December 12, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
George Mason University
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
SUNY at University of Albany
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Webber International University
The University of Texas at Austin
Maggie Holcomb: In my opinion, one of the biggest trends will be the continuation of remote work. Over the last ten months, we've proven ourselves that we are more than capable of doing our jobs from pretty much anywhere. For marketers, this will open up opportunities to us beyond our regular cities. Perhaps there's a brand you've always wanted to work for but didn't want to move cross country. With remote work, now you can pursue such opportunities. As companies become more flexible, they can search for talent from all over. Still, it will be vital for them to invest in the infrastructures and company culture to make remote work motivating and efficient for everyone.
Maggie Holcomb: The marketing industry includes so many different jobs and individuals with a variety of skill sets. If there's an area you're interested in that requires hard skills, like web programming or graphic design, focus on practicing those. Maybe take a virtual course, learn a new program, or develop and expand your website or portfolio. Everyone can also benefit from networking, especially in a gap year. Ask for informational interviews or research brands that interest you. Internship opportunities are also a great tool. They help you make meaningful connections, and you never know what types of opportunities can come from those down the road.
Maggie Holcomb: Entry-level jobs are not always glamourous, but you will learn so much about the professional world in those first couple of years. Try to remember the positive experiences, but also don't worry if you make mistakes. As long as you learn from them, you'll set yourself on the right track. Even if your first job isn't the perfect fit, you will get real-world experience and start figuring out what you like to do. There will be some trial and error, and that's ok!
George Mason University
School of BusinessWebsite
Christine A. Landoll BS '89 & MST '92:
Hiring is certainly slowing in many areas, given employers cautions on the long-term impacts of COVID on their business. You may need to be opportunistic and take a detour to an area that is seeing growth. A career is a marathon, not a sprint; consider if a lateral move to a hot industry might be worthwhile to gain experience and transferable skills - such as moving from hospitality to technology?
There is also a focus on working differently as companies are rethinking how and where people work. You will see some shifting in the expectations of roles, and therefore additional skills will be needed, for example, more remote working skills, time management, remote project management. Make sure you stay in front of those trends.
The market is becoming more competitive as folks who have been laid off are looking for work alongside the new graduates resulting in expanded competition. So, focusing on how to brand yourself and being distinctive is critical. Do you have an online presence? Are your spending time making a connection with real humans? Many students and young professionals I talk to share how they are sending out hundreds of resumes and talking very little about human connections. Given over 80%+ of the positions are acquired through networking - what are you doing to make a person to personal connections, ask for help, seek mentorship? Time invested with people is critical.
Christine A. Landoll BS '89 & MST '92: There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the question as the specific skills vary by industry. So, in step one, reflect on what position you want and do your research. What are the requirements of that role across various companies and industry sectors? Look for the common skills in the various postings and from talking to people that hold those roles. Then honestly assess where you stand on those needed skills and where your gaps are. Then work to fill those gaps. There are many ways to do that via educational programs, certificate programs, so take advantage of the sources out there and show progress on those skills. Many areas/industry groups offer free or reduced-price training. Show action and then promote your progress on your LinkedIn page, and share with your network.
Christine A. Landoll BS '89 & MST '92:
There are so many advice pieces; my top three would be, first and foremost, attitude is everything, so be positive. This, too, shall pass; we went from the best economy to the worst in a matter of months, so be hopeful that a turnaround is around the corner. Life is a constant roller coaster, so focus on what you can control, yourself, and be positive! Employers like can do, positive people. The second element is asking for help! We are our toughest critic and can let things spiral, look outside yourself, and seek others' insight and support. Let folks know where you want to go and ask them for feedback on how you can get there. Listen to what they say and then follow up! And finally, be proactive. You will be judged on how effectively you navigated through challenges, so proactively define what you want your story to be, and work to execute that story, and be open to modification as needed!
I am optimistic for our graduates; they have navigated challenges just getting to graduation. The last year has been unprecedented, and they persevered, so their resilience is proven. They will be a group that helps companies figure out the future of work; they hope for a stronger society! Be proud; you did it!!
Department of JournalismWebsite
David T. Z. Mindich Ph.D.: The pandemic will begin to abate, experts tell us, by the first half of 2021. Although journalism jobs are tight now, news organizations will continue to hire talented graduates. And the skills that journalism and mass communication students learn today are readily translatable in our increasingly mediated world.
David T. Z. Mindich Ph.D.: At Temple journalism, we emphasize skills and practices that stand out on resumes. First, we send students out onto the streets of Philadelphia, the nation's fourth-largest media market, to report on a range of important, urban-related issues, from housing to wealth inequality to systemic racism to the pandemic to gentrification to education and beyond. Second, we teach storytelling across media platforms. Even though we are in a pandemic, students can and do continue to report on pressing issues (while practicing safe distancing). When they graduate, they will have an important body of work to present.
