March 6, 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.
Eastern Oregon University
Arizona State University
Eastern Michigan University
Baldwin Wallace University
Jill Koehler: My advice for a graduate beginning their career with a degree in marketing would be to hit the ground running by learning as much as possible about the industry you are working in. Keep reaching, expanding, and challenging yourself while always remaining flexible and open to new ideas and situations. Stay hungry and vigilant.
Talk to your colleagues about what types of things they had to learn the hard way, the most valuable skills they have learned, and ask if there is anything they would recommend you add to your skillset that you may not currently possess.
Stay current on marketing trends - what is hot, what's not, the influencers, who are the major players, and make as many authentic connections as you go.
Take care of your network. By that, keep the people who helped you get to where you are apprised of where you have landed and offer genuine appreciation for any help they may have provided. At the same time, continue to build your network with the people you are meeting along the way.
LinkedIn is your friend. Share professional thoughts and share ideas on LinkedIn to keep yourself visible as someone who has something to say and contribute while making sure to steer clear from anything political or controversial.
Jill Koehler: Yes, of course, the coronavirus pandemic will have an enduring impact, but that's not to say it is a long-term negative. As an eternal optimist, I think the coronavirus pandemic will continue to teach graduates skills that they may not otherwise have learned at this stage in their careers. Landing a job in an epidemic has taught students the value of being scrappy, doing hardcore research, using their network, and thinking outside the box to land a position. Life is not always fair, and that is the harsh reality. Graduates cannot control what is happening around them; they can only control how they respond. For the Class of 2019, it seemed as though jobs were falling out of the trees, but sadly that is not the case for the Class of 2020. Many graduates had jobs rescinded; others were postponed or never received, and here is where showing unwavering determination makes all the difference. There is no time for a pity party, only time to move forward with their best selves, while showing agility and grit that will pay them tenfold.
Lastly, many employers have been forced by the pandemic to realize the undeniable benefits of employees working remotely, either part-time or full-time, and recent graduates have to quickly pivot and successfully embrace the virtual world of work. If structured strategically, working remotely can cut down on business overhead. It can open up workforce options (including expertise, diversity, etc.), without employee geographical location being a part of the equation, and potentially expanding business opportunities to a much broader area. The employees also glean benefits as remote work reduces commuting time and expense; it allows for more significant job opportunities nationwide and can add to one's overall quality of life. There will always be businesses that require an on-site workforce, but in cases where there is flexibility, there is a new opportunity.
Jill Koehler: With the coronavirus pandemic entering the scene, we all have firsthand knowledge of the importance of a wide variety of technology, and had to become experts almost overnight, to keep business moving, whether it was to maintain connections and hold meetings via a Zoom-like platform, or being able to access vital data remotely.
On any given day, when asked what tech skills anyone should be learning to make themselves more competitive, my resounding answer is always, learning how to use and interpret big data via data analytics and the world of artificial intelligence.
That said, and before I forget, this is a great time to bring up social media and starting to dial back your screen time in that area. Relying on social media as an end-all, be-all outlet can take away from your mission as a growing professional, so keep that in mind.
James Foley: Excellent communication and presentation skills still matter, but now even more so. All sales and business development are virtual, so communicating through even just email effectively is critical, but Zoom and other videos are also vital.
Secondly, as with all IB students, you need a robust global perspective to understand the pandemic's geopolitical implications, short and long-term, of the epidemic. Meaning you need to understand which markets will rebound more quickly than others and have more inherent risk.
Finally, global supply chains are everything! Students with skills in understanding global supply chains will be much more marketable. Everything is being questioned from where to source to where to manufacture. That is why so many of our IB majors do a double major with Global Supply Chain.
James Foley: Anything that drives collaboration, such as CRMs and slack-type platforms. We are not likely to give back the flexibility we have been given all these months working remotely. So, especially on a global level, workers in this field have to be as collaborative as possible.
