January 28, 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.
The Career Center at Muhlenberg College
Ryan Smolko: Overnight, employers have had to innovate the way in which they do their work. Even when it is safe for employees to return to their offices, a level of flexibility will almost certainly be a staple going forward. Productivity is measured by work done- not hours at a desk. Those employers who remain rigid will find retaining top talent challenging. Along those lines employees will have the ability to live almost anywhere while still building a successful career.
Ryan Smolko: Technical skills vary by industry and the technical skills needed today are not those that will be needed five or even one year from now. Adaptability is key to staying relevant in their career both now and in the future. O*Net is a great resource for students to see technical skills commonly used in their jobs of interest.
The technical skills everyone should be continually working on are Excel/Tableau and Canva/PowerPoint. Working with large amounts of data is almost universal in today's economy regardless of industry or position. You can also have the best data in the world but if you can't present it in a dynamic way it won't be seen which is why being well versed in presentation and design tools can be a big advantage.
Ryan Smolko: A good job out of college is one that integrates a students skillset with their larger value system. Students can see every job available with a click of a button so employers are doing a lot around showing their culture, mission and social responsibility in very genuine ways.
The Pennsylvania State University
School of Labor and Employment RelationsWebsite
Elaine Farndale Ph.D.: As we move into a period of economic recovery following the pandemic, I would expect to see a gradual opening up of positions across the job market, but no major recovery for the next couple of years. As most businesses start to regroup and win back their customers, there will likely be cautious steps forward. STEM jobs are most likely to be in high demand as these are areas in which the future economy will grow, but also areas in which the supply of suitable talent is limited. HR graduates will have an influential role to play if they can demonstrate skills in helping organizations transition through a complex restructuring of jobs and activities.
Elaine Farndale Ph.D.: An ability to be flexible and adaptable has to be a number one priority for most positions, particularly HR. This might be related to geographic flexibility, i.e., being willing to go where skills are needed, or flexibility of working hours or place of work (in an office or working from home). We have learned a lot about the advantages (e.g., reduced office space, meeting, and travel costs) and disadvantages (e.g., losing connections with co-workers, more complex people management, and productivity challenges) of remote working so businesses will be trying to continue to keep the advantages while removing the disadvantages once people can work on-site as well as remotely. HR professionals who can advise businesses through this balancing act will be invaluable.
Elaine Farndale Ph.D.: The answer will lie in which states can recover from the pandemic the quickest, which is still very much unknown.
Tonya Courtois: Covid 19 has forced many to rethink and reevaluate the status quo. Remote work has always been a topic of consideration for many but the pandemic pushed it into high gear for both employers and potential employees. More employers are going to be looking for individuals who are open to remote work. This brings its own set of new considerations. As an employer you are looking for individuals who are able to manage themselves and their time. Are they tech-savvy, adaptable, innovative, organized and self-aware? How will we manage accountability and production? For potential employees, they want to know how they will learn the role, how personal will it feel, will there be any disconnect, and how to balance work and home life.
Recruiters will have to think outside of the box to hire and onboard individuals. However, it doesn't stop there. Recruiters now have to be more accommodating, educated on the culture of the organization, and find that personal touch that allows the candidate to feel connected to the mission of the organization. They have to paint that picture of the company as a whole. They will have to be the expert, the coach, the teacher, the face of the organization.
Tonya Courtois: To be most attractive to us a resume should be more than just a list of a person's work history and the skills they acquired while they occupied each role. A resume that will stand out to us, is a resume that tells us how a candidate problem-solved during their tenure at each job. We are also looking for candidates who closely align with our core value system. A one size fits all resume is not a best practice. Candidates should do their homework and clearly and specifically identify past behaviors that demonstrate they share our values. Resumes should be full of well-written examples of how they added value.
Tonya Courtois: Our industry provides support staff to adults who have developmental disabilities. Our entry-level employees are called Direct Support Professionals (DSPS). We, like many others in our industry, are experiencing a significant staffing crisis. This crisis has gained national attention. To close the gap we continue to encourage our state legislatures to standardize rates and pay rates that will allow us to outpace minimum wage and be competitive with other high-volume employers. My recommendation to students and recent graduates is to research mission-driven, caregiving roles in their area, specifically those for individuals with disabilities. Learn about disabilities and understand the need. Reach out to a couple of different organizations in your area and connect with them to learn more about their mission. Find a good fit and pick up some part-time hours while finishing school. At Emmaus we are very intentional in creating career paths for individuals who have a mission heart and want to do work that matters. It's not just a job but a defined career path!
East Tennessee State University
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy AnalysisWebsite
Dr. James Lampley: Online delivery. Before the pandemic, we were already seeing a trend to more online programs. After we return to "normal" we will see online courses and online programs expand exponentially.
Dr. James Lampley: I would encourage a graduate or graduate student to use the gap year experience to learn a new marketable skill or to work with under-served groups. Learn how to do something that not a lot of people can do.
Dr. James Lampley: Be willing to go where the jobs are. Many of our graduates are "place-bound". Their family obligations or spouses make it difficult to relocate.