January 31, 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 Institute of Technology
Idaho State University
University of Nevada, Reno
Saint Leo University
Arkansas State University
University of South Alabama
University of Nebraska - Omaha
College of Communication and DesignWebsite
Dave Baer: Well, the biggest and most obvious trend we're seeing right now is companies are hiring remotely. With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and abroad, studios have chosen to mothball their brick-and-mortar shops and are opting to hire talent to work remotely. While this may be the norm for the time being, I also think it raises cost issues in terms of the equipment needed to do some jobs. In the animation and VFX world, processing power is essential to successfully completing some tasks. That could lead to more upfront costs incurred by either the employee or the studio in having to purchase new gear for them to use at home. I can only imagine the scenario, "Honey, the new Cray supercomputer is coming today. I need the room upstairs, so we're going to have to move your mother into the basement."
Dave Baer: That all depends on the available position. For animation, they want someone with a strong understanding of how to bring an inanimate object to life and how to apply the twelve principles of animation. For VFX, an understanding of physics, how things work, and they would fall apart. And for games, one must know the game engine a company is using. They should have a set of well-rounded skills in the foundations of modeling, texturing, lighting, and effects. And they should be familiar with and be able to adapt to a company's style.
Dave Baer: For the animation and games field, a Junior position is a good starting point. Those are jobs for new artists or those without a lot of experience. They're "foot-in-the-door" jobs that teach new hires how the studio works, but they're also given most of the 'grunt work', or the jobs that the Art Leads and Senior Artists don't have the time to do. They're given more of the tedious tasks like retopologizing a model, rotoscoping, or modeling small objects that aren't considered "hero assets".
Florida Institute of Technology
College of BusinessWebsite
Dr. B. Andrew Cudmore: Finding qualified workers is difficult.
- Some are furloughed and waiting to see if their original jobs will start back up.
- Some are receiving large unemployment benefits, so they are in no rush to return given health concerns and related childcare.
- Due to childcare some workers are leaving the workforce and even retiring.
-Job losses were mostly in the service industries (restaurants and bars; professional and business services; health care; arts, entertainment and recreation; hotels and accommodations, retail trade) US Department of Labor.
-While employment has grown in production, transportation, storage and selling goods, starting salaries have dropped in some industries.
- Transition for some to remote work may be permanent and is on the rise.
- High population density areas are harder hit.
Dr. B. Andrew Cudmore: Improve your resume as competition is high and you need to stand out; many are still hiring due to attrition and opportunity.
- Get involved with non-profit, and research what social initiatives are being supported by any companies that you wish to apply to.
- Consider continuing with your education to increase your designations.
- Focus on remote work for now or in the future.
- Consider new technology companies and cost-saving services (in addition to production, transportation, storage and selling goods companies).
- Consider which companies may be on more solid footing, if there is a choice (e.g., Costco or Amazon).
- Look for ones with financial stability, opportunities for advancement and good pay.
- Research companies that are endeavoring to increase efficiencies.
Dr. B. Andrew Cudmore: Consider what makes you unique and hone these skills.
Consider adding a double major or a minor that represent skill sets the industry is looking for.
Be proactive in your research of industries and understand "why" they are successful. This will help you determine if they are safer bets for the future or not.
Marketing is one of the most versatile careers as it can be both strategic, analytical, and helpful in being predictive of consumer psychology and the management of the needs of the consumer. Understanding these needs increases value and leads to better facilitation of exchanges.
- Within marketing, specializing in behavioral/psychological research (consumer psychology/behavior), forms of promotion (such as digital marketing) and analytics (such as website SEO data analytics) are recommended.
Idaho State University
Dr. Alexander Rose: Yes. Much like the 2009 financial crisis, entering the workforce during the pandemic and its immediate aftereffects will have an impact. We can't quantify it yet, but I'm confident it will be traceable for the rest of people's careers. The good news is that marketing is still very much needed. When consumers have less money to spend, persuading them to spend money on your product is even more important. 80 percent of our marketing majors are still getting jobs in their career field right out of the gate because of this demand.
Dr. Alexander Rose: The pandemic is accelerating the general trend of digitalization. By far our most in-demand graduates are those with social media and digital marketing knowledge. Remote work, e-commerce, and internet-enabled services will be growth areas during the recovery from the pandemic's recession.
Dr. Alexander Rose: As of now, the most important experience is doing an internship. With the number of time demands placed on college students (work, family, credit hours), this can be a big lift, but 60 percent of our graduates get jobs where they interned. It's critical to seek those opportunities and take advantage of them.
