November 10, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Michael Baker: For graduates entering the job market, we look at any prior employment (part-time or full-time); what internships they have had, both paid and unpaid; their volunteer activities; accomplishments (i.e., GPA, Cum Laude, Gold Award, Eagle Scout, ROTC, leadership roles, etc.); and extracurricular activities candidates have had (clubs, intramural sports, NCAA student-athletes, study abroad experiences, sororities and fraternities, etc.). It is a better gauge for interest in working in the non-profit sector when candidates have had an internship with a non-profit organization and an internship outside the non-profit sector. Having experience as an intern at both a for-profit business and non-profit business (yes, non-profits are a business) is a great indicator that the candidate has had different experiences in both sectors helping to shape interests, views, ideas, skills, and the impact they want to make on the world.
I cannot highlight enough that ethics is the number one quality candidates must have; resumes should be clear, briefly descriptive, and accurate.
Michael Baker: I am a big fan of graduate's taking a gap year to help get themselves set-up for success in their career. I recommend finding what you're passionate about that is employable. For example, if you want to work in the non-profit sector and have a specific area that has impacted you in your life, find an organization you can volunteer with that aligns with your specific area of interest. Some organizations will offer internships to recent graduates; if you have an interest in the cause, go for it. Those internships will help you determine if this is the direction you want to go, or not, for your career. Also, take advantage of career counseling services offered by the institution you just graduated from. They can help you by providing guidance and assessment tools to help you identify your skills, interests, and areas you need to develop. Good assessment tests are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC Assessment, and others.
I also think those taking a gap year use the time wisely to develop relationships with fellow graduates, alumni, potential employers, friends, and family. Have an introductory networking conversation with someone in an interesting field you might want to work in. Taking the initiative shows you are resourceful and seeking others' advice. All should be on LinkedIn and take advantage of networking. Look for, and join, professional association young professional groups in your area of interest. When able to participate in webinars, Zooms, online conferences, professional development seminars, graduate test preparation courses, training, networking events, and other opportunities to learn and build your network. Gap year graduates should be focused on acquiring the skills you need for your next step, whether it is going to work or graduate school. For everyone, the skills needed are different. I always recommend graduates enhance their interpersonal communication abilities, learn to listen to others, develop writing skills, focus on developing task-oriented habits to actually get things done (For example: Making a to-do list for every day and sticking to it; repetition will build this habit and needed skill set), take the time to learn what the dress-code looks like in the professional environment you want to be in, be aware and knowledgeable of the latest in technology, and continue to ask questions. This is a great time in your life; take advantage of it.
Michael Baker: The non-profit sector, like every sector, has been impacted greatly by technology. I believe innovation and disruption from technology is a key tool for making non-profits more efficient and effective. AI is already being used by the big non-profits and will become more common throughout our sector in mid-sized and small non-profit organizations when it is more cost-effective. The current, future and recent graduates are mostly Generation Z. This is the generation that was born into and has grown up with the internet and technology. The most important technology is and will continue to be online and mobile. Non-profits need to continue developing and investing in technology, tools, and support systems to meet the needs of their mission. Technology has brought us the internet, social media, the cloud, cashless forms of payments, automating work, evaluation tools creating dashboards that automatically monitor performance, electronic health records, and will continue to evolve. I believe machine-based learning and artificial intelligence are technology now and for the future. Technology that supports transparency, engagement, impact, and data analytics will be what is important in the next 3 to 5 years for non-profit organizations.