design and marketing of some kind, can be very valuable to an employer.
William Covington: I am not so sure that salaries have changed as much as tools of the trade and the skills needed to be proficient with those tools have changed. Salaries will always be based on 2 things. Educational experience and real world experience. The real determining factor of a salary is "who" the employer is and which type of experience they consider to be the most relevant.
Albers School of Business & EconomicsWebsite
Colette Hoption Ph.D.: A couple of things spring to mind: the nature of the labor force and the nature of work.
It is clear that the pandemic sent the unemployment rate soaring and certain industries (e.g., travel, eat-in restaurants) were hit particularly hard. But even as services begin to re-open, individuals are being necessarily careful and hesitant about their return to work. In my opinion, this is because (1) they fear that they may become infected and (2) childcare. There's been a significant drop of women in the labor force; while working parents of all genders were impacted by daycares closing and virtual schooling, childcare responsibilities traditionally fall into mothers' laps and quitting the workforce altogether is a response some might take to keep the family afloat.
With regards to the nature of work, because of the pandemic, organizations might have discovered that going remote permanently is the way forward. The possibility to work from anywhere in the world also means it is possible to compete for jobs with anyone from around the world. So, more competition with international job candidates is something I'd anticipate.
In light of the pandemic, many questions about the nature of work have arisen/resurfaced including the work-life separation, and skills required for remote working; I expect these topics are important for both job seekers and employers. I believe that the ways in which organizations responded to the health and wellness of its workforce is telling for prospective employees. So when trying to read an organization's culture, I wouldn't be surprised if job candidates were especially curious about the ways an organization adapted to the needs of its workers and addressed or pre-empted workers' concerns. On the flipside, I believe organizations will have a renewed appreciation and desire for prospective employees to talk about their resilience and esprit de corps during the pandemic. The stories of those who have dug deep to find the compassion and resolve to care for others in a time of need are inspiring; and we can hope that with the right support and resources, such citizenship stirs an entire organization into action.
Colette Hoption Ph.D.: Stand-out technical skills likely vary by field. For example, when working with big data, database management, and data mining and modeling would be extremely important. I also imagine that programming skills would be an asset. Thinking of my field (Management) in particular, here are some technical skills that I'd emphasize: writing skills, proficiency in using collaborative decision-making tools, project management, and familiarity with productivity trackers. Finally, in an earlier question I noted that organizations may embrace more remote work; in that situation, I can see how critical it will be for managers to show that they can effectively establish goals, rally enthusiasm, coach and mentor employees from a distance. A lesson the pandemic has taught many organizations is that forging human connections in remote work is a challenge, and those who have developed the skills to do this are invaluable.
Colette Hoption Ph.D.: There is no one set path for a management student, so this question is difficult to answer. Regardless of field, I think most are wise to the negative impact the pandemic has had on business, and that has tempered most people's salary expectations, including salary increases.
As leadership is cornerstone of management education, to answer this question, one could look at the alarming rate with which CEO pay has not only increased, but also increased much more than the typical worker's salary. This is distressing because it drives greater inequalities in society. In response to the pandemic, many workers' salaries were cut and that included some CEOs' pay, but the amount of that pay cut for executives, as well as plans for how and when to restore compensation levels are increasing the volume on questions about fairness, trust in leadership and social justice.
University of Houston
Marilyn Davies College of businessWebsite
Dr. Richard Conde: You are already seeing these trends, which will increase in the months to come:
- More remote work away from an office. Flexibility will be key for employees with more control over their time and schedule
- The increase of video in all stages of a business. We feel more comfortable communicating via all the video communication options
- More application of AI and machine learning. Companies are finally figuring out its better to work smart
- Automated personality identification. For example, Crystal Knows can provide a person's DISC profile based on an individual's LinkedIn profile. This type of information will be used by recruiters to determine fit, plus at all other departments
- Training at all levels to accommodate virtual, technology, and cultural changes
- The need for individuals at all levels of an organization to possess (based on the level) analytical skills. Data is king and there is more and more demand for individuals who can identify, interpret, and implement decisions based on complex data analysis.
