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.
York College, CUNY
Case Western Reserve University
University of North Alabama
University of Arizona
Cleveland State University
University of Hawaii-West Oahu
Georgia State University
Old Dominion University
Sonoma State University
York College, CUNY
Department of Business and Economics
Yong Kyu Lee Ph.D.: Although there may be several trends that we can see in the job market given the pandemic, I would like to shortly point out two. One is communication skills. It is known that employee's communication skills are the one of the many important factors in workplaces because they lead to successful workplace collaboration and cooperation, which influence the quality of productivity and a company's success. As employees are working remotely due to the pandemic, they mainly communicate with each other via various contactless communications (e.g., video communications) instead of face-to-face communication in workplaces. Moreover, remote work is expected to increase. These mean that companies will be more likely to look for candidates who efficiently work with others by effectively using them. The other trend is expertise. Due to the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, several companies may focus on reducing cost by efficiently allocating resources (e.g., money, people, and so on) and saving money in training employees without a loss of training quality. As searching for and hiring candidates who can demonstrate expertise in the field they work into, companies will try to access to training at low cost with high efficiency.
Yong Kyu Lee Ph.D.: My advice to you is not to take a gap year. It is worth to jump into the job market and apply for jobs that you really want. Even though you might not get hired, this experience will definitely help you prepare for strong job application materials for the following year. However, if it is necessary for you to take a gap year, I recommend you the following:
1) focus on building expertise in the field of interest. One way to improve your expertise is to earn a certificate. Depending on the field of interest, you can pursue different certificates such as digital marketing, google analytics, Microsoft certifications and so on. It will raise your competitiveness in the job market.
2) improve your communication skills. You need to diagnose your strengths and weaknesses in communication. Based on this analysis, you will be able to make a plan to empower your communication competency.
Yong Kyu Lee Ph.D.: When you apply for a job,
1) carefully read the job description posted by the company to understand what kind of candidates they are looking for. It enables you to find a job that fits you.
2) collect information about the company via various sources (e.g., company's websites, social media accounts, and so on) to learn. The better you understand the firm you apply, the higher you have a chance of getting hired.
3) prepare the reasons for why you are the best person for that position. 4) you must have a professional and up-to-date resume or CV.
When you get hired,
1) be ready to actively learn new skills and to improve your current ones at work because an employee's willingness to learn is closely related to a company's growth. Companies love to support these attitudes and behaviors displayed by employees.
2) trust in yourself. You can do more than you think.
Mark Votruba Ph.D.: The erosion of jobs in the service and entertainment industries has definitely been the most dramatic change in the job market resulting from the pandemic. Occupations that can be performed remotely have not suffered greatly, though uncertainties about the macroeconomy are probably having widespread negative effects on new hiring.
Mark Votruba Ph.D.: Data analytics skills are in increasing demand. I see more employers who expect training in tools like Python and R.
Mark Votruba Ph.D.: A job that provides opportunities to learn and grow. A job that values the development of its employees, with supportive older colleagues.
University of North Alabama
University Communications & Marketing
Michelle R. Eubanks: At this point in 2020, patience is key. Theatres, both nationally and internationally, were the first to make the responsible decision to keep audiences safe by canceling their seasons early in the pandemic. Those effects will echo through the industry well past a nationally distributed vaccine, as well as healing from the economic crisis. Live audience events will be among the last pieces of "normal" to return to theatre. Your career will shape itself in uncharted and unexpected ways. Most theaters are just now figuring out a path forward through this "new normal." Theaters are rearranging their spring/summer programming with a better understanding of what it takes to produce art in the current environment. Theaters are rebuilding both their internal administrative structures and production crews in the midst of mass pandemic layoffs and furloughs. Find a city with a strong professional/regional theatre community or even an IATSE union presence. Reach out to those theaters (Production Managers are a good place to start) and ask what you can do to volunteer to help rebuild.
If you're able, find time to focus on building your portfolio. Designers may consider supplementing their websites with renderings and paperwork for complete "unrealized" designs (which can be pitched during interviews to showcase "creative thinking"). Find individual projects that will build technical skills for resumes. Take on commissions or work on your own to construct garments, build furniture, faux finish, learn a new drafting or 3D rendering software. Lighting & sound technicians are in high demand now for practical work on virtual events.