David T. Z. Mindich Ph.D.: There are two kinds of advice for young journalists. Some suggest that graduates go to small markets and make a name for themselves. Others say that larger communities, like cities, offer more high profile work. Both strategies can be successful, as long as the journalist works hard and strives for excellence.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Dr. Hyun Gon Kim Ph.D.: There will be short-term, long-term, positive, and negative impacts. Many public health experts, economists, or business scholars say that post-pandemic is uncertain, and it is hard to define 'New Normal.' In this most unexpected and uncertain circumstance, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates seems to be unsure and enduring in general. To speak more precisely, although it wouldn't be overestimated that those focused and developing industries during this pandemic, such as bio-health, healthcare, or e-commerce industries would be leading post-pandemic industrial trends, we cannot easily assert that those existing industries that have been seriously damaged by covid-19 will disappear after the pandemic.
Dr. Hyun Gon Kim Ph.D.: Those young graduates who enter the job market in the coming years need to develop skills that make them realize, share and transfer their specific knowledge and techniques they have learned from their majors into various online platforms. For instance, for graduates with a marketing major, knowing dynamic pricing, social media marketing, online product promotion, and so on, which are applied skills for online platforms, would be helpful and needed.
Dr. Hyun Gon Kim Ph.D.: Although many field experiences will help marketing jobs, specifically, in coming years, digital marketing specialists, digital marketing sales, digital marketing marketers, or digital marketing managers' experience on resumes would be the right signals.
SUNY at University of Albany
Department of Political ScienceWebsite
Dr. Timothy Weaver Ph.D.: The pandemic has sent shockwaves through academia, mainly because universities had to provide refunds to students in the spring and have many on-campus students this fall. As a result, colleges and universities face significant revenue shortfalls due to declining income from student accommodation fees. As such, many places have imposed hiring freezes. Therefore, there will be fewer academic job postings than usual this fall. Moreover, this crunch is compounded by the effect of faculty lay-offs that have been triggered by the recession and Congress's failure to provide adequate support to higher education. Moreover, lower levels of hiring in the public sector, especially as a result of austerity measures, mean the non-academic job market will be tough.
Dr. Timothy Weaver Ph.D.: Graduates with a range of teaching, writing, editing, and quantitative skills will be the most competitive in this market. But, the truth is that even very well qualified students are going to struggle this year.
Dr. Timothy Weaver Ph.D.: Pharmaceuticals! Otherwise, much will depend on Congress. If it passes a significant relief bill that supports higher education, it will again be the source of many jobs. Moreover, if some states, such as New York, use state and local government investment as part of their stimulus spending, then those could be the right places. I would also expect to see significant investment in "green jobs" over the coming years at the state and national levels.
Department of Economics & Management
Vicki Baker Ph.D.: Yes, I believe there will be an enduring impact of the COVID pandemic on graduates, both in the short and long terms. The pandemic creates challenges for those on the job market in the short-term, both full-time positions and internships. This means hiring cycles are not what they typically are as companies postpone searches and filling vacancies until we see the trajectory this pandemic takes. I encourage graduates and internship seekers to keep forging ahead. Eventually, the cycle will regenerate, and those openings and employment opportunities will be there. I have encouraged my students to consider pursuing advanced education through licensure, post-baccalaureate programs, and graduate programs. Always good to have multiple options. And remember -- applying for graduate school does not preclude graduates from keeping a foot in the job market. It's about the law of large numbers - the more applications and opportunities pursued, the more likely options will arise.
In the long-term, I think the enduring impact is a positive one. Our graduates are honing their resilience, grit, and flexibility. These are such critical skills in life, both personal and professional, and this experience and how graduates have managed it will serve them well throughout life.
Vicki Baker Ph.D.: In addition to those I mentioned (resilience, grit, flexibility), graduates need to continue being lifelong learners. It's really about learning how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. It's about fostering intellectual curiosity, asking questions, thinking about possible solutions to challenges, and anticipating needs moving forward. Always seek to grow, advance, and be ok acknowledging you don't know all the answers, but can trust you can get the solutions.
Vicki Baker Ph.D.: I like to see a diversity of experiences that span academic, curricular, co-curricular, and experiential. I look for a common thread - is there an evident passion, and has that passion been pursued through a portfolio of complementary engagements. It helps employers and those reviewing resumes get an idea for who they are, what they are passionate about, and how they pursued that passion (and the associated perseverance). If there is no clear direction that aligns all areas, it's harder to get an idea of how a given person can fit in an organization.