Dr. Alexander Rose: Digitalization. You're likely to see jobs with a focus on digital skills. They're likely to have remote work components. They're likely to be freelance or contract-based as well as the gig economy expands into other services.
Dr. Alexander Rose: Content management, online channels, search engine optimization, and internships.
Dr. Alexander Rose: Due to the nature of digital work, my guess is that we'll see geographic concerns lose their importance. With a cell phone and a laptop, you can work for major firms anywhere.
University of Nevada, Reno
Dr. Ron Lembke Ph.D.: I think more remote working will continue after widespread vaccination.
The ability to communicate and relate in a video conference environment (which is not the same as the physical environment) is key because we have all realized that a lot of meetings that we thought had to be in person can be remote.
Dr. Ron Lembke Ph.D.: Anything related to the ability to analyze quantitative information, with Business Analytics and Data Visualization at the top of the list. Graphically representing data to tell a story has always been a valuable skill. With Excel and so many other tools, it's never been easier to create graphics, but also never been easier to create bad ones.
Dr. Ron Lembke Ph.D.: I'm not sure. I think companies will be more flexible with working remotely, and moving will not be as much of a mandate as it has been.
So I think geography will not be as critical as it used to be.
Saint Leo University
College of BusinessWebsite
Dr. Keith Jones Ph.D.: One of the biggest trends we have seen and we will continue to see is the movement of companies into the digital marketing and e-commerce environment. This has already been noted in a recent WSJ article discussing how companies are moving their promotional funds away from the traditional promotional tools into the digital arena. The article stated that over 52 percent of promotional dollars will be spent in the digital environment. Other companies that have not previously had a strong if a presence at all in the e-commerce environment are now stepping up the game and creating their presence in the digital business environment.
From conversations with major local companies, one outcome of the current business environment has been the introduction of Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR). Companies have started replacing the traditional travel and in-person experiences with VR meetings. This allows the participants to have the full experience of meetings rather than just video meeting. It allows the companies to visit more frequently improving the customer relationship. AR/VR is also starting to play a role in the B2C experiences and will continue to grow.
In the area of marketing, the trend or movement towards stronger emphasis on human experiences within the shopping environment will receive a greater focus. Recent studies have indicated that the Generation Z cohort is approaching shopping much differently than the previous generations. Gen Z is much more into omnichannel shopping than other generations. With this we will continue to see a movement towards multi-platform offerings by major retail companies. We will see shopping becoming even more of an event or experience process rather than just the traditional in and out shopping. Trends will continue to require retailers to develop a "destination" environment; people are coming into the shopping zone not just for the product but for everything else that is happening.
Dr. Keith Jones Ph.D.: The class of 2021 will be facing an extremely interesting job market. With the staffing changes in many companies, the market is going to be full of people with experiences and skill sets. While jobs will be returning to these companies, what the companies will be looking for is going to be much different. They are going to be looking for cutting edge with demonstratable accomplishments.
First, internships and experiences need to be dominant on the resume. These need to be experiences that focus on specific occupational skills. Also, it will be important for graduates to have, if at all possible, a non-profit internship in their experiences. With more companies looking at social responsibility and giving back to the community, non-profit experiences through internships will show companies the graduate has an SR interest.
Second, within the area of marketing careers, graduates will need to have skills that will allow them to be successful in the digital marketing arena. This can come in different formats. One of the key items several of our local employers are looking for are specialty certifications within the digital arena. Many of the major social media platforms and digital marketing software packages have academies or certificates that a person can take online. Recruiters are looking for these certificates to show the applicants skills beyond just the traditional classroom.
Third, electronic portfolios that take the resume beyond the "piece of paper" is essential. Students need to be able to demonstrate their capabilities. Demonstrating what you can do in a photo editor, graphic design developer or other similar types of software is much different than just saying you are trained in those packages. Through an electronic portfolio graduates will need to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their skill set. Think of this analogy, we would rather eat a beautifully prepared meal than just read about it. Graduates need to show they "know how to cook".
Fourth, in the area of marketing, AR/VR will become a major player in different areas. Graduates will need to have experiences in AR/VR development and implementation.
Finally, graduates will need to have a strong soft skills toolset especially in the area of people skills. As companies move more into a digital environment, the customer can go to several different sites to purchase, what will keep them coming back to a site or store will be how they were treated while there. The soft skill set extends to the ability to communicate in multiple forms, not just one.
All of the above are in addition to the traditional items of leadership skills, team skills and successful performance in the classroom.
