November 25, 2020
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.
Department of World Languages and CulturesWebsite
Dr. Jonathan Clark: While it may depend on which workforce we are referring to here, I would like to think that graduates entering the workforce will generally need what an excellent liberal arts education will provide: communication skills and the ability to express their thoughts coherently; the knowledge to write cohesive and connected sentences; critical thinking skills (i.e., ability to make a meaningful decision and discern right from wrong); understanding of and empathy with diversity and cultural difference, not only to work effectively with an increasingly diverse workforce but also to question one's privilege and establish meaningful relationships to advance a common cause within the workplace (this could well begin and be developed through second or third language proficiency); facility with computer programs to be able to access information and share it; creative thinking because in this age you will probably be working in a variety of jobs.
Workplaces are looking for people who can write coherently and effectively. They like people who are responsible, flexible, and good at managing their time.
Dr. Jonathan Clark: The study of German language and cultures, and languages in general, could apply to just about any field, whether to access information written in German (which is extensive) or to tell prospective employers that you understand cultural difference, make informed comparisons, are open to new ideas, and are up to the task of learning the tools of the trade and other languages, which may benefit the company in question. If you can learn German, you can learn just about any different language and any business. (We just heard a presentation by a representative of Goldman-Sachs, who essentially said that the company can teach you just about anything related to its operations, but that languages are something that is highly prized because it cannot be conducted there, but is needed for many of the reasons mentioned above.)
If the question, however, refers to where German specifically can be used in the workforce, then I would suggest the following:
Tech businesses doing business abroad;
Many academic fields (e.g., philosophy, religion, history, environmental sciences, art history, classics) which still require research and presentations in German (though many conferences are in English as well);
There still are many secondary school jobs in the field and even teaching in German-speaking countries
Museum studies and art-related fields.
Of course, I hope that German study makes you a more well-rounded and insightful employee who understands working well with others in a diverse setting.
If going into business or politics, students will have luck with bigger cities (e.g., Minneapolis, Seattle) where international companies and organizations are located. Of course, with remote work, those options will expand. German teachers are found everywhere, from rural areas to big cities.
Dr. Jonathan Clark: If we are referring to the usefulness of German within technological fields, Germany is one of the leaders in computer and environmental technology and software development, automotive technology, engineering, and science. If, however, we are referring specifically to the teaching of language, then there are numerous ways that impact this field:
Use of programs such as Kahoot and Flip Grid for classroom presentations and learning;
PowerPoint or GoogleDocs as tools for student presentations;
Use of Zoom or other formats for on-line teaching, esp. during the COVID crisis.
Of course, this is also changing our considerations on the best way to teach and our options of presenting material;
The greater reliance on Moodle and other classroom organizers;
Use of distance technology for gatherings, such as German Club meetings, participation in virtual events in the community (my class just developed high-quality videos for an international event), and film evenings.
Technology will increase contact with German-speaking cultures, and thus, people familiar with the cultures are needed. Though I think translation programs can be useful, they still make a lot of mistakes that only people who studied languages can pick up on. Plus, linguists are needed to create those programs.
Austin Community College
Department of Foreign LanguageWebsite
Vanessa Lazo: Now more than ever, students will need adaptability, critical thinking skills, flexibility, and problem-solving skills. These skills are put into play as students learn a foreign language, regardless of the level in which they seek proficiency in any of our language courses. Beyond our department, these skills are also examined throughout the LIberal Arts curriculum. Skills that can be unique to studying a foreign language would encompass forming a worldview while comparing, contrasting, and, more importantly, connecting with cultures from around our globe.
Vanessa Lazo: The beauty of studying any one of our foreign languages is that each language can be a field of study of its own if the depth of understanding is sought from a historical, linguistic, or literature perspective. The study of foreign languages also merges with any other field of study to build bridges of understanding between several areas. Furthermore, students of foreign languages can better communicate with any given audience, be these clients, patients, students, or any other citizen of the community, and beyond, for whom they provide service.
Vanessa Lazo: Technology has always been a tool upon which we have relied. The "old-fashioned" chalkboard and chalk are early forms of technology. These became wipe-boards and markers, and now merely a whiteboard with graphics in Zoom, Collaborate, or Google Meet. This goes back to my commentary on adaptability and flexibility. We need to stay abreast of the newer tools to improve upon our skills, while at the same time, we are ensuring that our students are also comfortably navigating virtual learning with dexterity. This will only add to our students' skillset and make them more marketable. There are so many more advantages to virtual learning via video conferencing tools. All of our students now have a front row and can easily be taught one-on-one. The chat in video conferences allows any student to ask a question easily or make a comment.
In contrast, they may not have done so readily in the traditional brick and mortar classroom. Breakout rooms with manual assignment and randomization save time and afford more practice. We can record and post our sessions for all students to have access to their work or review the lesson they attended. Our students may be more familiar with some of the apps and platforms, and so, we can also enter a dual role of teacher and student with a synergistic effect of collaboration. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Technology will continue to evolve, and as lifelong learners, we will too.