February 11, 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.
Dedman College of Hospitality
Sacred Heart University
Utah Valley University
Indiana University Bloomington
University of Indianapolis
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
The University of Akron
Centenary College of Louisiana
Department of Mechanical EngineeringWebsite
Dr. John Leylegian Ph.D.: Let me preface this by saying that I'm going to address these questions primarily from a mechanical engineering perspective. I believe that one big trend will be an increase in the energy efficiency of residential buildings. Once the pandemic ends, many will go back to the office, but not everyone will, and even those that do may only do so part time. Residential buildings will be occupied more than they were before. Buildings are the largest end users of energy, so an increase in residential building energy efficiency will have to accompany that shift in the workforce.
Dr. John Leylegian Ph.D.: I think almost any graduate will finish school with the same skill set in terms of technical knowledge. What can stand out is an ability to code and use various professional-grade software packages - the actual programming languages and software packages are secondary. If you can code in VBA, moving to Matlab or Python is not a big deal - it's just a matter of syntax. If you can use one CFD code or one FEA code, others will be much easier to learn. The foundation will be attractive to employers. Of course, the non-technical skills are SO important as well, most notably communication (speaking and writing).
Dr. John Leylegian Ph.D.: Any job where you can learn something new is a good job. In an entry-level position, you should be absorbing as much knowledge as you can, while making a good contribution to the company and the projects you work on. This strategy will make you very valuable, because anything you already know doesn't have to be taught to you.
Dedman College of Hospitality
Marriott Career and Professional Development CenterWebsite
Alishia Piotrowski Ed.D.: The biggest trend that we are currently seeing is the move away from formal management training programs in favor of direct-placement positions. Companies are beginning to hire again, but the competition for these positions is strong. Within our student population, we are seeing a renewed interest in vacation destinations, such as beach resorts with strong drive markets. That is where we are seeing the most success with recruitment.
Alishia Piotrowski Ed.D.: Certifications are always a great idea, if you are looking to stand out on the job market. With the level of competition for jobs today, it certainly can't hurt. But there is no one "best" certification. I suggest students narrow their job focus and look for certifications that focus on that specific area. For students interested in the wine industry, we recommend the Certified Specialist of Wine exam. For students interested in wedding planning, we encourage them to look into The Bridal Society. Furthering your education in a specific area, through a certification, is a great way to stand out in the job market.
Alishia Piotrowski Ed.D.: I think in today's market, students have to think less about the actual job, and think more about the company that they want to work for. I encourage students to look into different companies in their area of hospitality and assess how they feel they would "fit" into that company. What are the company's values? What type of culture has that company created? What are your opportunities for advancement, or for movement? These are the types of questions that a student should be asking. Unfortunately, in today's market, a great student may not get their "dream job" right out of college. But, if they target a company that they see themselves growing with, they should focus on finding any job within that company that would allow them to gain experience and to grow. If they do this, and they work hard, they will be much more likely to get that dream job once the industry has recovered and positions are available.
Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University’s Center for Career & Professional DevelopmentWebsite
Keith Hassell: One thing the pandemic has taught us all, college students and employers, is to be flexible and adaptable. During the spring 2020 semester - students' "routines" were thrown out the window, and they were forced to switch from in-person to remote learning. Although this was a learning curve for those on and off campus, it taught students a valuable lesson: adaptability.
With the transition to remote work for many employers, they, too, had to adjust their workflows, especially with regards to recruiting for internships and post-graduate opportunities. Some employers did have to postpone or cancel internships, but some also saw it as an opportunity to think outside the box, coming up with new innovative ways to virtually host opportunities, and to recruit. The ways in which companies can now recruit, virtually across new geographic areas, is a direct result of the pandemic, one we anticipate to last far beyond.
Keith Hassell: A good job can be defined in many ways. Students have a variety of interests, and we are seeing more and more students secure roles immediately after commencement. While a student may have secured a position that is not necessarily his or her ultimate dream job, it is important to realize it is a stepping stone to get a student to he or she's ultimate goals. Experience is necessary to make professional connections and develop background to be marketable for the next role. We encourage students to think of each position as how it fits into their career goals - as opposed to a one-time job - and how this position might align with future aspirations. A good job does not necessarily mean a six-figure salary; it means opportunity for growth, development and experience.
