December 14, 2020
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.
California State University, Chico
New York University
The University of Texas at Austin
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Kent State University at Salem
Lake Forest College
Santa Clara University
California State University, Chico
Comparative Religion and Humanities DepartmentWebsite
Daniel Veidlinger Ph.D.: I certainly agree with many people who believe that the trend to work online will only keep growing and will most likely continue even after the pandemic is over. In history we can see that many social changes start during some emergency and continue thereafter, such as what happened with women in the workforce during World War II. Once an emergency situation shows that something people felt was not a great idea in the past can actually work rather well, then the trend can continue in some form and become normalized.
Daniel Veidlinger Ph.D.: If a graduate needs to take a gap year due to the pandemic, my usual recommendation, which is to travel as much as possible, would of course not be reasonable. I do find that volunteering to work in another country, perhaps teaching English or working for an NGO in some fashion, is often both a strong driver of personal growth and gives people the skills and knowledge of the world around them to excel later in life. However, if this is not possible due to the pandemic, what I like to recommend is to spend the time learning a new language. If one needs to stay at home during the pandemic, has some time on their hands, and is looking for a way to gain skills, I would strongly recommend using one of the many (often free) online systems to just go ahead and learn a new language. There is simply no better way to exercise the brain and develop as a person than learning another language. And once the job market gets back to normal, you will have that extra skill that might just be the thing that makes you stand out and gets you that great job in our increasingly globalizing world.
Daniel Veidlinger Ph.D.: Some general advice I always give is simply to keep your eyes open. Don't have blinders on that cause you to focus on only getting that one perfect job because you never know what will come your way. There are always opportunities to do interesting work that you might not have thought of; therefore, just keep alert and always seek ways to turn whatever situation you are currently in towards something that you can build into a career.
New York University
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human DevelopmentWebsite
Noel S. Anderson Ph.D.: The biggest trend in job market will be for those educators who have experience teaching and in curriculum and program development for online- or blended-learning formats, particularly in the STEM fields, not only in schools but within educational non-profits and NGOs. There is also an increasing need for leaders in these areas as well.
Noel S. Anderson Ph.D.: Skills and competencies that stand out in candidates are those who have some dexterity with technology and can differentiate learning for individuals. Leaders who have led and managed teams and having a resume that shows learning agility, project management, and change efforts in organizations always are valued.
Noel S. Anderson Ph.D.: Since the term "U.S. economy" is not accurate, we know that the U.S. is made up of regional economies, so graduates will find different markets in different parts of the country. Further, most of the population are increasingly clustered into twenty-five major cities. It all depends on one's background and needs in that market. I do, however, see a growing demand for educators in rural areas, which have largely been ignored. I would encourage graduates to conduct job searches by places of personal and professional interest, talent need, and alignment with their skill sets.
The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Geography & the Environment & LLILAS-BensonWebsite
Carlos Ramos-Scharrón Ph.D: Undoubtedly. For how long? Who knows. The job market is currently down, and a lot of people lost their jobs. Once opportunities open up, recent graduates will be competing with a larger number of applicants who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The main difference between the two groups will be 'experience.' Another impact is that current students failed to have the internship and real-life work opportunities that students during typical years tend to have. Finally, direct interaction with faculty and supervisors could make letters of recommendation less personalized as the businesses would have been filtered through Zoom or other similar platforms.
Carlos Ramos-Scharrón Ph.D: Whatever types of experiences they can have that are relevant to their discipline are great. Internships with the private or public sector are good. Volunteer work is excellent, too, as is any involvement in university clubs and groups. The grade point average, GRE scores, and other types of standard metrics are meaningful, but showing experiences beyond the classroom tends to stand out. Research opportunities are almost a must for those attempting to go to graduate school. Any participation in published articles or book chapters can place students at a different level than their peers.
School of Education - Memorial 411Website
Sr. Mary Ann Jacobs: The enduring impact this pandemic will have on teacher education graduates is the remote learning they experienced during student teaching. Student teaching is a culminating experience in all teacher education programs. Seniors eagerly anticipate this milestone when they spend the semester in a classroom working with a cooperating teacher. This year's experience challenged these student teachers to "get to know" their students and their cooperating teacher remotely. Student teachers worked with cooperating teachers to assure their students that turning their cameras on during class was a great way to spend time with their friends. They hosted crazy hat days, silly sweaters, and tea tasting to get their students comfortable showing up online to entice students. Students learn best when the environment - whether remotely or face-to-face - ensures they are safe and valued.
Sr. Mary Ann Jacobs: Future teachers will need two 21st century skills more than ever: creativity and collaboration. These pandemic months prepared these future educators with ample opportunities to develop their creativity in teaching remotely and reinforced the need for colleague collaboration.
