September 22, 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.
University of Delaware
Montclair State University
Point Loma Nazarene University
Mars Hill University
University of California, Berkeley
University of Oklahoma
California State University Channel Islands
University of Wyoming
The University of Maine
Alabama State University
Missouri State University
Western Connecticut State University
Texas A&M International University
Governors State University
University of Delaware
Biden School of Public Policy and Administration
Maria Aristigueta: -Public Budgeting and Finances
-Organizational Behavior and Management
Maria Aristigueta: Interpersonal Skills.
Maria Aristigueta: Data Analysis.
Maria Aristigueta: -Data Analytics
Tony Spanakos Ph.D.: Judgment- a) to make the right decisions that will stand up when looked at after the fact; b) to distinguish between reputable sources of data and others; c) to analyze such data in a way that is reasonable and directly relevant to the task or process.
Communication skills: to speak (in small group meetings and larger fora) and write (from emails to documents) clearly explaining why and how you believe A is important/not important and how doing B can be beneficial/harmful.
Research skills: a) to find good sources of data and analysis; b) to be able to understand the strengths and limitations of those data sources and analytical perspectives; c) to be able to build an evidence-based case to support an argument or policy recommendation.
Interpersonal skills: a) to be able to interact with others in professional, semi-professional, and non-professional environments such that people enjoy working with you and want to see your success (professional and otherwise); b) to be able to work with others who know and respect you to be aware of and make the most of opportunities.
Tony Spanakos Ph.D.: Studying Political Science and Law opens up a range of possibilities for students. Most students are interested in working in urban areas or governmental and non-governmental organizations associated with cities or towns where there is a public administrative complex. Our students generally work within New York City/Northern NJ, but many go on to Washington DC or other cities.
Some go on to further study, and that often takes them outside of our region.
Tony Spanakos Ph.D.: Technology has made a tremendous amount of data available in many fields at low costs. This has increased people's value and can understand that data and analyze what the data say/prove/do not speak/do not confirm. The ability to understand and explore and then communicate in written and oral form is critical. The impact of technology is on what tools and platforms are used to find, analyze, and share.
Lindsey Lupo Ph.D.: In political science, we hope for our students to develop critical thinking skills, a problem-solving attitude, and an ability to work with others - especially those who see the world differently than they do. These skills can lead political science students into a wide range of careers - from public service to non-profit organizations to business to law.
Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic has made our students much more adaptable, skilled in time management, and reliant on self-motivation. I have been incredibly impressed with their level of flexibility, engagement, and resilience - both emotionally and academically - during these months of remote learning.
Heather Hawn Ph.D.: I am confident that expertise in working online and in a variety of software programs will be necessary. Working remotely will be essential, and students will need to be able to do that beyond Zoom and emails.
Heather Hawn Ph.D.: In international studies or international relations, statistically analyzing large data sets will be incredibly helpful. They will give students the edge in working with Non-Governmental Organizations or governmental agencies.
Heather Hawn Ph.D.: There will be an increase in demand in the field because we are becoming more and more globally connected (the pandemic drove that home). A solid foundation in international relations will be necessary from diplomacy to real estate development and everywhere in between. More and more companies are looking to branch out abroad and work with consultants to plan those developments. Government agencies will be even more invested in establishing connections with agencies and governments in non-traditional areas such as Africa, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. NGO reach is going to be more necessary in working with disparate populations on a variety of economic and social issues.
Darren Zook: The most marketable and attractive trait on a resume is anything that shows experience in engaging with others. Even more important is the experience of engaging with others who are from different backgrounds. The workforce is growing more diverse every day. It is an essential skill for persons entering the force to be comfortable with others from very different backgrounds and have very different life experiences. Please note that the emphasis here is on interacting with other people from different backgrounds and not merely being a person from a diverse (e.g., non-dominant) background.
Darren Zook: If a graduate takes a gap year, the gap year should be used for personal growth in ways that formal education often does not provide. In my answer to query 1, I suggested that interacting with others from different backgrounds and feeling comfortable in new and sometimes challenging environments is a crucial skill to have when entering the job market. Therefore, it stands to reason that a person taking a gap year should seek out opportunities to cultivate this skill.
During the time of COVID-19, travel is much more restricted, which is unfortunate because that is one of the best ways to hone this skill. But there are still other things that can be done in this regard-for example, working or volunteering with organizations and businesses that would require a person to interact with a clientele whose backgrounds and life experiences are very different from what that person is accustomed to.
As counterintuitive as it might sound, I think a person should use a gap year NOT to cultivate a practical skill-set (getting good at Excel, etc.) but rather to engage in other things that challenge the person and help develop deep life-experience. Learning a language, learning to play an instrument, or consuming some of the best works in world art (literature, movies, music, etc.), are all excellent examples of that. If I am interviewing a candidate for a position and asking what they did during their gap year, "I practiced coding/Python/etc." doesn't say much to me. However, "I taught myself how to play the oboe" or "I learned to speak Xhosa" or "I worked my way through a list of the top 100 films of world cinema" - or any other answer like that - tells me I've got a rock-solid candidate for pretty much any position I am offering.
