January 5, 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.
Upper Iowa University
Montana State University
Michigan State University
Western State College of Law
Illinois Wesleyan University
Western Oregon University
National Retail Federation
MHI – Material Handling Industry
Upper Iowa University
School of Business and Professional StudiesWebsite
Dr. Karla Gavin: At this time, it appears that individuals will continue to be interviewed and hired virtually without meeting their employer face-to-face. To retain these new hires, employers need to have stellar orientation programs to be completed remotely and onboarding that engages them before Day 1 of employment. Constant communication is critical, especially in the hiring process.
Work is very likely to be conducted in a virtual format for many employees in at least the first six months of 2021. Candidates with experience working with multiple virtual communication platforms will stand out during this time frame.
Employers may require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to face-to-face work with colleagues and clients. Depending on what happens as this vaccine is more widely administered, it could impact employee and new hire decisions to stay or to leave.
Dr. Karla Gavin: College students who graduate and move into the workforce need to think of themselves as independent contractors. They need to articulate their abilities to be flexible and adaptable, and to communicate very clearly in written and verbal communication. Job candidates will benefit from viewing issues as challenges instead of problems and using out-of-the-box thinking to resolve those issues.
They need to share their ability to work with diverse groups of people in team settings. Their willingness to be lifelong learners is important and they should reflect their desire to attend professional development activities and to pursue advanced degrees or certifications. Examples of leadership positions and opportunities need to be indicated on the resume.
Each of the areas mentioned above requires related examples to be stated concisely to reiterate their accomplishments and future goals.
Dr. Karla Gavin: The world of work is in great flux right now. Willingness to relocate and to learn the field from the bottom up is very important, wherever that might be. Too many students have unrealistic expectations for salary and job title upon graduation.
They also need to know themselves well enough to understand how their personal purpose and passion match that of their chosen field and of their specific employer.
Montana State University
Jake Jabs College of Business & EntrepreneurshipWebsite
Dr. Angela Woodland Ph.D.: There is still work that needs to be done. Those jobs that are necessary for the economy to continue and for the protection and service of the public will continue to need willing and able employees. The field I know most about is accounting. Publicly-traded companies are required to have audits of their financial statements. This is for the protection of all who use financial statements to make investing decisions. Think about your retirement savings plans, 401(k) plans, etc. So, every year there is a need to hire students who are ready to take the CPA exam and ready to become auditors. The same goes for students who are trained and ready to prepare income tax returns for corporations and individuals. Pandemic or no pandemic, we still need accountants. In fact, we now need accountants who are prepared to make certain that loans and grants related to pandemic relief have been used for their intended purposes and have been distributed appropriately.
Dr. Angela Woodland Ph.D.: Skills that are immediately useful stand out on resumes. Right now, data analytics skills are in hot demand. A desirable job candidate should be able to import large data sets in various formats, clean data, manipulate data, interrogate data, and draw conclusions from the data. Additionally, the job candidate should be able to prepare informative and easy-to-follow data visualizations of the results. This skill set allows a job candidate to be immediately useful in an organization. It is the new way of analyzing and communicating.
Dr. Angela Woodland Ph.D.: There are pockets of opportunity in most communities. The savvy student will meet and make connections with local businesses through internships, student clubs, guest lectures, and other college events. With a little effort, students can learn to speak the vernacular of local industries and tailor their resumes and skill sets accordingly.
Michigan State University
Broad College of BusinessWebsite
Wyatt Schrock Ph.D.: For graduates entering careers in sales, I expect the coronavirus pandemic to have at least one enduring impact. That is, I think the pandemic has changed the way that people think about the nature of buyer-seller interactions. In particular, I think we now know that a lot of relationship-building, problem-solving, etc., can be accomplished remotely with video meeting applications. This development might, for example, ultimately lead to lower levels of business travel for salespeople.
Wyatt Schrock Ph.D.: For graduates entering careers in sales, two skills that come to my mind are (1) listening skills and (2) analytical skills. First, I think listening is indeed a skill that can be developed with techniques and practice. Importantly, and for several reasons (e.g., building rapport, overcoming objections), I do not think you can be a good salesperson and be a bad listener. Second, I think analytical skills may be overlooked in terms of importance for salespeople. Certainly, selling is about relationship-building. However, and simultaneously, selling is also about delivering quantifiable value. It may be increasingly important for salespeople to have the ability to demonstrate exactly how or where they intend to help their customers grow revenue or reduce expenses.
Wyatt Schrock Ph.D.: Based on my experience and discussions with recruiters, at least two things stand out for applicants looking for sales jobs. First, I think transferrable skills are important to signal on a resume. For example, working as a hostess or waiter at a restaurant could signal to recruiters certain interpersonal skills that are important in sales. Second, I think any experience that allows the applicant to quantify their success will help applicants to stand out. If a person did well at work, I think it is worth spending some time thinking about how to tell that story with numbers. I think numbers can be just as important as words on a resume, especially when applying for a sales position.