Sr. Mary Ann Jacobs: These future teachers who had experience teaching remotely will capture the attention of school building leaders.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Susan Andreatta Ph.D.: 2020 Anthropology undergraduates have several options to consider, especially if they put on their creative hats. There are people, past and present; there is always culture and an opportunity to use those people skills. While some students may desire to go on to graduate studies to secure an MA or Ph.D. in anthropology, others may wish to do something else. During the pandemic, in the future, critical areas will be those in health and the environment. Public health education, medical anthropology, climate change, culture and food studies, food security, will be areas where a labor force will be needed. Working within the community that assists with more equitable access to food, education, housing, and healthcare will be areas to explore.
Susan Andreatta Ph.D.: Employers emphasize working in teams and how graduates could benefit from more experience with writing and oral communication. Students taking a gap year could look into employment or volunteer opportunities that enhance their people, research, and writing skills. Keeping in mind the pandemic, one has to be careful of the options out there, and recent graduates might have to be creative during these times where social distancing is necessary. Locally, opportunities might be found among environmental organizations, food banks, farmers markets, hospitals, museums, and the zoo. Additional options are found in becoming ESL teachers (English as second or another language), working on Americorps projects, community gardens, and the many environmental groups in the state and nation. Graduates with international interests can look into the Peace Corps and on-line volunteering with international Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).
Susan Andreatta Ph.D.: Be patient; it is a journey that might have many paths and routes before the ideal position is found. Remember to network and keep in touch with their professors. To walk well, be reminded of the many cultures they have learned about and learned from, and put their UNCG degree to work helping others and the environment.
Kent State University at Salem
Early Childhood Education TechnologyWebsite
Dr. Tsung-Hui Tu Ph.D.: There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused many challenges in our teaching profession. Regarding the job market, given the pandemic, there are increasing numbers of teachers in public schools retiring. It seems to have opened more job opportunities. However, many childcare centers are closed across the state. In my opinion, the job market appears to be associated with the severity of the pandemic of a city or a state. We are living in and dealing with uncertainty.
Dr. Tsung-Hui Tu Ph.D.: For a teaching job, typically, the skills that would stand out on resumes are organizational skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork skills. In light of the pandemic, regardless if your classes are face-to-face, blended, or remote learning, teachers face many challenges. Therefore, I think adaptability becomes an essential skill, especially since we live in a world that rapidly changes. Effective teachers need to be able to deal with changes positively, which will create a supportive learning environment for their students. Other skills that will look good on resumes are technology skills, such as knowing how to use Zoom, Google Classroom, Class Dojo, and Seesaw.
Dr. Tsung-Hui Tu Ph.D.: In my opinion, it depends on how you define "good places" to find work opportunities. Everyone may have their definition. If you have peace when applying for a job and find contentment in your career, I think that is the right place for you to work.
Our program prepares students to teach anywhere in the United States or overseas. Many of our graduates prefer to find jobs that are closer to their families in Ohio. Students at Kent State Salem complete coursework in the Associate of Applied Science Early Childhood Education Technology (ECET) program that prepares them to teach children from infancy to age five. When students receive the ECET Associate Degree, after passing the OAE Content Assessment, they can apply for a 5-year Prekindergarten Associate license.
The Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education (BSE ECED) at Kent Salem is a 2 + 2 program that prepares students to teach children, age three through grade five, with Ohio licensure. Many other states recognize an Ohio license in the U.S. The Kent State University Early Childhood Education (ECED) undergraduate program has received International Baccalaureate (IB) recognition. Thus, our graduates with a bachelor's degree are eligible to apply for IB certificates in Teaching and Learning, indicating that they can teach in an IB World School.
Intercultural Studies Department
Mike Lindberg Ph.D.: In this day and age of diversity and inclusion, graduates entering an already diverse (but not always inclusive) workforce need more than merely a basic understanding of other cultures. They need to go beyond the simple recognition that differences based on culture exist, to acknowledge that people are the product of the cultural context in which they were born, raised, and live.
Such a realization goes far beyond any superficial differences that one might try to minimize to say, "we are all the same," which we are not! Cultural differences are real. It is good that you used the word skills in your question because that is precisely what people need when it comes to being useful in intercultural communications and interaction - what we at Elmhurst call "intercultural competency." While based upon cultural knowledge, such competency goes far beyond merely the what of a culture (facts, fundamental aspects of how they are different) to the how and, most importantly, why of a culture.
By understanding these things, a person gains the ability to effectively interact with others who are culturally different than themselves because they know what those differences are, why they exist, and how to work with (not around) them.
The ICS degree at EU is designed to provide our graduates with the knowledge and understanding of culture in the broad sense, as well as at the micro-level, so that they can become interculturally competent and; thus, effectively engage with people who are culturally different from themselves and in a diverse set of cultural contexts.
Mike Lindberg Ph.D.: Yes, pretty much anywhere these days. I'm not saying this lightly; the reality is, the U.S. continues to become more diverse and intercultural (and multicultural) all the time. And while this change is most apparent in urban areas, it is happening even in many parts of rural, small-town America (although not everywhere). For those seeking opportunities in the metropolitan regions, their task would be to help individuals, corporations, and various other organizations (schools, government, non-profits) better adapt to and more effectively work in an increasingly diverse reality and hopefully become more inclusive in the process.