Darren Zook: The most critical technology that should emerge in the next 3-5 years is what I will call Social Media 2.0. Graduates of universities right now were the first generation to grow up with social media, absorbing it as a natural extension of social life. At this point; however, they are savvier in the pitfalls of social media and the ethical problems of social media practices. They still like the idea of being connected but want a platform that has a bit more ethics built into it and also gives the user more control over their privacy.
Conversely, I don't think we need any new technology to facilitate online/remote learning. If the pandemic has taught students anything, remote/online learning is an inferior substitute for learning in person, in concert with one's peers.
I know you didn't ask this, but for what it's worth, one of the great strengths of Global Studies as a major is that much of it is designed to do precisely the things I mentioned. It is a major that allows students to learn about and learn from others from different walks of life, to develop a life-experience skill-set beyond anything that textbook learning can offer.
Meg Morgan Ph.D.: Those entering the workforce in the coming years will need a potent blend of analytical and social skills. On the analytical side, there is a need for data analysis and program evaluation because there is a desire for accountability through quantifiable assessment of programs and services. On the social side, relationship building and relationship management skills reign king in the public and social sectors. The ability to form and maintain relationships is key to working together (either across aisles or agencies) to deliver the services needed.
Meg Morgan Ph.D.: Any state capital is always a great place to find work in the public administration field. But increasingly, nonprofits are an excellent source for great jobs (and currently employ 9% of the nation's workforce). Nonprofits often receive government funding or partner with government agencies to implement policy. Therefore, they are eager for those with expertise in program evaluation and public policy and an educational background in public administration.
Meg Morgan Ph.D.: In two ways. The first is the emerging field of civic tech, which is any technology that enables engagement, increases participation, or enhances the relationship between government and people. The second is the trend we've seen during the pandemic of more virtual meetings and gatherings. This will help provide more inclusivity; hopefully, making the government even more accessible and equitable.
Dana Baker Ph.D.: Create a habit of maintaining your curriculum vitae as early as possible. This document should include an organized list of knowledge, skills, and experiences that contribute to your professional profile. Remember to include relevant activities from your coursework with as many specific details as possible. For example, if you took a human subjects training as part of a research methods course, note the training date, name of the movement, and any certification or other numbers. You should never send the entire CV in response to a job opportunity. Instead, you should use this document's information to tailor your resume and cover letter for each specific option.
Became familiar with and routinely checked websites where jobs in the public sector or public sector orientation within the private or non-profit sectors are posted. This goes beyond Linkedin! Employment with the federal government can be found on, for example, usajobs.gov. Job opportunities in California are located on calcareers.org. County and city governments also maintain websites. Make checking these websites a habit.
Finally, give yourself time to find the right position. Often this means staying in a job students had during college for a few months. Being patient pays off, both in terms of the best fit for you and in terms of long term career prospects. Do not neglect or forget short term opportunities that can help build your experience, including short term virtual volunteering opportunities. Just do not forget to invest time daily into your search for career employment!
Dana Baker Ph.D.: Starting salaries vary substantially, as do long term prospects. For many entering public services, this is not the primary concern, though available service can, and should, involve salaries that support a reasonable standard of living. It is vital to remember that what you major in as an undergraduate often matters less than students and new graduates imagine. Employers are looking for students with well-developed capacities for critical thinking, well-developed writing skills, and data analysis, and interpretation experience. A degree in Political Science provides the opportunity to hone each of these. From there, focusing on developing connections, professional habits, and continuously building awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion prepares graduates for many opportunities.
Stephanie Anderson Ph.D.: When I worked at a business school, the employers said, again and again, that they didn't necessarily want to hire people with business degrees. Often these graduates felt overconfident in their business acumen while lacking writing skills. The employers told the career center that they preferred people who could analyze, think critically and express themselves. The companies could teach their new employees the business's ins-and-outs, but not these essential skills. That is what a liberal arts education provides. Whether you major in political science or chemistry or languages, the key is learning more about the world, ways to analyze it, and to express yourself, clearly and concisely.
Stephanie Anderson Ph.D.: The great thing about political science is how flexible a major it is. Our students regularly get jobs in the public sector, such as local, state, and federal government, whether as city managers or diplomats. Some also go into politics, either running for office themselves or advising on campaigns. However, most of our students get jobs in the private sector in everything from television to banking to corporate management. Government policy affects all types of business, so understanding how the system works is a real asset. Our graduates have gotten jobs with a host of major corporations such as General Electric and DishTV. I would argue that there are no particularly useful places for graduates to find work opportunities because they can find work anywhere.
Stephanie Anderson Ph.D.: Technology and big data will have a significant impact on political science, allowing political campaigns to craft their messages to the individual voter and changing government to e-government, allowing it to be more responsive to communities' needs. Also, technology creates its own political issues; for example, the right to be forgotten on the Internet. These societal changes mean that people with critical thinking and communication skills will be more in demand than ever.