Dr. Richard Conde: The need for soft skills are consistent through time. With our societal focus on social media, texting, emojis, etc. It appears to me companies are looking for the following:
- Active listening skills
- Willingness to be self-reflective and accept feedback
- Accept different perspectives. The collision of ideas creates knowledge
- Communicate to the listener (at their level). Flex communicators
- Cultural intelligence. Demographics changes will require better understanding of team member's, boss', customer's, etc. cultural context
Dr. Richard Conde: - There is a small trend in sales to minimize variable comp and increase salaries. There are a few (15 or so) Silicon Valley companies limiting commissions and focusing more on salaries
- You see a correlation between higher salaries and more complex sales processes. I see that trend continuing as more transactional sales will be automated
- Increase in pay for inside sales agents as more and more sales are being handled by inside sales agents (thanks to tech and change in buying behaviors)
Communication Studies, Film & New Media DepartmentWebsite
Robert Groven: The pandemic has created a realization that working at a distance really works. As a result, industries are already restructuring positions and offices. Less travel or no travel. Less office space but more technology-more portable, video, audio, and paperless technologies. The long-prophesied but never realized "paperless" office has finally arrived, and people will not go back. The big exception is education. In K-12 education parents, students and teachers have realized that distance learning is a dismal failure for most students.
But, in higher education, there are powerful financial and demographic forces continuing to expand the role of distance learning and adjunct instructors, despite the well-documented failures during the pandemic. COVID both accelerated higher ed's move to distance learning in the short term and slowed it in the long term. Administrators desperately want distance learning to work, but a whole nation of students and parents have now disagreed. Unfortunately, the distance learning train has left the station and has enough momentum to keep rolling, if more slowly, over the objections of incoming students and their parents.
Robert Groven: Across all industries, we are seeing a broad call for transferrable skills. Whether in STEM or the social services, employers want college grads who can speak well, write clearly, and solve problems. Ubiquitous automation and AI have erased the days when employers only wanted technical specialists. Now employers want students who are flexible, motivated, and creative.
Robert Groven: The big problem for Communication Studies majors is the enormous array of jobs. Students start out aware of PR, advertising, sales, and marketing. But as they explore, they realize the field is vast and varied, which many opportunities in fields they didn't know existed. Some of the hottest fields now are social media entrepreneurship and PR, health care communication, video game design and promotion, and video production. Everyone needs content to fill the enormous digital spaces which have opened online, as executives realized that their business was moving online or at least, that 90% of their marketing budget was spent on digital. Just as cryptography and blockchain caused the need for mathematicians to explode, we are now seeing an exploding need for creative content creators in text, video, and audio.
Prairie View A&M University
Management and Marketing Department
Dr Rick Baldwin: -Employers seeking applicants who have demonstrated the use of social media to promote their ideas and interests.
-Employers seeking applicants with minors in a liberal arts degree or interdisciplinary degree or entrepreneurship that provides a comprehensive understanding of an issue.
Dr Rick Baldwin: I would recommend students to develop their creativity, problem-solving, self-awareness, need assessment, and opportunity awareness skills. I would recommend that students should travel to both developing countries and underdeveloped countries in this gap year. Traveling to these countries will allow students an opportunity to see how needs and opportunities are being addressed in areas with resources and without resources.
Dr Rick Baldwin: To begin their career, I suggest that the graduate pursue their career as an entrepreneur. Based on the career interest, actually develop a business plan to launch this career as a business. I would use this as a platform in beginning the career as entrepreneur, consultant, or as an employee of a marketing organization.
Eastern Washington University College of Business
Chair, Department of Finance and MarketingWebsite
William Martin Ph.D.: Knowledge workers have been among the least impacted by the pandemic since they can generally do much of their work remotely, and that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
William Martin Ph.D.: Relevant work experience is always a big plus, and internships are a great way for students to obtain it. Employers are most interested in specific examples of actions that applicants took that had significant, demonstrable benefits for those they previously worked with.
