September 17, 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.
Florida State University
Bay Path University
University of Georgia, Terry College of Business
Lake Superior State University
Angelo State University
Dominican College of Blauvelt
C. Darren Brooks Ph.D.: Requisite skills relevant for management consulting roles that should be visible to employers can be grouped into the following three broad categories : (1) functional expertise and/or specialization of knowledge in particular areas or disciplines, (2) strong business analytics skills, and (3) the ability to lead projects or teams. Considering the broad nature of management, and particularly management consulting, skills should reflect the specific needs of the organization or industry of practice. For example, individuals working in executive compensation would require a different set of demonstrated skills on their resume than someone engaging in performance systems analysis to support process re-engineering within a manufacturing setting. Additionally, since management professionals work in and/or lead teams, being personable, engaging, proactive, demonstrated leadership, and an ability to handle difficult situations are all skills and competencies highly sought after. In sum, regardless of the industry or sector, most employers look for skills displayed both on a resume and then demonstrated during the selection process that shows the applicant possesses the capability to work within a team, has sound analytical skills, the ability to communicate complex information, resolve conflict and solve problems.
C. Darren Brooks Ph.D.: While advancements in technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics occupy center stage in many areas of management practice, soft skills continue to be seen as equally or even more important skills for success in the field of management. Soft skills are typically described as personal attributes, qualities, and characteristics that enable us to interact more effectively with others. In most fields of management, our ability to communicate, work with, and interact with other people constitutes a significant portion of the work we do. Consequently, employers are focused on identifying candidates who possess strong skills are areas of communication (verbal, written, and non-verbal), leadership and followership, collaboration, an ability to work in teams, intellectual curiosity, adaptability, conflict management, problem-solving, creativity.
C. Darren Brooks Ph.D.: As stated earlier, the field of management is broad and encompasses all industries and sectors. Consequently, the technical skills necessary to succeed will vary according to the specific knowledge and experiences required to understand the nuances of an organization. Accordingly, graduates who have business acumen and technical competency in a particular discipline or industry would be better positioned for employment opportunities. As a result, I always place emphasis on gaining internships and work experience concurrently with academic study. These experiences will provide a real-world understanding of the type of skills necessary to succeed in organizations as well as offer industry-specific knowledge. However, for many graduates, their practical skills are limited. In this case, it is important to ensure you have more generalizable skills that are applicable across industries, such as building digital fluency, analytical fluency, writing skills, and strong Excel skills. When speaking with consulting firms and industry employers, they repeatedly reference the need for graduates to demonstrate more advanced Excel skills.
C. Darren Brooks Ph.D.: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in management occupations will grow over the next decade by 9%. Due to the broad array of management opportunities, variations in skills necessary for success are likely to exist based on the type of management work being performed and the industry or sector. However, there are general management skills or competencies necessary for success, including management consulting, that employers continually seek from graduates. The ten most sought-after skills include the following: critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, innovation/creativity, problem-solving, analytical fluency, digital fluency, adaptability, resilience, aptitude for collaboration and teamwork, and human capital management.
Lauren D’Innocenzo Ph.D.: The coronavirus pandemic has certainly tightened the job market, with fewer available jobs in many sectors such as the service industry, but at the same time, has created many other opportunities for graduates in fields such as healthcare and supply chain. For new graduates, strategically considering opportunities may help to overcome some of the challenges presented in the current economy.
For example, if you are looking to gain experience in service, applying to service-oriented positions in IT or healthcare may offer more opportunities and give you more breadth of experience. I believe the potential for an enduring impact exists in a graduate's ability to adapt to changing demands and willingness to cast a wider net for available positions. Graduates who are myopically focused and unwilling to test their knowledge in different areas may not see the same opportunities, and over time, the lack of opportunities can add up. Now is a great time to work on your resilience and flexibility.
Lauren D’Innocenzo Ph.D.: We are seeing more and more the need for core skills (formerly known as soft skills). These skills include being able to work in a team, leadership, critical problem-solving, and negotiations, to name a few. Many employers see these skills as transferable across contexts and increase the likelihood that the individual will be able to work with others and think outside of the box in collaborative, knowledge-intensive environments. We know that much of the learning for jobs occurs on the job and having these core skills can really help you to stand out as a team-oriented individual, who is willing to think beyond their own needs, and can learn organizational-specific skills needed to succeed in the employer's company.
Lauren D’Innocenzo Ph.D.: Similar to above, having experience around these core skills can really help anyone, including new graduates, stand out from the crowd. This experience can come from taking courses designed to build these skills or engaging in positions or internships that provide opportunities to grow these skills. For example, at Drexel University, we offer a program (Organizational Management) designed specifically to grow these skills through experiential learning that any student can take, regardless of undergraduate major. Outside of the classroom, being a peer leader, working as a camp counselor, or taking on an internship working in a team can be very helpful in building these skills. The key is to highlight these opportunities and skills in your resume. Don't just talk about the tasks you did, but describe the core skills needed for the position and built as a result of the position.
