February 18, 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.
Carolyn Cousin Ph.D.: I think the impact on our graduates will be no greater than the impact that the pandemic will have on the Nation or the world as a whole. Making use of technology for interactive activities is cheaper and suitable to a degree but I have not found it totally satisfactory. A virtual meeting is not tantamount to a face-to-face meeting and our students have indicated to me that they have felt this difference. Also, I, as an instructor, have felt the difference and have tried to correct this but have not been successful. The University of the District of Columbia is known for its nurturing quality and virtual communications does not allow for the face-to-face association that most nurturing protocols required. I have only been able to achieve this relationship when I can sit with a student in the same room, listen and serve as a mentor.
I am able to relate my knowledge and assess my mentee's conversation couple with his/her body language and this allows me to determine my success or failure. Further, I have found it very difficult to almost impossible to hire a person in a position of authority or one in a position that I have to supervise, without a face to face meeting. This may be possible, if I interview the individual several times. Possibly then, I can get a better assessment. Personally, I feel that face-to-face interactions allow for better assessments. Further, I have had to change my research focus during the pandemic and I look forward to helping my students perfect their research skills which could not be enhanced via the internet. Observing a protocol performed is not the same as doing it yourself. This is, especially, true in our electron microscopy laboratory where perfecting ultramicrotomy is impossible to teach without close interactions.
Carolyn Cousin Ph.D.: A job that will allow you to advance and assist you in this advancement.
Carolyn Cousin Ph.D.: In biology, you must have skills in molecular biology or biotechnology. You must be able to analyze data and relate it to the known literature which is obtained mainly from refereed journal articles in the field. You must have exceptional writing skills. No one has the time to teach you how to write.
George Dierberger: The biggest trend the past 2 years has been the move to business analytics. Augsburg has added data analytics as a minor for the undergrad program and a concentration in the MBA program. Companies of all sizes are requiring data analytics for new hires. We have also added tableau, a data visualization software, a requirement for undergraduate and graduate programs. Both trends came from our business advisory council.
George Dierberger: Soft skills are a requirement for business graduates. The ability to play nicely in the sandbox with coworkers is critical for success. Also, a major trend is diversity and inclusion and equity for all workers.
George Dierberger: Recent college graduates have had a tough time with covid and working from home. For workers who have children in school, it has been incredibly stressful with online demands for everyone in the family. For younger workers, the lack of connection has been challenging for everyone--Zoom meetings only get you so far. I look forward to a hybrid approach in the fall, when workers will have the option of going into the office. I do believe the days of commuting to work 5 days a week is over. I would be very concerned for the major downtown infrastructures (large buildings, high rents, parking spaces, restaurants) that the party will never be the same moving forward. Companies have discovered that their people may be more productive at home then commuting an hour each way into work.
Robyn Brouer Ph.D.: Yes, in that it will impact the world of business. The landscape of working for an organization is going to change drastically. I suspect that many jobs will remain remote or partly remote. Rather than dipping a toe into remote work options, organizations were forced to adopt them whole. Many will realize that remote work is more cost effective. This same impact will be felt for jobs that used to include travel. Many organizations have seen how easy it is to use online meeting tools and will not go back.
Robyn Brouer Ph.D.: I don't have silver bullet for this question because it is heavily dependent on a person's fit with the organization. That is, the same job at two different company cultures will be vastly different. Graduates should really explore what they value and try to find an organization that promotes those values as well. Other than that, I think a starting job that gives you a lot of breath of experiences should be valued by new graduates. It may not be the highest paying job, but it will build your skills (and thus your ability to move up) faster than jobs in which you are only doing one thing day after day.
Robyn Brouer Ph.D.: Employers can train on technical skills, what they routinely ask for are "soft skills"- they want graduates who can think critically, effectively communicate, can work well in teams, and do so in a professional manner with a strong work ethic.