February 6, 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.
Missouri State University
Florida State University
University of Central Florida
Grand Valley State University
University of South Alabama
Kent State University
Kansas State University
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Coastal Carolina University
Sodexo North America
Missouri State University
Department of Hospitality LeadershipWebsite
Dr. Liza Cobos: In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we'll see in the job market given the pandemic?
Employers are looking for graduates that are able to adapt and be flexible. Because of the reduction in positions and personnel, organizations are asking employees to not only do more, but also to do a variety of things that may not be their areas of strength. Having that flexibility will allow graduates to learn different responsibilities but also provide them opportunities for professional growth.
Employers are also looking for ways to improve the customer experience and fix problems. Therefore, employers are going to be looking for people that can find creative ways to improve the business, the customer experience and the service delivery.
Dr. Liza Cobos: Employers are looking for transferable skills, skills like critical thinking and technical skills (i.e. excel) are in demand. Having the technical skills to analyze data and critical thinking skills to generate and provide solutions. The industry is always looking for ways to improve sales and pricing strategies to help the bottom line. Being able to demonstrate these skills will with career advancement.
Dr. Liza Cobos: An opportunity that allows the student to learn, grow and further develop their skills. Sometimes students tend to shy away from more challenging positions, but those are the jobs that provide the best opportunities for growth and development. Good opportunities would be a manager in training program and front-line manager positions. These opportunities allow them to apply the skills learned in the classroom but also learn and develop additional managerial skills that are best learned in the real world.
Florida State University
Dedman College of HospitalityWebsite
Robert Brymer Ph.D.: There are four job market trends I would recognize during this pandemic.
-Target hospitality establishments that are more successful during the pandemic. For example, beachside resorts; golf resorts; mountain resorts; campgrounds; natural parks; and other sites provide guests a 'getaway' to nature and away from the crowds, where they feel 'safer'.
-Seek out internships with market leaders, even if they are nonpaid. On-the-job face time will provide you an opportunity to 'prove yourself', reduce gap times in your resume, and increase your chances of employment when the job market does strengthen again. In short - build your network.
-Be creative in your search, and reach beyond traditional hospitality related boundaries. Hospitality skills are valuable in these sectors: healthcare providers and hospitals as they consider the 'Patient Experience'; highly rated continuous care retirement communities (CCRC's); upscale supermarket/grocery stores; banking/financial investments; real estate companies; and many other service industries.
-Be patient, persistent, and professional in finding a job. Jobs are more scarce, keep a positive attitude, and don't give up easily - but always be professional. In other words, if you don't hear back from someone after a few days, try again. Try at least three times to reach someone. Don't get angry, be polite but persistent, Reach-out to managers you have worked with before and ask for their help in making contacts. Leaders appreciate people who work hard to reach them, it demonstrates interest and tenacity. When you give up after one attempt to contact someone, oftentimes leaders view this as 'not that interested" as they want applicants who show a strong interest.
Robert Brymer Ph.D.: Strong work ethic; good listening skills; sincerity; a team player; professional appearance; a great smile; cares about others; and very likeable/approachable personality.
Robert Brymer Ph.D.: Many organizations have maintained or enhanced service, with fewer staff, to survive during the pandemic. Therefore, recent graduates (who are the least senior team members), may be expected to do more than before. This could result in longer hours, flexibility to work different hours and in different departments. Bottom line, high energy, professionalism, and flexibility will prove valuable for success.
College of Business and ManagementWebsite
Amanda Main Ph.D.: I believe there will be an enduring impact of the pandemic on graduates, and I believe it will be composed of both disadvantages and advantages. Obviously, we have seen a decline in employment across almost all sectors, which has reduced opportunities for post-graduation employment. The safety restrictions are also making it difficult for many students to find internships while in the final years of study, and that is a real disadvantage because it is depriving them of invaluable real-world experience that will help them succeed in the workplace, and that employers are looking for.
Unfortunately, the pandemic is also going to have deleterious effects for many female graduates, as job sectors that have heavy female representation such as hospitality, retail, and education have been disproportionately impacted, and we may see the wage gap returning to be more of an issue than we have seen in recent years. On the other hand, graduates will be entering the job market with coping skills that are going to be incredibly valuable in the coming times.
Students have had to adapt, integrate new technologies, and learn new ways of doing things in response to this event, and college graduates have the advantage of being trained in this, as colleges and universities have been very intentional about not throwing their students into the deep end of the pool without support and guidance. This should make them an asset to the workforce as industries begin to rebuild and continue to look forward with an innovative mindset.
