August 4, 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.
Pepperdine University, Seaver College
Sam Houston State University
Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College - City University of New York
Houston Baptist University
Farmingdale State College
Appalachian State University
The City College of New York
University of Cincinnati
Sonoma State University
Orfalea College of Business
R. Scott Hengen: Your studies and time in school are a good base and support for your production in the industry. As you begin, please consider that you will still be learning and, even though you have learned the essentials, you will be asked to apply your skills and experience in new ways and in a more competitive and practical atmosphere. Deadlines must be met, and the economy of time and effort will be crucial. Work hard, but try to keep a balance between time in the industry and your home life.
R. Scott Hengen: Our technology will be advancing into a more wireless and digital environment. Components and accessories will be smaller, lighter, less hard-wired, and more remotely accessed, portable, and digital.
R. Scott Hengen: Yes. The virus has prompted the industry to look at the production process. How the process and performances can economize, and the performative aspects can be translated into a remotely viewed but still lively environment. While creative personnel may not meet in person, they could even collaborate, albeit remotely. While the production can always be artistic, the experience will be streamlined. This translates into an economization in staffing needs and production scale and an update to needs in technology and content.
Moreover, it has caused a reassessment of the performative aspects and the need to find ways for the communal experience to be still present while bridging the confining boundaries of a digital screen. When in-person performances reconvene and at some point, the introspection of this time will echo into a transformed aesthetic, both in production and performance. The theatre-going experience may not be as grand, but it may further reach a broader audience.
This discussion also coincides with a more paramount and possibly more compelling argument of whose voices we will hear as this analysis of performative aspects commences. We are experiencing a forceful re-evaluation of leadership and themes of stories untold and sounds unheard, of behavior unrecognized and impacts undervalued. The next few years will show that the theatre industry will be forever transformed as a representation of the underserved and unheard will gain prominence to the effect of empowering the disenfranchised. Over the next decade, we may find a predominance of the modern perspective or economized re-examination of classic tales in a contemporary light rather than the pure enjoyment of retold classics.
Ravi Nath Ph.D.: I believe, the pandemic will impact how work is performed and how remote work will become common for employees. The graduates will have to adapt to this new paradigm as they will have to learn how to network, coordinate, and acclimate to the culture of the organizations in this environment.
Ravi Nath Ph.D.: Clearly, having professional licenses/certificates distinguishes a graduate from others in searching and securing a position in the MIS and Analytics fields. Thus, I would highly recommend that students craft a professional portfolio of accomplishments, such as certificates, unique courses taken, class project details, and other extra curricula activities in order for them to stand out. Further, there is no substitute for internship experiences while in college as this proves to a prospective employer that the candidate demonstrates a proven record of real-world experience.
Ravi Nath Ph.D.: Good communication skills, both written and oral, always serve well. Unless a graduate is able to effectively communicate and share their ideas and thoughts with others, their technical skills alone will not be sufficient in having a rewarding professional career.
The ability to successfully adapt to changing environments is also pivotal as the half-life of technology is quickly shrinking.
I will also add "resiliency' to this list of soft skills. Recovering from setbacks and quickly getting back on your feet has become a mantra particularly in the tech fields such as MIS and Data Science.
Steven Bauer: The coronavirus has accelerated the transformation to a digital world, and this effect will continue after the pandemic is behind us. Graduates will need to be able to navigate a hybrid business environment, with in-person and virtual meetings, interactions and platforms. There will also be increased opportunities to be entrepreneurial and innovative in the digital area. In addition, graduates will have to become more skilled at navigating a global environment since greater digitization will draw countries closer to each other.
Steven Bauer: Business Analytics is becoming increasingly important across all functions in order to be able to identify and capture value. Thus a certification in this area, e.g., in Python, is particularly impactful. As far as courses, students should make sure they gain an exposure to all aspects of the business world, e.g., marketing, management, finance, accounting, strategic planning, law, etc., in order to prepare them for the wide array of challenges they will face.