Keith Hassell: Employers are increasingly looking for applied skillsets and additional certifications to set a candidate apart. Sacred Heart University has recently launched a remote work certification, which houses three modules - focusing on the remote worker, the remote team and the remote leader, providing the tools and resources to comfortably leverage and utilize virtual platforms at various organizations. Additional specialized training, certifications and more are great selling tools pending on the specific area of interest. Certifications are common in areas such as project management, sales, IT/network/software, Google application and more. The candidate needs to think, "What can I do that is beyond my coursework to show I am passionate about my field? How do I make myself stand out?" Certifications is an attainable way to do this.
In addition, soft skills continue to be equally important in today's job market. NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers) identified seven core competencies that employers seek from entry level candidates which include critical thinking/problem solving, oral/written communication, teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, career management and global/intercultural fluency.
Utah Valley University
Department of Communication, Public Relations EmphasisWebsite
Meaghan McKasy Ph.D.: Certainly, just like there will be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all of us. However, it is up to communication graduates to decide what type of impact the pandemic will have on their career. As a result of the pandemic, many companies are realizing that remote employment may play an integral role in their future. The written, verbal, and interpersonal skills that communication students learn through their academic tenure give them a competitive advantage in this regard. Additionally, though it may not be a positive reflection of industry, candidates are being asked to do more, oftentimes with less. A Communications Manager may find themself leading strategy across social media accounts, utilizing SMS tools, writing compelling and relevant content, tracking and analyzing campaign metrics, managing community partners, and more. Recent communication graduates are well equipped to tackle a multi-media, multitasking industry.
Meaghan McKasy Ph.D.: In our increasingly digital world, any sort of digital media or data analytics certificate or experience is incredibly valuable. Membership in professional organizations such as the Society of Professional Journalists or the Public Relations Society of America, or a research association such as the National Communication Association, can provide you with tremendous networking opportunities. If students are looking to pursue a career in public relations, then the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) can really set you apart a crowded and competitive job market.
Meaghan McKasy Ph.D.: The pandemic has only emphasized the importance of soft skills. Luckily for communication graduates, so many of the key soft skills that employers look for are the foundation of their degree. Employers look for clear verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, listening, persuasion, and critical thinking, to name a few. Further, an attentiveness to work ethic, such as independence and time management, for instance, is necessary for anyone to succeed, but especially in an increasingly common work-from-home environment where there are plenty of distractions. Finally, self-awareness and empathy cannot be undervalued in these tumultuous times where employers recognize the importance of mental health and racial awareness.
Indiana University Bloomington
Department of Business Economics and Public PolicyWebsite
Kerem Cakirer Ph.D.: In short, definitely. The way the world is moving forward in business may not have changed its course drastically; however, the pace of the change (digitalization) has exponentially increased due to the pandemic circumstances. The pandemic forced businesses hand to transform their businesses into more digital and online form. After the coronavirus pandemic, businesses will focus on more remote and off site working. The graduates must be well equipped with technological skills to excel in a more digitalized world than ever. The pandemic has changed the skill set which the graduates must have.
Kerem Cakirer Ph.D.: This is a great question. The pandemic has changed the working life for good. Usually, a day at work for a graduate starts very early with commuting to the main office of the company they work. However, this is the past now. Graduates may start working from their home office and expected to be online for 8-10 hours a day, sitting in front of their computer, probably fifteen minutes after breakfast. They may not be even required to wear a suit! The living room could be the new graduate's work office too. When the day kicks off, it will definitely include lots of email correspondence, Zoom meetings and Microsoft's team collaboration works. The painted picture here may sound arbitrary; however, the whole way of doing business can create different challenges for a recent graduate. In my opinion, the most difficult challenge will be, what I call as, the no-curtain effect, which is, separating the work life from the personal life. With no hard boundaries, such as business offices or on site working projects, graduates may find very difficult to adopt the business world than ever after the pandemic. Post pandemic era, the graduates could find sustaining a balanced lifestyle more challenging because they would be expected to learn and achieve a lot in their job while they are young and novice in their career. The whole transformation of "a day at work" can even create a new demand for different line of jobs, (a life coach may be?). I am very curious to see how the evolution of "day at work" will be.