Amanda Main Ph.D.: With roughly 2 million bachelor's degrees awarded in the United States every year, it is critical for students to be proactive in differentiating themselves in the market. In addition to internships and hands-on experience, the best way they can do this is through increasing their knowledge beyond their major in a way that is credentialed. I always advise my students that the most important areas that they can study in addition to their major are psychology and creativity. These are two things that cannot be replicated by computers and will be valuable and transferrable across all points of their career.
When you think about an organization it is essentially a group of people: supervisors, co-workers, subordinates, and customers. A company can train you to complete the tasks it needs if you can bring to the table a deep understanding of what motivates people and how to work with them. Creativity is the secret to success in the marketplace, and companies are looking for innovative employees to propel their success. I think project management certification such as the Professional in Project Management (PMP) provides valuable skills that set employees apart from others. Other certifications benefit companies from having to outsource their needs, such as arbitration certificates.
Knowing what special qualifications are generally held in positions that you desire can help you to be proactive and obtain those competencies before they become necessary, such as ServSafe for anything related to dining establishments. Finally, I think taking a course in conflict resolution and negotiation will pay off for students by increasing job prospects, equipping them with the skills they need to negotiate the best possible offer for themselves, and preparing them to handle future conflicts effectively.
Amanda Main Ph.D.: This is a great question because there has actually been an increasing call for colleges and universities to enhance their curriculums because organizations are finding recent graduates lacking in soft skills that are necessary for success. In addition to the skills I mentioned above, The National Association for Colleges and Employers released a list of critical competencies to ensure career readiness, which includes skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, oral and written communication, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, professionalism and work ethic, career management, and global/intercultural fluency.
This should be a bare minimum that graduates are striving for. I would also suggest having a strong focus on increasing emotional intelligence (EQ), which will really help at several career stages including promoting oneself in a job search, negotiating employment offers, advancing and maturing through the arc of one's career, and even exiting from the workforce at retirement.
There are a lot of ways to obtain these skills, and it is important to really give them attention and practice when opportunities arise in the classroom, such as writing papers and giving presentations, to learning from podcasts and reading books and attending open webinars by experts and influencers. These skills are very attainable, but I have found that few graduates take the opportunities to develop them, but by putting forth that extra effort, a graduate can really stand out.
University of Central Florida
Rosen College of Hospitality ManagementWebsite
Jessica Wickey-Byrd: In regards to the job market in the hospitality and tourism industry, the biggest trend we are seeing is the ability to pivot into other industries while ours is rebuilding. Hospitality students have excellent transferable skills that translate across multiple industries. They have guest service skills, marketing skills, financial skills, and human resource skills that are applicable in retail, real estate, financial services, healthcare, senior living, marketing and more. Hospitality students are trained with servant leadership, and have the soft skills to be leaders across all careers.
Jessica Wickey-Byrd: This is a great question. To bounce off my previous answer, the same courses that prepare students with skills in guest service, Human Resources, revenue management, and marketing will have the biggest impact in their future. The specialized courses in event, entertainment, hospitality, and restaurant management will also provide the students with foundations in each of these disciplines.
Certifications are an excellent addition to your professional portfolio. The CMP or Certified Meeting Professional is a great addition for event leaders. The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute have numerous certifications that will enhance your resume.
Jessica Wickey-Byrd: A good job out of college is one that you enjoy going to every day. Choose a company that you share their mission and vision. Choose a company that has the same ethics as you. If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.
Grand Valley State University
Department of Hospitality and Tourism ManagementWebsite
Amanda Stansbie: Absolutely, how could there not be? The pandemic has and will affect everyone, and this will definitely affect how employers approach employees and, similarly, how employees approach employers. Both will be looking for something different-the need for flexibility in the work place, options for working remotely, and the ability to quickly adapt when necessary, to the most appropriate environment; the one that is conducive to optimal productivity, regardless of external conditions.
The Department of Labor Statistics indicates around 498,000 job losses in Leisure and Hospitality for December 2020, and this will obviously impact not only the availability of jobs for new graduates, but the recovery of the [Hospitality] industry in general. It may take graduates a little longer to secure their desired position. Students entering the job market after graduation, may have to be more flexible with their search and more open to jobs that offer the opportunity to acquire transferrable skills; skills they can take with them once the world rebounds.