Additionally, remote and virtual work is not going away anytime soon. In fact, many organizations have offloaded brick and mortar locations and have strategically decided to rely more on remote business. Now more than ever, demonstrating your ability to successfully work in a remote environment will be extremely favorable for many employers.
Bay Path University
School of Science and Management
Eleni Barbieri: The online shopping model already had a headstart before the pandemic, and the pandemic has exponentially increased this trend. Retail sale supervision and management positions are going to decrease. Computer programming, network management, internet security, warehouse management, logistics, and delivery-related employment positions are going to increase. Also, computers have enabled more and more large corporations to allow employees to work from home. Initially originating from a need to isolate employees during the pandemic, corporations are seeing great benefits with this practice, with little or no reduction in work output and high dollar value in not having to maintain workspaces for employees. Sadly, due to a tragic decrease of generation X consumers, due to the pandemic, businesses that targeted and relied on that segment of the population will suffer.
Specifically in the area of legal services, you will see a greater difficulty in recruiting and keeping entry-level service providers. The pandemic exposed the contamination risks to those working within in the legal service profession. The risk of future pandemics, current portrayal of the legal services profession in the media, and the ever-compounding avalanche of retirements due to those factors, will create a need for employers to find incentives for people to enter and stay in this demanding field of service.
Eleni Barbieri: I would highly recommend that they work to improve their communication skills. I suggest working to improve all aspects of their communication skills, verbal, nonverbal, and written. The current generation of entry-level employees is already lacking in when it comes to the communication skill set required, due to the advent of texting, emails, and all other forms of indirect communication. The ability to communicate clearly will be an invaluable asset no matter the profession they decide to pursue. While they are working on their communication skills, they should also focus on their abilities to accurately receive communications. Being able to actively listen will garner a better understanding of the message the speaker is trying to convey and the environment in which they find themselves immersed.
Additionally, they need to remain current regarding changes, updates, or trends in their chosen field. They need to remain plugged into data sources that can provide them with the vital information that they require to maintain their proficiency levels in order to successfully return to the academic environment after their gap year.
Eleni Barbieri: Take advantage of every opportunity to intern, observe, or volunteer in the area of your chosen profession. Gather as much information as possible to assist you in making sure that the profession that you chose is the one that you really wantd. There are many different professions in the legal services field. Go in with an open mind and with your eyes wide open; sample all the ones you're interested in so that you can get on track to your ultimate career goal as soon as possible. Do your research to ensure that you pick the organization that best suits your ideals and your vision of an environment that inspires and motivates you to succeed.
Remember that you never stop learning. Stay informed. You will work with numerous people. Try to emulate the ones that you feel are the most successful and professional. Focus is everything. Have a short-term plan, a five-year plan, and a long-term plan. It's alright to adjust your plan as long as you keep your ultimate goals in sight.
Brian Noll: The pandemic, for the most part, has not had an impact on the job market for students graduating from Molloy College with an accounting degree. The students of ours that had commitments at medium to large (Big 4) accounting firms started their positions as planned, albeit in a remote capacity. We experienced only a few individuals that had start dates deferred for a few months. In addition, the majority of our accounting students have been successful in obtaining internships for the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020.
Brian Noll: To study and pass the CPA Exam as soon as possible. Studies have shown that there is a higher likelihood of success on the exam when it is taken shortly after graduation. Once a graduate starts thier full time position they will have much less time available to focus on the exam. Most firms offer a bonus ($5,000 is the norm) for employees that pass the exam within one year of their start date, as having a CPA certification increases your future earning potential and grants a higher degree of upward mobility. One should consider taking a gap year towards passing the CPA exam to be a gift. In addition, students should continually sharpen their Excel skills. Having a CPA with strong Excel skills will make a graduate much more marketable.
Brian Noll: To "put your head down" and do your work! Never complain about having to work additional hours as this is the norm in the accounting profession. Having a good work ethic is essential to success in your career. Lastly, stay off your phone! Your phone should be used for personal matters on your own time and not during work hours.
Ron Aubé Ph.D.: Covid-19 raised awareness about the importance of trust and flexibility in the workplace. Organizations have been forced to explore options beyond traditional office solutions and learned to adapt for different tasks and projects while maintaining employee morale and productivity. Remote work and entrusting employees is not only possible, but necessary, as well as profitable. Companies found that employees can remain effective and productive, while enjoying increased job satisfaction and progressive organizations look for opportunities to arrange talent-sharing partnerships with other organizations.
