January 12, 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.
Franklin and Marshall College
American Studies and Women's, Gender and Sexuality StudiesWebsite
M. Alison Kibler Ph.D.: Some things seem to have changed in the pandemic, but F&M's graduates in American Studies did quite well in the first pandemic season of job hunting.
M. Alison Kibler Ph.D.: The key for today's graduate is to come ready with relevant skills and experience. A college degree without relevant skills and experience will just not be as sufficient as in previous years to land that first, post-graduate role.
Creativity, proactivity along with strong communication skills and intellectual grit to anticipate and respond proactively to the unexpected are the competencies most prized in today's labor market. Showing that one worked through the pandemic, and even pursued additional skills and experiences relevant to a role or field, will make a graduate stand out from among their less prepared and proactive peers.
In the last class of American Studies graduates (class of 2020), I saw some students take a new path to a job. For example, one student had an internship where she worked remotely for a digital marketing firm. This then became a full-time job after graduation. Another student had worked on legal research (also remote) over the summer and in her senior seminar, and then got a job as a legal assistant in the New York DA's office. She hopes to ultimately go to law school. This is a job that other AMS alumni have secured in the past. Other students got jobs as community organizers, teachers, museum curators and entry-level business positions. These paths seemed largely the same as in the past. All built on course work and/or internships where they developed skills and deepened interest in topics. The student that went to work as a community organizer, for example, had done a senior research project on homelessness.
Southern University at New Orleans
Master of Arts in Museum Studies ProgramWebsite
Dr. Haitham Eid Ph.D.: Absolutely! Those who graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic will endure emotional, financial, and social impacts. What is even more concerning is that these impacts will be felt more profoundly among graduates with minority backgrounds, as many of them lack the resources and support systems to help them navigate these difficult times. This can cause the social and economic inqequalities that already exist to become even more pronounced, which may take many years to reverse.
The situation for graduates with a degree in museum studies may be much worse, as the museum sector faces one of the most devastating financial crises in its history. But I encourage young museum professionals not to be discouraged and to look at this challenge as an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, museums have accelerated their digital transformation, like many other industries have, to carry out their missions. This digital transformation creates a work environment that favors candidates who are technologically savvy and skilled - a need that puts many young and new graduates at an advantage.
Dr. Haitham Eid Ph.D.: Young graduates need to demonstrate their ability to think critically, solve complex problems, and be a self-starter. Also, having a collaborative and adaptive mindset can be very helpful in today's COVID-19 environment. Of course, improving the candidate's digital skills (e.g. learning new software and managing social media platforms) can significantly enhance their job prospects. Above all else, however, is having a positive attitude and making personal connections with potential employers. One must have both in order to land a job, especially in the museum sector.
Dr. Haitham Eid Ph.D.: For young graduates who are interested in entering the museum workforce, volunteer work and internship experience are crucial in demonstrating the candidate's commitment to the field. Resumes that include specific projects and the candidate's role in these projects tend to stand out. The ability to connect with the local community, understand their needs, recognize the social role of museums, attract external funding, and write successful grant proposals can bring considerable attention to the candidate's resume.
Central Washington University
Anthropology and Museum StudiesWebsite
Jessica A. Mayhew Ph.D.: Applied (hands-on) experiences are great to see on resumes/CVs and show that students have taken classroom learning into the real world. It's that tough bit where you have to take something you've learned (in theory) and then see how it functions in reality.
Jessica A. Mayhew Ph.D.: Primatologists are always looking for new ways to incorporate different kinds of technology into their research projects, and I only see the enhances in tech enhancing the kind of data we collect and propelling the kinds of questions we are able to ask and answer. Scientists are often at the forefront of using existing technology in novel ways, so I'm optimistic and enthusiastic about how much primatologists can gain by partnering with tech companies or learning new software and skills.
Jessica A. Mayhew Ph.D.: COVID-19 has certainly disrupted all of our plans, and in our field, that means setbacks to field research or working at institutions that house vulnerable primate populations. In the immediate, it has taught us to be flexible and think on our feet. Even the best-laid plans do not always go as we intended and that's OK! This shouldn't be considered a failure. There's an art to just rolling with it and finding a productive way through a situation to the other side. Over the long-term, I think we will settle back into a routine that looks more like it used to with the potential now for more online coursework and virtual meetings and increased empathy among us all that there are many ways to participate and collaborate.
Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis
Museum Studies Program, IU School of Liberal ArtsWebsite
Lois Silverman Ph.D.: Like many fields, museums and other cultural organizations are wrestling with tough challenges wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic and the racialized violence in our country. Museum visitation is down, many institutions are laying off staff, and some will likely close for good. That said, museums are essential to the health and well-being of our communities and our society, especially in traumatic times like these.
Museums adapt to engage people in new and meaningful ways, from digital learning to essential community conversations. They need workers who are flexible, empathetic, civic-minded, and socially conscious. Although competition for jobs will likely increase in the years ahead, young graduates can sharpen their edge by honing their leadership, communication, and innovation skills, as well as their abilities to foster equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
Lois Silverman Ph.D.: Geographically speaking, there, of course, tend to be more museums and cultural organizations in cities and metro areas, but museums exist in every region and state. Willingness to relocate is an advantage, while some jobs might allow remote, virtual work. Stay connected with former internship mentors, colleagues, you know, and institutions where you have volunteered or could begin doing so; personal connections often unadvertised net opportunities. Your first museum job may not be your "dream" job, but getting launched in the field is critical.
I also advise museum studies graduates to cast their nets wide and think creatively about where their museum skills and talents are relevant. Museum work today takes place in many settings and industries, including community and social agencies, corporate collections, educational foundations, consulting companies, and technology firms, to name a few. When you see a connection that speaks to you, make the case! You might innovate your way into a rewarding opportunity.
Lois Silverman Ph.D.: At their core, museums aim to be participatory institutions of communication, storytelling, and community engagement. Technology is playing a critical role in expanding museums' reach and impact. From holographic history exhibits to virtual reality-based immersive art experiences, technology enhances museums' work in many ways. For example, since the pandemic hit, museum-digital learning has exploded.
Many museums now offer virtual tours and programs that reach families at home, teachers with online students, older adults in nursing homes, healthcare workers, and others. Technology has opened new opportunities for people to contribute their own stories and objects to museum collections and exhibits. Studies have shown that public views museums as the most trustworthy source of information in America. In the next five years, I expect even more technological applications that will successfully remove barriers so that people of all backgrounds, situations, and abilities can enjoy and help create the next age of museums.