Business Administration DepartmentWebsite
Kerri Orders: In 2020, companies of all sizes rapidly changed the way they were organized and conducted business daily, both internally and externally, with customers and suppliers. COVID has accelerated the potential and opportunity for remote work, both domestically and within the international business environment. Consequently, the future trends for international business will be a decrease in business travel and an increase in collaboration and communication via remote modalities. Many companies have now realized the ability for employees to conduct international business via remote networks, which are both effective and economically efficient. Increasingly, employers are looking for candidates with a global mindset, a culturally diverse range of experiences, and a broad skill set. In addition, employers will expect candidates to have a high level of technical and communication skills in order to thrive and have a shorter learning curve at the entry level. It is important for students entering the job market to highlight and promote their specific skills and value added to a potential employer.
Kerri Orders: In terms of a gap year, I recommend that international business students acquire tangible skills, relevant experience and/or certifications which will enhance their success in their desired area of interest. For example, a gap year could consist of gaining technical or digital training overseas, which would also further the students' cultural intelligence and language proficiency. These types of enriching gap year experiences will assist students to distinguish themselves in a highly competitive market. Furthermore, students should focus on broadening and maintaining their global network during a gap year in order to be ready for the job market once the gap year is concluded.
Kerri Orders: There is more than one path to any given career, therefore students will benefit from being curious, creative, and collaborative as they embark upon their international business careers. More than ever, employers will be looking for students who are adaptable, flexible, and proactive. In this tighter job market, students should be more open-minded about opportunities and willing to work in a range of sectors and different sizes of companies. The pandemic has impacted businesses around the world, so this advice will apply to graduates from all regions of the world.
College of Business and EconomicsWebsite
Dr. David Lehr: A premium on flexibility and having a variety of skillsets. Continued weakness across the board in labor markets.
Dr. David Lehr: Information flow skills, particularly surrounding data analytics.
Dr. David Lehr: Most job growth will continue to be in urban centers and the surrounding suburbs. Rural areas will continue to struggle (remote work notwithstanding).
Western State College of Law
Deirdre Kelly: It's difficult to tell at this point what/if the enduring impact of Covid 19 will be on graduates. It appears that there may be a shift in how lawyers work and in their work environment, with more remote work and job flexibility a possibility. In fact, it may be possible for some lawyers to live long distances away from their jobs, even in different states, and work remotely.
Deirdre Kelly: Young graduates will need the same traditional legal skills that they have always needed. Additionally, they will need to be resilient and creative to weather a more challenging and ever-evolving work environment. They will need to be very disciplined and able to work independently, if they are working more remotely, and have enough technical skills to navigate the virtual world. New graduates will need to think about how they build relationships with their co-workers and develop mentors, as well as develop clients and networks, if the future means working remotely more and not as many in-person meetings.
Deirdre Kelly: Practical experience. There is no substitute for learning from actually working in the field under real conditions with real clients, opposing counsel, and judges under the pressure of deadlines and the need to have a successful outcome. Graduates and students need to remember that the depth and quality of an experience are far more impactful than sometimes what you perceive as a more prestigious opportunity on paper.
Gabelli School of BusinessWebsite
Peter Johnson DPS: From an academic standpoint, I believe there will be a minimal long-lasting impact on our graduates. All students will be required to complete the necessary credits and be assessed for their performance. Many of their courses will be online, but there is currently no research body that clearly indicates that online teaching is significantly less effective than in class. Several studies of work from home (WFH) indicate comparable or increase productivity.
Peter Johnson DPS: There are three things that employers are looking for:
1. Demonstrated ability to solve problems
2. Ability to analyze and make decisions based on data
3. Communication skills with management, teams, and clients
Peter Johnson DPS: For entry-level positions, resumes need to include the basic "table stakes" type of skills: career-related coursework, leadership experience, and technical competencies: PowerPoint, Excel, CRM, and something like Python, if analytics are required. To stand out and for mid-level positions: published articles or white paper; original research, for demonstrated expertise in a product or service category.
Illinois Wesleyan University
Hart Career CenterWebsite
Brian Richardson: For recent graduates, the job search process has essentially been disrupted due to a level of uncertainty being experienced on an industry-by-industry basis. This doesn't mean jobs have disappeared, which is supported by the number of employers who still have hiring needs and will continue to do so. What this means is that applicants must be open-minded and adaptable, while being willing to really lean on their networking skills to connect in meaningful ways, and not just blindly applying for job openings. The question that should be asked goes beyond 'what jobs are available,' but 'what problems can be solved' with the skills-based competencies, practical experiences, and knowledge gained through a broad-based education, internships, and research opportunities. From there, they must be able to articulate that value on a resume and in conversation at every opportunity they have available to them.
Western Oregon University
Service Learning & Career Development
Adry S. Clark Ph.D.: The major change we've seen, so far, in the job market is the move to remote working and job cuts in some significant sectors. This will probably mean that we will see remote working become more common in the years to come. Companies will enhance their capacity to hire remote workers, and workers may look for opportunities where they can work from home.
While the 25-34 age group has been hit the most, those with high-school degrees or less have taken the greatest hit.
