February 7, 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.
Janet Colson Ph.D.: Prior to the pandemic, we were already reliant on technology, and the pandemic has forced most agencies and businesses to maximize its use. In addition to college classes going online, graduates have virtual job interviews, virtual training for their new jobs, and often work remotely once on the job. This necessitates proficiency in use of technology.
Even though college students claim to be "Zoomed out" after the forced transition to remote learning last March, this prepared graduates with the skills to communicate in the virtual world and the workforce of the future. As students, they were on the receiving end of a Zoom class; advising and meetings with faculty were virtual. These experiences forced them to understand how their prospective clients, customers and colleagues will perceive them. They will be ready for a technology-driven workforce.
Janet Colson Ph.D.: A very wise colleague's moto is "just show up." In addition, she's always the first to arrive. Arriving early to work, meetings or any event allows new employees to be noticed; it also demonstrates their interest in the job and work ethics. (In a virtual world, this translates to being the first to log on.)
Being able to write and speak concisely is also vital. Time is important to employers which makes a well-written and concise letter of application (or email) and resume essential. Employers may receive dozens of applications for a job, so the letter and resume may be the only chance to make the first cut.
Empathy, active listening, and eye contact are skills many students lack, but are critical. Accepting individuals from different cultures, races, religions, and political views is crucial. This begins with graduates understanding of cultural traditions and practices and then accepting the differences.
Janet Colson Ph.D.: Our Nutrition and Food Science graduates work in two main categories-health care or food-related job. Prior to the pandemic, some nutrition counseling was often done virtually, but the pandemic changed it to all virtual. This initially forced many nutritionists and clients out of their comfort zones, but they now recognize the time saving benefits of the virtual world. They have become more tech-savvy and find they work more efficiently. I believe their days will continue to include remote work with occasional face-to-face meetings. In-patient nutrition services will gradually transition back to the traditional method.
Graduates who have jobs in the food industry have experienced similar changes with social distancing, masks, hand sanitizers, and more reliance on virtual meetings. Because we must all eat food to live, the job market has remained stable. Working with food often requires people to be in close proximity to others, violating the 6 feet social distancing rule. Most jobs in the food industry cannot be done remotely; therefore, I envision a day for work for them will include commuting to work and working close to others, with more awareness the importance of hand sanitizers.