Dr. Keith Jones Ph.D.: As we continue to transition through the Covid pandemic one of the things that most companies have realized is people can work outside the office and be successful. They have learned that electronic/digital meetings can be as productive as an in-person meeting but less expensive. As a result, companies will adapt their practices and focus more on the skill set of the individual and not where the person is located.
Yes, there will continue to be hot spots but this is changing. The best places to find opportunities will be through their social media presence through platforms like LinkedIn and trade-specific digital groups. Graduates have to look beyond a desired geographic location and focus more on the career position.
Charles F. Dolan School of BusinessWebsite
Dr. Gerald Cavallo: There will most assuredly be a significant impact on June graduates due to the Coronavirus, in two ways. First, there will be fewer jobs available because firms have come to realize that they can get the work done with fewer people. This will come as quite a shock to new graduates since the job market has been very robust the last few years. Graduates are going to have to rely on networking, internships and who their parents know more so now than in the recent past. Secondly, much of the work is going to be remote. This means that the social environment students are used to from campus life will be non-existent. Although many current seniors have taken courses remotely, it is not the same as working remotely in the workplace.
Dr. Gerald Cavallo: New graduates are going to need to be thorough with all of the remote communication tools - Zoom, Quip, Adobe, etc. - in order to survive in the modern workplace. I know of companies that have enjoyed significant savings by having the staff work from home. Several that I know have reduced their corporate footprint and have moved to smaller office space. New graduates are going to also need greater and greater analytical skills. "Big data analytics", manifesting itself in almost every field of business, is the latest trend. This involves the ability to collect, analyze, and make use of massive amounts of data. The future rests not only with those who can write the codes upon which to analyze the data collected, but more so, to those who can translate the data into strategy decisions.
Dr. Gerald Cavallo: Employers like to see that the graduate has had more than classroom learning, that the graduate has gone beyond the classroom environment. This extrinsic learning can take several forms. Internships are an excellent way for the student to get a taste of the "real world." It is also a way for the student to see how the concepts learned in the classroom can be put to use in business. Other experiences, like being on an athletic team, joining an academic club (like the Marketing Club), being a campus ambassador for a local company, attending guest speaker lectures, volunteering for a local community service organization - all of these demonstrate that the student has had some organizational experience outside the classroom.
Arkansas State University
Department of Management and MarketingWebsite
Dr. Katerina Hill: We will continue to see a push for sales professionals and we will see and push for data analytics as well. Also, the capability to work remotely and to effectively use technology and social media will be extremely important to stay connected to a companies customer base.
Dr. Katerina Hill: Right now soft skills and professional selling skills along with data analytics and an effective use of technology are very important. For example, the sales industry has not skipped a beat in their hiring even due to covid.
Dr. Katerina Hill: These fields are everything and honestly, many opportunities are available remotely so students can begin their careers but not have to move.
Integrated Marketing CommunicationsWebsite
Danielle Bell: One of the biggest pandemic trends is remote productivity. Whether you're learning or working, having the ability to do so remotely is going to be a fixture of post-pandemic life. This means a broader pool of talent and job opportunities to explore as remote work arrangements become the norm. For communications professionals, it's not just about your skill and comfort with remote technology, but also your ability to meet strategic deliverables in the age of remote engagement and still positively impact business outcomes. It's about being tech-capable, nimble, creative, and strategic.
Danielle Bell: A gap year is the perfect opportunity to take your current skill set to the next level or explore a new set of skills to apply to future endeavors. Storytelling is an incredibly valuable skill in the world of communications, and you don't have to write a novel a day to stretch your storytelling muscle. Consistency, not complexity, is key here. I like social media as a platform to help build strength in this area. Try documenting your gap year with a cadence of social media posts (captions and visuals) about your experiences. The goal is to become adept at delivering clear, complete yet concise, engaging, and effective narratives. The limited real estate to do this on social media makes it a great learning tool. Along the way, you'll get real-time feedback from likes and shares, and you will end up with a digital showcase of your mastery of this skill.
Another skill that is often overlooked by future communications professionals is data analysis and application. Knowing how to measure communications efforts and how to use data to inform decisions is a key desired skill in most communications roles. If this is an area worth developing or refreshing, consider online classes offered by universities, professional schools, and corporate/career education resources.
Danielle Bell: Don't waste time trying to fit a square peg in a round role. If it is obvious to you that the company or field you're in after graduation isn't working out, move on. Early exits are less frowned upon when you're just starting out in the job market. Give yourself time to feel it out, but not too much time.
