September 23, 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.
University of Illinois
Robin Reames: The short answer is yes, of course. But it's uncertain what exactly that enduring impact will be. Even if the job market fully recovers, there will probably be dramatic changes in what employers are looking for. The conditions of the pandemic are likely to make employers realize how much their success in uncertain circumstances depends on having creative thinkers, skilled communicators, and excellent problem solvers on their team.
Robin Reames: In contrast to what you might guess, English majors fare pretty well in almost every job market, regardless of location. That's because, no matter the job, excellent communication skills and the ability to think critically and flexibly are always in demand. Believe it or not, English majors are fully employed after graduation, at higher rates than business, management, or marketing majors, and by mid-career, English majors earn more than these majors do. (See "In the salary race, engineers sprint but English majors endure" in the New York Times 9/20/2019)
Robin Reames: The fundamental nature of technology is to always be changing, growing, and advancing. So graduates will need to always be adapting. That means enhancing their digital literacies and multi-modal reading and writing skills, but also understanding where new language forms and formats fit within a longer linguistic timeline. The best way to do this is to gain as much versatility as possible in different genres, textual forms, and modes. Being equally at home in a play by Shakespeare and a Reddit thread is a rare and precious skill. Being "adept at adapting" is going to be key.