Remote work has in some ways dehumanized employees and much remains to be done to prioritize the well-being of employees, treating them as people first and workers second. Personal factors promoting physical health and emotional well-being are trendy. Gartner (2020) finds that 32 percent of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. The workforce will be increasingly distributed requiring new forms of management and leadership at the top and ways to enhance job satisfaction. Furthermore, the cross-generational workforce curve is being reshaped as many workers aged over 65 are retiring due to infection concerns. While young workers are currently more likely to be in jobs impacted by the crisis, this exodus of older workers opens the door for them to step in.
Unlike typical recessions where the consumption of goods collapses while services remain largely stable, this pandemic has created the opposite. The service industries (entertainment, travel, lodging, full-service restaurants, elective healthcare, and childcare) have been the most adversely affected driven by the impact of social distancing (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Employment opportunities in production, transportation, storage, and selling of goods (excluding retail) are therefore expected to rise. Fueled by the new realities of social distancing and the increased need for digital collaborations in the workforce, fields related to artificial intelligence are growing at an accelerated pace.
Migration away from large urban centers is becoming noticeable as fewer people come to work and spend money in the city. As a result, the most significant drop in hiring has occurred in large metropolitan areas, while outside the cities, hiring is on the rise.
Ron Aubé Ph.D.: Across all spheres of the working population, people have been forced to undertake a crash course in technology, from audio-visual meetings to other online collaborative media. These skills are crucial and the engine of change in our "new normal" world. Among the companies being forced to try telecommuting, it is a safe bet that many will decide to adopt this more economical and efficient work arrangement and allow people to work from home.
Connecting with people remotely and bringing energy to communications requires excellent written communication and creativity in interacting via modern technology. A recent Gartner poll showed that 48 percent of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19 versus 30 percent before the pandemic. Collaborating digitally in a remote and distributed context will require adjusting the employee experience with new strategies, goal-setting and employee evaluations. Developing excellent communication skills is crucial. Learn how to write clearly, concisely, and quickly. Avoid long sentences, get to the point. People have a short span of attention. Captivate your audience in the beginning of your communication.
Model after other successful writers and practice, practice, practice! The only way to get better at writing is to write. The "new normal" will be kind to those who can communicate effectively and persuasively. The workforce is composed of five different generations and it's crucial for the new generation to learn how to collaboration with older cohorts. As such, without the need to show reverence for older workers, show respect and willingness to learn. Conversely offer help. Reverse mentoring is very popular in many organizations. Knowledge transfer is beneficial for all.
Ron Aubé Ph.D.: Be humble and coachable. Get several mentors and absorb all the knowledge you can from them. Learn from experienced workers and share your own knowledge. Older generations are not always as savvy with technology and reverse mentoring has proven productive whereas older experienced workers can teach the younger cohorts about how to navigate organizational and decision-making issues. Remote work has made this a bit more challenging but not impossible. Build your network. Get involved in everything and anything related to your field of expertise. Be seen. Share your knowledge. Be confident, yet humble and open to new ideas.
As the workplace is still undergoing significant behavior change forced by Covid-19, probably the best advice I could give to a graduate beginning her/his career is to be adaptable and seek to work for an organization with a culture of agility and innovation. Organizations refusing to change and adapt are doomed to fail ultimately. As a young graduate with the knowledge of technology, you have an enormous advantage over workers not possessing the ability to navigate the digital world so easily. Take advantage of it.
Brooke Buffington: The good news is that companies are still hiring and internships are still being offered. We are seeing a bit of a delay in the traditional hiring timeline, as companies navigate this unique marketplace. Therefore, companies may wait slightly longer than normal to extend offers.
Brooke Buffington: Skills that standout are often position specific, but there are always skills that a wide-variety of employers seek. These skills align with the competencies developed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which include skills in critical thinking/problem solving, oral/written communication, teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, leadership, professionalism/work-ethic, career management, and global/intercultural fluency.
Brooke Buffington: This is a difficult question to answer as there are a wide variety of opportunities that a management student or management professional might pursue. I would recommend that applicants be open on location, which allows them to throw a wider net, and to consider more options during this time.
Lake Superior State University
Lukenda School of Business
Marta Diaz: "-The trend toward remote work and learning was already happening for several years, but the pandemic forced us to adapt faster to remote work and knowledge than we would have under our pre-pandemic rates.
-Remote work opportunities will continue to increase and become permanent in some industries. For example, some institutions leave high tax states for lower tax states and expect employees to work from anywhere in the world. Individuals also realize that remote work allows them to work and live where they want - avoiding long commutes.
-Employers will be hiring, but competition for positions will be high, given the pandemic effects on specific industries. College graduates need to bring their absolute best in resumes, interview skills, and professional presence."
Marta Diaz: -The skills that will stand out on a resume are the ones that meet the needs of the employer as described in the position description. Adaptability/flexibility are valuable during this time of uncertainty created by the pandemic.