Kerem Cakirer Ph.D.: The labor market is not so different than any market with demand and supply. The demand from employers will shift towards more technical (software, coding, computer language programming) and analytical (problem solving on your own) skills than social skills overall. Being capable of writing or/and understanding computer languages will be a must have skill in the very near future. Communication skills over online platforms or social media platforms will play a huge role when employers are making a hiring decision. The data supports that businesses are using more online platforms than ever. I am projecting that there won't be any business travels or on-site client meetings in the near future. Exceling in different types of software, and being able to learn a new one easily, will become more important than people skills in businesses. Employers will seek for candidates, who are capable of achieving tasks in a more off-site (outside the office) environment through a deadline, and who can utilize multiple different softwares at their hand to solve business problems. As far as how the hiring process would go, we might see employers using artificial intelligence to make hiring decisions over some online platform soon. Essentially, this means that the candidates will be assessed with a more quantitative measure than ever. An evaluation measure by the AI, which will take soft and digital skills more into account.My final words are: The pandemic is still a burden to the humankind but the world will prevail. This year could be the inception of a new era in terms of how businesses run.
University of Indianapolis
Department of Leadership & Educational Studies, School of Education
Dr. Gaoming Zhang: Teacher shortage. We have heard the term of teacher shortage for a while. But this year the pandemic has intensified this long standing shortage to crisis levels. Thousands of teachers are needed during the pandemic, to keep schools open (in-person and virtual learning).
- An increasing need for people with experiences/knowledge of online/hybrid/virtual learning. For decades technology has been viewed as a supplemental tool (or in some people's mind a disruption) in teaching and learning. Not any more. How to design content/curriculum that can be delivered online? How to accommodate learners with special needs in an online environment? How to promote learners' engagement in an online/hybrid environment? These are all great opportunities and challenges unfolded for beginning teachers in such a highly changing environment nowadays.
Dr. Gaoming Zhang: -Instructional technology & tools
-Online/virtual/hybrid experiences (e.g., curriculum design, online/virtual/hybrid teaching experiences, etc.)
-Social-emotional learning. How to support students' social emotional learning in a challenging time? How to build relationships with students when you don't see them on a daily basis?
-Communication and collaboration skills. These non-cognitive skills remain important skills that employers are looking for from resumes.
Dr. Gaoming Zhang: I believe most people choose to stay in their home state and teach. But the teacher shortage tends to be more intensified in larger school districts and in metropolitan areas. So people may choose a state with better job outlooks as well.
Cloverdale Center for Youth & FamilyWebsite
Steve Wages Ph.D.: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pre-pandemic projections for employment of mental health counselors, including pastoral counselors, for 2019-2020 were very strong with growth being much faster than the average for all occupations. A recent report by the Barna Research Group compared pre-pandemic levels of relational, mental, and emotional health to the results of surveys of relational health, stress, and anxiety associated with the coronavirus, political, and racial tensions.
As expected, relational, emotional, and mental health struggles have been greatly amplified which will only serve to increase the need or demand for the services provided by pastoral counselors. However, it has also been reported that urban churches are experiencing a 15-25% decline in giving with rural churches reporting even greater declines. Consequently, budgets are being streamlined for sustainability which will likely have a negative impact on the hiring of pastoral counselors, at least full-time, in this employment sector. Because the need for pastoral counseling is so great, graduates should think strategically about how they market their services.
For example, my church community cannot afford a full-time pastoral counselor, but is looking to contract with a group in private practice who are serving the needs of multiple congregations. Graduates may need to look at joining such a group of pastoral counselors who provide counseling services on a contract basis. Further, I believe the economic stimulus may create additional jobs in other employment sectors for pastoral counselors.
