October 28, 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.
Land O Lakes
University of Idaho
University at Albany, SUNY
Association for Talent Development
East Tennessee State University
Bowling Green State University
University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
Bowling Green State University
Robert Till Ph.D.: When considering key soft skills for an entry-level HR position, good communications skills are of paramount importance. All of our graduates who were contacted highlighted this factor. Another important characteristic mentioned by most graduates is integrity. When working in HR, you are privy to sensitive information, including compensation, evaluations, background information, etc. As such, being trustworthy is critical. Other soft skills highlighted are time management, organization, problem-solving, and attention to detail.
Robert Till Ph.D.: Employers expect that you will be proficient in Microsoft office, plus exposure to other HR-related software is important. Another hard skill that is highlighted frequently is familiarity with the employment law: HR professionals must be aware of EEO laws, ERISA, FMLA, Fair pay, and healthcare regulations. Finally, a few graduates highlighted the importance of basic financial skills, such as budgeting, forecasting, and basic statistics.
Robert Till Ph.D.: When considering what areas of HR offer the greatest compensation, you need to think about supply and demand. Typically, if you have quantitative or computer skills, your value increases. A simple search of HR jobs suggests that Compensation and Benefits is an area that does pay well.
The graduates felt their CIS course and their HR Courses were helpful to their success, but they would have liked exposure to HR software currently being used in the field and greater exposure to forms typically used in HR departments.
Land O Lakes
Philomena Morrissey Satre: Soft skills: The ability to communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders from all levels of the organization, problem-solving skills to resolve employee relations issues. Being resourceful: the ability to have a broad perspective and understand functions of HR, strong administrative and project management skills, ability to build strong relationships, and understanding the business.
Philomena Morrissey Satre: Inquisitive, ability to operate within ambiguity, strong customer service aptitude, strong cultural competency skills, agility, and adaptability to change.
Philomena Morrissey Satre: Ability to learn and work with HR Systems like payrolls systems: HRIS and Learning and Development Platforms. Can work effectively with data, understanding and applying knowledge, juggling multiple priorities, and problem-solving.
Philomena Morrissey Satre: Coachability: listen and receive feedback, communicate effectively, draw on Internship or prior job experience, show that you can manage multiple priorities, and willingness to learn and continue developing skills and manage multiple priorities. Additionally, care and compassion for all. Willingness to do what it takes to get the job done even when it may not be your favorite task or responsibility. Lastly, an innovative mindset!
University of Idaho
Department of Business
Daniel Eveleth Ph.D.: Given this emphasis on the candidate, employee, and manager experiences, what skills are needed:
-Empathy skill - able to look at "our processes" through the eyes of the candidate, employee, manager. It is their journey, not our process.
-Relationship building - given the demand for talent, we often need to play the long game; rather than posting a job announcement and praying for applications to "process," we may need to develop connections with passive job seekers, for example, who may not be ready to apply; we need to think about how we reject candidates so that they pass on positive word of mouth to others and possibly reply/apply when a better fit appears. We may need to develop our relationships with hiring managers to help them make quicker hiring decisions, help them avoid biases when interviewing, learn more from them about their talent needs and preferences.
-Ability and willingness to search for talent. There are excellent job seekers who don't know your organization exists or that you have a culture, positions, etc., that would be a good fit. This is particularly critical for helping a company meet its DEI goals.
-Interpersonal communication skills:
-Job candidates prefer recruiters who are both warm/approachable and knowledgeable about the jobs and the company.
-Hiring managers and other business partners often have varying degrees of experience with recruiting, selection, onboarding, development practices and have unique needs and often unique personalities, work styles, etc. Communication with them is critical and sometimes includes having challenging conversations.
-Data analysis skills
-Data visualization (e.g., Tableau)
-Knowledge of applicant tracking systems
-Success using social media to engage followers (e.g., managed a fraternity's social media sites to engage alumni)
-Familiarity with managing conversations via remote technology.
-Interest in the company/industry.
