October 7, 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.
Michigan Technological University
San Diego Mesa College
Cleveland State University
Arizona State University
Arizona State University
Loyola University New Orleans
State University of New York, New Paltz
California University of Pennsylvania
North Central College
Dr. Maria Bergstrom: Even in the remote work and online world, I think networking remains the most critical skill for job-seekers. You can send out hundreds of resumes online, but it's the personal connections and hard work of meeting people and sharing your story with them that will get you a job (and later, a promotion). Students now need to learn how to use online resources (like LinkedIn or alumni databases and networking opportunities offered by their college or university) to connect with people in the field or industry where they want to work.
Dr. Maria Bergstrom: I think those working in communication will be doing even more with analytics to understand how users and customers are interacting with their content. Some understanding of data--what it can and can't tell you, will become even more critical as we can gather ever more data about users.
Francesco Ciabattoni Ph.D.: Many skills are important, especially the knowledge of texts and manuscripts. However, there is a growing request to apply knowledge of even remote times and works to current themes in today's America. Without modernizing excessively, I think it is important to understand the past to build a better future, so a cultural awareness of the literary, social, and historical dynamics of the middle ages can serve us well in living the present and shaping the future.
Francesco Ciabattoni Ph.D.: Communication skills, problem-solving skills, work ethic, flexibility, and interpersonal skills. These are all the result of a well-rounded humanistic formation, on which Georgetown University places great emphasis. Our goal is "Cura Personalis": the education of the whole person.
Francesco Ciabattoni Ph.D.: Knowing a foreign language is vital to any intellectual profession. When it comes to the medieval/Renaissance period, the options are many: at Georgetown, we have not only European languages available, but also Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other languages and cultures that contribute to our program of Global Medieval Studies. One interesting feature of Georgetown is precisely the synergy between different disciplines and our intercultural and interfaith interest. For example, I am a Professor of Italian Literature, and the Italian Department offers a wide range of courses, including courses on Dante's Divine Comedy. 2021 marks the 700th anniversary of Italy's greatest poet, and I am coordinating an event on Dante, Islam, and Mediterranean cultures in the middle ages. In addition to that, my colleague Laura Benedetti recently discovered unfound manuscripts and just published a book on the relations between the Republic of Venice and Egypt in the 16th century. These are terrific opportunities to explore the usefulness of studying literature, languages, and old manuscript
Francesco Ciabattoni Ph.D.: The ability to understand the world we live in and the world we come from. That is the best way to live a fulfilling life and earn money, respect, and happiness.
Department of English & American Literatures
Ryan Kaveh Sheldon Ph.D.: Within literary studies departments, hiring priorities vary across institutions and fields. Some universities and colleges-and thus, their language or literature departments-will prioritize research, while others will privilege teaching experience. Still others, like Middlebury, are interested in teacher-scholars who are committed to innovative and engaged pedagogy as well as active research programs. Across these contexts, committees will favor candidates who are able to explain how their own research and teaching programs align with institutional missions and departmental needs. This demands more than a careful reading of a job ad or detailed research on the department-it requires that a candidate think critically and reflexively about their own work. Equally crucial is the ability to communicate the insights of that body of work to a wide audience, including members of the discipline who work in different fields, as well as outside faculty and administrators who may not be familiar with the common vocabulary of the discipline.
The foundations of successful job candidacy are the applicant's research and teaching profile. Committees want to see that a candidate has an interesting project that is public-facing-usually in the form of published articles and conference presentations. They also want to know that the candidate has a sense of how the project will develop and change. To do that effectively in literary studies, one must be a capable researcher who is versed in the broader trends that define field-specific scholarship, as well as an excellent writer. Proficiency in digital humanities methods and/or archival research is also highly valued (and increasingly so).
Ryan Kaveh Sheldon Ph.D.: Similarly, teaching experience is important. I began teaching during my first semester as a Ph.D. student and designed my own courses throughout my graduate career. That experience proved crucial to my job search-it allowed me to talk concretely about my approaches to different courses, and it enabled me to effectively propose courses that I hadn't yet taught. Teaching itself requires softer and more technical skills: you need to be practiced in public speaking, time management, organization, critical thinking and problem solving, and interpersonal communication; you also need to be proficient in word processing, data entry, document design. The pandemic has only heightened the need for familiarity with learning management systems, video recording programs, teleconferencing, and social media.