Amanda Stansbie: -Flexibility, preparedness and a willingness to adapt to change.
-Open mindedness, the ability to be innovative and creative.
-Graduates will need to be able to work with technology-more than ever this will be a necessary component of the job.
-The understanding of various meeting platforms and how they are utilized within the workplace, will be a vital attribute to any graduate's application.
Amanda Stansbie: -Career progression and development within said career.
-A purpose to the resume-the appropriate steps have seemingly been followed to reach the individual's 'dream goals.'
-Loyalty and commitment to a desired career path.
-Hard work and [relatively] consistent employment.
-Your areas of interest and what you do in your own time; volunteer work, hobbies etc., indicators of the type of person you are and how you might 'fit in' with the organization you are applying to work for. Many organizations are becoming more 'invested' in corporate social responsibility, thus working with your local community through volunteerism shows high character traits, selflessness and humility.
University of South Alabama
Department of Hospitality and Tourism ManagementWebsite
Evelyn Green Ph.D.: Given the pandemic, the transition to virtual communication, from remote learning to virtual job interviews and the creation of new remote jobs or positions that never existed before, are some of the biggest trends that are likely to become a mainstay of our job market. I will use the analogy of the introduction of microwave cooking: once launched, it became a mainstay of our day-to-day lives. It never truly replaced oven or stove-top cooking, but it carved a place of importance, value, and relevance in our daily need for quick and instantaneous gratification. With the creation and rise of remote job opportunities, the job market is now truly global. Remote job opportunities allow for mobility. One can work anywhere, anytime. This broadens the job market, while simultaneously increasing its competitiveness. There's a trending demand for technical skills which may increase demand for career and technical programs offered by community colleges. Technology and practical skills, such as software programming and culinary arts, are great skills to acquire if your passion resides in these areas.
Evelyn Green Ph.D.: -Brush up on your virtual communication skills, which include getting comfortable speaking to a camera with good eye contact, and observing and editing your body language for a virtual job interview or meeting.
-Learn a foreign language. Pick up a language based on your industry's external (i.e. guests) and internal customers (i.e. staff). For example, if Chinese outbound tourism is on the rise, and the Chinese are your local Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) primary target market, Chinese would be a great foreign language for you to pick up. If a large percentage of your frontline staff are Hispanic, learning Spanish will help you better communicate and build relationships with them.
-Pursue a graduate degree. Go for your master's, e.g. MBA for hospitality majors to broaden their job market. Although this recommendation seems to contradict the trending demand for technical skills, we still live in a world where academic credentials are valued and contribute to management position considerations, particularly with publicly traded corporations where it is important for them to win the confidence of their stockholders. Additionally, for those interested in working overseas, an advanced degree will help in the work permit application approval process. With the availability of online master's degree programs, offered at an affordable rate ( around $13k) and to be completed within 10 months on a full-time basis, this is a good time to get your competencies "tool bag" equipped and ready when needed. Stackable certifications are also good investments toward your professional development.
Evelyn Green Ph.D.: -Be realistic - The pandemic has made this a tough job market, particularly within the hospitality industry. The likelihood of finding your "dream job" is slim, so take what is available. Once you get your foot in the door, network, network, network. People cannot help you if you, or they, do not know what you want and are capable of.
Let management and those working in the area of your career choice know that you are interested and available should an opportunity arise. In the meantime, demonstrate you are worthy of their support and consideration by doing your best in your current job.
-Be grateful - As a newly minted graduate, know that you are still in the "learning" phase. Your employer is paying you to learn your job and to get good at it. So rather than complain about the pay, know that someone is paying you to learn.
-Be confident - Know what you bring to the table and bring it every day to work!
-Be ready - When opportunity knocks, you must be ready to seize it. Agility, adaptability, and flexibility are key to getting hired.
-Be YOU - You must know YOU. You will receive lots of well-intentioned advice, but, at the end of the day, your gut will tell you the "truth." That's why it is important for you to take the time to perform self-assessments and reflect on who you are, what your passions are, and what it is that you want. A job may look great to others and may be great for others, but if it is not a good fit for you, you will end up wasting your time and the employer's time. With that said, also bear in mind the first two tips I mentioned. This is not the time to be picky. However, be smart with your choices and make sure that what you end up with adds value and brings you closer to accomplishing your ultimate goal.