Another technology will be anything that supports business analytics (big data). It hasn't been embraced on a global scale the way it has from a domestic standpoint.
James Foley: I expect an increase because countries continue to navigate international trade and economic integration. Notwithstanding the apparent push-back, as seen in Brexit, states are more robust as they trade more. It's just now we better understand other priorities, such as labor rights and the environment. But these are more political issues. From the perspective of companies and their supply chain, international business is only going to keep growing, especially as emerging markets such as countries in Africa continue to grow.
Dr. Sunaina Shrivastava Ph.D.: With the advent of the pandemic, working online, and organizing work meetings online through platforms like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet has become the norm. Fresh graduates need to make sure that they can collaborate with colleagues from different time zones and other countries online and work productively in teams. More importantly, the pandemic has accelerated the rise of the digital economy - fresh graduates need to develop digital marketing skills and leverage digital technologies as the majority of consumers are online. In terms of digital marketing, graduates should develop skills not just limited to SEO, managing, and advertising on social media, etc.
Dr. Sunaina Shrivastava Ph.D.: In line with the above, there is a lot of potential for fresh graduates to seek work opportunities in E-Commerce areas (e.g., Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, etc.) as brick and mortar stores have started to dwindle. There is a lot of potential in the areas of Technology (e.g., digital Technology, digital media, healthcare information technology, etc.), online streaming (e.g., Netflix, HULU, Disney plus, etc.), and also in the area of logistics and supply chain to ensure that the products that consumers are ordering online are reaching their doorsteps.
Dr. Sunaina Shrivastava Ph.D.: I envision that, with the increase in Technology in the next five years, consumer data collection will become more autonomous and fast. Thus graduates need to be equipped with skill sets that are required to handle large data sets.
Dr. Shari Carpenter Ph.D.: Students looking to enter tomorrow's workforce will need to have critical thinking skills. Most of today's students can search for and gather research through their technology. Necessary thinking skills are about learning to analyze and evaluate collected information. It is the art of disciplining oneself to look deeper, reason, and be unbiased in your analysis. Coupled with that skill is Creative Problem Solving (CPS). CPS is out of the box thinking that results in innovative solutions to issues. Both of these skills can be developed through study and practice.
Dr. Shari Carpenter Ph.D.: Both critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving skills can be applied in almost any job. They are intrinsic skills you develop personally and then use them in your chosen field. When set, both skills help drive organizational efficiencies and individual effectiveness. The result being the individual becomes a much-valued employee.
Dr. Shari Carpenter Ph.D.: Critical thinking and creative problem solving as skill sets are rarefied and harder for technology to replicate holistically. Both skills attach to humanness; we use our frameworks of experience to think critically and solve problems creatively. Will technology gain the ability to think critically? Absolutely. Will technology gain the ability to solve problems? Yes, creatively. However, the difference will be 'frame of experience.' As individuals, we are what we have passed through in our life; the sum whole of our experiences. Therefore, our critical thinking, albeit rationally focused, is human bound. Our creative problem solving, well, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted, "...the best moments in our lives occur when a person's body or mind is a stretch to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile". Can technology emulate human capacity? Perhaps, but where is the fun in that.
Dr. Michael Longinow: Young graduates in journalism and digital media (fact-driven information-gathering and information dissemination) need skills in critical thinking and analytical approaches to public documents and data. It requires a broad liberal arts education and understanding of how language, quantitative skills (i.e., numeracy), and how a grasp of the history of our nation and the world are crucial to understanding events happening now.
Graduates will need the kinds of emotional and social intelligence that will give confidence in pursuing a cross-cultural understanding of socio-political and socio-economic messages that are released by political and corporate leaders - to hold those leaders accountable to claims they make that are false, misleading, or untenable in leadership.
Young graduates will need skill in writing (in English, but preferably in other languages used in the rapidly globalizing media marketplace). They will need a basic grasp of applied psychology, sociology, and moral reasoning to navigate creative but compassionate approaches to interviewing people of all ages and backgrounds to tell stories that are contextually accurate, true to established facts, and that further understanding of those whose voices are not heard (or are mischaracterized by other media).
