January 12, 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 Wisconsin - Madison
American Society of Magazine Editors
California University of Pennsylvania
University of Minnesota
University of Oregon
Independence Community College
Tribal College Journal
University of California
Patricia Hastings: I think there will be some enduring impacts on graduating journalism students in a number of ways. Right now, there are some obstacles to negotiate. The first is the jobs situation. First, many newsrooms don't have internships right now, and so students can't get that extra experience that will ultimately help them land a job. I see seniors who have some, but not enough experience and they need that last push outside of the classroom and campus media. Without that, it makes job hunting more difficult. Of course, there are the economic issues. So many places have downsized their newsrooms and that is a problem. Graduates have to be nimble, too, in terms of having a good toolbox of skills. Now, if you want a job, go into TV news producing. You can't find enough people to fill what is out there. There are TV news reporting jobs out there as well. It comes down to networking and having a "reel" or examples of your work to show.
And then there are the impacts we don't know. Many staffers are working from home. Will jobs change so more reporters work from home? How do you balance that with the fact that reporters should be out covering stories? The pandemic is causing a rethink on the office of the future-space, risk and other areas that we can only guess at right now.
Patricia Hastings: Young graduates will need a few skills outside of the usual ones for a good journalism job. They will have to be able to interview for jobs via Zoom or whatever system is used. That's a different skill set than being in person. I also believe students will have to work harder to "brand" themselves. Why should someone hire you? Do the resume and work examples say "I am the go to person for getting this done?" Make an elevator pitch for yourself and see how hard it is to do. The usual skills still need to be there-video, social, maybe audio-because that's what it takes today.
I also think graduates needs to be aware of the information that's out there, and be suspicious or know enough to check for accuracy. If a photo is digitally manipulated, will you know? How can you tell? In my opinion, this is maybe the biggest skill needed. What is balanced and researched as to what is created to satisfy some agenda? This has and will continue to be an area to watch.
Patricia Hastings: The experience I think everyone needs is video, for those who aren't going into that area. Everyone uses video. Having an understanding of how to make your message or story translate to video is important and it's not that easy to do. That, and the ability to enterprise story ideas. Actually taking an idea and turning into a story for online, or broadcast or print is key. You can't tell the story the same way for each one, and so to analyze and then make a good story is important.
Sidney Holt: The biggest challenge facing editorial hopefuls is uncertainty. Magazines and websites were already experiencing unprecedented challenges as the consumption of media changed and publishers shifted from advertising-supported to reader-supported business models. The pandemic only accelerated those trends. For new graduates, that means fewer opportunities to work for established brands (and where those opportunities do exist, it means working remotely, at least for the foreseeable future, which in turn means fewer opportunities to enjoy the kind of one-on-one training that furthered the careers of previous generations of writers and editors).
That's the downside. The upside is that the skills and energy young journalists can bring to a media organization are especially valuable during a period of extraordinary change. But you have to be prepared to be resilient. Not only is "the gold watch after 50 years" gone; you have expect you won't be in any job very long, at least in the early years of your career.
Dr. Christina Fisanick: College graduates in 2021 and beyond, need all of the skills that English programs have to offer: critical thinking, effective communication, creativity, and flexibility. New hires need to be able to adapt to workplace changes quickly and with aplomb, which requires critical thinking and problem solving and the ability to communicate those solutions to a diverse audience clearly and effectively. Those skills are refined and practiced regularly in English programs.
Dr. Christina Fisanick: Although employers prior to COVID-19 knew that remote work was not only possible, but in some cases even more productive than in the traditional workplace, the pandemic has reinforced the idea that employees can work from anywhere in the world. While this gives graduates the potential to work globally in a way that was never possible before, it also means that English majors in the US are now competing in a worldwide marketplace against graduates from universities, not just in their region or country, but from around the globe. It is both exciting and intimidating, and we must prepare our graduates to meet the demands of this ever-expanding job market.
Dr. Christina Fisanick: Given that English majors are placed in a broad range of fields after graduation, it is difficult to identify which specific technologies will be used most, which is why critical thinking and adaptability are key skills. I can imagine that editing and word processing software will remain in heavy use by our graduates in the workplace, along with social media and other communication applications. Exposing students to the many possibilities of how technology changes the production and consumption of texts is vital to what English programs do best.
Thomas Reynolds: I think there will be a lasting impact of this pandemic on graduates. The nature of the field is that others in the industry (scientists, engineers, for ex.) often take on tech writing and communication tasks in tight economic conditions, or even just as a matter of a particular culture in a particular business. However, the field of technical communication has been predicted to have a strong future (see Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts growth in jobs in this field).