Participate in professional conferences. Almost all major national industry events (like USITT) have moved online and have focused programming on precisely this topic.
Broaden your horizons to consider what career opportunities your skills fit into. Don't beat yourself up if a "traditional" theater career doesn't make itself immediately clear. The industry knows what challenges you're facing and empathizes with whatever your transition from graduation looks like. Keep in contact with all your mentors and industry connections so that you can be ready & available to get involved once the theater is "back on its feet.
Michelle R. Eubanks: Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio. While resumes and CVs are very helpful to prove to those in hiring positions that you're a competent collaborator and team player, our industry is ultimately portfolio-based. Showcasing hands-on competence, craftsmanship, and skilled execution of creative ideas will set any individual a step above the competition. Theaters hire when they see a portfolio filled with quality work that showcases both skill and creativity.
As for certifications-- For carpenters: look at courses/certificates in welding, rigging, OSHA safety practices, etc. Trade certificates will make you an asset in any shop. Lighting & sound technicians: get involved with events. Board op, hang/focus, and other hands-on experience is key, and there's plenty of work happening right now during virtual events. Costumers: pattern making & construction. Scenic designers: professional scenic painting courses, CAD/Vectorworks training for drafting, Cinema 4D or Blender for advanced rendering/visualization.
All theater-makers at every level can/should be using this time to get involved in diversity training, anti-racism seminars, and other initiatives that encourage proactive equity throughout the industry.
Michelle R. Eubanks: A day's work, for now, will look like figuring out what a day's work looks like. Graduates should spend this transitional period reaching out to theaters in their prospective cities to get a sense of what their spring/summer programming looks like. Summer stock positions & acting internships are the traditional avenues for pre/post undergraduates. Students shouldn't feel pressure to expect a "regular" day at work any time soon.
Even long-established industry professionals are currently in a "holdover" state. Be open to opportunities that may be slightly tangential to your area of study (both in and outside official theater work). Expect theater jobs to be focused on "community building" as organizations navigate recovering their seasonal programming and audience bases. Be hands-on, finding opportunities to build technical skills to bolster portfolio work. Stay in close communication with mentors. Stay active & involved in the arts. Stay hopeful.
Mark Johlke: Employee ability and flexibility to work remotely and at a central location. Employers are likely to want to see evidence that applicants have the experience and ability to work remotely with less direct supervision, while also being willing and able to come to a central location, such as an office location, as needed.
Mark Johlke: Our public school system does an increasingly poor job of developing students basic skills, e.g., reading, writing, math. If a high school or college graduate lacks these basic skills then addressing them would be Job One. If s/he has developed these basic skills then a gap year could be best spent developing career-specific SKAs. Many junior colleges and trade schools offer this type of focused training, plus the internet is overflowing with training options.
Mark Johlke: I'm going to continue to focus on the basics. Always keep in mind that you are not owed a job or a living or anything; you have to earn it. You earn it by showing up on time, focusing on learning and performing your new job, being conscientious and adaptable, treating others with courtesy and respect, being trustworthy and honest, and generally being the type of employee that you would want to hire and retain. The value you create for your employer must exceed the cost of having you as an employee.
Matthew Hashim Ph.D.: The primary trend we have seen is the required transition to remote work. MIS folks in particular have adapted quite well, but remote work has placed additional importance on virtual communication and collaboration within teams, organizations, and between consultants and clients. Many are predicting to see an increased level of remote work persisting into a post-pandemic world, as well as a shift in the workforce geographically (not just internationally, but within the US-for example, working for a firm in San Francisco, but living permanently in Reno). Besides that, the job market for MIS has been and should continue to be strong. Potential future growth areas for MIS will likely be related to increased adoption of advanced analytics, machine learning, and other types of data-driven skills. We've had these needs in the past obviously, but all industry folks I have spoken with continually stress the importance of knowing and responding to data, and creating value from data. Another possible trend could be the opportunity for new digital transformations of existing industries, as those firms and industries that could not adapt (or chose not to adapt) to the pandemic will be at a disadvantage during recovery. So those creative and entrepreneurial types that can identify new use cases, opportunities, or methods of creating value from technology will thrive. Of course this also isn't a new phenomenon, but the pandemic has accelerated further losses and industry transitions, unfortunately.