Dr. Martha Martinez- Firestone Ph.D.: Lots of change concentrated in certain industries and organizations, both contraction and expansion. Some sectors, like entertainment, commercial real estate, hospitality, and the restaurant industry are going to be totally devastated. Some may recover, some may become smaller permanently. Anything to do with software and distance experiences is going to expand. There is going to be a lot of opportunities in distance education, not just degree seeking but in general; a lot of new media opportunities as well. Perhaps the biggest general change, at least for awhile, is that in sectors not affected by the pandemic, there is going to be a lot more remote work (although eventually there will be a correction back to office work but not for a while). Companies are going to be more willing to recruit people outside of their locations with some combination of office and remote work, where people will be able to live in other locations. Same for the nonprofit sector, it will have more options for talent, and for workers there will be more flexibility on where the live.
Dr. Martha Martinez- Firestone Ph.D.: I think a gap year is great to transform passions into expertise. Cultivate knowledge and networks in areas where you would eventually like to get a job. Research the industry that interests you, attend industry events, make zoom connections, and get the skills that people are talking about. If possible, volunteer in those industries to enhance your knowledge, contacts, and resume.
Dr. Martha Martinez- Firestone Ph.D.: You will hear lots of doomsday scenarios about how you will never recover and how your professional life is ruined. Take it as a challenge. While the effect of recessions is real, that only gives you an idea of the average experience. In all cohorts there are people who do better and people who do worst. Work to be part of the former. All crises bring opportunities; make sure to identify them and see if those jobs and industries are a possibility for you. And remember that life is more than your job.
Erik Larson: "Many of the experiences that students have during their latter years of college have looked different. Even though many of our students are still completing internships and research experiences that will serve them well as they enter the job market, the necessity of remote work means that it can be more difficult to develop close associations with supervisors and co-workers. The added demands and stresses on many workers, who are juggling family and work responsibilities simultaneously, means that the time for mentorship of interns or new employees has been compressed.
As a group, recent and near-term graduates who have not had the same opportunity to develop close relationships with mentors may not have the same access to informal networks and information about possible career pathways. "
Erik Larson: Simultaneously, far more students have experienced disruptions and loss when family members have become seriously ill--or even died--due to the coronavirus pandemic. In some instances, this experience has resulted in students taking on caregiving roles while also trying to complete their coursework. Unfortunately, that type of responsibility does not show up on a resume and, in fact, often appears more like a gap in a resume since the student might not have other relevant experiences.
Erik Larson: While it might seem a bit of a stretch to find a silver lining to this situation, I hope that students and employers recognize that the experiences of students navigating higher education in the pandemic will distinguish this group from their predecessors. In addition to their demonstrated ability to adapt to circumstances changing rapidly, I have been impressed by students' responsibility, care, and awareness in the current environment.
Joanne Kaufman Ph.D.: It would be best to consult with employers about this. In general, students should gain internship experience as this provides employers with a demonstration that students have worked in a real-world setting and developed skills navigating that environment.
Joanne Kaufman Ph.D.: Many organizations regularly use social media platforms, and graduates need to be familiar with multiple platforms. They also need to be aware of their own social media footprint and be very careful in what they post, as employers are looking at these posts.
Joanne Kaufman Ph.D.: The initial difficulties for graduates are finding a job, mainly related to their field and interests. The job search is likely to take longer with the pandemic, unless graduates seek employment in areas that are considered essential. Economists' prior research on new graduates after a recession shows that they may end up in lower-quality jobs initially and face lower income. Graduates can make up for some of these difficulties by switching jobs when the market improves, which aids them in enhancing their income. While it may take a while, up to 10 years, these graduates should be able to make up for the income losses and transition into higher-quality jobs. Thus, there is likely going to be an enduring impact for many graduates across a range of fields, but these graduates will succeed in the end. They have to take the long view, develop their skills in the workplace, seek additional training and education when it will aid them, and be on the lookout for better opportunities.
