February 13, 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.
Chandralekha Singh: It is possible that a recent graduate in physics will work from home several days a week when they do not necessarily benefit from in person interactions with colleagues. However, on days when in person meetings would be beneficial, they will have to go to the office. Other than that, the environment will depend tremendously on the job and company. Students who have internship opportunities will find the transition to a work environment to be much smoother than a graduate who has no prior experience working outside academia. It's important to be prepared for adjustments-there are likely to be pros and cons to life in the "real world". Having a positive attitude can be invaluable.
Chandralekha Singh: The pandemic has impacted students very differently depending upon their circumstances and many students have found themselves in extremely difficult circumstances. I hope the employers take these difficulties into account that many students have faced in order to finish their degrees while hiring. For graduating physics majors, employers may be more flexible with regard to working from home at least a few days per week and if the employees select that option, they may only go to their office on days when they will benefit from meeting in person with other colleagues at work. However, I do not believe most graduating physics majors will have the option to work remotely 100% after the pandemic is over unless they are indispensable due to their unique skills.
Chandralekha Singh: Agility and adaptability are very important since job specifications can change quickly. Recent graduates must enjoy learning new content as well as skills. Soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing are very important for all graduates. Good communication skills can make an employee indispensable particularly if the person has the ability to communicate effectively not only with the team members but also with those with less technical knowledge of relevant issues. Moreover, leadership skills and ability to work effectively with others on a team is extremely important. Always being willing to help the team members in difficult circumstances and making sure the team meets the goals within the allocated time can make an individual a valued member of the team. In addition to technical competence, taking initiative and always being willing to brainstorm with colleagues and think critically about important issues can be valuable. Moreover, self-regulation and time management skills can help greatly. Being caring and empathetic and supportive of colleagues can make the work environment fun and productive.
Daniel Greenwood Ph.D.: Given the broader work landscape, the ability to understand your skills and how they translate across contexts is more important than ever. It is adaptability, problem solving, and the fundamental skill to 'get things done' which are valued. The technical skills only get you in the door, the personal skills are the ones that differentiate you from your peers.
Daniel Greenwood Ph.D.: We have shown the ability to do a lot of our work remotely, which opens opportunities to communicate, collaborate and contribute with much broader groups than before. Location is no longer a barrier, allowing people to flow across industries, roles and specialties, sharing and adapting their expertise to the challenges posed, rather than being stuck in a prescribed and defined 'box'.
Daniel Greenwood Ph.D.: I believe that working in an area or role that you are passionate about will allow you to scale higher heights in the end. Your ideal first job should involve good mentors and opportunities to 'try a few things' to help you find your niche within a very broad and evolving industry. The people you work with has more impact than the place you work at in you first role.