April 13, 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.
Kansas State University
Superior Restaurant Group
University of New Hampshire
University of La Verne
NC State University
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Indiana University Kokomo
Wayne State University
Kansas State University
Department of Applied Human SciencesWebsite
Anthony Ferraro Ph.D.: One of the things that we are seeing at the moment is a move toward remote work. Over the last year we saw many of our student internships and work placements operating in a remote space. There is some suggestion that this style work may continue. Reducing overhead for physical spaces when work can be done remotely and comfort-level with remote work has increased is likely a contributing factor there. Given some of the trends we are seeing in mental health and demands on counseling services, I foresee increased opportunity in that space. One of the things that is most appealing about each of these trends to our students is that in either scenario being "location locked" (due to family obligations or unwillingness to relocate) will not be an issue and that these emerging professionals will be able to make a difference in their own communities. Many of our students place a high value on impacting change, particularly at the local level.
Anthony Ferraro Ph.D.: Transferable skills sounds like a cliche but it is one of the strengths for our students which allows a diverse range of career options both within our field and outside of it. Some of the most consistent skills that we attempt to foster and seem to be important for prospective employers include: strong interpersonal communication skills including listening and advanced technical writing, understanding of program development and evaluation, community outreach, etc. While I wouldn't quite consider these skills, many of our students demonstrate high levels of empathy, have firm knowledge of social issues and human development processes, as well as a baseline understanding of the policymaking process in the U.S. and within our state. This combination of skills and knowledge lends itself well to work with nonprofit organizations, public and private agencies, and work with the cooperative extension network most directly. However, many of our students also use these skills to move into health-related professions, including occupational therapy and nursing, as well as counseling professions including marriage and family therapy, school counseling, social work, etc. Many students will complement their undergraduate studies in HDFS with graduate degrees that will further enhance their competitiveness and/or provide the technical training, certification, and/or licensure needed.
Anthony Ferraro Ph.D.: This is a hard question as I feel as though the reach of our field has pretty drastically shifted over time, with more and more of our students moving across sectors (really to my point about transferable skills above). As such, I would say the best description would be that the range of earning potential has increased, with less restriction on what the top end of salary potential can be. As far as projecting forward, there is high demand in the workforce for our students and overwhelming most have jobs lined up or are already in positions prior to graduation.
Superior Restaurant Group
Brandi Sechrist: The trend we are currently seeing due to the pandemic is lack of applicant flow. I would encourage those coming into the restaurant business to think outside of the box on attracting candidates.
Brandi Sechrist: We don't require any certain certifications/licenses/courses to obtain a management position. While in training, all managers must complete achieve Servsafe certification.
Brandi Sechrist: Salaries have risen over the years but not drastically.
Adrianne Keeler: The biggest trends in the job market due to the pandemic that I think we will see are candidate demanded workplace flexibility/remote work options, as well as increased importance put on work life balance as candidates pick their employers.
-The pandemic had the workforce as a whole sitting back and examining what is important to them in both life and work, and as I speak to candidates the importance of things like PTO, working from home, flexible hours, benefits and more have become increasingly important.
-Remote work for roles that have never been remote before is surging post pandemic! Again, candidates want to be where they want AND they want the jobs they want--and this is driving employers to offer roles as a remote option in order to obtain the best talent on the market.
Adrianne Keeler: Soft skills that all graduates should possess and make sure they display during the interview process are public speaking/presentation skills (and specifically the ability to speak and present to various levels of audiences), persuasion/hunting/competitive mentality (especially when targeting working for sales organizations like Zones! We want to know that this soft skill set is natural for you!), coachability (graduates are going to have to learn and retain a lot of information, and are bound to need coaching- are they going to take it?), and lastly a flexible positive attitude. (These times demand flexibility in the workplace, things are pivoting all the time! And the ability to remain positive is key to success with both internal and external customers.)
Adrianne Keeler: Salaries in our field have gotten more and more competitive, and have continued to rise. Not only with the base wage, but really with the commission side of earnings. To remain a competitive employer in our industry, companies have made the commissions uncapped and thrown other incentives into the wages as well.
University of New Hampshire
Paul College of Business and EconomicsWebsite
Jonathan Nash Ph.D.: In most years accounting firms have a visible presence on campus. They host networking sessions, resume reviews, and other events promoting professional development. Because of the pandemic firms now offer virtual sessions to help students gain insight into this profession and firm culture. Similarly, interviews, internships, and leadership training events have all moved online.
