February 22, 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.
University of Northern Colorado
Holy Family University
Texas Woman's University
Metropolitan State University
Appalachian State University
Valdosta State University
Western Oregon University
Tarleton State University
Thomas Endres: A gap year should not be an extended vacation. Yes, taking a break after graduation to recharge can be valuable, but remember to keep your head in the game. The best thing to do is a network. Set up informational (not the job) interviews with people who have the kind of job to which you aspire. Pick their brains and ask for their advice. Attend professional meet-and-greets. There are a number of free or low-cost virtual conferences going on where you can mingle with professionals. Showing up is half the battle. The next best thing is to continue your education. At the end of a gap year, you could enter the workforce with a certificate or two or be well on your way to a master's degree. That gives you an edge up on the competition.
Thomas Endres: When looking at job opportunities, look at more than just the dollar figures. Never underestimate the value of benefits. A good health plan, money put into a retirement account, and a positive environment in which to work will ultimately serve you more than just the bottom line.
Finally, be kind to yourself. 2020 and COVID-19 saddled us all with unanticipated hurdles and stress. Engage in self-care. Breathe. Meditate. Heal.
A job consultant once gave me the best advice that I always pass on to my students. He was talking about the importance of self-awareness and making sure you were walking down your intended path. Better to take a lower-level job, heading the right direction, than a higher-paying gig on a path you don't belong. He said, "There is nothing more devastating than spending your life climbing the ladder of success, only to find it's leaning against the wrong wall." That stuck with me.
My advice to the graduate? Find a job that fits your feet. Ask yourself, what kind of footwear do you see yourself in, and does your career path model that? For example, I only wear cowboy boots. Higher education was a good route for me because a sport coat with boots and jeans is considered dressed up! I wouldn't fit into the metro-corporate scene because I don't own, nor would I wear wing tips. What do you want to wear? Penny loafers? Mary Janes? Boat shoes? Heels? Tennis shoes? Crocs? There is a market and an environment out there for whichever you choose.
Holy Family University
School of Education
Dr. Geraldine Fitzpatrick-Doria: The pandemic has surely created the conditions for some specific trends in the K-12 educational arena. In my opinion, meeting the social and emotional needs of educators is paramount for both collective and individual success. I have been focusing on the topic of self-care for educators for the last eight years.
Currently I am at the final stages of completing a self-care book for educators that will hopefully be out this Spring. Now more than ever, educators need tools and strategies to be able to address the myriad of stressors that come at them daily. Additionally the ability to demonstrate flexibility will serve all.
Addressing skills and competencies, educators have been quickly immersed into a sea of technology. Some have been able to ride the wave and many are drowning. Schools and organizations have been addressing this challenge and they must continue to be very specific in both the content and the process of their professional development and teacher training.
Coupled with diving into the research and literature around self-care I have been following the number of teachers across the state of PA and across the country. Teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate with many teachers leaving during their first five years in the field. A parallel path is showing the college students are not choosing teaching as a profession and this is reported through the decreasing number of teaching certificates issued each year. As we look at retention, we must also look at recruitment. The majority of our current teaching profession across the country and across the state of PA are white women. We must connect with our high school students to begin to get students interested in the possibility of teaching as a profession and we must address diversity during this most important work.
I am the faculty advisor for Holy Family University's Aspiring Educators Club. When I spoke with my students last year all but one told me that when they announced in high school that they were interested in becoming a teacher everyone told them not to do it (parents, teachers, counselors, classmates). One student said that her uncle promised to buy her a car if she picked a different profession. A shift must occur. We must find a way to tap into the hearts of the next generation of educators.
Dr. Geraldine Fitzpatrick-Doria: If a graduate needs to take a gap year, I would recommend that they spend this time learning about themselves and learning about what is going on out in the field. As I coach aspiring educators I share with them that the teacher and the organization must be a match. It's almost like a marriage with intentional alignment of core values, principles, vision, educational philosophy and community. During a gap year I would encourage aspiring educators to spend some time focusing on themselves and thinking about where they would like to work and what they would like to do within an organization. Are they interested in public, private or charter school structures? Are they interested in urban or suburban? Are they interested in virtual or brick and mortar? Are they interested in progressive or traditional? During this time the pre-service educators can think about what would work best for them and begin to explore schools, districts, and organizations to see which one would match who they are as a personal and a professional educator.