Regan Gross: There has been, and will continue to be, a shift in the way we do work. Employers are realizing that they can minimize overhead and leverage technology by adopting remote workforces. There will still be some employers who are resistant to this change and will continue to do things the traditional way. E-commerce jobs, such as those in online retail, will continue to increase, while jobs that require in-person social interaction, such as in the restaurant industry, will continue to evolve into contactless alternatives, reducing the number of positions available for employment. While hospitality and restaurants have been among the hardest hit, for many, still being able to dine-out and stay away from home, is important to their mental health.
Job interviews will continue to be virtual as much as feasible. Job seekers will be well advised to brush up on their on-camera interviewing skills, including dressing appropriately as with in-person job interviews, avoiding any background noise and being cognizant of the appearance of their on-camera surroundings/background. Practice virtual interviews with friends and family if possible.
Regan Gross: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science fields are predicted to have the biggest demand. A recent SHRM article reported 60 percent of companies plan to boost their use of workplace automation this year, including 59 percent in the United States and 55 percent in China, according to consulting firm Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 report. Additionally, given the COVID-19 pandemic, health care technology is becoming increasingly important. The country could see a rise in contact tracing and testing technologies.
Regan Gross: Yes. While the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened the labor market, there will be an increase for graduates now and up to 5 years from now in various areas of tech. But we can expect to see changes in recruiting. According to a recent SHRM article, career fairs could go virtual, and job applicants may see an increase in technologies like texting, video and chatbots as part of the hiring process.
Dr. Amy Dufrane: Global economic recovery and volatility will set the standard for future hiring practices. Roles can range from gig economy positions, digital channels for customer delivery, as well as expanded healthcare and medical supply manufacturing opportunities. The skills graduates will need are Agility, Empathy, and Curiosity. These are the new "hard" skills of the future.
Dr. Amy Dufrane: Attractive locations for graduates to work are larger cities with manufacturing and service-driven economies using shared resources and supply chains with technological and virtual service delivery. However, as more companies have relaxed their remote work policies, where someone lives is becoming less and less important. What is becoming more important to graduates are the certifications and learning experiences that will differentiate them from others seeking employment.
Dr. Amy Dufrane: Technology will continue to have a major impact on HR over the next five years. There will be increased use of automation displacement versus augmenting workers. Additionally, there will be an expansion of the use of digital tools, combined with data analytics and data literacy. Gaining industry certifications similar to HRCI's suite of credentials will be pivotal to remain agile and relevant in the ever-changing work landscape.
Alex Moore: Future training and development specialists can expect to see an increase in the need for skills related to virtual training design and facilitation. As companies have pivoted to offering mostly online training solutions and have seen that effort scale, we can expect that skills in these areas will become increasingly important for people who are new to the field. Therefore, graduates entering the job market who want to specialize in training delivery should showcase their ability to navigate the complexities of a virtual classroom. Our research shows that trainers at high-performing organizations are much more likely to use a wide variety of engaging activities in virtual classroom training than other organizations, and be adept at taking advantage of all of a virtual classroom platform's features to create a more enriching learning experience.
Another trend to watch, for recent graduates hoping to break into the training and development field, is the emergence of new roles. For example, our research has also found that less than a third of organizations had someone responsible for supporting trainers during the delivery of virtual classroom training, sometimes referred to as a learning producer, around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. High-performing organizations are more likely to have someone in this position, and it's likely that a shift toward virtual training will make it more prevalent. Common job responsibilities for learning producers include providing technical support or troubleshooting during virtual classroom training, managing chat or learner questions, and managing live polls or surveys.
Dr. Michael Pasquale Ph.D.: An excellent resume should include a cross-cultural internship experience. This has been challenging during the pandemic; however, students have been creative and conduct online internships with cross-cultural internship partners. This ability to be flexible and navigate online platforms, in multiple languages and cultures, is essential for graduates in linguistics and languages.
Dr. Michael Pasquale Ph.D.: Graduates should continue to develop expertise and fluency in their language learning and development. They should focus on developing language fluency in the career areas they are pursuing. For example, they should read extensively and listen to podcasts in their target language to understand the field and how to use the language fluently and effectively in those contexts.