Matthew Hashim Ph.D.: There are three types of skills that currently seem to stand out and are sought after by graduates and employers. First, quantitative skills such as working with data and/or programming have grown in need significantly. Data analytics, data scientists, statisticians, machine learning, are all in incredible demand. Accordingly, advanced skills in Tableau, Power BI, R, database, and other related or specialized software are important. Even advanced analysis with Excel can allow job seekers to impress decision-makers by asking and answering incredible questions of data. In other words, don't discount Excel skills as it gives everyone a starting point for attacking their data. Besides working with data, programming and logic have grown in importance for MIS job-seekers. Not only do those skills translate to software development needs, but they also translate to data analysis and dovetail with advanced analytics work. Second, interest and knowledge of cybersecurity-related skills is also in high demand, especially by governmental agencies and specialized industry firms. Skills in cybersecurity could be managerial in nature (e.g., risk assessment and planning, cyber threat intelligence), or technical (e.g., cyber threat mitigation, incidence response). Third, the ability to communicate effectively as a group on IS-related technology topics, especially in a remote-working world, is critical. Evidence of these types of business communications abilities would certainly differentiate the job-seeker from the crowd, and would also translate to a successful interview.
Matthew Hashim Ph.D.: My main advice here is to be flexible and choose the opportunity that provides the best challenge and opportunity for career growth. We're living among a massive amount of uncertainty, and firms in many cases are trying to reasonably respond to the needs of their employees. That said, there seems to be increased opportunity in cities such as Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Dallas, and others. Of course there will likely continue to be need for graduates in the historically popular tech hotspots such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin. But I would advise against being hyper-focused on one particular city as that could constrain your future.
Robert Whitbred Ph.D.: Let me say predicting job trends with any certainty has historically been difficult. That being said, organizations of all types, including the university I am a part of, have learned to run their operations remotely. I expect most organization will continue to support employees working remotely to some extent. You are now seeing employees of high-tech companies moving from California to much less costly locations without any loss of productivity. Since persons may work for a company from anywhere, companies will recruit employees both nationally and internationally based on skills and not geographic location. There will be opportunities in areas such as tech support and training to both support the technologies needed to work remotely and provide employees with necessary skills. Second, I expect there will continue to be great demand for persons who can create solid digital content of all types along with coding skills. Employers need persons who can create effective user interfaces, communicate effectively through social media, and develop the engaging multimedia experiences today's consumers are demanding.
Robert Whitbred Ph.D.: These are tough times, and people are struggling. The first thing is take care of yourself physically, mentally, and financially. If this is accomplished and you are able to spend time learning new things, identify specific skills related to your field that can be learned for little or no expense. One example is podcasting. Search for 'free podcasting' and you will find numerous free articles, 'how to' instructions and thriving online communities. You will also learn about an open source (free) software called Audacity. A second example is improving your public speaking. Join the local club of Toastmasters International. In these clubs you will give presentations to and receive feedback from supportive members. If you are stuck for ideas, explore the variety of options for free learning in Kahn Academy. Whatever you do, do not give anyone a credit card number. The last thing you need is to create more hardship by falling victim to a scam.
Robert Whitbred Ph.D.: Four things.
-Think medium and long term in addition to short term when making a decision on which initial position to accept. While financial compensation is important, you also want to take into consideration the types of opportunities you will be afforded. It may be better to take a lower paying position that will offer greater opportunity to both fully utilize your existing skills and develop new ones.
-Be aware of what employers, both current and potentially future, will find when looking at your online profile. Posts, pictures, videos, etc. that may have been ok in the past will likely be viewed negatively by companies. You are now a reflection of your employer.
-Always look for opportunities to both support the efforts of others and learn new things. Volunteer for things and convey your enthusiasm and interest in learning.
-Network, network, network. I know you cannot go to any career-oriented workshop without hearing the word network, but it is important. Join professional associations, attend conferences, participate in things such as company sponsored picnics or outings. You will meet people, and opportunities will follow.