Despite these changes, employment opportunities have remained strong. Firms need accounting information to make decisions irrespective of macro-level economic conditions. As a result, demand for accounting majors is fairly inelastic (in the press accounting is often referred to as a "recession proof" majorwww.cnbc.com. Initial data suggests our placement rate for this year will be in the mid-90's, consistent with prior years, and salaries remain high (median starting salary of approximately $60,000) relative to most other majors.
Jonathan Nash Ph.D.: Most firms expect students to have a plan for obtaining a CPA license when they're hired. Students must have an undergraduate degree to sit for the CPA exams, so most undergraduates begin taking exams after receiving their degree. Graduate students take the CPA exams while enrolled in the MSA program. Other certifications improve a student's resume, but are not the primary determinant of placement.
Jonathan Nash Ph.D.: Starting salaries for UNH graduates have increased steadily over time. For our last graduating class the median starting salary was approximately $60,000.
University of La Verne
College of Business & Public ManagementWebsite
Yehia Mortagy: The Corona pandemic identified several changes/possibilities:
-Working from home.
-Analytics can (and do) (1) increase productivity and (2) identify new products.
As such, I suspect future trends will be (or continue to be):
-A.I. for work force automation.
-Device connectivity (sensors on devices that collect data in a manner similar to Alexa). You may look at M. Porter's articles in Harvard Business Review on Smart connected devices.
-E-Business (defined as conducting business interactions and not limited to commerce) and its various components. For example, fulfilment, distribution, online learning and teaching).
Yehia Mortagy: As such courses and certificates would include those that support the above trends. This includes (in no particle order) SAS certification, Python or similar packages, Data Analytics, Supply chain, and Analysis in order to understand/computerize processes.
School of Business and Computer Science
Dr. Ranjit Nair: Agile technologies and processes will be highly sought credentials for many HR jobs as well as certifications or expertise in virtual reality (for behavioral/personality assessments and work simulations during the recruiting process). In addition, HR will need to step up its data analytics capabilities by offering just-in-time and predictive insights from retention of key personnel to performance management to the engagement levels of critical senior leaders. Not only will this data- and process-driven approach solidify HR's role in the C-suite but also will help the organization solve key people challenges proactively. Therefore, it will help one's job prospects to have certifications in the statistical programming languages R or Python. In addition, leadership skills and credentials will be even more coveted. Among other nationally-accredited business programs, Caldwell University's School of Business and Computer Science offers pathways for certification in organizational leadership and management for traditional and adult undergraduate and graduate students.
Dr. Ranjit Nair: Entry-level people analytics positions are mushrooming in the modern workplace. New undergraduates with good spreadsheet analysis skills who know how to present trends and information meaningfully are already in high demand. The unprecedented worldwide remote work actions taken in response to COVID-19 have caused the digital economy to grow and, in turn, placed a heavy focus on employee health and wellness. Organizations will be looking for HR professionals with strong competencies in empathy to develop a holistic (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual) view of employee wellbeing. I think this will result in new HR roles focused on well-being as a business strategy for increasing employee retention. In addition, diversity, inclusion, and equity will become big issues in the workplace and organizations will look to have people and culture ambassadors ready to assist employees to safely navigate and have good experiences in the new world of work. The premise is that investing in these initiatives and roles will enhance organizational agility, drive collaboration, and boost innovation.
Dr. Ranjit Nair: 2021 will be a reset year for human resource management (HR) in many ways as a result of the chaos seen around the world in 2020 that caused monumental shifts in how we work, where we work, and the technologies we use to stay connected. This alone will reshape the HR function and escalate its role within organizations. Employees as well as senior organizational leaders will look to HR to guide them in navigating the "new normal" and also to what the future of work will look like, what new jobs will emerge, and how existing jobs will be designed going forward. This will also have significant implications for pay and benefits. The typical "one-size-fit-all" approach to rewarding employees will give way to more personalized or customized pay. Furthermore, employee well-being will be of prime concern to organizational leaders and HR will be charged with leading this effort.
NC State University
Department of Business ManagementWebsite
Thomas Byrnes: Obviously, there is quite a bit of "screen time". Zoom meetings, virtual client meetings, peer team meetings, etc. are probably what they will be spending quite a bit of time with. So, it is important that a recent graduate is comfortable with electronic calendaring. It is important though that they have a reasonable work-life balance. They need to ensure that they build time into their schedules for breaks which could include lunch breaks as well as time to physically complete some exercise. It is vital that these graduates can find a work place in their home environment that is relatively free from distractions.
Thomas Byrnes: What I am hearing from the employers and the students (recent hires and those searching for jobs) is that companies are looking for people who are self-motivated, focused, technology proficient and flexible. Most work environments are currently remote (from the HQ location) and it appears that many of those companies are looking at a flexible work environment whereby employees can work from home several days a week in the post pandemic time period.