Dr. Michael Pasquale Ph.D.: We have seen the prevalence of online meeting technologies like Zoom. Graduates will need to become adept at navigating these platforms and using them to connect with clients, cross-culturally and globally, while international travel is still limited. Instead of seeing this as a long-term limitation, graduates can see the benefits of a global impact in building their careers without having the expense of travel.
East Tennessee State University
Department of Counseling and Human Services
Bill Garris Ph.D.: We meet with community agency partners every year and process with our students what they learn while they participate in internships. What both tell us time and again is that the most important skills are soft skills. Graduates need to have empathy for the clients they serve. They need to develop skills at reading office culture: who is a friend, who is in charge, who is prickly and may stymie their growth. Graduates need to know how to identify what work needs to be done, and then set about doing it: make yourself valuable to the company. Finally, agencies also tell us that empathy and kindness for the people we help, people who may come from a different place in life than the new graduate, is critical.
Bill Garris Ph.D.: All communities have needs. All communities have a measure of poverty, substance abuse, injustice, anxious adolescents, domestic discord. The need for human service professionals is distributed across the nation.
Bill Garris Ph.D.: The pandemic has accelerated our adoption of technology to connect with and help others. At East Tennessee State University we develop practitioners who are able to provide assistance over Zoom or other telecommunication platforms. It certainly is different than face to face encounters. And it is important for new graduates to have some facility establishing rapport with clients over Zoom. We also see where basic graphic design and video editing skills help agencies tell their stories, and this extends from fundraising to the marketing of services. In five years - more likely ten years - it is probable that human service professionals will put on goggles and meet with clients in a virtual space rather than the traditional home visit.
Bowling Green State University
Department of Human Services
Tonya Camden: I believe there will be an impact, but not necessarily a negative one. Graduates getting ready to enter the field of mental health counseling will need to adjust what they have learned and what they have envisioned their practice to look like. Due to the pandemic, therapists are required to switch from in-person sessions to telehealth sessions quickly. It was an exceedingly tricky switch, but one that many have adjusted to. It will be necessary for new graduates entering the field to become familiar with what telehealth entails, including the rules and regulations that come with providing services via telehealth. There are many training pieces on this topic for those new to becoming this type of provider.
Tonya Camden: For graduates in this field, the opportunities are endless anywhere in the United States, they choose to live and work.
Tonya Camden: There is a particularly good chance telehealth is here to stay. Therefore, upcoming graduates in this field should be prepared. This means sessions are taking place face-to-face over both the computer and the phone. There are secure platforms to use, such as doxy.me, specifically, for therapists to perform online sessions. Switching to telehealth has enabled therapists to reach a population of individuals who may find it difficult to attend face-to-face sessions. However, we have found that it is not for everyone. Some clients report they prefer face-to-face sessions. This may be due to their individual preference of contact or a technology barrier.
Sarah DeArmond Ph.D.: I would suggest that anyone beginning their career prepare to listen a lot, ask questions, and keep the mindset that graduation is not the end of their education but rather the beginning.
Sarah DeArmond Ph.D.: I may have answered this question differently before the pandemic, but now I would look at the technology that facilitates remote and other flexible working arrangements. There is more discussion of virtual interviewing, onboarding, and performance management. Any technologies that assist with these activities are going to be more critical, pushing forward.
Sarah DeArmond Ph.D.: Before the pandemic, starting salary prospects were quite positive in human resource management. I expect to see salaries down a bit. Generally, companies have a slight edge now in salary negotiations, as there is more available talent than may have been the case before the pandemic. However, there have not been as significant of job losses in human resource management as has been the case in some other fields (e.g., hospitality management).
Paul Johnson Ph.D.: Educational leaders will need to be adept at leading staff to address the needs of the whole child; the academic, the social, and the emotional, with a special focus on the academic. To accomplish this, leaders must be excellent communicators and group facilitators who "listen before they lead" staff toward the district's vision and mission.
Paul Johnson Ph.D.: I would say that any state or district has a growing population. However, effective educational leaders are in high demand everywhere.
Paul Johnson Ph.D.: I believe the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the use of "online learning" as valuable supplements to the traditional face-to-face classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in teachers, students, and families being exposed to some of the advantages of technologies they have never used before.