Robert Healy: I'd say that communication managers are just as likely to make new hires during the pandemic as they were before it started. The number of new hires could perhaps even increase, as people's isolation from one another has increased the need for mediated communication. After all, more things are being done in writing and in multimedia presentations than ever before.
Robert Healy: It always, always, always helps to be a good writer. People who write well tend to think well, and managers notice that. Also, face-to-face communication is decreasing due to the pandemic. Even amateur blogging, if it's taken seriously, helps to sharpen writing skills, as does, of course, taking a job (even part-time) as a copywriter or social media intern. Volunteering to help a nonprofit with its social media, web copy and/or newsletter would also be a smart idea for a soon-to-be or recent graduate.
Robert Healy: Every impression you make matters, even among friends and family who aren't hiring. Being likeable is hugely valuable not only in being hired but also in building the confidence and self-esteem necessary to have a good job interview. Everything is connected.
Reed Young Ph.D.: I think the impact will be most prominent in the short term (6-12 months). In the long term graduates should be okay as far as public administration jobs if the economy in Hawaii see a rebound to 2019 tourism levels. With the distribution of several approved vaccines during the early part of 2021 resumption of a near normal return to work is expected later in 2021 or early 2022.
Reed Young Ph.D.: Graduates need writing, analytical, technological, along with research methods and critical thinking skills. These are basic skills required to be competitive in the workforce. To be able to identify an opportunity with a technology solution is important in any managerial situation in today's workforce. Graduates need to be thinking how can we make this better in the future while applying the theory of constant impovement or CI is essential for success. Researching what others have found and apply those solutions is important.
Reed Young Ph.D.: A resume needs to speak to the strengths of the individual emphasizing what an individual has accomplished. If an individual can demonstrate that they have applied sound logic and completion of assigned projects or worked well in a team environment that shows the employer a level of comittment. Continunity of employment or schooling is important as employers look for gaps in either area.
Georgia State University
J. Mack Robinson College of Business
Jason Aldrich: Students with a strong background in data-driven marketing strategies and skill sets are seeing lots of opportunities and in many cases this environment is a career accelerator. In other cases, some students who may have a more traditional marketing background could find themselves competing with more candidates for fewer roles.
Jason Aldrich: The future is data and analytics driven with tremendous disruption and innovation occurring in a variety of industries including transportation, energy, and consumer goods. In order to add significant value early in their careers, young graduates must be adept at leveraging technology, data, and analytics in order to effectively manage projects, lead teams, interface with vendors and develop insights necessary to drive growth and lead change.
Jason Aldrich: Employers are seeking students who have a combination of strong academic performance, high-quality experiential learning experiences in and out of the classroom plus cutting edge coursework focused on how to leverage technology, data, and analytics PLUS a proven ability to work independently and on teams remotely.
Dr. Marissa Doshi Ph.D.: Even before the pandemic, we saw the rise of the gig economy-the pandemic has deepened this trend. Holding down multiple jobs, often short-term and temporary, has become the norm, particularly for those just entering the job market. Also, the rise of remote, online work during the pandemic has led employers to prioritize digital skills and information literacy. It's not just about knowing how to use various digital tools but about being able to make smart, strategic decisions about which digital tools can best achieve desired outcomes. Communication graduates are particularly well-suited to respond to this trend because they understand the interactive nature of communication and nuances of online communication.
Dr. Marissa Doshi Ph.D.: Take some time to decompress, but a gap year is not a vacation! Graduates should have a clear idea about the skills being prioritized in the jobs or professions that they want to join. To identify skills employers are looking for, start by examining relevant job ads. Connecting with alumni is another way to figure out what it's like to work in a particular job or profession. Once you know what skills are being prioritized, work on cultivating them. Take webinars or online courses-many are free. Internships (many are remote now) are also helpful. Also, work with college career counselors-the relationship doesn't end after graduation! Finally, it's always good to build relationships and volunteering in the community is a great way to do that.