Young graduates will need skills in visual language: photojournalism, design-based information sharing, animation, virtual reality, and augmented reality to bring news and the meaning behind the news to audiences that are post-literate. Video technology - telling stories via video in multiple digital formats - will continue to be a mainstay of the news and information industries.
Dr. Michael Longinow: Skills in news reporting, writing, and editing of media are needed in established commercial newspapers in cities of all sizes. The largest cities have the highest competition for jobs, so smaller media markets tend to hire more readily. The rapid growth of digital media enterprises has made telecommuting a means of working in one location while serving audiences in another, perhaps far away.
Dr. Michael Longinow: Digital technology - hardware and software used to make messages simpler, faster, and easier to open - will make the skills in journalism much more adaptable to audiences not foreseen prior to the popularity of cell phones and broadband networks. Changes in the commercial structure of traditional journalism will require graduates to apply journalistic thinking to jobs that were not known in decades past. Journalists will need to know how to multi-task in their information-gathering and be skilled in multiple media approaches: written, photo, video, audio, and combinations of these in digital settings.
Arizona State University
Charles Giles: That there will be an enduring impact on graduates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic seems very likely to me, but it poses more opportunity than it does downside. Frankly, I don't expect the job market to ever return to its past state in marketing. We are redefining normal right now, with the importance of growth marketing, direct-to-consumer brands, customer experience, e-commerce, and digital interactions growing in an unprecedented way. This means job opportunities that existed pre-COVID might very well be less relevant in the future, while companies uncover efficiencies and improved returns on more innovative methodology. That, in turn, creates a host of new opportunities that are well-suited for graduates who have a strong understanding of these more nascent areas in marketing and who know how to innovate and align brand strategies to the rapidly changing needs of the consumer.
Charles Giles: The marketing industry, like many others, can be characterized as tumultuous. That said, it has been that way for some time as consumers become increasingly embedded in digital environments, and marketing becomes more responsible for corporate growth and a return on investment. For graduates, that spells opportunity. As marketing evolves, entry-level marketers are needed, more than ever, to work in areas that directly contribute to the growth of a company. So companies that are ROI-driven and companies that have access to customer data throughout the purchase process (think Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, etc.) would seem to be great places to work as an entry-level marketer.
At the same time, the upheaval in the industry in 2020 also has changed the dynamic of what many companies expect of their marketing employees, in terms of where and how they work. Many companies now allow non-customer-facing employees to work from anywhere, meaning areas of the United States that were not particularly strong for marketing graduates are now perfectly acceptable. I have already seen a shift in thinking around the need to aggregate teams in corporate headquarters to one that empowers teams to work remotely and, thus, increase the talent pool from which a company can select. This would indicate traditionally strong marketing cities like New York, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago will decrease in importance over time, while anywhere with reliable connectivity and professional space to work becomes the new normal.
Charles Giles: Technology will profoundly impact the marketing field over the next five years. From the way marketers get their work done to the way they connect with consumers, technology continues to create opportunities and efficiencies. Internally, marketers are working more as part of remote teams, and that means a greater reliance on asynchronous technologies like Slack. Additionally, marketers are increasingly assisted by artificial intelligence through everything from project management platforms to AI-powered programmatic media buying systems and marketing automation platforms.
The way marketers promote products and services is vastly changing as well with the increasing consumer adoption of technology that improves everyday lives. This includes connected devices and wearable technology (Internet of Things); blockchain technology and its ability to create proven, trusted supply chains without intermediaries; augmented and virtual reality that enables consumers to interact with products, places, and services from anywhere, at any time; and a general increase in the sophistication of existing ways we connect, from new social media platforms and capabilities to even innovations like dynamic content delivery in email marketing.