-Be a learner - Great leaders are great learners (Kouzes and Posner, 2010). No job is too low for you at this stage of your career. Learn all the frontline jobs, if those are the only jobs available at this time. Down the road, your frontline experience will make you an empathetic manager and one that your employees would respect because you have "been there and done that."
Kent State University
Hospitality Management DepartmentWebsite
Mandy Ulicney: Private clubs are booming! Last year, some clubs posted the best year that they have had in decades. This is due to a few factors: people feeling comfortable at their club, knowing that they were taking the proper precautions, having a lot of outdoor activities to offer, and having a lot of space to spread out for dining and small events. Many clubs are now looking for great talent as they have a need for more managers than ever!
Mandy Ulicney: In the hospitality industry people look for the intangibles. Everyone works, so that's great, but what else do they do? Do they volunteer? Do they coach a sport? Are they part of a community committee? Those types of things show the employer that they are service-minded, which goes a long way in our industry. Also, being bi-lingual is a big asset to many hospitality employers.
Mandy Ulicney: Areas where they have tourism that involves outdoor spaces have been very popular. In Ohio, Geneva on the Lake and Ashtabula are known as Ohio's Wine Country. There are dozens of wineries, bed and breakfasts, independent restaurants, and, of course, Lake Erie. This summer the hospitality operators couldn't find even close to enough staff members to fill the incredible demand from tourists. This is a local example, but parks, private clubs, and fast-casual restaurants also experienced tremendous growth this past year. Any location that has these offerings will have jobs.
Kansas State University
Department of Hospitality Management
Yue Teng-Vaughan Ph.D., CHIA: I think the biggest trend in the job market given the pandemic is remote work. Job seekers are more focused on whether potential jobs can telework.
Yue Teng-Vaughan Ph.D., CHIA: I think it will be the kiosk self-service check-in/check-out or robotic housekeeping technology.
Yue Teng-Vaughan Ph.D., CHIA: I believe it will be an increase in demand in this field in the next 5 years. As the hospitality industry gradually recovers, businesses will get back to normal, and people will want to travel and eat out. To support consumers' needs, businesses in this field will hire again.
Fairleigh Dickinson University
International School of Hospitality, Sports and Tourism Management
Dr. John C. Niser: There will be a tremendous turnaround in the restaurant sector. Properties running out of liquidity will be sold and give some entrepreneurs terrific opportunities next year. The timing will be crucial.
If the vaccine proves to have the desired effects, the industry could be in for a great summer, and job opportunities will open at all levels.
Dr. John C. Niser: The most important thing in these times is for students to realize that anything they do will be a testimony to their creativity, resilience, and grit. All these are highly desirable skills, once the business gets started again. Understanding the transferable skills and applying them to fields where there is employment is critical. This means being flexible geographically, as well as in terms of the economic sector. The one thing I would not recommend is doing nothing and/or just taking very low skill jobs. This is also a great time to complete graduate studies, as many reputable institutions are now offering online options.
Dr. John C. Niser: The wrong approach is to look for a job for the sake of employment alone. The right approach starts by understanding who you are, what you are passionate about, and what you are good at doing. Think of it as choosing a business partnership in which you have to be sure you can bring something valuable to the enterprise and, in exchange, get something that is rewarding for you. It is also OK to try things out, especially using internships, but always put your heart into the job, even if it turns out not to be your favorite long term option. Lastly, cultivate your network, make sure you give a lot, and take as little as possible from it until you really need it.
Coastal Carolina University
Clay Brittain Jr. Center for Resort Tourism E.Craig Wall Sr. College of Business AdministrationWebsite
L. Taylor Damonte: Many hospitality businesses that are still open during the pandemic are struggling to stay financially viable with reduced capacity, and struggling to operate with reduced staff. Others such as low-rise vacation rentals and timeshares that, for design reasons and/or due to the uniqueness of their business model, are able to serve the leisure market, or the growing 'bleisure' market, are struggling to find enough workers.
L. Taylor Damonte: From the perspective of service technology, properties that are able through location, property design, and operational strategies to cater to the growing blended work/leisure lifestyle will rebound before large scale convention properties, full-service restaurants, and attractions.