Steve Wages Ph.D.: I recommend they use this time to fill in the gaps, no pun intended, in their program of studies by expanding their knowledge base. All educational programs have gaps in the training, content areas which are not addressed adequately. For example, my counseling program was highly regarded, yet I had little to no content related to aging studies, parenting, or personal finances, etc. Further, the content of counseling programs is problem-centered or remedial, conceptually focused on tertiary prevention.
Consequently, graduates are not exposed to a large body of research and literature related to human development, individual wellness, and family strengths which would greatly inform and enhance their assessment and intervention strategies employed in counseling. I believe the more we can do to strengthen our understanding of healthy individual and family wellness, the better equipped we will be to address unhealthy relationships and family dynamics. Put another way, being well grounded in primary and secondary prevention will further equip the pastoral counselor's efforts at intervention. Again, use this time to acquire relevant knowledge and content that most counseling programs do not address extensively.
Steve Wages Ph.D.: As soon as possible, establish a formal mentoring relationship with someone who is seasoned in pastoral counseling. Generally, the research demonstrates that the performance of employees with mentors is of a higher quality, they advance in their responsibilities and careers faster, and they avoid common mistakes exhibited by other employees. Establish short-term goals (6 months) for your position and a plan for overcoming obstacles; then ask your mentor to hold you accountable for implementing your plan. As part of your self-care. you also need to be proactive in developing a few close friendships, perhaps including colleagues, who can be a source of emotional support and encouragement to you personally.
You should be confident in your training while also being realistic and transparent about your limitations. There is still a lot that you do not know and much you will learn with experience. Until then, be willing to say "I don't know" when faced with problems you have not addressed before. Then commit to learning more about the issue through personal study and/or consulting with a more experienced colleague or mentor. In some cases, you may need to invite a more experienced counselor to meet with a client or where appropriate refer them to someone else.
You need to equip yourself to address structural changes to the delivery of pastoral care and counseling as a consequence of the pandemic. You will need to adapt to providing pastoral counseling virtually perhaps via Zoom sessions. Give thought as to how the virtual context impacts the counseling process and the spiritual resources you employ. For example, if you are comfortable praying with a client in your office, will you be equally inclined to pray with them online or over a phone. In light of the pandemic, Dr. Chuck Lawless noted, "Good pastoral care has required being more proactive than reactive." Ordinarily, pastoral counselors are reactive in that they respond to needs when they hear about them or when they are
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Dr. Timothy Edwards: I think more journalists and media professionals will work remotely. The pandemic has proven that the technology is sufficient enough to facilitate this change, and this trend will help save costs for media outlets.
Dr. Timothy Edwards: Writing and research skills. Analytical and critical thinking skills. Technical skills such as web design, graphic design, audio and video production skills. Employers are interested in potential employees knowledge, intelligence and skills.
Dr. Timothy Edwards: Like most jobs, opportunities exist in major media hubs like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta. But one can find digital media jobs in medium and small markets as well. Looking media and media-related jobs in non-traditional places such as hospitals, schools, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, religious institutions could bear fruit for the enterprizing college graduate.
The University of Akron
School of CommunicationWebsite
Rhiannon Kallis Ph.D.: While some industries and organizations might be on a hiring freeze due to the impact of Covid-19, other organizations who are surviving and/or thriving during the pandemic will be looking for entry-level graduates. Although there were unavoidable interruptions in entering the workplace recently and challenges to overcome during Covid-19, I don't believe this will be a long-lasting detriment to those qualified graduates looking for employment.
Rhiannon Kallis Ph.D.: Specifically referring to graduates going into the Communication field, I feel technology skills, crisis communication, and self-motivation will be crucial to possess. We shifted to remote work during the pandemic; many organizations may decide for resource and flexibility reasons to continue this mode even after the pandemic. Understanding how to use technology for teamwork will be a great skill to possess. In terms of using social media strategically, understanding best practices for each unique platform is important (i.e. best times to post, target markets on each platform, etc.) as well as understanding the analytics. Additionally, crisis communication skills and customer service communication will be beneficial. Organizations will need to continue to know which types of media (traditional and social media) to use for crisis messages and for managing customer service. Finally, employees will need to continue to be self-motivated as we work remotely.