Whatever career path you're exploring, make sure you understand how companies make money in that industry. Knowing this will do two things: 1) allow you to have more meaningful conversations and interactions with various stakeholders in the company and throughout the industry, and 2) make you aware of how you, your team, or your company can impact success at the company or in the industry.
Finally, don't be afraid to pursue your passion right out of the gate. If you love it, you're good at it, and you can make a living doing it - go for it!
University of South Alabama
Department of Marketing & Quantitative MethodsWebsite
Dr. Alvin Williams Ph.D.: To some extent, the job market will still be in somewhat disarray and will take some time to recalibrate. In the interim, new college graduates and others will need to be more flexible and adaptive in the short term regarding which opportunities to pursue. In general, there will still be strong demand in healthcare, engineering, and sales. For marketing positions in particular, B2B sales and supply chain management offer strong employment opportunities. As various sectors of the economy rebound, a range of marketing roles will follow suit.
Dr. Alvin Williams Ph.D.: While we may work to put a different twist on the tried and true desirable skill sets, for the most part, employers are still seeking candidates with strong communication skills, leadership acumen, results-oriented individuals, creative abilities, and analytical skills and reasoning abilities. Respectable levels of technology proficiency are foundational. Employers seek a skill set mix consistent with their current and anticipated needs. Fundamentally, they are asking the question, "Can we leverage this person's skills to add value to the firm as we grow?"
Dr. Alvin Williams Ph.D.: Given the varied nature of marketing positions, many geographical areas offer job promise. On a macro basis, the Sunbelt region still leads in attractiveness for new college graduates, as well as those seeking changes and new opportunities. As mid-tier cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, and Tampa continue to diversify their economic positions, marketing opportunities will follow. Additionally, smaller cities in the Sunbelt will also lure marketing graduates as they re-imagine and rebrand their futures.
Amica Center for Career Education
Kevin Gaw Ph.D.: Working remotely - Employers and employees have discovered that in many businesses and services, remote work is very possible for both management and for employees. Employers reap the benefits of reduced overhead and employees spend significantly less on transportation (if anything at all) and other costs associated with work.
It will be interesting to see how the government, employers, and employees resolve the questions about home office space and home resource use, such as: Will employees be able to write the home office space off in their tax return? Will employees be reimbursed for expenses and supplies (computer equipment purchases, personal computer use, WIFI use, paper, etc.)? Will employers shift employees from W2's to 1099's?
Changing worksites - It is possible some employers will jettison large campuses or buildings which have a lot of infrastructure cost and opt for leaner office spaces with fewer on-site employees, resulting in further cost-savings.
The change will also increase workforce diversity, as more candidates will be able to access opportunities remotely, across the country and the world. One challenge is equitable access to resources and technology - and employers will explore how to make this happen as they know a diverse workforce is a stronger, more agile workforce, benefiting employees, employers, communities, and economies.
Remote recruiting - Employers will evaluate the cost-benefit of remote recruiting and those who do not need or value the high touch, personalized campus recruiting experience will look to remaining with and perfecting their virtual recruiting programs. The pandemic has taught us that virtual career fairs, interviews, networking sessions, and information sessions work and allow for significantly broader access to talent across the country and the globe. Candidates will learn how to interview effectively using video-based systems, a very new skill for most. Artificial intelligence is ramping up the effectiveness of this approach, too.
Workforce Health Awareness - Employers and employees alike will demand work environments in which health and productivity will be more formally linked, along with the rewards of positive results. This awareness comes from not only the reality of COVID-19 and vaccination programs, but also the recognition that all businesses and organizations need a diverse group of healthy people to sustain them. Wellness programs will expand to further healthy lifestyles, which in turn, support the health of organizations.
Kevin Gaw Ph.D.: Imagine an employer asking you in an interview (after your gap year): "So, what did you do during your time between college and now?" This is a real question and has already been asked by employers (e.g., "How did you spend your summer during the pandemic?") The employer wants to know about your decisions during the "down time" of the pandemic and how you engaged.
Develop your networking skills by meeting people outside of your regular sphere and learn from them. Ask for feedback and accept it as a gift. Stay connected with them as you don't know what'll be happening at the end of the gap year; they may be your inside referral!
Keep learning. This not only includes staying up on your discipline (trends, new topics, new resources, ethics), but also learning about life and how to solve challenges by using newly gained knowledge and skills. Read and understand literature and talk with others about what you have learned. Learn more about yourself - your interests and values, strengths, and growth points; then work to expand your horizons, even just a bit. Stretching yourself leads to new learning!