B. Dà Vida Plummer: The long-range effects of COVID-19 on these graduating classes 2019-2021, and counting, are impossible to predict, but it is imperative that educators fight; first, to discern the challenges; and then, strategize to overcome those challenges on behalf of the students who are within our charge.
What we have witnessed to date -rescinding internships, placement holds, industry employment cuts, and a myriad of uncertainty has already forced us to create opportunities that can be experienced virtually. And, we are marketing our programs and our students to recruiters in unparalleled ways, and everyone is sharing what has worked for them.
As a matter of fact, this pandemic has fueled an unparalleled appreciation for collaboration. Programs can't do it alone. Stakeholder commitment to graduates, who are eager to enter any said industry, must work together in support of the students beyond instruction.
This synergetic drive may have been launched in a pandemic, but it will transcend this time. What we are employing now will be the new normal. This is likely to be the sharpest recruitment and placement model of the future. This whole "new way of getting it done" is fitting the message of Benjamin Jowett's 1894 translation of Plato's Republic words: "The true creator is a necessity, who is the mother of our invention."
The pandemic "necessity" is "the mother of our invention."
B. Dà Vida Plummer: It is important to recognize that the peaks and valleys of this virus have no specific geographical pattern. An employment stagnation, across all business sectors, has dampened prospects for graduates. That said, however, graduates who are stellar and proactive, have proven that businesses still need sharp entry-level employees to execute COVID-19 initiatives.
For the communications industry, this is placement prime time. Communicators, content-generators, PR strategists, brand marketers, journalists are needed to tell the stories that will assist our greater public in navigating the truly scary terrain marked by this pandemic. Graduates who call urban centers home, must be willing to take their skills to smaller markets to work. The demand for storytellers is in areas where information is lacking - news deserts. If a graduate is willing to stretch a bit with their craft, they will find work. They will find meaningful, fun work.
B. Dà Vida Plummer: Technological advancement is the winner in this period of crisis. When the doors slammed shut on brick and mortar - college campuses, churches, civic spaces, community centers, sports arenas, and the list goes on - connecting via IT, and every imaginable media platform, pushed forward to fill the void.
This push will continue. We have learned that productivity is not limited to in-person or on-site constructs. Performers are just as, if not more, productive working from home via video sharing and virtual meeting platforms, webcasts, etc.
Within the next five years, technical paths for disseminating and interacting with and around content will shock us, in a good way. We are applauding video sharing platforms today. In the blink of an eye, we will be applauding augmented virtual reality and its capacity to "take us places" without our leaving our home offices. These are exciting, technology-rich times. Again, ..." necessity, who is the mother of our invention (as quoted above) is at hand.
Eastern Michigan University
Susan Yarrington Young: I think all of us will experience some long-term impacts of the coronavirus, but I have no crystal ball to say exactly what that will be.
What I'd like to stress is that there will continue to be opportunities in sales always, as sales are the lifeblood of most companies. Companies cannot survive without sales.
Current evidence to support this is a large number of company sponsors for our national collegiate sales competitions. For the first time this year, these competitions are being done virtually and are done in conjunction with virtual sales career fairs. Oftentimes there are 40+ companies that may participate in any one of these events.
Susan Yarrington Young: For the industries and companies that are growing, there will be ample opportunities in professional sales. These jobs are not necessarily geographic-specific, as many companies hire sales reps wherever their customers are located. Inside sales, of course, tend to be located in specific geographic centers, which vary, based on the company, and may not necessarily be in the same city where that company is headquartered-an example of this IBM, which operates a large sales center in Dallas.
My recommendation for job seekers is, first, to do some research on growth industries (this is quite easy to do) and then identify a few companies within those industries that appeal to them. It is so important to be enthusiastic about the company and products that you will represent. Then, use personal networking as well as networking tools liked LinkedIn, and job hunting applications like Zippia, to identify sales openings. And don't forget the resources available from a student's own university career center. Students can usually use these services even after graduation.