Steven Bauer: The new hybrid world will make leading teams more challenging. This reality will put a premium on interpersonal skills. When the NASA astronaut, Richard Arnold, spoke at Pepperdine in 2019, he mentioned that team building was the single most important ability undergraduates could develop to become a good astronaut. The same holds for graduates wanting to go into business, particularly in the post coronavirus era. As part of their skills in this area, graduates will also need to be able and committed to addressing issues in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Carliss Miller Ph.D.: Flexible working arrangements were considered a perk or benefit, but given the pandemic more and more jobs will be designed with flexible work arrangements in mind. We will continue to see trends in the labor market with a push towards personal services (e.g. virtual assistants, professional organizers) and professional services. There will also continue to be a demand for knowledge work. More and more, employers are looking to hire applicants that can provide concrete evidence of being "Day 1" ready.
Employers will focus more on identifying prospects with certain "soft skills" which were a nice-to-have pre-pandemic, but are now critical for organizational survival. These skills include: critical thinking, agility, ability to adapt to change, resilience, virtual team effectiveness, crisis management, emotional intelligence, empathy, and inclusive leadership. Additionally, data analysis and interpretation is a highly sought after skill even for jobs that historically did not require analytical ability.
Carliss Miller Ph.D.: Any certifications/licenses/courses that specifically relate to the job function, industry, desired skills of a job, or the individuals' desired career trajectory will have a major impact on attracting job prospects. For example, for someone seeking a sales position, courses that target professional selling, CRM, data management and analysis, sales forecasting, strategic management, business communications, social media marketing, leadership and project management would be beneficial.
Carliss Miller Ph.D.: Good jobs out of college are those that offer structured training, development, and job rotation. While some college students identified their career at age 5 and never veered away, some are still figuring out what they want to do after college. A job opportunity that recognizes the potential of new talent, willing to invest in training and development, and provides opportunities for new employees to experience different job functions enables new graduates to gain a realistic job preview that pays and allows them to identify an opportunity within the company that best aligns with skills and interests. Positions that are for a specific job function but have an apprenticeship model, like a "sales trainee" position, are also great for career stepping stones right out of college.
Dr. Mary Kern Ph.D.: - Internships are going to be far fewer in number, and so many new graduates may be have less work experience, making it both more difficult to obtain a strong position and making the initial learning curve much more steep when they do land a job.
- Employers are going to have to navigate the role of remote work going forward much more actively. For example, we have learned that a lot of work can be done from our living rooms, and many find a lot of value in not having to commute in to an office. Being able to work remotely is going to be a prominent issue in employment negotiations going forward. Both employers and employees will need to evaluate the value (vs. costs) of being able to work from home and consider trade-offs in other forms of compensation.
Dr. Mary Kern Ph.D.: - Clearly, the ability to use different forms of communication technology has become key, and as these forms evolve rapidly, employers are look for an ability to adapt, adopt, and teach them to their colleagues.
- Evidence-based management and decision-making are playing a much larger role in organizations, and thus the ability to work with quantitative data to understand situations and to help make decisions is crucial.
Dr. Mary Kern Ph.D.: - Any job where you have an opportunity to learn is a good job. Ideally, I hope to see my students working in organizations that prioritize professional development opportunities and mentoring relationships, as these provide the opportunities and feedback critical for growth.
Michael Kraten Ph.D.: It's easy to over-react and over-worry when one is immersed in a crisis, but graduates will be able to bounce back quickly -- along with the economy -- once we are all vaccinated and living normally again.
Michael Kraten Ph.D.: Good jobs out of college place graduates on career paths to better future jobs. Graduates must train themselves to always think one job ahead, and not to be tempted by minor short-term wage or benefit differences.
Michael Kraten Ph.D.: Short-term skills like data analytics establish college graduates as credible staff professionals. Long-term skills like critical thinking and persuasive communication can place graduates on long-term career paths to senior management.
Farmingdale State College
Department of Economics
Xu Zhang Ph.D.: There are a few trends in the current job maket.