Employers are going to prioritize skills, more than specific roles, in order to be more flexible. I would encourage people to develop critical skills that potentially open up multiple opportunities for their career development, rather than preparing for a specific next role. That may mean that English majors develop some skills that are technical, such as writing blogs or writing web content.
Adry S. Clark Ph.D.: The skills that stand out on resumes fall into two categories: 1) Skills required to do the job and 2) Skills almost all employers look for. The most important aspect of resumes is to make sure it reflects exactly what the employer needs. Study the job description, identify key skills, and have them reflected on your resume. Think about transferrable skills, not the specific roles you've had.
Most employers look for skills such as communication (written/oral), flexibility, proactivity, problem-solving, project management, and technical. Make sure to cultivate those skills in whatever role you have, and have examples that demonstrate those skills.
Adry S. Clark Ph.D.: It all depends on what you want to do. An English major helps you develop some very broad skill sets - keep in mind most employers value good writing skills. Some work opportunities are highly localized. If your goals include working in the publishing industry, for instance, you might be better off being in New York, where most big book publishers are located. You might also find some smaller publishers all over the country. If technical writing is more to your liking, perhaps the Bay Area might offer more opportunities.
National Retail Federation
Bill Thorne: Retail is the largest private-sector employer in the country, directly employing 32 million people and supporting 52 million jobs overall - roughly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce. While COVID-19 has presented new and unexpected challenges, retailers have continued to showcase the industry's resilience and adaptability time and again. The safety and security of customers and employees remains our greatest priority. It is no doubt that the professional environment has changed this year, but retail continues to offer a plethora of career opportunities for graduates and seasoned veterans alike.
Bill Thorne: In a year that has been full of uncertainty, customers and employees want to feel safe shopping at stores. Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers have served as our country's economic first responders and have put in place operations and procedures to maintain a safe work environment for their colleagues and customers. Retail businesses continue to evaluate and train employees on how to safely operate and minimize risk during the pandemic. To meet these new demands, retail employees require new skills and training to further build customer confidence and ensure employee and customer safety. In response, the NRF Foundation launched two new credentials in its RISE Up educational program. The new credentials focus on Retail Operations and Customer Conflict Prevention to further ensure retail workers - and the millions of customers they serve - can work and shop safely and keep the economy open.
Bill Thorne: COVID-19 has accelerated the trends we've seen over the past few years as retailers reimagine the customer experience, blending online and offline channels. Mobile apps provide in-store wayfinding and augmented reality to allow customers to quickly search products and identify their exact locations in the store. Additionally, many retailers offer Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS), or curbside pickup options so that customers can pay and checkout with minimal or no contact. We expect retailers will continue to use a variety of tools to help shoppers find the items they need and want.
MHI – Material Handling Industry
Knowledge Center and Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)Website
Michael Mikitka: Courses and internships are essential. While the required depth of knowledge may vary from one position to another, employers are generally looking for candidates with strong "people-related" skills, those who are willing to continue to learn, and those with the ability to be flexible and adapt.
By "people-related" skills, I mean the abilities associated with effective communication (listen and express ideas and direction) and the skills related to working independently and a team.
As for the interest to continually learn... from a technology, data, and equipment perspective, today's supply chain looks very different than it did 10-years ago. The willingness and ability to continually learn are essential for anyone in a leadership role.
As for flexibility and adapting...supply chain/logistics is as much about responding to disruption and demand as it is planning for it. There is a predictable demand (i.e., seasonal...everyone knows when back-to-school shopping begins). Then there is the unpredictable demand (i.e., power-outages, wildfires, pandemic) that impact market and the ability to operate. Candidates that express flexibility and problem-solving skills will be much sought-after.
Michael Mikitka: I hate to say it...but it depends. If someone is drawn to supply chain and logistics...it is everywhere. Any organization that produces anything is a potential employer, as are the companies that provide products and services that support those organizations. You do not usually have to look very far to find potential employers.
Michael Mikitka: Many retailers have experienced increased demand in their online sales, and the healthcare and consumer product right sector is experiencing increased demand from those they serve. For these sectors and others, this is placing an increased order on their distribution operations. Those entering the field can expect to "hit the ground running." They must be focused on learning the equipment they will operate and wish to show they are proficient in using it.
School of Visual and Performing ArtsWebsite
Heath Weber: Morningside grads in MUED have been consistently placed in school districts all over the state. We have recent grads in High School, Middle School, and Elementary music positions in the Sioux City Community Schools, Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools, Ankeny Schools, and many many other school districts across the state and region. Students also are well prepared for graduate study, with many of our recent grads attending graduate study in voice performance, Music Education, and choral or instrumental conducting.
Heath Weber: The Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates a 4% increase, over the next five years, for teaching careers.
Heath Weber: Music teachers are in demand in every state. All of the grads in the past two years have found employment in the country, but that is not to say that we don't have students who leave Iowa to pursue teaching in another state. One of our recent grads just took a position at Mitchell HS in Mitchell, SD, directing one of the country's best show choir programs. A 2020 grad is teaching vocal music at Sioux City East and one of the most consistently successful programs in the state of Iowa. Morningside grads are highly sought after in the field of education and Music Education.