I would encourage them to network and talk to as many educators and leaders as possible. Golden nuggets of wisdom can be found in every interaction and every conversation. Volunteering is also an excellent strategy. They can immerse themselves directly into schools and feel and breath the climate and culture. They can also review curriculum and teaching and engagement strategies. There's nothing better than being in the thick of it and observing everything. Through these experiences they can see what resonates with them and what they want to ensure they do not choose.
Finally as an advocate for self-care, I am passionate about sharing self-care strategies and plans with all pre-service educators that I meet and teach. Let's prepare our future educators so that they don't leave within the first five years of their teaching career.
Dr. Geraldine Fitzpatrick-Doria: Having been a teacher for 19 years and an administrator for 15 years prior to entering into higher education I have pages of advice LOL! I would share everything I discussed in question #2. I would also encourage them to never stop learning. Being a life-long learner is absolutely essential for continued success. I would strongly recommend diving deeply into cultural competency and to learn as much as they can both about themselves and the communities they hope to serve. Learning about our bias and our points of viewing the world and learning as much as we can about others creates the conditions to build amazing classroom experiences for our students.
Texas Woman's University
College of Professional Education, Department of Teacher Education
Peggy Malone: The experiences from the Coronavirus pandemic over the past several months will shape the approach teachers and school leaders pursue in planning, teaching, and leading student learning. The heightened importance of focused processes and being flexible throughout schools will also impact the work of today's educators. It is inevitable that technology will also play a greater role and impact education graduates entering the workforce in 2021. I believe one of the greatest impacts on graduates will be the ability to be resourceful and responsive in a changing school environment. The ability to recognize the emotional, social, and learning needs of students while responding quickly with clarity and care drives the work in schools. New graduates must be able to contribute immediately to this concentrated focus.
Peggy Malone: The expanded role of technology in schools is a skill set that young graduates should be knowledgeable in and growing to best support their daily work. Additionally, education graduates should be focused on strengthening an ability to design and manage technology driven experiences connected to the core student learning needs. Collaboration across disciplines can assist young graduates with this challenge. Additionally, it will be essential for young graduates to actively practice putting the student or client first in planning these technology driven experiences. This may require graduates to invest additional thought, creativity, and reflection to respond accordingly, but the results will be worth their efforts.
Peggy Malone: I believe it is a combination of experiences which stand out on resumes. Experiences focused on content expertise are foundational. Additionally, these areas supported with experiences highlighting collaboration, personal interests, and diversity of work strengthen the story your resume shares with prospective employers.
Marcquis Parham: Absolutely, this generation of graduates has experienced an event that has no comparison to one from the past. Generation Z was inclined to use technology for communication, but never has the world articulated that as mandatory until recent times. Changing industry trends as well as the impact on socialization of the workplace will allow this new generation to have a new perspective on work, leisure, and life in general.
Marcquis Parham: Resiliency, Adaptability, and Innovation are key in today's workforce. Past generations have shown that the average graduate needs to be ready to change careers on average 3-5 times prior to retirement, and current trends can only continue to expand this phenomenon. The current workforce are inclined to the upcoming generations for ideas and solutions. Creativity and innovation are coveted in today's workplace.
Marcquis Parham: Transferable Leadership Skills: We believe that transferrable leadership skills such as the ability to demonstrate innovation, adaptability, intercultural competency, and interpersonal communication help our students excel in society. At Ohio we believe in higher education and the development of leaders and change agents. This is common to all of our student body, in every major department and university college.
Dr. Crystal Fashant: Yes, I believe there is likely to be an enduring impact on graduates, but the depth and breadth remains to be seen. Of course, hiring practices have been upended in our current environment, probably not unlike some of what we saw in 2009. Virtual work environments have moved from the fringe to the norm in the span of a few months, although we need to remember that not everyone, even with a degree, will have the opportunity to work from home.