- Slow recovery. Based on the December job market reports released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market slowly recovered since April, but about 44% of the prepandemic jobs have not been gained back. Between March and April, about 22.16 million jobs were lost. The U.S. labor market started to revive in May, and since then until December the market experienced 23.32 million job gains, roughly 56% of pre-pandemic level. The unemployment rate decreased gradually from April (14.8%) to December (6.7%), but still almost twice its pre-pandemic level in February (3.5%). Additionally, although the number of unemployed persons dropped from 23.11million in April to 10.74 million in December 2020, there is still a huge gap compared to 5.72 million in February.
- Uneven impacts by industries. While overall economy was hard hit by the pandemic, the job losses disproportionally impacted industry sectors. Service industries such as educational service, elective healthcare, arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services, have been hurt the most due to social distancing. Other job losses in retail service sector were related to a boom on online shopping. In addition, teenagers experienced record high unemployment rate which is associated with lack of experiences and working in hard-hit service industries.
- More employers embracing remote work. The perception of remote work has totally changed during the pandemic. After experiencing sudden changes to remote work and managing the obstacles working at home, more and more workers and employers embrace remote work, which would expand the layouts of job hunting and talent search to larger geographic areas.
Xu Zhang Ph.D.: I believe the most important attributes employers seek on a resume remain the same-problem solving skills, team work skills, analytical/quantitative skills, verbal and written communication skills. However, given the pandemic or any other unexpected shock to work environment, how to quickly and efficiently adapt to new work modes can be a very valuable attribute standing out on resume.
Xu Zhang Ph.D.: The Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics program at Farmingdale State College is a
comprehensive course of study that prepares students to be real-life problem solvers so that upon
graduation students are ready to be employed in entry and junior-level positions in business and
industry, the public sector, and non-profit sector. The program features hands-on training in data
analytical techniques and culminates with a capstone course sequence of Economics Research
and Reporting followed by Applied Economic Analysis/Senior Project. While employment
losses also occurred in professional and business services and public sectors, the prospect of job
opportunities related to data analysis remains strong. Therefore, major metro-areas such as New
York are still considered good places for graduates to find work opportunities. Given the
embracing of remote work, graduates can also consider secondary metro-areas where businesses
and financial activities are reviving when the Covid-19 pandemic resolves.
Karen Kus: The pandemic has undoubtedly disturbed the job market with an increase of furloughs, hiring freezes, and unemployment; thus, increasing employment competition amongst candidates. Though, do not let this fool you into thinking there are no opportunities out there. Employers are still reaching out to career centers, seeking ways to recruit candidates. Many job seekers today are delaying their search based on their assumptive belief that no jobs are available. Candidates need to be flexible and know that their preferred scenario may not be available at this time, but something like a remote position might be. Now that remote opportunities are becoming increasingly available, it gives job seekers more wiggle room to spread their wings and not limit themselves to one geographic location. Depending on the position you are looking for, it may be more challenging to obtain a position in a certain area than before. Candidates that are struggling to find opportunities may need to put extra effort in their application materials or may have to gain more relatable skills in the meantime. Admittedly, the pandemic has made it harder for individuals to gain experience. Employers are less willing to take on interns, due to the remote oversite that they may not have the capacity for. There may be remote positions available, though individuals often find they are not receiving the same mentorship as they would have gained in an in-person internship, due to the limited direct oversight and chances to build relationships.
Karen Kus: Employers hiring candidates with a history degree are seeking transferable skills that can be applied in various roles and settings. These skills include writing, communication, research, organization, computer-based skills, and problem-solving. The best thing a candidate can do to increase marketability is to elaborate on how they obtained or utilized those skills, rather than simply listing them. Employers need to have an understanding of how you made use of your skill and what results came from your actions. Make these skills shine on your resume by giving them substance.