I would encourage graduates interested in sales to consider Inside Sales positions, which are often the starting point for a company's sales forces. Once successful there, an inside sales rep can then move on to face-to-face account rep positions.
Susan Yarrington Young: I believe the use of technology in B2B selling will continue to increase significantly, in the foreseeable future. Whether it be more sophisticated CRM systems, accessible with hand-held devices, or the use of tools like Zoom to replace face-to-face sales calls, with remote communications or other things, which I'm sure we cannot now even imagine. The world of COVID has shown many companies that remote selling is a viable means to sell their solutions, and I'm sure, with improved technology, remote or virtual selling will be even more popular. Many companies today already make use of virtual sales teams in selling their solutions.
Tim Marshall: The Internet is full of listicles, produced by a number of outlets in the top cities in the United States for marketing jobs. A common theme among those lists: Cities where multinational firms are based and communities marked as "tech hubs" may offer more job openings for marketing grads.
There is much truth in that idea; however, the business world's response to COVID-19 may have created more opportunities that are not limited by geography.
The pandemic has opened employers to the idea of ongoing work-from-home operations for staff, either through 2021 or permanently. But job seekers should be aware that not all remote work environments are created equal.
When viewing job listings for remote positions, grads should look for certain cues:
-Some postings will clearly state that the job is remote or, at least, "remote for now."
-Other employers may allow for remote work as an option for the "right candidate," listing on-site work as the preferred arrangement.
-There are firms that offer remote work -- as long as the applicant is based in the same time zone as the company.
-Jobs may also be offered as "mostly remote" with some short-term on-site work or travel required.
Tim Marshall: Marketing graduates will need to be not only comfortable with operating and troubleshooting a variety of applications, but also be able to demonstrate competency and confidence in using technology solutions.
This isn't only true for grads looking for digital marketing roles. Other specializations, from sales to supply chain to brand management, are technology-driven. The challenge is that technology evolves faster than most learners can adapt to it.
Students should seek experiential learning opportunities early on in their college careers to prepare them for internships and other opportunities as upperclassmen and graduates. Being familiar with using a type of technology is attractive to hiring managers, even if that employer's firm uses a different set of tools.
For example, if a student learns to use a customer relationship management (CRM) database, an email automation tool, and a social media management application, she or he can show that they understand the value of those systems. If a firm uses a different CRM or marketing automation platform, the student is still seen as a much more viable choice than applicants whose exposure to technology was more limited.
In addition to technology (and in many ways because of it), data analysis skills are highly valued among employers.
Students and grads with experience in interpreting data and using it to extract meaningful insights and make decisions will be poised for the "Yes" pile of resumes. This means that beyond marketing technology, job seekers should be able to produce and work with complex spreadsheets, manage databases, and operate data visualization platforms, as well as be able to analyze a variety of data points and metrics.
William Sholl: It is not so much technology, but the application of technology that will be important for future marketing professions. The use of data and predictive analytics is growing at a rapid pace in marketing. Through data harvesting, mining, and analytics, companies gain powerful insights into the needs and behaviors of their customers. These insights help maximize the power of existing demand and improve the identification of new "blue ocean" opportunities of the expanded, untapped market.
Applications of mobile technology are also a growing area in marketing. The techniques of "geo-conquesting" and "geo-fencing" through mobile technology allow firms to distribute time-sensitive, location-based marketing offerings to potential customers. For example, a coffee shop can text a special offer for a discounted latte to a potential customer as they drive down the street, headed to the shop's location.
William Sholl: The lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic on business, in general, will be the increased benefits of collaboration. The new work from home reality and the various virtual meeting platforms have made it clear that it was possible to collaborate productively with anyone. The biggest challenge in this will be maintaining the boundaries for work-life balance.