William Martin Ph.D.: Since the pandemic has forced many of the U.S.'s largest cities to lock down and the companies in them to work remotely, many marketing graduates may be able to find excellent work opportunities that do not require them to move at all.
Kansas State University
Department of MarketingWebsite
Dr. Esther Swilley: I think that geographic location is going to change. Because many jobs that were not thought of as home-based really are. Companies are finding that the large office buildings that are costing them may not be needed. Employees now want to live where they want, which may not be near the company.
Dr. Esther Swilley: Mobile technology was the trend for the last ten years, but now we need home-based technology. What is going to make "my space" a better "office space." This will also include mobile, as people set up offices in their homes, their kids/parents' homes, and in their vacation homes. Folding monitors, hot spots, of course, as well as more powerful machines that can handle each family member at the same time. It will also mean more cloud usage - both personal and professional use.
Dr. Esther Swilley: Marketing will see an increase. With the emphasis on analytics and sales, savvy marketing students will thrive.
University of Central Missouri
Department of CommunicationWebsite
Joe Moore Ph.D.: I think we are going to see a lot more unique content that is created through programs like Zoom. I also believe we are going to see more innovation. Digital media students and professionals are creative, and they have a hard time sitting still. I believe they'll keep telling stories, which means we could well see an uptick in blogging and podcasts. I think the storytelling will continue.
Joe Moore Ph.D.: Well, first I would strongly urge them to reconsider taking a gap year. If we are in a pandemic and go into another shutdown, where are you going to work? If you're thinking you'll just go to school at a community college and work on your gen eds, how are you going to do that if they are shut down, too? But, if they DO take a gap year, I would encourage students to work on their writing. That's the skill we see that students struggle with the most, and in talking with employers, it is the one skill that really sets applicants apart. And don't just "write". I mean, start a blog to write about your experiences, practice writing scripts, cover some news in your area, yes. But practice writing WELL. Go to https://owl.purdue.edu/ and do some writing lessons to practice proper grammar. Texting and emails have killed proper writing because it is not expected, but if you have good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization (basic writing skills) AND can tell a good story, just like that you've set yourself apart.
Joe Moore Ph.D.: Don't take just anything, but don't look for the one ideal job either. Now is not the time to be picky. The longer you are out of the field after graduation, the less employable you become. Even if you have to start part time somewhere (in this field we are seeing more and more students start out in freelance, which can be very fun and very lucrative), get your foot in the door. Start building your professional resume and demo reel.
Metropolitan State University of DenverWebsite
Darrin C. Duber-Smith: Rapid change will be the norm as industries reconfigure to address new attitudes and behaviors formed during the pandemic. Industries associated with leisure and travel will not only be slow to recover, but consumers very well might decide to make some changes permanent. I expect hospitality jobs will largely lose their luster among the under-40 crowd. So, a job-seeker's profession, which is really just a collection of skills and degrees applied to a specific industry, really does matter when it comes to the job recovery. Do you have a history or psychology degree rather than business, engineering, or hard sciences? That's going to matter more in the "new normal". Companies everywhere are reassessing what this new normal means to them, and their decisions, which will ripple across the professional world, will have profound changes on hiring that really have yet to emerge. Much remains to be seen.
Darrin C. Duber-Smith: Hiring managers are looking for specific accomplishments rather than generalized statements like "team player" or "motivated self-starter". Those self-descriptive terms have become hackneyed and have lost much of their meaning. Focus on hard skills (such as marketing planning or fluency with a particular software tool) as well as specific educational and career achievements you can identify. Degrees in the more rigorous majors are often just the beginning.
Darrin C. Duber-Smith: Focus on areas with low unemployment relative to the national average and other states. Overall, most professional jobs will follow the migration of skilled workers (look at Texas), and people overall are moving around quite a bit these days. The prospect of remote work changes the dynamic somewhat, but most jobs will still require some modicum of physical presence so geography does matter. Areas with lower cost of living and lower tax structures are particularly appealing to workers these days. In general, states (like most businesses) that were doing well before the pandemic will recover the fastest.