It appears that there has been no lack of productivity of employees working from home and the technology allows for productive meetings, collaboration with team members and reduction in expenses. But, I do see a reduction in job offers currently. Here at NC State (Poole college of management), we had a career fair this past week and we witnessed a decrease in the number of companies available to interview students. Additionally, I haven't seen that much attrition with recent hires jumping to other jobs since there appears to be fewer opportunities. Hopefully, our career fair in the fall 2021 will see an increase in the number of employers at the event.
Thomas Byrnes: Obviously, employers are seeking candidates from certain disciplines such as marketing, finance, supply chain, accounting, etc. But, what distinguishes the candidates is their enthusiasm, passion and strong interest in the company they are interviewing with. There is an expression that I have heard from several recruiters: "we hire for attitude and train for ability". It is vital that candidates have a thorough understanding of the company they are interviewing with, that they come prepared with questions for the recruiter and show a strong interest in working for that company. Obviously, the students have to demonstrate strong organizational skills, excellent communication skills, listen well to the questions they are asked and simple things such as "eye contact". This is important even in virtual interviews!
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Communication Studies DepartmentWebsite
Mike Polites: Again I believe that this will largely depend on the industry the graduate goes into. But there are some skills that will stand out regardless. In my opinion those might include skills such as knowledge of multiple computer programs; not just Microsoft Office, but website development programs, creative graphic programs, social media management programs, etc. I have a former student who designates on her calendar every Friday morning for 90 minutes she teaches herself a new program, or at least familiarizes herself with it. I love this! What a great dedication to making herself more marketable in the workforce. Other skills that are important include video creation, learning industry-specific software (do a little research on this to prepare for a job interview), project management, data analysis, and strong research skills.
I'd be remissed if I didn't add that technical skills are important to pair with what many call "soft skills" or what I like to refer to as "necessary skills" such as interpersonal communication, communicating well on teams, critical thinking, problem solving/conflict management, and presentation skills.
Mike Polites: Yes. The pandemic is reshaping the way we communicate individually, as part of teams, within the professional world, and with our family and friends. What was not common or acceptable pre-pandemic has now become commonplace. For example, it is commonplace for employers to conduct job interviews via Zoom whereas they may have been used to having candidates come in for an interview. That poses both benefits and drawbacks for graduates. One benefit is that graduates may now have an opportunity to branch out and look for jobs in cities they they may not have thought about before since they would likely be interviewing for the position online. That is beneficial for employers too because they don't have to spend the money to fly the candidate to the interview. The downside to doing things like this is that while Zoom is great, it does limit the communication. For example, whether your're talking to a potential employer or even a family member living elsewhere, you don't have the benefit of seeing their nonverbal communication. If I'm sharing some difficult news with a family member, I can't see if their hands are shaking, or their leg is bouncing (on Zoom) which would indicate nervousness. That may affect how I deliver the message.
All of this is to say that YES indeed the pandemic will continue to impact our communication on all of us, not just graduates.
Mike Polites: In my opinion, "good" is a relative word. Before the pandemic I had a job speaking to 500 incoming freshmen and their parents twice a week during the summer as part of college orientation. To me, that's a good (great! fun!) job. Other people may think that is their worst nightmare gettting in front of that many people. A good job is one that brings someone joy, doing something they are developing a passion for (which can take time), one that pays a liveable wage, and one that is personally fulfilling. Obviously, this picture will look different for different students/graduates. When students ask me about this I alway remind them of two things: 1) internships and informational interviews are a great way to gain insight into jobs/careers that might be a good fit, 2) the likelyhood of staying not only at your first job after college but even staying with your first career, for the rest of your life, are highly unlikely. People change majors, jobs, and even entire careers/fields frequently. To that end, if you wind up "settling" for a job after college because you need to pay the rent, and after a year or two you realize it's not your thing, you can look for something that is a better fit. Just be mindful of job-hopping every couple years as that becomes a bit of a red flag to future employers. To quote the late Neil Peart, drummer and lyrisist for my favorite band Rush: "Change aren't permanant. But Change is."
Indiana University Kokomo
School of BusinessWebsite
Adam Smith Ph.D.: The work environment may be changed forever. Many employers may hang on to elements of this current work from home reality, if they didn't have a negative impact on productivity. Additionally, some employees from younger generations may enjoy the added flexibility. The good news for graduates is that they are getting more experience with online meetings, collaboration technology, and virtual teams. So even though this may not be an approach we sought in education, it is giving students skills that will translate after graduation.