L. Taylor Damonte: Short-haul destination areas will rebound from the pandemic before long-haul destinations that require air travel. By definition, resort destinations are generally more remote areas away from major MSAs. Because of this, their demand for labor during peak and even shoulder seasons can outstrip local supply. Consequently, line-level workers and even supervisors with high mobility can benefit by moving to work peak seasons in multiple markets each year. The challenges to this for the workers are higher lodging and/or transportation cost. The farther their daily commute is from what for them is a short-term home, the higher their transportation costs. Businesses that are able to reduce the combined cost of living for these workers will benefit.
Sodexo North AmericaWebsite
Michelle Robinson: In order to succeed in the workforce in the coming years, young graduates will need a combination of skills. They will need to be service-oriented and possess a willingness to do what it takes in order to meet customer expectations attitude. Cultural intelligence/awareness to be able to relate to customers from different cultures will be critical, as will the ability to communicate clearly.
Michelle Robinson: Graduates should consider looking at nontraditional roles outside of just restaurants and hotels. For example, Sodexo's Senior Living segment manages very upscale retirement communities that rival many five star resorts with their dining selections and amenities.
Michelle Robinson: Technology will continue to have a major impact in the hospitality field within the next five years. Current trends that were unimaginable a few years ago, such as table kiosks, online ordering, and even using chatbots, will be just the tip of the iceberg. In order to keep up with consumer demands, the industry must continue to adapt and flex to new and changing technologies.
Center for Experience Management in Tourism & HospitalityWebsite
Jeff Lolli: According to a finding by Tourism Economics (a report prepared for the U.S. Travel Association and cited in Travel Agent Central), the Tourism and Hospitality Industry experienced one of the largest loss of jobs of any sector/industry in the U.S. Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, more than one-third of all U.S. job losses were in this Industry. The Industry came off a very robust year in 2019, and it accounted for 11 % of total employment. There were approximately 16.9 million jobs lost early in the Pandemic, and even with the jobs that have returned, approximately one-fourth of tourism and hospitality workers are still unemployed. While many businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, etc. will end up permanently closing, some of these jobs may never return. The Industry may not fully return well into 2023 (Turner, 2020).
Given this, many tourism and hospitality employees are seeking jobs and careers in other industries. These diverse employees bring a valuable skill-set, such as being able to work under pressure, resiliency, tenacity, flexibility, the ability to react quickly, critical thinking skills, teamwork, and outstanding customer service skills. Many fields are realizing the importance of service skills and are focusing on this important area, whether it be healthcare, financial services, retail, or technology, to name a few. Tourism and hospitality employees at all levels from line-level to senior management are attractive to other industries as these employees possess many of the skills they are seeking. One area that is growing that crosses over with hospitality is senior and long-term care facilities. These businesses still need to operate, and many have attributes that are similar to a hotel, just focusing on a different demographic.
Many employees are also considering enhancing their skills by attending certificate programs, finishing an undergraduate degree, or getting a graduate degree to enhance their skills during this difficult time with the hope that by the time they have completed this additional education, the job market will have improved and this will give them a competitive edge.
Jeff Lolli: Big data and data analytics are becoming commonplace in all businesses. The ability to analyze and understand data, to make meaningful and strategic decisions, are becoming very important. Additionally, the understanding and use of AI to improve business processes are also becoming prevalent. The use of data mining software, customer relations management (CRM) software, and many other types of systems that capture and analyze data increasingly become commonplace in many industries. Finally, the ability to effectively use social media, websites, google analytics, etc. for dating mining and relationship marketing and branding are equally important.
Jeff Lolli: There will certainly be an enduring impact, especially on hospitality and tourism graduates. Those graduating in 2021 and even 2022 will need to be very flexible in terms of geography and sector. This is important since different parts of the country, and even internationally, will recover quicker than others. Additionally, for example, hotels in urban areas and larger cities will recover much slower than suburban and rural areas. This is due in part because urban and city hotels rely on meetings, events, groups, and conferences, and more of the business traveler; all of which are not projected to fully recover until late 2022 into 2023, whereas suburban hotels rely more on the leisure traveler and as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, more individuals and families want to travel after being quarantined.
Education will become very important, and those that graduate from Tourism and Hospitality Management/Administration Programs will continue to have a competitive edge, especially when graduating from accredited programs such as those that are ACPHA (Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration) accredited. While flexibility, flexibility, flexibility will be the name of the game over the next two years, those with a bachelor's degree will have a competitive edge over others, and it will have a long-term benefit in salary and career opportunities. This Industry, which is so important to the world economy, will come back stronger than ever, and while it will take a little longer than previous economic downturns when it does, the Industry will need many qualified graduates!