Intercultural competency is critical in these efforts. For those who opt for the more challenging task of developing intercultural understanding and acceptance in areas where it doesn't currently exist (much of rural America), a degree in ICS that emphasizes intercultural competency is essential. Our graduates have secured employment with the government, corporate and non-profit entities all over the U.S. and beyond. Many of them have been hired precisely because they have a major or minor in ICS (often accompanying a major or minor in another field).
Intercultural competency has to be learned and developed. It is not something that people possess innately. As organizations strive to become more inclusive in the face of increasing cultural diversity, individuals who have the skill of intercultural competency should be highly sought after (if an organization is serious about creating a genuinely inclusive environment).
Mike Lindberg Ph.D.: I am less well versed in this, as I am not a super techy person, but I will offer a couple of general comments (others at EU will likely have more to say). Technology, in many ways, as with most situations, can make intercultural communications and interactions more comfortable and more effective. Connecting with people in different cultural contexts is evident with the world-wide-web and global telecommunications. However, while connecting is necessary, the technology that allows for that connectivity guarantees that the interaction will be significant. Again, only intercultural competency can do that. Technology in the hands of an interculturally competent person can be beneficial.
Lake Forest College
Department of EducationWebsite
Desmond Odugu Ph.D.: Resilience; ability to imagine and create alternatives to the current system with full knowledge for past, enduring structures. The best things to do are: to build a reliable technique, find a cause you care about passionately, and be prepared to look beyond the current status quo and "rules."
Desmond Odugu Ph.D.: The industry of non-commercial music is in crisis (and has been for some time), and the orchestral, operatic and choral models are all in flux; it is an immensely intense and exciting time to pursue careers in music, which require discipline and, more than ever, an interdisciplinary approach. Institutions of higher learning, artistic planning teams/organizations, technology, research, and yes, even performing organizations, when we can get back onto the stage, are all places to look.
Desmond Odugu Ph.D.: There will be many new opportunities and also many challenges laid bare by the pandemic. Social justice, technological innovations, contemporary music, and more commissions and new voices are all part of the new approaches being pursued by institutions and ensembles of all sizes. Consider forming your own ensemble / 501(c)(3) and building something from the ground up -- this will be a handy way of addressing the current crisis and getting your feet wet. You'll need to learn to network and make pitches and to think critically about the path forward.
Dr. Julie Albee Ph.D.: Certainly, small-business employment, particularly in the hospitality sector, has taken a massive hit due to the pandemic and the mismanagement of the Paycheck Protection Program. Work connected to state and local governments has also been adversely affected, as states and municipalities have been unable to run deficits, due to balanced budget laws yet haven't received much help from the federal government, which can and should run deficits crisis. The fiscal crunch facing state and local governments is likely the more significant factor weighing on graduates' employment prospects in political science, many of whom seek careers in the public sector or sectors closely connected to it.
Dr. Julie Albee Ph.D.: As for the sorts of technology that will become more important and prevalent, I think there is a real appetite to return to working face to face. Perhaps the pandemic experience of platforms, like Zoom, will encourage employers and employees alike to be more flexible. Still, it's hard to imagine the kind of departure from the office envisioned in some quarters. One technology-driven trend that we're seeing affects the prospects of political science grads, particularly the long-term contraction of the legal and paralegal profession.
Dr. Julie Albee Ph.D.: Many political science students plan to go on to law school, so this trend should be considered. Happily, there has, at the same time, been a substantial expansion of demand for the more general expertise associated with political science, whether in foreign or domestic policy, international or constitutional law, or the critical analysis of class, race, and gender. Political science grads continue to do well as employers recognize the need for solid competency in these areas. Indeed, I would wager that there will be an increase in demand for political science graduates in the next five years.
Santa Clara University
Jesuit School of TheologyWebsite
Thomas Cattoi Ph.D.: Graduates will need critical thinking skills and the ability to read, understand, and summarize complex texts, developing compelling arguments comprehensively and concisely. I think a religious studies/theology major will equip students with these 'soft' skills. In an increasingly multicultural and multireligious society, awareness and familiarity with different religious traditions will also be assets.
Thomas Cattoi Ph.D.: Many graduates in theology and religious studies will continue to graduate school - some will pursue higher studies in these disciplines, but those are the minority! Some will study law or other fields. Many will go into teaching, community organizing, or non-profits.
Thomas Cattoi Ph.D.: In some ways, the most significant impact on the field will be the greater availability of on-line teaching, which is now being pushed forward even more by the pandemic. In terms of content, the area will perhaps be impacted less than other disciplines, but this does not mean that you can shelter away from change! Graduates in religious studies/theology will also need to be conversant with the latest technologies to remain competitive.