January 31, 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.
Gender and Diversity Studies ProgramWebsite
Mich Nyawalo: The pandemic has certainly revealed the precarity of many service sector jobs, such as those working in the restaurant or tourist industries. Furthermore, COVID-19 has also both revealed and exacerbated pre-existing structures of inequity that include the symbiotic relationships among people's access to healthcare, social class disparities, and systemic racism. There is a growing need and urgency for people who are equipped with the training and critical skills to not only understand the complex history from which our current moment of crisis stems but are also able to effectively navigate these realities as people working either in the for-profit or non-profit sectors of the economy. Employers will be looking for employees who can effectively adapt to our new realities by virtue of their ability to historically and culturally understand it, as well as envision sustainable strategies for success based on this knowledge. In a world that is increasingly multicultural and globally interconnected, the skills acquired by our majors make them particularly appealing as employers look for people who can effectively serve a diverse population.
Mich Nyawalo: One of the latest surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and University involving 501 business executives at private sector and non-profit organizations as well as an additional 500 hiring managers reveals that some of the most looked for and exalted skills by employers are individuals who are able to effectively communicate orally, apply critical thinking/analytical reasoning in the workplace, apply ethical judgement and decision making, work effectively in teams composed of diverse people, able to communicate effectively in writing, and can apply knowledge/skills to real-world settings. The report states that "employers overwhelmingly endorse broad learning and cross-cutting skills as the best preparation for long-term career success." According to the report, "executives and hiring managers place a high priority on graduates' demonstrated proficiency in skills and knowledge that cut across majors" www.aacu.org. GDST majors take a plethora of courses tackling diversity from different disciplinary perspectives (the composition of faculty in the GDST/Sociology department is itself interdisciplinary). Furthermore, the skills honed in these classes (critical thinking, oral communication, research and writing on a variety of topics etc...) are those that are especially valued by employers in the survey.
Mich Nyawalo: Our majors often structure their course of study to fit a wide variety of career paths that interest them (the interdisciplinary flexibility of our major enables them to do so). GDST majors can therefore find careers in human resources, public relations, nonprofit organizations, and law (among many other options).
Department of Modern Languages and LiteraturesWebsite
Sibelan Forrester: I really don't know what the trends will be, but two of our most recent graduates are now working in an organization that investigates cybercrime. That tells me that the most important thing for college students and new graduates is to develop a wide range of skills (which you can do by pursuing the subjects you find most interesting), but also be flexible and imaginative in how to apply them. There are going to be new kinds of jobs, and growth in jobs that you might not have considered before. I'd also say: it's not going to be easy for new graduates to get jobs, and they should be willing to explore various options. There's no magic trick, you have to look for your own chances.
Sibelan Forrester: In a gap year: concrete experience is always a good thing, of whatever kind. (Everyone notices, if they go to graduate school or professional school, that the graduate/professional students who took some time off are more mature, more focused, more sure about what they want. Even if the things those older students did before they went back to school weren't related to their academic plans-even if they were just working a job so they could feed themselves and have a place to stay.) If you can build experience with the kind of work you want to get eventually, small things can add up.
Sibelan Forrester: General advice I guess would be to keep contact with your mentors. They can often forward information about some new opportunity-maybe they'll get a request or an invitation that they don't have the time to pursue, but they can recommend you.
Texas Woman's University
Multicultural Women's and Gender Studies ProgramWebsite
Agatha Beins Ph.D.: The best workplaces are those that allow someone to practice their beliefs, feel welcomed and accepted, and earn a living wage. Happily, as my comments below indicate, a women's and gender studies (WGS), or ethnic studies degree, prepares people for a long list of potential job opportunities that fit their interests. Many students choose these areas of study because they're interested in social justice and community development, so after graduating, they seek out positions with nonprofit organizations and businesses. But many degree programs have built-in flexibility, through elective coursework or concentrations, that allow students to build a portfolio for a career path that could take them into the corporate, academic, creative, political, or nonprofit spheres.