Karen Kus: Our graduates mostly stay within New York state, so it is a bit challenging for me to identify specific geographic areas that hire graduates with a degree in history. Larger metropolitan cities usually have more opportunities available, but candidate competition is likely higher. Since one can do so much with a degree in history, like work as a teacher, curator, researcher, etc., it's challenging to pinpoint a geographic area since the field of history can be open-ended. For instance, one might have luck landing a teaching position in New York or work as a researcher in Boston. I find if one is looking to find work that directly engages with history, it may be a good idea to explore opportunities in geographic areas that are known for or frequently celebrate history, like Washington, D.C. for instance.
Lubna Nafees Ph.D.: The pandemic has escalated the rate at which life was changing. For instance, everyone started shopping online. Businesses were compelled to focus on mobile and e-commerce. Many small businesses, specially salons, restaurants etc had to shut shop as people stayed home. A significant number of people lost their jobs, mostly non-technical, seasonal jobs like the frontline sales employees. On the other hand, high-skill technical jobs grew. Digital marketing and strategy specialists, Data analysts, Digital transformation specialists, AI and machine learning specialists, Business development specialists were/are in demand and these jobs will only grow in the next five years. The skill sets required to work in the new human-machine workplace have led to obsolescence of the older skill sets. And that trend will only grow in the coming years.
Lubna Nafees Ph.D.: If a graduate needs to take a gap year, they could do what some of the companies who lost business during the pandemic are doing. They are in an introspection and "reset" mode. Sometimes to move forward, you first need to step back. Graduates can use this time to better understand the transition happening in the marketplace so that when they do join the workforce, they are a good fit for the new workplace. There is definitely merit in aligning with the growing market trends and focussing on Digital Marketing and business analytics skills.
Lubna Nafees Ph.D.: Be flexible and adapt to change. Enjoy the ambiguity and that will help you thrive in these uncertain times. Most importantly stay positive and focussed.
Prabal Kumar De Ph.D.: I think there will be impacts in the short term. The most important one, obviously, is the short-term job market. Although the COVID-19 recession's effect has been less severe for college graduates so far, the new opportunities are limited and will remain so at least through 2021. For many students, learning has been affected due to remote instruction, mental stress, or the lack of peer support. Sometimes, such setback is reflected in grades, which is bad enough, but such effects may often impair career skills in the medium-term.
Prabal Kumar De Ph.D.: I think the necessary skills remain the same. One modification that would stay is greater virtual engagement. Therefore, newly essential skills such as acing a virtual interview, making a mark during a Zoom meeting, or managing or being a valuable part of a remote working group would be useful long after the immediate threats from the COVID-19 crisis be gone.
Office of Career & Professional Development
Nina Woodard: The pandemic hasn't impacted all areas of the entertainment industry in the same way. Anything related to live events and touring has been placed on an extended pause, which has been very difficult for graduates hoping to work in those fields. On an encouraging note, consumers will always find a way back to live experiences, so that segment of the industry will absolutely recover; the timing is just still a bit unknown. Other areas such as record or publishing companies have held steady. And, digital marketing and content creation companies are as busy, if not busier, than they've ever been as artists seek alternative ways to stay connected to their fans. Technology has intersected with entertainment in exciting, creative ways that will continue even as some of the more traditional avenues become available again. For many companies, ideas that started as pivots are now vibrant components of their long-term strategies.
The way we work may have also permanently changed. Companies have realized that remote working is a truly viable option for most businesses. While maintaining company culture, and the social nature of an entertainment-based organization, may still require some level of in-person interaction, it seems likely that many organizations may continue with remote/hybrid office models.
Nina Woodard: For entertainment, digital marketing and content creation skills are critical. Even if a role isn't specifically connected to digital marketing, social media is almost always involved in most entry-level roles. We strongly encourage students and recent graduates to learn basic graphic design platforms, video editing and audio editing. Learning how to maximize impact on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or TikTok is also a worthy investment of time. There's a wide range of self-paced training resources online, many available for free or at reduced costs for students.