Finally, it is increasingly important (and rightfully so) for scholars and teachers to demonstrate how their research and teaching practices line up with broader initiatives to create more just institutions. We have witnessed an efflorescence of youth- and student-led organizing around racial justice (and policing in particular), ongoing settler colonialism, economic inequality, and climate catastrophe. My view is that faculty-thus job candidates-across disciplines need to be able to match student energy on these frontiers whenever possible.
Ryan Kaveh Sheldon Ph.D.: Faculty salaries vary widely and are (unfortunately) pegged to academic rank and job security. There are many brilliant researchers and teachers who are meagerly compensated for their work. This has to do not with their individual merit-without their hard work, universities and colleges would not run-but with the employment structure of (most of) higher education in the US and the pivot to adjunct work in particular. The best way to ensure that academic workers and staff are well compensated is to organize and pursue collective bargaining and governance.
Department of Spanish
Hiram Smith Ph.D.: Languages that are seldomly taught or minoritized (or endangered languages) are attention-grabbing. However, you should point out anything unique about what you do, such as a particular period or genre that you specialize in. Further, you should always highlight any other skills you have besides being bi- or multilingual or having teaching experience. For example, what specific subdiscipline you specialize in, such as sociolinguistics or applied linguistics. Suppose you are familiar with computer software programs such as PRAAT, Elan, Goldfarb, R. In that case, it is always a good idea to list this as part of your skillset. This goes for any related skills you may have, such as working as a translator or receiving court interpreter certification.
Hiram Smith Ph.D.: Any experience you have working with mono- or bilingual children and adults in any capacity or doing community outreach gives evidence of soft skills that you may have, such as being a personable, affable, outgoing, or empathetic person. It's not enough to say "I am an outgoing person"--show it on paper (or during the interview) by the things you have already done both in your personal (such as volunteering) and professional life. It's good to highlight what you have already done, even if this is your first full-time job. For example, if you have published a paper, worked with a scholar on their research, or presented at a conference, mention that.
Hiram Smith Ph.D.: The skill that will help you earn the most is recognizing that you may be able to negotiate a slightly higher salary than the one offered. This is especially the case when you have more than one job offer. Do not be afraid to ask if your prospective employer can match or beat a competing salary offer. If you seek a university position, ask for Startup funds to conduct research, go to conferences, etc. Other things you can ask for are a free parking permit, teaching materials, ample office space, or other practical things that you may otherwise have to come out of pocket for.
San Diego Mesa College
School of Humanities- English Department
Dr. Pegah Motaleb: It's hard for me to answer this question because I am not an expert on job markets and I am not really studying and watching it closely. I am an English professor with a doctorate in Educational Leadership, so the general job market has not been the focus of my research or studies. However, with that said, I do read and keep up with studies and literature that overwhelmingly support that the job market values and needs graduates with some kind of Humanities degree or background. Specifically, you can find more details of what I mean by reading this 2019 report called Amacad. Specifically, if you look under the Workforce portion of the report, you will see several trends. Keep in mind that the trends are pre COVID-Pandemic, but what stood out for me among the many statistics is this one:
Over 84% of all workers with a terminal bachelor's degree in the humanities reported they were satisfied with their jobs in 2015, while 90% of humanities majors with an advanced degree expressed satisfaction.
So to go back to your question about what I think we'll see in the job market given the pandemic is that we'll see a lot of graduates who are yearning for some kind of joy, happiness, and healing in their lives...some kind of satisfaction...some kind of fulfillment... while at the same time getting their basic needs met (housing, food, health care, etc.).
In addition to this report, I would like for you to also highlight the information shared in these articles. All point to the need for Humanities in STEM related disciplines, especially healthcare. I want to emphasis healthcare here because as the nation watched, our healthcare system was not prepared for the tragedies of this pandemic. Thus, as these articles point, a healthcare professional with a Humanities background can contribute to this industry and improve its shortcomings to better serve the country.
One year, in my English literature class, I had a veteran student who was an English major. I asked him why he chose English as a major, and he said my passion is playing video games and I want to have a career to which I develop video games. He then said developing video games requires an English background because he has to develop a plot, characters, setting, dialogue, etc.