Consider a post-degree internship. Engaging in a deep learning experience such as this will not only enrich your knowledge and skills, but you will also be proactively preparing for your career launch.
Employers will notice your engagement, increasing your competitiveness as a candidate. While such an experience would ideally be within your career pathway, it does not have to be. If it is not, make sure you are learning skills that can clearly be applicable/transferrable to your chosen field.
Try something new that is not directly career-related but "feeds the soul."
Volunteer and help others. Learn to seriously cook, from a chef, and then prepare meals for others, asking for feedback. Write a work of fiction, submit it for review, and re-write it based on the critical feedback. Be a Big Brother or a Big Sister. All of these types of activities challenge yourself and are not "trophy" gains.
Kevin Gaw Ph.D.: Starting your career is exciting! There are some important pointers to think about as you settle into your new role.
You are no longer in college. You will be expected to not only show up on time but be appropriately dressed and prepared to start the day and work through the day. When the job starts at 8 a.m., that means you are to be at your office/workstation (or assigned spot) before 8 a.m., ready to start. And you leave after the closing time. Ever watch The Intern with Robert De Niro?
Have an expense account? Be fully informed about the policies and procedures, the expectations, and the prohibitions. Respect the trust your employer has placed in you to have such an account. The money belongs to your employer, not you.
You now represent your employer and your organization's brand. This means what you do and say matters, in person, socially, and digitally. While you can argue there's a hard boundary between your private life and your work life, the truth is that this boundary is typically blurred; what you do and say both at work and outside of work can influence (positively and/or negatively) your career trajectory.
Be serious and also friendly; but it is critically important to know your boundaries and avoid offensive behavior. What may be funny to your friends may be highly offensive to a colleague. Do not assume. Avoid gossip and office politics. Another person's drama does not have to be your drama (like friends, it is your choice). Be respectful to everyone and learn to a member of the team.
Most new employees are hired because of how they can contribute to their new organizations' goals. Be ready to contribute. The organization does not owe you anything. You may feel like a rock star, but remember: you were hired to further the organization's objectives.
Show your value and confirm to all you were the right hire through on-the-job performance!
Your supervisor and others are watching. Be aware that even though you now "have the job," you are still the new employee. Most new employees are working within a probation period and are being assessed on their performance throughout that period. Continuation of employment decisions are made based on these observations. Work with your supervisor and have open conversations.
Learn, develop, improve, and become an asset to your new organization.
Take responsibility and avoid blaming others. Employers greatly appreciate employees who understand what is within their control and their sense of ownership. When an employee blames others for something they themselves are responsible, there's an immediate erosion of trust. Employers recognize early elements of leadership when a new employee accepts their limitations and demonstrably improves upon them.
You can pick your friends, but not always your colleagues. Play nice and always be supportive. Do not throw anyone under any bus. Always try to take the high road. Learn to give constructive feedback that is useful, not degrading.
Learn how to ask for, accept, and use feedback. This, alone, will advance your career.
You are a professional now and college is over.
University of Nebraska - Omaha
Department of ManagementWebsite
Dr. Erin Bass Ph.D.: The coronavirus has taught higher education institutions as well as their students to be flexible and adaptable when it comes to learning. This will likely persist after the coronavirus pandemic as both employees and employers demand more flexibility and adaptability in how they approach their work.
Dr. Erin Bass Ph.D.: Young graduates are very adept at completing work virtually - perhaps more so than the current workforce. Graduates will bring these unique capabilities of virtual teaming, presentations, and project management to their workplaces, and this should continue to be a desired skill in the coming years.
Dr. Erin Bass Ph.D.: The ability to showcase both technical and soft skills - any experiences that showcase both skills really stand out.
College of BusinessWebsite
Charles Richardson Ph.D.: Obviously, growth in use of virtual platforms and reduced travel volume, although an increase in travel from current levels. However, isolation is impacting everyone, negatively. People need social interaction, and trust is at the root of all business collaboration, or should be. Continued rapid evolution of technology. Greater, genuine, interest in green jobs, avoiding "greenwashing", and understanding linkages between environmental stewardship and social justice.
Charles Richardson Ph.D.: - Communications - written and verbal
- Business basics (everyone uses these):
- Six Sigma training
- Microsoft certification (and mastery of Office platform integration)
Charles Richardson Ph.D.: - Know Thyself - likes/dislikes.
- Develop social and cultural intelligence.
- Continuous learner - Develop a love for reading.
- Develop board of advisors.
- Talk to people. Relationships rule!