February 7, 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 Rhode Island
College of Business: Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and DesignWebsite
Elaine Grullón: One of the biggest trends, in my opinion, we will see in the job market is the need to be adaptable and flexible. It is important to be able to solve and think on your feet, while at the same decipher through the cluster of noise to distinguish the difference between good and great marketing. The pandemic has forced marketing to evolve at a higher rate of speed due to need but now it will become a requirement where theory and concept needs to meet up with practice and logic.
Elaine Grullón: Some technical skills that stand out to employers is the ability to combine the manual with the technology, in other words combining the old and new media. The rise of new media has caused a need to understand social media but not just the practical but the functional side which includes data analysis. You have to be able to answer questions related to why this trend or if not favorable how we can make improvements. It is all about adaptability and responding to a change in need or even want. Also having knowledge on using computer aided programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or even InDesign, it is important to be able to perform technical writing. Marketing is all about catching the consumers attention in that first moment. Without an understanding of design, and the principles and elements that go alongside the purpose of great marketing will be defeated.
Elaine Grullón: You can never go wrong with any entry-level position. Being a Marketing Assistant is a good start because it allows you to learn the ins and outs while putting it all into practice. Being an assistant you are provided an opportunity to dab into different tasks which offer a wealth of knowledge and exposure from compiling reports, conducting research, help plan events, and works with clients and vendors. Being a Marketing Assistant also provides the opportunity to work with others that have been in the industry for a long time, that serves as guides and inspiration.
Georgia Southern University
School of Human Ecology
Hope Wallace Simpara: Right now some of the best companies to work for are companies that are still showing steady sales and some growth. We have heard from industry professionals that apparel and beauty companies with a strong online presence and companies that specialize in soft goods are seeing growth. The loungewear and athleisure (indoor fashion) based companies have seen less of a decline in sales. Some of these companies are Walmart, the Williams-Sonoma brands, Target, Venus, Zara, Levis, H&M, American Eagle, Walmart, discount stores like Ross, TJX brands. Bath and Body Works was slammed with unprecedented demand for some of its products, including hand sanitizer and hand soap, and has since been able to minimize projected store closings.
Hope Wallace Simpara: I think that there will be an increase in demand in this field. Projects will still need to be developed, but the type of product will aim to satisfy a different customer need. Walmart had reported an increase in the sales of women's blouses and tops online during the first two months of the pandemic because of the shift to "work at home" culture. Amazon also reported an increase in "indoor fashion" category sales even though apparel sales overall had dropped. Companies that offer soft goods such as Wayfair and Williams-Sonoma have reported an uptick in furniture and soft-good sales since the pandemic started.
Hope Wallace Simpara: Strangely a lot of the job postings that I have seen lately are international postings. The best places to look for employment in fashion and related industries are Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, the Midwest, Seattle and Portland, Texas, Miami and Atlanta.
Kansas State University
Department of Interior Design and Fashion StudiesWebsite
Barbara Anderson: Design students graduating after experiencing the pandemic as a student will have a greater awareness of the health impacts of design because they will have a greater sensibility to the design challenges presented by airborne diseases. I believe they are also learning about working remotely and taking the initiative for their success, even though they do not have the usual social prompts to influence their behavior.
Barbara Anderson: Our graduates gain employment across the United States with ease. I believe some use-type sectors will see a slight decline in demand, including hospitality and retail design. However, there will be plenty of professional opportunities to reimagine the post-pandemic use of existing facilities.
Barbara Anderson: The integration of technology in buildings and the use of technology to design and communication design to clients and users will continue to accelerate in the next five years. I expect technology integrated into buildings to focus on communications, health and well-being, and Net Zero and water efficiency with the goal of resilience/sustainability.
North Dakota State University
Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Interior Design & Hospitality ManagementWebsite
Linda Manikowske Ph.D.: There is no way to know what kind of long-term impact the pandemic is going to have on the global fashion industry. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a move to more online shopping. This has necessarily increased during the pandemic, and is creating more jobs in e-commerce for graduates.
Today's graduates have the technology skills that employers are looking for, to enhance their online presence, to meet consumer demand. Consumers have also become more mindful of the environment in which we live, and are supporting companies that have a focus on sustainable practices. Graduates are looking to work for companies that have a mission to do good for the world.
Linda Manikowske Ph.D.: Graduates with a degree in Apparel, Retail Merchandising, and Design find work in all locations. Some find jobs in major cities working for large retail corporations, while others start their own business in a small community or rural area. There are many opportunities in this diverse industry.
Linda Manikowske Ph.D.: Technology has moved the apparel industry forward, at a fast pace, in recent years - from computer-aided design to retail analytics. Social media platforms are providing consumer data that retail companies can use to predict trends and be more efficient in getting the right product to consumers more efficiently.
Artificial intelligence is able to more accurately predict shopper behavior, while virtual reality technology allows shoppers to try a garment on an avatar before purchasing. A key to a firm's survival will be the ability to adapt to this new landscape. In the future, fashion and technology will continue to intersect to the betterment of both industries.