Dr. Pegah Motaleb: I grew up in a low-income household where any shot at upward mobility was through getting an education, so unfortunately, I did not have the luxury of taking a "gap year." With that said, if a student is taking a gap year, I would recommend that they read...read...read...all the books they want to read (that they couldn't read while in high school.) I have three incredible nieces who are all in high school and college. I often recommend books to them and they say to me 'Auntie, I don't have time to read...I am too busy doing my homework for my classes.'
So for someone taking a "gap year," I would tell them read all the books that will ground you...read everything and anything by Toni Morrison. Read everything and anything by James Baldwin. Read everything and anything by Angela Y. Davis. If they have the opportunity to travel, I would tell them to travel to the South. Learn about the history of slavery. In fact, participate in one of the activities offered through Slavedwellingproject. I would tell them to become a life long learner of American history and to seek narratives that were not taught to them in high school, especially the narratives of people of color, women, LGBTQ, and those who grew up marginalized and in poverty. I would tell them to volunteer with an organization that supports a cause they are passionate about. Lastly, I would encourage them to participate in their local politics. Not only should they learn how legislation works, but also they should immediately register to vote as soon as they turn 18. I feel like a gap year would be a perfect opportunity to do these things because one can learn about who they really are and what their purpose and vision will be for their higher education.
Dr. Pegah Motaleb: To do something that will make them happy. Pursue a career that allows you to do what you are passionate about on a daily basis. Your passion is what is going to get you out of bed each day. Choose happiness over money. What's the point of making a six figure or millions of dollars in your salary in a job that makes you unhappy? I often think to myself, when I am on my death bed, I am not going to be thinking about how much money I made in my lifetime. I will think about my family, memories of joy, and all the ways in which I contributed to making my community a better place.
Christopher Blackwell: It has always been the case that no one can study in college for their future job. When I was in college, the sentence, "I write games for phones," would have been gibberish. As we look forward, we need to make sure that our students are as broadly flexible as possible. We cannot send students of literature out into the world without technological skills. We cannot send computer scientists out into the world with no understanding of humans in society.
Christopher Blackwell: A super-productive gap-year would include some customer-facing retail or service experience (waiting tables, bartending, barista, checkout clerk), a course in statistics if the student didn't pick that up in college, and a course on some programming language.
Christopher Blackwell: The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of the social sciences. Although a vaccine didn't emerge from the social sciences, insights from such disciplines are critical in constructing vaccine rollouts and other socially-acceptable policies that account for human behavior. The social sciences, including economics, will also help rebuild our communities in more sustainable and inclusive ways in the post-pandemic world. Young graduates entering the workforce that understand human nature and can critically evaluate policies and procedures from a social scientific perspective will be invaluable to employers for their ability to think technically and creatively and account for social norms and human behavior. More generally, creative and innovative thinking and the ability to be flexible are imperative. These things are a core part of any liberal arts curriculum. Graduates should emphasize these liberal arts skills in addition to technical career training.
Cleveland State University
Department of English
Frederick Karem Ph.D.: I think the pandemic has posed significant challenges in physical presence in the workplace due to safety concerns. Still, it has also highlighted the increasing importance of the knowledge-based economy that does not rely exclusively on in-person work. While I'm sure that we all look forward to returning to our offices, restaurants, and other brick-and-mortar locations, I think that, for now, institutions will be seeking to fill critical positions that are mobile, flexible, and can be completed remotely if possible. Graduates will need to be ready to show how the skills they have learned can translate, if need be, into a remote environment.
Frederick Karem Ph.D.: I think transferable skills are essential. Critical thinking, working cooperatively, analytic research skills, and clear, persuasive communication is vital in our modern workplace, whether in-person or remote. Because our economy is global and multicultural, I think graduates who demonstrate the ability to work with a diverse range of people will have an extra edge as well. Lastly, graduates need to show they have learned how to learn. Every institution has a slightly different way of doing things, so a graduate needs to show that they can adapt to that work's specific needs as they apply for positions.