Dr. Marissa Doshi Ph.D.: Develop a diverse network of mentors. People who share your values but have had different life and work experiences can provide valuable perspectives for navigating career opportunities and transitions. And remember that learning doesn't end with college! Keep looking for opportunities to cultivate new skills and hone existing ones.
Michelle Carpenter: Companies really want to hire the "right fit" for their company. Authenticity is one of the biggest trends I have seen-even pre-pandemic. Be authentic (be yourself) and show how you can really contribute to the team. This trait combined with empathy is a winning match.
Related to this is understanding when and how to respond to the pandemic, cultural sensitivity and the myriad of issues we have faced this past year. So much of the market really wants to be heard, we have to resist to urge to jump right in, but rather, listen first, and then communicate with purpose and not just be part of "the noise."
Pre-2020 we were already seeing the rise of "everything visual" when it comes to brand awareness and preference and the pandemic has only accelerated the importance of this. Visual gets attention. You know the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words." I see this reinforced all of the time in the classroom. If I tie a key concept to a visual, the student comprehends it so much quicker. It's the same with consumers.
Companies also want to know not only can you create but how will you implement your ideas. You have to be passionate and "sell it" if you are to succeed!
Michelle Carpenter: Employers hiring in marketing are looking for well-rounded candidates. Excellent communication and writing skills are a must-have, along with good organizational skills, a willingness to learn and experiment, and strong analytical skills.
Many of the positions we are seeing through our alumni network and career development office have a digital component. A strong knowledge of social media platforms, ability to develop authentic content that really relates to the market, and creativity can put you ahead of your peers. Our alumni have also shared with us that a willingness to be coachable, take feedback and be a good listener can give you the edge over your peers as well.
Michelle Carpenter: Looking at the job opportunities we saw this past year, many were centered in these areas/industries: consulting, IT, SEO and marketing firms, staffing solutions, telecommunications, health care, insurance, real estate, but also several local businesses and non-profits were looking too. These leads came from our alumni network and career development office. Some of the positions included social media coordinators, marketing assistants, graphic design specialists, creative marketing specialists, and event coordinators. The best way to find a job is to start with an internship even if you are in your final semester. It is a great way to establish a few key contacts before you graduate. An "inside advantage" can really help you get the initial look. Find experience even if it is unpaid. Look to see who you know at companies or industries you are interested in, again even an alumni contact can be used to your advantage. Don't be afraid to take on a special one-time project for a company, it could lead to a full-time position.
It is incredibly important to take advantage of any opportunities that come your way and always be receptive to learning. We have hosted a number of events with alumni and marketing professionals in the past several months and I have heard one common theme-network, network, network! There are lots of opportunities to do this on Zoom now.
Networking has become more important than ever, because making it past that first cut is key to getting the initial interview.
Dr. Emily Lewis Ph.D.: This has yet to be seen. Unfortunately, I cannot predict the future. However, I do believe that there will be an enduring impact of this pandemic on everyone-not just graduates. Given what a significant event this is and how it has impacted everyone and everything in our society, I believe the impact will be felt for years to come and it will be hard to not have this experience endure well beyond the pandemic itself. For graduates, they will need to navigate the economic impact on companies that may not be hiring right now. Additionally, the impact this has had on a lot of industries in general and the way things are done (telecommuting, etc.) has yet to be fully seen.
Dr. Emily Lewis Ph.D.: The same skills they have always needed; however, they will need to be able to stand out in a new way and perhaps be a bit more patient in the job search.
They will have a few additional skills that past grads haven't had-a new type of resiliency for one. Another being time management and the ability to work from home. Though everyone focuses on the negatives of the pandemic and what the students are not getting, there are positive skills that are being learned during these abnormal times. These students have had to learn how to balance the stress of what is going on in the world while also taking classes, working, and oftentimes helping out their families.
Dr. Emily Lewis Ph.D.: Internships and hands-on experience given in classroom settings help students stand out. For example, at Sonoma State University, we have student-run media outlets (PR firm, newspaper, radio station, film production) that allow students the opportunity for experiential education. Giving students these types of experiences of working with clients, securing ad revenue, managing student work groups, etc. allows them a leg up when applying to jobs while also giving them the type of experience that helps them to hone their skills and decide which career path might be best for them.