How have graduates been impacted? Quite unfortunately, networking opportunities have suffered. For example, finding opportunities to meet future colleagues and make career connections in a low-stakes environment, like conferences or local chapter events, has been made much more difficult in the pandemic. My advice would be to look for unique ways to connect with those who are working in your desired sector of work. Be an engaged citizen. Attend your local city council meetings in a virtual format. Apply for a fellowship. Watch for opportunities to earn CEUs or training certificates that can be added to a resume.
Try to understand your local public agency job forecasts. For example, here in Minnesota we can see a shortfall of public sector workers on the horizon. Even if you can't land that perfect job immediately, look for ways to increase your knowledge and skills in the sector(s) that appear to have the most demand in your area, so you are ready when those "perfect jobs" begin hiring again.
Dr. Crystal Fashant: There has been a demand for tech-savvy graduates for quite some time, but this has been made even more important in our pandemic-driven, uber-virtual work environment. You are going to benefit by knowing the basics - like how to set up and run an effective virtual meeting or work with cloud document-sharing software. You are also going to benefit from mid-level skills in using programs like Microsoft Excel, in engaging in web-based communications, and in building effective visual presentations and communications, especially those that are ADA-accessible.
Importantly, there are other factors at play in our current environment, especially issues around trust in government, deep political discourse, and widespread civil and social unrest. New public administrators will need to navigate these waters carefully and seek to better understand the divides we see currently. Try developing a short personal values statement and share this on your resume. Look for opportunities to increase your understanding of systemic racism and how equity can be embedded in public policy and in the work of public agencies. Public service is, for many of you, a calling, so demonstrating your understanding of the ethical principles in our field will help set you apart.
In most entry-level public administration jobs, the goal is to serve in the best interests of your community with neutrality and with compassion. The public and nonprofit sectors are deeply entwined with calls for social justice, so do your best to learn, read, and engage on these topics. Understand how to recognize when policies and procedures, from recruitment and hiring to services and socioeconomic disparities, can be shaped and reimagined using a lens of equity.
Dr. Crystal Fashant: Direct, concrete experience is always best. The good news is that your experiences can be shaped in more ways than just paid work experience. If you participated in an internship or completed a community-based project as part of your degree program, be sure to make it a prominent line item on your resume. The beauty of public administration is that our experiences can be enhanced quite easily via our civic engagement in our local community, so be sure to seek out and take advantage of these opportunities whenever possible. Make time for volunteerism, both in local nonprofit organizations and via local government community events. Join a nonprofit board or a city commission. Don't be shy to highlight awards, honors, or involvement in collegiate clubs or organizations on your resume. Remember to use action-based key words that are picked up by resume bots.
In the last couple of years, I've also had requests by soon-to-be graduates to write general recommendation letters on their behalf. As I understand it, these students are submitting my recommendation letter with their resumes and cover letters. This is not something I had ever thought to do as a young job applicant, but it is a trend I am seeing from my own students and might be something to consider. Of course, that means you must take the time to get to know your professors so that they can speak to your skills - for example, effective communication skills, good time management, attention to detail, a specialized topic or piece of research you'd written about (or for) the public sector.
Finally, be okay with starting in an entry-level position, and when you do get your foot in the door, be sure to take on extra projects, get involved in the civic "life" of your agency, and demonstrate your worth in actions that will be noticed by others. When the promotion opportunity arises, you'll be ready for it!
Dr. Patrick O'Shea Ph.D.: I can almost guarantee that there will be an enduring impact on our graduates. The nature of education will be changed dramatically based on the experience of the pandemic, and our graduates will be aware of these changes in a practical sense. We have talked about widespread distance education in a conceptual way in our courses, but it is different to see this in practice in their day-to-day lives. That practical experience will change their perceptions of what is possible and probable.
Additionally, if the institutions successfully move beyond the "survival" stage of pandemic response, then the educational system could look entirely different based on this experience (for example, more teacher planning days while students work remotely or less acceptance of passive resistance to integration of technologies based on "doing things the way I've always done them" kind of thinking).
Dr. Patrick O'Shea Ph.D.: Graduates with degrees in instructional technology will need a firm grasp on the pedagogical approaches that best leverage the technology. These students will need to understand the nature of the problems that educators are trying to address in their classes in order to best find tools to help solve them. This will require an understanding of backwards design principles as well as an expanding and evolving familiarity with the technologies that are available to them. Both of these areas require adaptability and an attitude of life-long learning.