Frederick Karem Ph.D.: I think that large, diverse urban areas are rich in opportunities for the private sector, public, and non-profit work alike. I would encourage graduates to look beyond the coasts, which are often expensive and saturated with job-seekers. Many of the so-called "flyover" states (and yes, I'm thinking of Ohio here) have vibrant communities, innovative institutions and are much more open and accessible than some of the marquis cities graduates first think of as prime destinations for employment. I'm not from Ohio, and I had never visited Cleveland before applying for a position here 20 years ago, but I kept an open mind, and I was so glad I did. I've loved working at CSU, and Cleveland has been a wonderful place to live and raise my family.
Karen Adams Ph.D.: When talking about skill sets, the humanities and social sciences discussion focus on critical thinking and research skills. And in sociolinguistics, there is a field called Computational Sociolinguistics, and many students work with Twitter, Twitch, and some form of multimodality, so that is a career trend that could continue.
Karen Adams Ph.D.: The Linguistic Society of America linguisticsociety has a link on its webpages where it discusses careers available to linguistics students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Matthew Prior Ph.D.: I think it is early to speculate about the impact of Covid-19 on hiring and career opportunities. I sense that most linguistics/applied linguistics programs have hiring freezes, and those job searches I have seen that remain open are focusing on diversity, critical approaches (e.g., social justice, sociolinguistics, antiracist and inclusive pedagogies, indigenous perspectives)
Matthew Prior Ph.D.: I expect there will continue to be demand for multimodality expertise, new media, corpus linguistics, artificial intelligence, digital technologies, and technology-enhanced language learning/teaching.
Loyola University New Orleans
Hillary Eklund Ph.D.: Well, the job market has shifted a lot since March. We've seen this, above all, in the service sector. But I expect things will continue to change in the long, slow recovery ahead. That means that candidates with flexible skills--like critical thinking and communication--and the capacity to learn new things will be at an advantage, as they will keep up with changing demand. Another thing we're seeing is growing pressure on businesses to be socially responsible. Candidates with strong social awareness and ethical reasoning skills will be able to help build that infrastructure.
Hillary Eklund Ph.D.: A lot depends on what a person wants to do after the gap year. Some may seek internships or training to develop better credentials for the fields they wish to enter. Others might be looking to set aside some money for grad school. Others might seek personal growth through travel, volunteering, or learning a language. I don't think you can waste time unless you're not curious and not learning new things.
Hillary Eklund Ph.D.: Read widely and keep up with current events. Ask questions. Build meaningful connections. Learn to receive feedback and use it wisely.
Vicki Tromanhauser Ph.D.: The skills that emerging graduates most need in the current workforce are reading closely, thinking independently, conducting original research, and writing clearly and persuasively. To be successful in today's rapidly changing and increasingly diverse world, they need to be creative and flexible thinkers who are sensitive to significant contemporary issues and understand local, national, and global histories and cultures.
Vicki Tromanhauser Ph.D.: English is a tremendously versatile major that prepares graduates for careers in teaching, publishing, communications, and public and private administration, in addition to preparing them to enter the fields of law, business, and medicine.
Vicki Tromanhauser Ph.D.: By introducing new forms of communication, at ever-increasing speed, technology is likely to shape the professional world as we know it, in ways we cannot imagine. It will bring a more collaborative working environment that will rely more than ever upon the training the humanities have to offer. If the data mining and computation of new information science help us understand our world at a certain level of abstraction, the humanities restore local nuance and bring much-needed insight into different ways of seeing that world.
Modern Languages and Literatures Faculty
Sarah Grey Ph.D.: Pursuing a degree in these areas develops students' multilingual and multicultural skills and raises their linguistic awareness of language as a fundamental, complex human communication tool. These skills combine well with several areas, but the technology sector, including language learning, is an area that continually works to improve the user experience. This includes improving the multilingual, multicultural, and linguistic aspects of their products. Some company examples that draw on these skills and would be good to work for are Amazon, Google, Apple, and Duolingo or Mango Languages.
Sarah Grey Ph.D.: As globalization continues and the role of technology in daily life strengthens, the need for multilingual, multicultural skills, and linguistic training becomes critical. I think this means that the demand for graduates with these skills will increase.
Sarah Grey Ph.D.: If students are interested in pursuing the user experience work that I mention, then the popular online job search sites, such as LinkedIn, will be primary sources for finding work opportunities.