Technical writing and communication require that students are comfortable with technology and communication and that they adapt to changing situations. I think there are also opportunities for savvy graduates who can offer certain skills and experiences that are unique to the changing situation. This field has a long history of resilience for its graduates seeking jobs in tough circumstances.
Thomas Reynolds: Technical writing and communication can span many fields. However, there are specific fields that are especially open to technical communication, such as information technology and computer software (technical documentation, for example), as well as medical and health fields. Many of our graduates work for companies that involve computer technology, such as software companies and content management for web consulting firms. In addition, many of our graduates work in biomedical companies that require technical and global documentation of medical devices.
I can't say that I know of a sure bet, but places that deal with medical technology, healthcare, and related fields are probably going to need people well-trained to communicate specialized knowledge to a variety of audiences and in a variety of ways. Telemedicine seems to have gained a more permanent stronghold in the healthcare system, and I imagine that the various communication channels involved in this new way of practicing medicine will open opportunities for well-trained graduates, such as ours who are willing to be pioneers in this area.
Thomas Reynolds: Technology is constantly changing, and the pandemic has put a wrinkle on innovations that will have an impact on the field of TWC. Yet technical writing and communication have always involved changing technologies -- it is one of the hallmarks of the field. In addition, remote work is common in technical communication, and many scholars have written about the phenomenon, including global virtual teams and distributed workplaces. In any case, technical writers and communicators learn to think about the intersection of technology with the audience.
I think that traditional notions of communicationm such as establishing a friendly, businesslike ethos and considering the very real material circumstances of audiences, will remain uppermost as graduates adapt to the technological changes. Part of this work will also involve recognizing and working to improve social injustices that employers are increasingly in need of addressing. New technologies that emerge will also be part of the landscape for graduates, and they will be eager to learn these new tools.
Center for Career Advancement
Sarah Bell: It is hard to know for certain what the impact will be as the pandemic is a new experience; it is not finished, nor are its effects on the economy and employment. In our experience at Bucknell during the most recent downturns in the economy in 2001 and 2008, we saw that the negative effects on our graduate's job prospects did not endure. The graduates from those particular years have shared with us that the job search took longer than expected, and they needed to be more flexible, but they were able to eventually find work.
Sarah Bell: Majors in English successfully pursue work in all types of industries and career fields. Their skills in writing, critical thinking, verbal communication, analysis, working in groups, editing, and reading/research make them quite marketable in a variety of occupations. There are some locations that are more known for certain industries, i.e., upper West Coast for technology, NYC metro area for finance, I-95 corridor for pharmaceuticals and biotech, but many corporations hire in locations all over the country. And with the pandemic, more employers have remote opportunities that don't require a move, at least not until the time we might move out of remote work when possible. We tell our students to talk to professionals in the industries in which they are interested to learn what areas are growing right now and what are not. For example, video and sharing software is growing, food manufacturing, shipping, and sales are growing, certain sectors of healthcare and medical research are growing, etc.
Sarah Bell: As mentioned in #2, English majors go into many fields, and technology is affecting most of them now. We will likely always need creators, editors, and researchers of content, which will certainly make English majors useful in a variety of fields, due to (or in spite of) the technology advances. Experience in learning and utilizing a variety of software, platforms, and social media tools will only enhance their ability to complete their work in an effective and efficient manner in a variety of work settings.
Cristina Calhoon: Even before the pandemic, Classics-and the Humanities in general-had been coping with existential threats arising from the grafting of business models onto higher education. Administrators' exaggerated emphasis on metrics, a widespread mentality privileging "practical" skills over a more comprehensive education, and the prohibitive cost of college had forced Classics to adapt to changes.
Mergers with other departments and language programs, the fostering of distance learning and digital competence, curricula driven by large-enrollment courses in classics in English translation allowed some Classics programs to survive. The pandemic has made us rely more on the distance learning approach, but we still maintain most of our offerings. Some of our graduates are double majors, a solution I recommend when advising students who-dazzled by Classical Mythology or Archeology or other Classics courses-decide to switch from their "practical" major to Classics. Others decide to minor in Classics (Latin, Greek or Classical Civilization), because they still see great personal value in pursuing these studies.
Studying Latin or ancient Greek opens one's mind in so many different ways, all beneficial even from a "practical" standpoint: vocabulary skills, memorization, and analytical skills are necessary and transferable to any job. How does one learn to solve problems logically? By learning to organize Latin and Greek linguistic structures that work like jigsaw puzzles, unlike many modern Western languages. English is peppered with words of Latin and Greek origin, and our institutions (democracy, republic, libraries, the foundations of the western legal system, to quote just a few basic ones) are largely based on Greco-Roman ones. All this background knowledge gives our graduates a solid, comprehensive intellectual grounding and an enhanced view of our current predicament within a universal framework.