Nina Woodard: Any job search strategy comes down to a combination of education, experience and relationships. Many students and graduates have mistakenly believed that that gaining experience or networking isn't an option during this season, but that's simply not the case. We encourage our job seekers to build their strategy and then identify ways to translate certain elements into the virtual realm. Most companies are now offering remote internships, which allows students to explore options without physical limitations. We've also found industry professionals to be extremely accessible and willing to connect with students/recent grads for a quick Zoom chat or phone call. Anyone working in entertainment is there because someone helped them along the way. Most people are genuinely eager to repay that favor by investing in others just beginning the professional journey.
University of Cincinnati
Division of Experience Based Learning & Career Education
Christine Tonnis: At the University of Cincinnati all engineering students complete five semesters of full-time experiential learning, also known as 'co-op.' As the pandemic intensified 'remote work' became the default situation for many engineers, even co-ops. While experienced professionals can often manage remote work quite well, even the most seasoned, self-disciplined professional can encounter the negative aspects of working remotely; separation of home and work, self-motivation, lack of community, and often less physical activity that working in an office demands but the home office does not. We do not yet know the ramifications this has had on co-ops/interns, and young professionals. The next trend will be aiming to find the right balance between remote work and in-office work to make sure that all will have the appropriate support for their professional level and circumstances.
Christine Tonnis: Graduating seniors should continue to stay active in the job search. Here at the University of Cincinnati alumni have access to our Career Center at any time after graduation. Alumni can make use of resume review, interview prep, career counseling and more. For engineering grads taking a look at what skills the actively hiring companies are seeking would be a good start. There are resources available for upskilling and certification for many technical skills-UC uses LinkedIn Learning. There are also free resources such as Coursera and Edx. Getting certified in AutoCAD or Dassualt solid modeling would be a great technical skill to add to a resume. Graduates should also consider obtaining a certificate from the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering & Applied Sciences, which offer folks working in industry who have completed a bachelor degree, the ability to hone their skills in a narrow area. Great choices for a certificate would be Data Science, Cyber Operations, Biomedical Informatics.
Christine Tonnis: Be Flexible! These are uncertain times, but often there are unexpected, positive outcomes when we allow ourselves to explore options that we were not open to initially! Statistically, the more positions/job postings to which you are willing to apply, the better your odds for getting an interview.
Stay active! Keep up with the job search, stay in touch with your personal and professional network of people, keep learning, and stay physically active-proven to lift your mood! Energetic, curious and happy people are more likely to find work.
Craig Nathanson Ph.D.: I expect that companies will reduce their hiring plans initially in the first half of the year out of caution but gradually resume typical hiring trends by next fall. As a result, this is a good time for graduates to build a work-life portfolio with multiple streams of income and work-focused on the alignment of their abilities and deep interests.
Craig Nathanson Ph.D.: I see the essential human skills gaining importance to build a new post-covid work life. These include creativity, leading and working in teams, writing, speaking, being self-aware, and lowering bias and networking; career branding as critical areas for graduates to focus on now.
Craig Nathanson Ph.D.: Most important on resumes to only show accomplishments you are proud of and reflect measurable success and completion of past work. These accomplishments should be a snapshot of what we have done and can do in the future. The most important two lines of a resume are in the objectives, to list what the person is seeking. These two lines give the reader a quick view of what the person wants.
Now is a great time to start the new year to build a portable work portfolio to represent an alignment of what a person is excited about and enjoys in their work.
Eric Olsen: Times of change are also times of great opportunities. We are going to need new technical solutions to address problems we are just learning about. You have to lean into the issues. Don't be a technologist - be a problem solver. That is why we also emphasize soft skills like lean six sigma, teamwork, and change management.
Eric Olsen: We are doubling down on what we call "digital fabrication." Most manufacturing technologies we deal with now have a growing digital component that our students need to understand and be competent in. Of course, that means current hot exotics like additive manufacturing, but our students need to look at any process and realize there is probably a digitally enhanced path forward.
Eric Olsen: Students graduating today are going to start with virtual as the norm. I hope that they recognize and understand the good bits and carry those forward. I like the "build back better" paradigm. Our graduates can make that happen. It is exciting.