Dr. M.G. Aune Ph.D.: When I talk to students about what to put on their resumes (or what they should do to strengthen their resumes), I encourage them to think about three categories, the academic, the professional, and the social, and try to have something for each. By educated, I mean the specific stuff you are learning in college (how to write, how to be an accountant, how to build robots, etc.). Professional is the awareness of how the world works, how to communicate in a workplace, how to present yourself in the workplace, etc. Social is a sense of who you are as an individual. I don't recommend listing hobbies, but I recommend mentioning any athletics, volunteering, service, etc.
More specifically, internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and career development programs (like CalU's Career Advantage Program). These things communicate a lot more than it might seem.
Dr. M.G. Aune Ph.D.: Communication, communication, research skills, and communication. This can be done through a job or internship or co-op or travel and keeping a blog/Instagram narrative. It is an active participant in an online community, such as Reddit or any of 1000 specialized groups.
Dr. M.G. Aune Ph.D.: I am not good at predictive questions. I think that various kinds of automation and AI will become more and more part of our lives and require more and more awareness. We will need people to continue developing AIs and people to help other people deal with them.
Patricia Bayona: An education in romance languages gives you cultural insight, historical perspective, educated opinions, and - quite possibly - better people skills than many other - more technical or business-oriented - fields of studies. It is likely that you may receive putting-down commentary about the 'uselessness' of studying languages and culture, but you should be confident that with your studies, you have actually widened your horizons to innumerable career possibilities where an educated vision of the global world is needed. In fact, a great number of leaders and entrepreneurs have a background in liberal arts fields like romance languages. Rest assured that education in language and culture is so versatile that it will allow you to think critically and creatively in any career path.
Patricia Bayona: Possibly video conferencing will become a very strong feature in our lives, as well as multiple styles of clouds for file sharing and editing. Getting ready for this may include a couple of key factors: 1) Learning to be comfortable in front of the camera and knowing a few tricks to make your own image and background appropriate for different situations and audiences 2) Purchasing strong internet connectivity should be a priority in your budget.
Patricia Bayona: Given the versatility of careers that fit education in romance languages, the starting salaries vary greatly. A large number of graduates follow the teaching path where salaries tend to start at the low end of 30K, but tend to increase with professional development to quickly arrive at 100K. In the field of diplomatic careers, salaries may start around 40K and with enormous benefits. In the field of law and medicine (forensic linguistics, interpreters), salaries tend to be around 50K with a staff contract (not per/hour); and in more specialized fields, like computational linguistics or careers in federal intelligence, salaries easily start in the 50K.
David Amadio: Resume standouts include projects, presentations, and papers that are relevant to the desired position; internships, co-ops, or part-time jobs that increase content knowledge but also teach practical skills like time-management, teamwork, and self-reliance; extra-curricular activities or volunteer work that broadens the student's understanding of the world and brings him/her into contact with people from other walks of life. Graduates must also value their coursework as an experience in and of itself. Thinking critically about an academic subject through in-depth discussion and graded assignments prepares graduates for the intellectual labor they will be doing in the professional fields of writing, editing, and publishing.
David Amadio: Students graduating with a degree in English can use their gap year to continue enhancing the skills they acquired during their undergraduate experience. It is recommended that they read widely and write often. No longer restricted by institutional requirements, they can explore new genres and experiment with different composition methods. They should increase their critical engagement level with the material world, visit museums, attend readings and lectures, listen to music, watch and discuss films, and keep abreast of current affairs. If they are interested in attending graduate school, they can use this time to research schools and gather their application materials. Graduates are also encouraged to travel during their gap year, to experience life outside the college bubble, to be wiser and more seasoned when they eventually return to it.
David Amadio: Graduates will have to be adept at using video-conferencing software, as we expect to see more and more professionals collaborating remotely on both long- and short-term projects. Since many English majors will enter the fields of copywriting and social media administration, graduates must navigate emerging and existing social media platforms. They should know how each differs in form, content, purpose, and audience, and should use that knowledge to communicate ideas and advertise compelling and meaningful messages.Those entering the fields of editing and publishing will need to monitor the ongoing shift from print to digital media and develop the skills necessary to remain relevant in both markets. How people consume content has always influenced how that content is created. Graduates must keep a close eye on the devices and technologies that deliver news and entertainment and be prepared to curate appropriate, informative, and inspirational material.