Dr. Patrick O'Shea Ph.D.: As with most fields, practical experience in design and support are going to be most immediately valued. Those kinds of experiences - either through volunteering, interning, or other means - will likely stand out most prominently on a resume.
Dr. Denise Laverne Hill: First, I would advise any graduate beginning their career to not let a day go by without learning something new about their job. Whether they are there for two months, two years, or 20 years, they work diligently to always learn new things and to expand their knowledge and expertise in that area. Secondly, I would advise new graduates to not be a clock-watcher. You can't do your job effectively if you are always waiting for quitting time. Make the most of every day. I like to tell my students before they enter the workforce to - Be Efficient! Be Effective! Be Enthusiastic! If they aren't practicing the 3 E's, they won't last long where they are! Lastly, I would advise new graduates to always look for new opportunities. Don't become complacent. Always look for an open door and ALWAYS look for ways to improve your self-worth; whether professionally, financially, or otherwise, when opportunity knocks, always look through the peephole to see who/what is at the door!
Dr. Denise Laverne Hill: The technology, I think, will become more important and prevalent in our field in the future will be the continued and improved use of innovative resources such as devices with video conferencing and interactivity capabilities, along with programs designed to integrate artificial intelligence for gathering information between individuals locally and globally. In the field of education, we are no longer limited to what we can do within the four walls of our classroom. We can now explore beyond the classroom, beyond our cities and states, and beyond our own country to collaborate with others on matters that will enhance our profession and provide experiences to our students they would not have otherwise. These are exciting times! Technology will continue to make innovative advancements that will help educators integrate even more creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration into our curriculum that will help us produce dynamic, enthusiastic, productive, and knowledgeable learners of the 21st century.
Dr. Denise Laverne Hill: I feel that starting salaries in our field of education could be higher. As an educator, we are responsible for producing successful citizens that will flourish in society. This includes wearing many, many hats in our profession. I don't know of any other profession requiring the need for so many hats. Of course, our biggest hat is that of an educator. But stacked on top of our educator hat are hats of a mentor, nurse, referee, custodian, secretary, counselor, parent, ringmaster, detective, and so many more. For that, I would say yes; compensation should reflect the never-ending duties (both stated and expected) of educators; After all, our job does not stop when we leave the school building. Today's classrooms were not like classrooms 30 years ago. Advanced planning, knowledge of the subject matter, having a willingness to step out of our comfort zone, and of course, developing professional teacher-student relationships that will enhance the educational experience of our students, as well as providing a quality educational experience, is paramount when considering the salaries of educators. Teaching should be one of the most valued and respected professions. I would just like to see the salaries reflect that, from the beginning, so that advanced degrees will be the icing on the top!
Gregory Zobel Ph.D.: Pay attention to your relationships with people and networking. Learning how to build solid, professional working relationships will not only make your work-life flow more smoothly; those relationships may potentially benefit you in the future. Whether you learn about great professional development opportunities, new job openings, emerging technologies, or ways to increase your market value or efficiency, people are the best resource we have for growth. Additionally, being a kind, professional person who gets their work done makes you an invaluable team member, no matter where your work. Frankly, being the right person who is alert to their co-workers and colleagues can help you avoid workplace drama.
Gregory Zobel Ph.D.: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are already substantial, but the next couple of years will make these more affordable and more ubiquitous. Given the industry's massive investment in AR and VR, it's more than likely that educational technology will expand in these directions.
Gregory Zobel Ph.D.: Whether graduates start in higher education or industry usually ranges from $50,000 to $80,000. If students augment EdTech and Instructional Design training with User Experience, Interaction Design, Technical Communication, or Project Management, they could quickly jump up another ten to twenty thousand dollars. All that said, it depends on where people find personal fulfillment--education or industry. Ideally, graduates will make the most of their degrees and pivot between the two. That way, they can develop themselves and their skills most robustly while bringing the best of both worlds together in a smooth synthesis.