Adam Smith Ph.D.: An entry-level job related to your major area of study or in an organization with a mission with which you connect. Working in an organizational culture that lets you learn and growth is beneficial as well. It is important to search for a company with leadership that is supportive of training and development, so you are better able to reach your career goals.
Adam Smith Ph.D.: That varies by industry, employer, level, and position. Also, it depends on their approach to hiring and training. It is important that students research employers and industries that interest them. But overall, it may be skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, time management, and collaboration that remain vital. Going forward, effective communication, tech savviness, a positive view of change (as opportunity), and an openness to continuous learning may set people apart in organizations.
Policy, Organization, and Leadership
Dr. Salvatore Falletta: The once-in-a-100-years pandemic namely, COVID-19, has been sweeping across our nation and the world. Uncertainty is at an all-time high, as we experience complete disruption of our daily activities and become more homebound. As a result, the way in which we work has changed rapidly. Working remotely has exponentially increased and technology is being leveraged like never before. Remote work will be the new normal for many organizations and industries including the HR profession, which in turn, will provide recent graduates and top talent with greater opportunities irrespective of geographical location and where they physically reside.
Dr. Salvatore Falletta: There are a myriad of certifications and courses graduates can pursue to develop the critical competencies for success in the HR profession. For example, the HRCI offers several highly recognizable and respected HR certifications such as the Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR), Professional in Human Resources (PHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), to name a few. Those new to the field as well as experienced professionals also enroll in advanced degrees programs (e.g., Drexel) and complete competency-based micro-credentials and online courses through HRCI, EDX, Coursera, and the like.
Dr. Salvatore Falletta: While technical skills are vitally important, organizations today expect new employees to posses a broader range of competencies including "soft skills" such as communication, ethics and integrity, being a team player, intercultural sensitivity (e.g., global awareness, diversity, equity, and inclusion), and creativity and innovation, among others.
Department of BusinessWebsite
Herbert Sherman Ph.D.: The coronavirus has changed the way in which people work as well as the type of work that people will be performing by accelerating the use of technology to facilitate more employees working in a virtual setting and therein reducing the need for traditional office space or even shared workspace. Graduates with a degree in human resource management will need to not only be comfortable working remotely in a non-office environment but need to truly find a balance between work demands (which are now 24/7) and the ability to lose oneself within the comforts of one's home surroundings. Work-life balance will not only be of the utmost import for employees but for HR professionals as well.
Secondly, HR graduates, even if working in a traditional office setting, will be expected to be well versed in the use of HR analytics and HRIS packages (i.e. UKG Pro, TriNet, BambooHR, UKG Ready, Workday Human Capital Management, Ceridian Dayforce, Oracle Cloud HCM, ADP Workforce Now, Oracle PeopleSoft HCM, Paychex Flex, and Zenefits) which integrate HR functions including job analysis and job design, recruitment and selection of employees, training and development, performance management, compensation and benefits, and employee retention. HR graduates should also be quite comfortable using computer hardware and software that facilitate virtual meetings and conferences - in person job interviews may become the thing of the past and replaced with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Cisco Webex Meetings and even Skype or WhatsApp.
Herbert Sherman Ph.D.: SHRM certification will continue to be the "platinum standard" in the HR profession although other generalized certifications such as Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) and of course obtaining a Masters in HR are other options. There are now a plethora of specialized certifications that one may pursue based upon what area of HR one wishes to pursue.
For example, in training and development The Association for Talent Development (ATD) provides the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance and the new Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) credentials while there are other sources of HR and talent acquisitions certifications programs from the Talent Management Institute (TMI), the National Association for Health Care Recruitment (NAHCR) and the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) just to name a few. Given the trend in HR toward technological solutions, I strongly recommend obtaining a background in HRIS.
Several organizations provide such training (and certification) including the International Association of Human Resources Information Management (IHRIM).
Herbert Sherman Ph.D.: "Hard skills will get you the interview-soft skills will get you the job." (
Wayne State University
Region B - Client Services
Dr. Vickie Hall: We will see a shift in current trends on how work will be performed, given that many workers are now working in remote environments. Technology will be a field that will emerge in growth. The aging workforce is now opting to retire rather than continue to work during these uncertain times. Recent college graduates will have to be creative in their job search.
Dr. Vickie Hall: Those skills that are technical (technology) in nature; customer service skills and facilitation skills abilities
Dr. Vickie Hall: Skillset will play a major role in where someone can relocate. Areas that are not badly hit by COVID would be a good start. For example, Washington state.