Cristina Calhoon: The skills that Classics graduates learn (good communication skills; careful, clear, and well-organized oral and written presentation; research, comparison, and analysis of ancient sources; linguistic proficiency in more than one language) make them flexible and adaptable. Graduate school is the goal of many of our graduates, who complete law and medical degrees in prestigious programs throughout the nation.
Some also do very well in business school, where the breadth of their academic background, the adaptability of their skills, and their analytical and communication proficiency make them highly competitive with respect to graduates from strictly pre-professional programs.
In addition to occupations in all levels of education, academic research, and archeology, some Classics graduates have also established careers in management, public relations, fundraising, administration, as well as a library, archival, and museum work, while some have also created opportunities for themselves in computer occupations, arts, and media.
Cristina Calhoon: A great number of primary sources (Latin and Greek texts) as well as philological resources (lexica of Greek and Latin) and data on material resources (Classical Archeology, papyrus texts, and inscriptions) have been and continue to be collected in electronic databases readily accessible online.
The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) and Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (TLL), as well as the database for Latin Dictionaries (DLD), exemplify some of the many online resources our students are already familiar with or quickly familiarize themselves with.
Distance learning will increasingly cover an essential part of our future offerings due to health and economic concerns, and our graduate students are encouraged to do some online teaching. Most Classics graduates are as much at home in the digital sphere as they are in the world of texts engraved in stone.
Bridget Carson: Show up. Listen and keep learning. Be a part of the broader community.
I know these seem simple, but they require time. It isn't just about the hours on the clock, although they are that for which you are paid. Go to the meet and greet. Chip into the water cooler fund. Join a softball league, a book club, or a game night. When somebody invites you to a company picnic - go. Join the volunteer opportunities in which the organization participates. Relationships need nurturing so that you can have empathy and resilience during difficult discussions within an organization or when it needs to pull together and get through something.
Our shiny new degrees are just the beginning of what we know. You'll be stepping into situations where people will need your fresh perspective, and you will need their experience. Keep reading, not just things in your content area. This isn't just a "respect your elders" or "know your place" statement. They don't know everything, and neither do you, but they've been there longer.
Be a visible part of the broader community. This is especially important if you choose to work in the Public Sector where people want to see their tax dollars pay people who are invested in their community. Go to the concerts in the park, the local community theater, the parades. Join some organization and chip in. Work the polls, join the park committee, be active in a philanthropic or faith community, show up for events celebrating local history. Support local businesses where you find them in alignment with your values.
Don't do any of this for the show. People can spot a fake-Esse quad videre: to be rather than to seem.
Allison Harl Ph.D.: Develop as many multimedia skills as possible. Writing in the 21st century is about visual rhetoric as well as just words on a page.
Allison Harl Ph.D.: I believe video conferencing technology will focus, in the next several years, due to school and work environments going online more exclusively.
Allison Harl Ph.D.: Yes, but the pandemic's impact will create new and different opportunities, so graduates should keep their imaginations and options open.
Tribal College Journal
Bradley Shreve: Be flexible. An undergraduate degree in history offers a solid liberal arts background, but not a skill set that is finely tuned for most jobs. Think outside the box, and understand that the job you land probably won't be in the history profession.
Bradley Shreve: If you plan to teach, focus on becoming familiar with, and understanding how to use, different learning management systems. You should also know where to find various digital historical sources, whether in online archives or on the web. It is also crucial to be adept at using a variety of apps and social media platforms.
Bradley Shreve: The rate of technological change is accelerating, and the pandemic is making this change even more rapid. We are entering a new age, where the skills that historians used to need are becoming obsolete. If you want to succeed as a historian today, graduate school is not enough. You must also continually update your digital skillset.
Catherine Nesci: I expect that the lack of resources (no interlibrary loans, no travel to conferences, no meeting with peers, fewer job opportunities) will have an enduring impact on graduate students.
Catherine Nesci: The French, Italian, and Portuguese opportunities are diminishing and will continue doing so, despite the importance of French in a continent like Africa. Yet, Spanish will continue being more prominent, but online teaching will decrease job prospects.
Catherine Nesci: The spread of online teaching will show administrators easy ways to cut costs, even though face-to-face learning is superior, and students are now so nostalgic about it. There could be a stable development of new methods, helping better pedagogical approaches. But overall, technology will increase the ratio of instructors to students, alas.