Tarleton State University
Department of Educational Leadership & Technology
Dr. Sharon Ross: Future leaders in educational organizations will need to understand the meaning of coaching educators to "get better faster" as prescribed by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (2016), execute the principles of coaching teachers, and pursue perfection as a means of intentional classroom improvement. These young graduates must enter the workforce with a working understanding of how to lead the charge of diving and digging deep into school and student data reading, analyzing, and searching for problems of practice, and then implementing high-impact instructional strategies to achieve the goals set forth.
Their skillset has to include the abilities to reason, solve problems, think at a higher level, collaborate and build teams as well as relationships, persuade, communicate effectively with a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders, motivate all stakeholders and encourage/promote parental and community involvement, hire the best and be a tech-savvy, data-driven leader, promoting success for all students, listen to others, follow the directions of a direct supervisor, and understand the policies and procedures of day-to-day operations.
Dr. Sharon Ross: Being from Texas, I will always promote the Texas Public School systems! For young graduates, I would advise them to research the schools and districts they would like to partner with, so they have a deep understanding of where they are trying to work. Different states, cities, and regions have different cultures and expectations; therefore, it is best to know where you're going! Visit the area for a couple of days and ask the locals questions about the pros and cons of living in the area. If the salary is an issue, check out the more extensive urban districts. Some individuals prefer small towns over larger towns for various reasons. Be brave and explore all options! Most importantly, America's children need the absolute best teacher and educational administrators to educate and lead them daily, no matter the geographical location!
Dr. Sharon Ross: Technology will always impact the field of education, as we have seen during the surge of COVID19. For this reason, over the next five years, educational leaders will need to be able to use technology to increase the equity among students, educators, and families being served; promote and provide necessary tools and resources for full digital citizenship; engage educators in building systemic plans and improving the daily use of technology in evaluation processes of such programs; increase knowledge and skills regarding the overall culture and growth mindset of utilizing technology to support its innovative use which grows and improves academic achievement as well as the educators personal and professional growth. More districts will create learning centers designed to teach technology, engineering, and computer science skills. Virtual student learning will increase and be made possible, no matter where they reside, and educational leaders and administrators will be efficient system designers as well as continuing their duty in operating as effective instructional leaders of learning.
Caryn Beck-Dudley: The workforce has changed drastically in the last year, and these shifts pose new challenges and opportunities for young graduates. The difficulties these students and business schools faced in 2020 have shown us the importance of agility and adaptability in the future of work. Young graduates will need to hone their skills in managing a crisis and responding quickly to a changing situation. New graduates will also need to develop their "soft skills," in terms of building relationships virtually and navigating online platforms for work and team collaboration. With disruption as the new normal, these skills will set new graduates apart from their peers and help them serve their future teams, employers, and employees effectively. AACSB-accredited business schools prepare future workers to lead and excel in these uncertain situations, as well as provide high-quality, discipline-specific knowledge in fields such as accounting, marketing, and finance, among others.
Caryn Beck-Dudley: Business education prepares learners for success in whatever passions they pursue. This year's graduates, and future graduates, are entering a challenging workforce. We know that some industries will thrive during a pandemic while others will falter, but it's important to recognize that market disruption also brings new entrepreneurial opportunities. Business schools can help guide learners and employees looking for a career change or those starting a business to see these challenges as opportunities by using critical thinking, analytics, and problem-solving to increase their chance of success.
Caryn Beck-Dudley: Technology has drastically changed in the last year, thanks to COVID-19, and its evolution shows no sign of slowing down. As more programs, degrees, and jobs transition to an online environment, all of us can expect technology to impact almost everything we do in the business world. Many business schools were already offering online programs and are continuing to refine these programs, which are likely to become more prominent in the future. For AACSB-accredited schools, online programs require the same level of quality and standards as in-person programs. We are confident that AACSB-accredited programs, in all formats, successfully prepare graduates with technological agility to lead within any industry.
Caryn Beck-Dudley: Disruption from COVID-19 has touched every aspect of the business world, including the future of accounting and auditing. In our "new normal," there is a growing focus on a digitally-led work world, and it's important that learners and graduates are well prepared for this transformation. AACSB-accredited schools are responding quickly and leading the charge to help guide and prepare these agile learners to be successful in all their future endeavors.
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.