-Digital literacy skills in remote work and learning and business software application skills are essential for business students. Graduates are learning these skills in college, bringing these skills to the employer rather than developing these skills on the job.
-Many businesses are also training online, so students can have an advantage because they have learned how to learn online.
-Larger metropolitan areas would most likely have the largest number of opportunities; however, there will be more remote work opportunities without living in these metro areas.
-A new job opportunity for the future is the CRO (Chief Remote Officer), responsible for managing remote workers.
Dr. Andy Tiger Ph.D.: Tough question. It will probably take some time to know the effect. Some industries will suffer and might not recover. However, some industries are thriving and will likely continue to do so. Opportunities will exist, but they might not be the type of career that a graduate initially wanted to pursue.
Dr. Andy Tiger Ph.D.: Students will have experience in learning with different modalities; therefore, they should emphasize their communication skills and comfort with technology. Data analytics technology allows converting large data sets into useful information quickly. Students need to be comfortable with this type of analytics tools such as Tableau and Power BI.
Dr. Andy Tiger Ph.D.: Research shows that internships/work experience is something that employers want in prospective employees. Having manufacturing experience is very valuable since it combines so many different types of business disciplines. Regardless, graduates need to be specific in their experiences and be prepared to offer particular examples when answering questions such as "Why should we hire you for this position?".
Angela Grotto Ph.D.:
Angela Grotto Ph.D.:
Angela Grotto Ph.D.:
Clare Pennino Ph.D.: Indeed, there will be an enduring impact... as many students will be taking a long time to complete their college degrees and will have to endure the effect of a job market that will not be back to normal for the foreseeable future.
Clare Pennino Ph.D.: The essential skills are cognitive reasoning, communication skills (written, verbal in terms of speaking and presentation skills, and analytical reading skills), leadership skills, team skills, and numerical abilities.
Clare Pennino Ph.D.: Any type of internship is valuable, as well as any jobs held during their college years. Any instance where a student has taken a leadership role, whether in a college club or community events, would be valuable.
David Martin Ph.D.: The job market will be difficult, but when things start to rebound, they will recover quickly. Assuming that all goes well with the vaccines and their rollouts, I still feel that there is a fair amount of pent up demand for vacation travel in particular. Corporate and business travel will take much longer to come back, and to be honest, it may have fundamentally changed forever. Companies are looking at how expensive all of that business travel was before COVID-19 and how they could substitute that travel with various forms of distancing meetings.
Overall, these virtual meetings have been pretty successful, and corporate America will question the need for so much expensive travel just for a business meeting. Face to face meetings can never be 100% replicated, so there will still be a need for some business travel, but not to the extent needed pre-pandemic. The other big trend that will help younger leaders in the industry is that we have seen many more senior executives use the pandemic as a motivation to make a career move or retire. This means that there is going to be some upward mobility available once the industry starts to recover. This will impact the entire chain of command and allow employees and managers that have been able to weather the storm to move up quickly.
David Martin Ph.D.: Skill sets are very different, depending on what part of the industry you are working towards. One of the overall themes that we continue to see is continuing education and certifications becoming more critical in the industry. Many people in the Hospitality industry have used their furloughed time to engage in certificate completion, which will make them much more competitive, once the hiring picks back up. I have also seen networking become even more critical during the pandemic, which is such an important skill. The ability to develop and maintain a network of professionals has allowed employees that were either furloughed or laid off access to job postings and opportunities that others are missing out on.
David Martin Ph.D.: Location wise is tough right now, since states have taken very different approaches to their COVID-19 responses, especially regarding which businesses can be open and operate, capacity, etc. This is also a very fluid situation that changes day by day. That being said, resorts, hotels, and restaurants located in what have traditionally been high volume tourist destinations will come back first, in my opinion. Beach resorts, in particular, are well placed to have a healthy summer, assuming that all goes well with the vaccines. Cities and locations that are more business and conference driven will take longer to return to their pre-COVID-19 numbers.
Jennifer Robin Ph.D.: I always encourage HR majors to have an understanding of operations in various industries, which helps graduates to understand the needs of the employees they serve, who are primarily responsible for the organization's products and services. Depending upon the subfield they enter, they may benefit from additional coursework in finance, law, information systems, or marketing. New graduates will benefit from a focus on employee safety and wellness and leave policies, given the impact of the global pandemic.
Jennifer Robin Ph.D.: Virtually any place there are organizations, there are HR opportunities! The rule of thumb is one HR staff member for every 75 employees or so, but many companies hire their first staff member dedicated to HR when they are much smaller.
Jennifer Robin Ph.D.: Technology has already impacted the field tremendously, but as HR has migrated from a paper to an electronic system, there are now greater needs for information security, integrated systems, and analytics.