Department of Communication StudiesWebsite
Valerie Renegar Ph.D.: There will undoubtedly be an enduring impact on the workforce due to the precautions related to the coronavirus. I would expect to see more and more remote work opportunities and the expectation that new employees have familiarity with a wide range of small meeting platforms and sharing software. All of our students completing internships had some component of their virtual work this year, and the learning curve was steeper for some than others, depending on the platform and software the company was using.
Communication is essential in all professional settings, but it is even more critical when colleagues, coworkers, and clients meet through their screens. New employees will benefit from thinking carefully about cultivating a professional and friendly online demeanor that allows them to learn and grow in similar ways to physical workplaces.
Further, as businesses are shifting parts of their organizations to remote work, new employees will need to develop skills for creating a professional presence and work ethic, even though they may be working from their kitchen table.
It's hard to stay motivated without the rituals that make work different from being home to structure our time. Remote employees have to develop work routines to ensure that they are working to their fullest potential, away from a traditional office space, and then making sure to leave that work behind when they have ended the day, to not suffer from burn out. Communication is helpful in all of those regards. We communicate to build and sediment routines, motivate ourselves and our team, and foster friendships and mentoring relationships.
Valerie Renegar Ph.D.: The number one skill we hear from employers that our graduates need to have in the workforce is strong written and oral communication skills. It doesn't matter what field our graduates enter; every workplace needs employees who can communicate their thoughts. Communication courses that help students develop their public speaking, argumentation, persuasion, and interpersonal communication skills are an invaluable resource. Leadership depends on strong communication skills as well, so the need to communicate does not dissipate after a new employee becomes more established.
Valerie Renegar Ph.D.: Internships are probably the single best educational experience for new graduates, since they demonstrate to employers that they have already developed some expertise applying their education to workplace contexts. Another highlight for employers is study abroad, especially in fields that value or are seeking to increase diversity.
Students with experience interacting with different cultures, especially those who can explain why this kind of interaction makes them better qualified than others, can set themselves apart. In some fields, intensive student-faculty research might be valued or community-based learning opportunities. All of these high impact practices have in common that they only occur for students who push themselves to enhance their own educational experience, beyond the classroom.
Graduates who have consistently sought to augment their college experience are attractive candidates because they have already demonstrated that they seek out and embrace new challenges. One of the reasons Southwestern is such an outstanding choice for students is that we offer all of these experiences. The vast majority of our students graduate having engaged in at least one of these kinds of programs, and many of them have had more than one.
Dr. Kyle Heim Ph.D.: The impact of the pandemic will vary, depending on the sector of the communication field. Many news organizations were struggling long before COVID-19 came along, and the pandemic has only worsened the situation at a time when good journalism is more important than ever. Jobs in journalism will still exist, but they will be even more scarce and more competitive.
Other areas of mass communication, such as public relations and advertising, have suffered during the pandemic but should bounce back once COVID cases subside and vaccines are readily available.
I think we will see one trend throughout the communication field is more employees working remotely, sometimes hundreds of miles away, even when the pandemic is over. With the right technology and reliable Internet access, many communication jobs can be performed almost anywhere.
Dr. Kyle Heim Ph.D.: Strong writing and editing skills are a must. Typos or grammatical errors are always a red flag on a resume, but they are deadly in the communication field. The summary should demonstrate that the individual has significant hands-on experience. A graduating senior who never got involved in the student newspaper or the student radio station, or who never completed an internship, will be at a disadvantage. The resume also should show that the applicant is comfortable working on multiple media platforms. Audio and video skills, or experience in podcasting, social media, or web design can make a resume stand out.
Dr. Kyle Heim Ph.D.: Many communication students dream of moving to a big city after graduation and working for a national media organization. Those kinds of jobs are hard to land, especially right out of college. The most successful graduates tend to be the ones who are willing to start small, hone their skills, and gradually work their way up to more significant markets. Communication graduates should be prepared to go where the jobs are, even if it takes them to an unfamiliar town, and they should expect to move several times during their career.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Department of Humanities and ArtsWebsite
Jennifer deWinter: Of course, there will be a short term impact on the graduates in the same way that the 2008 graduates struggled for a few years. Communication will remain a core skill in many units, and this is something that students can onboard and work on remotely. The more considerable challenge is the impact of this environment on college graduates' mental health-even if they are onboarded, they will likely be working in isolation.
Jennifer deWinter: In some ways, emergency responses to covid are training our students to do something they will be called upon in contemporary workplaces: working on distributed teams. The curriculum now needs to focus more strongly on explicitly teaching communication and management principles in distributed teams.