Agatha Beins Ph.D.: The past several years have made certain inequities and injustices more visible and palpable in our national landscape: Black Lives Matter protests, the circulation of #MeToo stories, the disproportionately harmful impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and poor communities. These issues, while devastating, indicate the need for people who have a sophisticated and critical understanding of the way identity affects our daily lives. Therefore, nonprofit businesses and community organizations will benefit greatly from people with WGS and ethnic studies training. Moreover, corporations are increasing their investment in diversity initiatives , and research shows that in order to be effective, these programs need to address injustice at a systemic level.
Because WGS and ethnic studies graduates are well-trained to analyze power within institutions, they are ideal candidates for positions within such programs, as well as within human resources more generally. It is also important to note the growing creative economy, which encompasses careers in areas like fine arts, media, advertising, and public relations These fields are especially amenable to people with interdisciplinary training in cultural and media literacy, which WGS and ethnic studies provide.
Agatha Beins Ph.D.: Graduates with a WGS degree leave the university with a rich and broad toolkit of transferrable skills. Coursework includes a significant amount of reading, writing, discussion, and research and engages scholarship from different disciplines. This training builds a student's ability to communicate effectively, seek out information, solve problems creatively, view an issue from multiple perspectives, be sensitive to the impact of social and cultural differences, and-importantly-to think critically. Personally, after I completed an MA in women's studies, I worked part-time for the College Board to develop test questions while enrolled in a Ph.D. program, and I think they hired me primarily because of these transferrable skills. At the university, where I currently teach, we encourage students to cast a broad net when looking for work, and our graduates occupy a wide range of professions, including community organizer, artist, university professor, librarian, a state government employee, advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence, county health department, and Child Protective Services. Therefore, one of my messages to WGS students and ethnic studies students is to seek out mentors at their university who can guide them in developing and framing these transferrable skills for the type of work opportunities they're interested in.
University of San Diego
Department of Theology and Religious StudiesWebsite
Evelyn Kirkley Ph.D.: They will need a global, multi-gender, multi-sexual, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic world view. What I mean is they must be able to work with people of different nationalities, gender identities, sexualities, and racial/ethnic identities. These skills can be challenging to develop because these issues are highly politicized in many universities and highly polarized in the United States. However, bringing understanding, compassion, and commitment to equity to the workplace will be essential for young graduates because they are skills that older generations often lack.
Evelyn Kirkley Ph.D.: The world view noted above is critical for all professions and industries across the United States and globally.
Evelyn Kirkley Ph.D.: The ability to work effectively remotely will continue to be critical. I encourage my students to learn how to communicate well in Zoom, that is, to speak persuasively from the shoulders up! Knowing Google docs or other file-sharing programs is imperative. I suspect newer social media platforms like Slack, Twitch, and Discord will become more important in professional settings as well.
University of San Diego
Department of Ethnic StudiesWebsite
Josen Diaz Ph.D.: Graduates need critical thinking and writing skills. But they also need a keen awareness of the social and political landscape of this country, the ways that race, class, gender, and sexuality shape life experiences and outcomes. No matter their profession, these skills will help them solve problems and offer solutions that are based on the principles of equity and social justice.
Josen Diaz Ph.D.: Ethnic Studies prepares students to enter a variety of fields after graduation. Many of our graduates become educators, community organizers and advocates, and social workers. They enter the fields of law, medicine, and academia. The benefit of an Ethnic Studies degree is that students are equipped to enter and make an impact in a variety of fields.
Josen Diaz Ph.D.: As advanced technology continues to shape our everyday lives and how we do our jobs, we also see the intensification of already existing social disparities that are aggravated by technology. For instance, with the move to online education, we see that students' access to that education is shaped by the availability of computers, reliable internet, and places to study, all of which depend on wealth. Within Ethnic Studies, students don't just learn how to use technology; they also learn about the racial and classed consequences of technology as it organizes society.