Rhiannon Kallis Ph.D.: Any experience that is accompanied by measurable outcomes is important to highlight. For example, if a candidate managed social media accounts for an organization, including relevant metrics and measurable objectives would be standout information.
Centenary College of Louisiana
Frost School of Business
Dr. Barbara Davis: Graduates will be forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic. This major event during their academic careers is so far reaching and will impact the rest of their lives. This event will forever be remembered and utilized in all future decisions they make.
Dr. Barbara Davis: Analysis - Graduates will need to analyze situations, identify the best choices, and seek solutions with the highest benefit to the organization.
Creativity - Graduates will need to possess critical and creative thinking skills.
Flexibility - Graduates must remain flexible to succeed in a highly changing environment.
Dr. Barbara Davis: Graduates participating in internships related to their areas of interest. Internships spanning more than one semester at the same firm stand out as well.
Dr. Nicole Evans: The full impact of the coronavirus pandemic is not yet known. Some industries have been hit harder than others. For example, demand for courier and logistic services has increased during the pandemic. On the other hand, sales in the hospitality industry have declined. On a positive note, young graduates are very adaptable and are just beginning their careers. They are very flexible and have numerous career options, so the impact will probably not be enduring and long term for them.
Dr. Nicole Evans: Graduates need to demonstrate that they have soft skills when they enter the workforce. It is imperative that the soft skills fit the job description and are an obvious advantage in that role. Employers seek candidates that are personable, good communicators, clear thinkers, organized, empathetic, confident, and positive-just to name a few.
Dr. Nicole Evans: When reviewing resumes, most employers look for relevant internships or work experience in their new, entry-level hires. Other experiences, such as leadership roles in student activities or sports are also valued by employers. Volunteer work and summer/part-time jobs also stand out on a resume.
Freeman College of ManagementWebsite
Eddy Ng Ph.D.: The pandemic has certainly caused a structural shift in the economy (to remote economy) and accelerated the adoption of digital technology and AI. A few industries will experience growth given changes in our lifestyles and work behaviours. Here are some that are primed to change or grow:
1. Healthcare - we now know that the US healthcare system is unable to meet critical needs. There will be capacity building from healthcare professionals (e.g., ER doctors and nurses) to data specialists (health informatics) and from epidemiologists to medical/lab research. Pharmacists will also see a huge growth as a result of the pandemic.
2. Pharmaceuticals and biotechs - biomedical research will expand as they continue to research and improve on existing vaccines.
3. E-Commerce - many retailers and service providers have been caught off guard or were slow in responding to a sudden shift to online or remote everything. The trend to shop online and participate in virtual experiences will grow exponentially requiring IT specialists and web designers.
4. Cyber security - as we begin to engage or transact online more often and in larger volumes, cyber crimes will also grow in tandem. I anticipate we will also need cyber security specialists.
5. Logistics and supply chain management - with the expansion of e-commerce, existing supply chains will need to be redesigned to get merchandise and services faster and in much larger volumes to consumers and end users.
6. Remote, distributed and telework - as a quarter to a third of the workforce are expected to remain working remotely, organizations will also need to build and continuously upgrade their communication and information technology platforms.
7. Government and public service - governments (both federal, state and local) will also expand as there is a greater need for emergency preparedness professionals, public policy experts, public administrators to provide public service.
8. Online education and training. Universities and colleges will also see a permanent shift to online program offerings, but this is not limited to higher education. Organizations and employers will also take up online training and talent development requiring more education specialists.
Eddy Ng Ph.D.: Some of the remote economy skills that will be required include:
- data literacy (analytics)
- digital creativity and design
- IT and cybersecurity, including coding
- distributed leadership
- remote communication and management
STEM will become even more critical
Eddy Ng Ph.D.: Most talent recruitment is already happening online (that will be the best place to engage in career explorations). Recruitment and selection will also be conducted differently, and given the highly specialized nature of remote economy jobs, many talent management (headhunters, search firms) will play a greater role in the recruitment process. Campus recruitment will remain an important tool for talent attraction as many required skills will be scarce at first leading to competition for talent. Bear in mind, given a remote economy, the supply of workers will no longer be restricted to the local or national labour market.