William Sholl: There are two pieces of advice for recent graduates looking to start a career in marketing. Finding a mentor should be a top priority in your first job. Having a mentor has proven to reduce the stress and anxiety of embarking on a new career and a new organization. Workers with a
strong mentor relationship also have higher levels of job satisfaction. Additionally, a mentor gives you someone to go to when you require personal or professional advice.
The second piece of advice would be to understand that you are committing to life-long learning. Marketing is a field of almost constant change. Think about the evolution, maybe revolution is a better word, that has taken place in marketing in just the last few years driven by social media and mobile technologies. Moving forward, marketing professionals will need to stay abreast of the application of data and predictive analytics in the practice of marketing. Other fields, for example, accounting, change very slowly; the shift in marketing is relentless. To remain current in the profession, you will need to commit yourself to review the most recent research and best practices to understand shifting demographics, trends in consumer behavior, methods and models of communication, and a host of other yet to be determined topics.
Dr. Joseph Webb: Communication and media graduates heading out professionally into the "brave new world" know they are heading into mostly uncharted territory, more so, I think, than any generation since, at least, the emergence of the digitalized/computer world in the years immediately after World War II. In my judgment, after 55 years of teaching media in higher education, two things strike me as critically important and, in a sense, new. One lies beyond the technologies themselves. It is the demands for effective public speaking, public presentation of one's self and one's observations/ideas, not primarily in a media sense, but in a general sense. The image worlds are essential, but in ways we've never seen as clearly before, how people present themselves, verbally and non-verbally, is accentuated in virtually every communicative field of endeavor. Yes, our "public speaking/public personas" are crucial to who influences whom today. In my judgment, the second thing is striking different today--and important--is that we are so inundated with ways to make our voices heard that developing character/personality beyond and behind our words, written or spoken, requires the best that is in us. We cannot change our abilities and figures, but we can become skilled at honing them and giving them form to be both "seen and heard" as voices for reason and clarity. These are difficult things to articulate, but these are the things that still motivate my full-time university teaching in communication and media, now at age 78.
Linda Goulet: Stay as updated as you can. If you are looking for a job, join your local AMA chapter to network. Find a mentor who works in marketing and meet regularly (virtual now). There are also dozens of free certifications out there that you may take to hone your skills or create awareness around the content you don't have a lot of knowledge about (Hub Spot and Google both offer many free certification opportunities).
Linda Goulet: AI, social media tools, synchronous virtual meeting software.
Linda Goulet: I believe that today's graduates will bring many skills and abilities to the workforce. First, they have had to be flexible to adjust to the pandemic and thus will be able to handle many things that come their way with grace and composure. Second, they will be more resilient than those who graduated in earlier years. Third, they "own" the remote working environment. All of the interns I've had since March have worked remotely, presented remotely, and have learned how to be a remote worker before graduating.
Peggy Kendall Ph.D.: Be open. Your first job is probably not your dream job. You probably don't even know what your dream job is yet. Learn what you can at your first job....find out what you are good at, what you like, and what you don't like. Build connections and be willing to learn And work hard. Study people and communication styles. Get good at working with different types of people. You never know when the next door will appear.
Peggy Kendall Ph.D.: Just in terms of a general communication major (not media production), I think businesses have learned the value (and pitfalls) of virtual work. Telecommuting had never entirely caught on until COVID-19 hit. Someone skilled at managing a virtual environment, supervising, supporting, and solving conflicts, will be more critical than ever. Someone who also knows when it's ok to Zoom and when a face-to-face interaction is more important, is also important.
I also think the role of social media has become increasingly important. No matter their position, anyone in communication needs to know how to communicate and manage social media.
Peggy Kendall Ph.D.: Like I said in #2, I think businesses have figured out the value of remote work. Sometimes it is much more effective and efficient than bringing everyone into an office. I also think employees have come to appreciate the flexibility of remote work. It is hard to walk back those expectations...hard to put the genie back into the bottle.
On another note, I also think the conflict that has risen from this point in history is something thing that has created an enormous opportunity for graduates who know how to lean into conflict and find ways to talk and work together.