Amy Fried: Doing some internship is always a good idea. These most commonly are with a campaign, an elected official, or some political institution or organization. Sometimes they are with a nonprofit or a law firm.
Amy Fried: This depends on the sort of job one wants to do. If one is interested in working on political campaigns or doing public policy work, it is good to develop some knowledge of statistics and possibly programming. Most political science students develop and use core liberal arts skills such as writing, analytical and critical thinking, and public speaking.
Department of History and Political Science
Dr. Timothy Kneeland: Internships or experiential learning that includes diversity and practical skills.
Dr. Timothy Kneeland: Volunteering in diverse settings and working with groups that emphasize social change, working on data science skills, or learning basic ideas about AI or other programs -- many free courses are available, and students can purchase certificates, if need be.
Dr. Timothy Kneeland: Digital platforms -- not just Zoom but other ways to enhance long-distance meetings, education, and virtual experiences. AI is also changing everyday life and will continue to do so in unexpected ways.
Derryn Moten: I think a diversity of experiences stand out on resumes.
Derryn Moten: I think the expectation for new hires to know or learn new software will increase.
Derryn Moten: I don't think we can fully gauge the breadth and depth that COVID-19 will have on business recovery and new business startups. I think the light switch metaphor is accurate.
Dr. David Johnson Ph.D.: Practical experience backed by a relevant education is always a standout. For opening jobs, it could be an internship or school project that involved real world applications.
Dr. David Johnson Ph.D.: Technology is having an increasing impact, and I don't see that trend changing. We have gone from just using desktop computers to networks, cloud servers, and more sophisticated software like databases, GIS, and remote sensing systems. The real challenge is the integration of those systems to provide service and public transparency.
Dr. David Johnson Ph.D.: It is likely that it will have an enduring impact and not just on graduates. The most significant effect has been the broader acceptance of working remotely. The dispersion of the workforce, the use of technology to integrate the geographically dispersed workforce, and the ability to do project management under those conditions were rare before but have now become fairly standard. This will allow graduates to consider positions without having to consider moving, which opens up many possibilities.
Dr. R. Averell Manes Ph.D.: Critical thinking and analytical skills, to distinguish fact from fiction, and reliable information from false information. Creative problem solving and conflict resolution skills, to navigate the current environment, which is fraught with division and tension. A commitment to global citizenship and a desire to give back to others, a sense of enlightened self-interest where the health of the community is considered to be more important than the drive for personal gain. In addition, a transformative perspective on embracing diversity, difference, and global concerns, like environmental change, social justice, economic inequality, pandemics, and democratic representation. This is a broad skill set of intellectual curiosity, emotional intelligence, and information literacy skills.
Dr. R. Averell Manes Ph.D.: The Boston-Washington Corridor offers many opportunities for graduates in political science and conflict resolution. The west coast also offers many opportunities. In reality, political science work opportunities exist throughout the country, wherever elections happen and wherever government organizations (legislatures, courts, agencies, etc.) reside. Non-governmental and governmental organizations, domestically and throughout the world, offer job opportunities for our graduates.
Dr. R. Averell Manes Ph.D.: Technology will continue to have an enormous impact on the field. One legacy of the pandemic has been, and will be, a continued reliance on online everything, from education to government processes, to commerce, in virtually every sector. We are all gaining new skills and abilities to function online, whether via Zoom, WebEx, or whatever other platforms people are using. Data-driven research in every section continues to be on the rise, SPSS, Strata, SAS, Excel, etc. Finally, consuming information online will remain the norm for anyone with access to the internet. Access to the internet is fast becoming a right, as much as a privilege, and an absolute necessity. Technology in all sections and all aspects of our lives, including in the field of political science, will continue to grow and develop. Robotics and a Universal Basic Income are becoming more and more a reality for the future, and the political ramifications of all these changes are, as yet, unknown and unavoidable.
Peter Haruna: Strong written and oral communication skills, strong interpersonal relationship skills, teamwork orientation and abilities, data collection and analysis skills, ability to follow the rules and regulations, ethical and moral decision-making ability, collaboration ability.
Peter Haruna: Opportunities exist in local, state, and federal agencies across the US; individuals willing to move and relocate in growth areas have the best chances of grabbing these opportunities.
Peter Haruna: Technology is transforming government work and public organizations at all levels, whether in the production or the delivery of public services. The question is no longer whether technology is impacting government but how it can be productively channeled to promote strong civic commitment and mass involvement.
Donald Culverson Ph.D.: I think that political science is a good major for students who want to develop and refine a) critical thinking and writing skills, b) problem-solving abilities, and c) enhancement of oral communication abilities. As with most areas of the liberal arts, our objective is to prepare students with the skills to enter a range of positions in the work world. While many students with political science degrees go to law school and graduate school, work in public service, and education, others pursue careers in fields ranging in business, philanthropy, and the military.
Certainly, this year, as it has been in recent years, will be more challenging for political science and other graduates. However, students with a solid background and experiences will be in better positions to navigate the uncertain world of employment while maintaining a focus on their original career goals.