In addition to this, professional communication has increasingly paid attention to file management and content management systems. This will be an additional skill, linked to information and communication, that students will need to learn and practice.
Jennifer deWinter: Evidence of working in a complex structure. This can be completed at a university, but recent graduates tend to be weak at writing about their scope of authority, their position in a complex structure, and their success in that complex structure. This gives evidence of being able to work with multiple stakeholders and succeed in organizational systems.
University Career Center
Lauren Easom M.Ed, GCDF: An increase across industries in remote job and internship opportunities.
Lauren Easom M.Ed, GCDF: Two skills that employers are always looking for on a resume is an individual's ability to problem solve and work well in a team.
Webber International University
Department of Marketing
Ronald A. Weber: Students entering the workforce these days need to be prepared to work remotely and be able to communicate with team members through electronic means.
To reduce costs and prepare for unforeseen variables, like the recent COV-19 situation, companies are preferring to hire people short term. They may only need tasks completed for six weeks or only two days per week. Therefore, new entrants to the workforce need to accept that they may have 4-6 clients at a time, juggling their time and energy between them all.
Ronald A. Weber: During the GAP years, graduates need to do two things simultaneously. One, they must identify the skills needed by employers, and second, practice these skills until they become a master.
During GAP years, I also suggest graduates work on themself. For example, gain new technical skills, develop a lean body, become the father/mother, you always knew you could be, and be happy!
Ronald A. Weber: General Advice. I can answer this question with quotes from highly successful people.
"I must give far more than what is expected of me."
"Gain absolute clarity of what you want."
"Be now what you will be hereafter."
"Once you are clear on your own values, decisions are easy."
"Identify two skills needed in your industry and become a master. Then you will need to let people know you are the "Go to Person" when this need arises."
The University of Texas at Austin
Andrew Gershoff Ph.D.: Some industries have been deeply affected by the pandemic, while others have hung on, and some even thrived. For example, travel, hospitality, tourism, and live entertainment and sports businesses are all suffering. But other areas, including telecommunications, financial services, and government jobs, are less affected. So graduate students may need to shift their expectations about the industries in which they work.
Andrew Gershoff Ph.D.: Many marketing jobs require a blend of customer insights, data analytics, and strategic marketing decision making. So developing these skills may be helpful to be ready when the right job comes around. Skills in sales are often overlooked, but these are valuable too and have three advantages:
-There are many excellent opportunities in careers in sales that some students overlook.
-Even if one does not take a job in sales, the skills of deals involving business development, problem-solving, and communication are valuable in any career.
-Getting a job in the first place often involves selling oneself.
So having sales skills are also worth having.
If you can't find a job right away, volunteering is an excellent way to develop skills, make contacts, and stay optimistic. Look for opportunities at non-profit organizations, for example, where you may help out a cause that may be important to you and give you a chance to learn about skills that you may lack. Often, serious volunteers are given access and opportunities that paid employees may not get. It is also not uncommon for a volunteer position to become a paid position when opportunities in the organization arise.
In marketing and business, there are also many excellent one-year master's programs being offered to help students develop focused skills in marketing management, data analytics, and customer insights. Some are even focused on particular industries like health care or technology. These programs offer students a year of in-depth learning as well as career coaching and access to recruiters. They can be a treasured addition for students who have healthy non-business undergraduate degrees who may now want to focus on marketing career goals. Also, the starting salary and responsibility level tend to be significantly more than that of a recent graduate of an undergraduate program.
Andrew Gershoff Ph.D.: First, graduates may find that they need to do more leg work to find jobs in this environment. Schools with career services often have long-term relationships with the same businesses, who tend to hire multiple students in any given year. If one sector falls apart, there may be fewer jobs available at the career center. But students should take advantage of any services that help them understand the jobs in the marketplace, develop their resumes, and practice interviewing.
Second, students should try to think more broadly about following their interests and still finding employment. So taking some time to learn about career paths that they hadn't considered is worth doing. Many jobs rely on similar skills and may offer similar fulfillment and happiness.
Third, students should be ready to explore possibilities at companies they may not have heard of. Now, is an excellent time to look at companies that may only have a few jobs to offer, but may be doing some of the most exciting things a student can be part of. Finding a good fit is essential to happiness in a career, which may not be at a "name brand" firm.
Finally, students should keep in mind that their journey is their own. It is easy to discourage if you are having a difficult time, and your peers find success. But it can be freeing to focus on developing new knowledge and skills that interest you. Your success will come, and it doesn't have to be defined by someone else.