January 25, 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.
Jenny Davidson: Hiring will still be happening, but there will be many overqualified people applying for entry-level positions. In order to stand out, recent graduates will need to pay attention to a lot of different aspects of their self-presentation and stay on top of what is a logistically challenging and often demoralizing process.
- Jobs in commmunications, marketing, content production are often a good fit for humanities grads, but try and find an alum five years out who works in that field to get a keener sense of the specifics of what a future employer wants to see
- Grantwriting is another great thing to get some experience with by interning while you're still a student: these positions are sometimes a better fit for humanities grads with service-oriented and social justice values
- Paralegal and other paraprofessional white-collar work can be a good step to paying off debt and thinking seriously about whether you want to do a law degree or other professional graduate degree
- Take advantage of free course opportunities on Coursera and similar - if you're applying for a social media manager position, you need to be able to talk the language of analytics and page views (having a great Instagram with lots of followers is a plus too, but be aware that there are professional and technical terms you'll be expected to be comfortable with right off the bat)
- Brush up your basic office tools: the Office suite (Microsoft and Google), Teams/Zoom advanced functionalities. Podcast production experience, Wordpress and similar - your resume can mention these with specific examples of projects you've worked on where appropriate.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and have your resume and cover letter ready to go immediately - when jobs are advertised electronically, being quick off the mark is key
- Location looks different in this year of remote work, and opens up the possibility that more work will remain remote going forward. The best possible situation for a humanities grad is to leverage the differential between big-city pay scales and lower cost of living in smaller cities or exurbs - going somewhere where the cost of living is low will help the numbers work out on paying the bills
Dr. Melissa McEuen Ph.D.: While I'm not an expert on predicting job market trends, the pandemic has led many of us to rely on virtual or remote workplaces more than ever. And I don't foresee a complete reversal of this trend. Companies and organizations that have invested in technologies and access this year - instead of, say, sustaining expensive office spaces - will look for worker flexibility on this front. Of course, I'm referring to fields where remote work is possible, and not, for example, frontline health care.
Dr. Melissa McEuen Ph.D.: Evidence of excellent communication skills, especially in writing. If a resume is unclear, sloppy, or error-ridden, the person has not and likely will not pay attention to details while on any job.
Evidence of a candidate's flexibility and adaptability. Sometimes this comes through in the kinds of employment or jobs that an individual has already had, which can be found on their resume. As well, volunteer work or other service that a person includes on the document could be keys to understanding how they might work with a team or whether they have experience doing so. How they spend such "leisure" or "extra" time can provide important clues to a prospective employer.
Dr. Melissa McEuen Ph.D.: The majority of Transylvania University's graduates with history degrees go into one of two fields - law or education. As we've witnessed this year, the United States needs and relies on dedicated and well-prepared experts in both fields. History students know how to conduct research, to judge information sources, to distinguish fact from fiction (or "alternative facts"), to organize and collate data, and to argue persuasively.
Education is a wide-open field - besides public and private schools, which will continue to need teachers to fill their ranks, there are non-profit organizations, community centers, historic sites, tourism bureaus, museums, parks, libraries, and numerous companies that have educational programming and outreach initiatives. Excellent communication skills are essential in all of these sectors.
Guy D. Hepp: Again, I think a student needs to think about what they want to do within the broad field of anthropology. Take a variety of courses and see if you can settle on the subdiscipline or topic that interests you most. Are you passionate about museums and curation? Do you want to work with a company that helps to preserve cultural heritage as development continues? Do you want to work to help make government policies more culturally inclusive, both in the United States and abroad? Anthropology might be perfect for you. I would suggest that students interested in archaeology take a field school, and then, begin working in cultural resources management (CRM) to see how they enjoy it. If museums are what interest you, consider not only courses in museum studies (offered in some anthropology departments or in programs otherwise affiliated with anthropology) but also pursue internships and volunteer opportunities. There are jobs out there. It might help you to get started if you volunteer for the type of career you want.
Guy D. Hepp: There are hundreds of companies, universities, and government agencies for whom anthropology graduates can work. Anthropology is a very diverse discipline and includes (depending on where one is trained) cultural, biological, archaeological, and linguistic anthropology. Your choice of where to work will depend largely on which of these subdisciplines you choose as your focus. Archaeologists, for example, might work for state or local government, cultural and environmental resources management firms, Native American tribes, museums, or universities. Cultural anthropologists might be employed in fields as varied as marketing to human resources to non-profits, as well as in academia. Biological anthropologists might be employed in the field of forensics, among other fields. As the study of humanity across time and space, anthropology is literally one of the most diverse disciplines you could pursue and, therefore, leaves you open to really diverse possibilities when you graduate.
Guy D. Hepp: It's hard to say for sure, but anthropology relates to and promotes a lot of useful skills. While traditional academic employment might become less common in the future, the management of cultural resources and the employment of the writing, critical thinking, and cultural sensitivity training that are part of an anthropology degree are likely to never go out of style.
Dr. Joshua Rodefer Ph.D.: I think it's safe to say a strong foundation in the basics is critically essential. Of course, a broad background in neuroscience coursework is necessary. However, quantitative skills should be near the top of anyone's list, but what that means has been changing. Traditionally it's been essential to have graduates who are comfortable with understanding, using, and interpreting statistical information.
But more recently, exposure to coursework in data science, data analytics, computer programming has become special skills. Critical in this endeavor is developing healthy skepticism regarding all data, what it means, and what it doesn't mean. Sometimes individuals talk about this as critical thinking or scientific literacy, which are essential for all graduates to be better-informed citizens.
It is also vital that individuals work to become good communicators (broadly defined). Although it is rarely discussed and focused upon in mass media portrayals of scientists, writing is essential as each scientist's career depends upon their ability to communicate research results, convince employers that your work is necessary, and persuade government and funding agencies that they should sponsor your research activities.
Dr. Joshua Rodefer Ph.D.: Major metropolitan areas are more likely to have greater concentrations of business, industry, and primary research institutions that might be looking to use graduates with these skill sets - but other areas and regions will also have demonstrated need for individuals with these skills. However, the coronavirus pandemic has seriously curtailed many hiring initiatives during 2020. Given the uncertain budgetary climate, it probably will continue to be a challenging employment climate in the coming months.
I think that it is essential that recent and soon-to-be graduates consider non-traditional sources of careers. Instead of solely focusing on graduate school education and obtaining a university faculty position after your Ph.D., individuals interested in neuroscience would be well-served to consider other career paths. Over the recent past, this typically meant positions in industry, biotech, or big pharma. However, even those areas have now seen an abundance of quality applicants.
It has been evident that individuals need to explore science-related, non-research careers. Places where individuals typically do not look for positions - non-profits, social policy organizations, government positions, business management and consulting, science writing/communication, K-12 education, even law firms often need researchers and data analysts. Thus the importance of developing an extensive and flexible skillset.
Dr. Joshua Rodefer Ph.D.: Computational skills and experiences likely will be essential. Robotic automation transformed the manufacturing industry, and I would expect a growing reliance on computer programming, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) in neuroscience. Modern science generates data in orders of magnitude greater than what was typical in past decades. These experiences and skills will facilitate complex data analysis and decision-making in fields related to neuroscience.