April 1, 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.
Florida International University
Montclair State University
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Oklahoma Baptist University
William & Mary
Thomas More University
University of North Alabama
University of Central Missouri
Florida International University
Steven J. Green School of International and Public AffairsWebsite
John Tobon: Yes, the enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates will be how and where they will work. The pandemic forced employers to overlook their reluctance to telework arrangements in order to survive. The biggest change will come in government employment where all but the most sensitive positions will enjoy greater flexibility. This will also mean less travel for in-person meetings, as more people become more comfortable with video conferencing and as the technology becomes more secure and intuitive to the users, business travel will be reserved for only the most necessary activities.
John Tobon: In the near term the work day will look a lot like online learning. Everything, starting with onboarding of employees has transitioned online. Newly hired employees may not meet their supervisors and co-workers in person for several months, if ever. There will be more real time online collaboration and greater need for proficiency in the use of communication software. Graduates may not necessarily live in the city where their employer is located, this will provide greater freedom to employees but it will also increase the level of competition for some positions. In the long term, workplace will look different. As a cost savings measure, companies will maximize the amount of offsite work that can be performed by implementing hybrid models that incorporate maximum telework arrangements.
John Tobon: In the field of federal law enforcement the two growing needs are computer forensics and forensic accounting. Every law enforcement agency is in dire need of these skills, all criminal cases require forensic analysis of multiple devices such as phones, tablets, and computers. The demand for these skills far outweighs the current number of personnel available to perform the analysis. The complexity of the financial system has made tracing of ill-gotten gains a serious challenge even to the most experienced investigators. There is also greater emphasis on identifying the means and methods employed by criminal organizations and their co-conspirators to conceal illicit proceeds. The move to create greater transparency in beneficial ownership registries will create a flood of information that will require the unique skill set of forensic accountants to achieve success.
Knowlton Center for Career ExplorationWebsite
Ashley Strausser: Much has changed in the last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the most obvious impacts being that of how we work and connect with others. I believe that working remotely will continue as employees and organizations have proven that they can work effectively from home. For many graduates, utilizing digital technology to do their work, collaborate with colleagues, engage with clients and connect socially with friends and family will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future.
Additionally, graduating during a global pandemic has required students to be more flexible, open-minded and resourceful than ever before. Students graduating this spring had to adjust and pivot last year when many internships were cancelled or turned remote. While there are many industries that are struggling, many others are experiencing unprecedented growth during this time. I am encouraging students to be open to exploring positions in different industries, sectors and even geographic regions than perhaps they were initially considering, while still being true to their interests and skills. I coach students daily on the importance of networking, which has always been an essential part of an effective job search strategy; however, the power of one's professional network is even more valuable in a competitive job market.
Ashley Strausser: As we continue to live and work through a global pandemic, many new graduates will be working remotely or in some sort of hybrid variation. Working remotely necessitates discipline and being a self-starter. Graduates will need to develop strong professional work habits that will serve them well and lay a strong foundation as they begin their career. Many of us are challenged by a lack of social interaction beyond meetings with colleagues or clients via Zoom or Teams. Working from home for the last year, I can personally attest that attending to our physical and mental health is more important than ever. Take time to go for a walk or run on your lunch break. Set your alarm early to spend time meditating before you begin your work day. Don't get into the habit of rolling out of bed at 7:55am to start work at 8:00am. Consider doing yoga after work to help relieve stress. Make it a point to set up regular Zoom lunch dates to connect with or get to know your new colleagues. With our laptop and work space set up at home it's easy to get into the habit of working much more than we normally would if we were commuting to and from the office. It's important to set boundaries related to when and how much we work. Employ a strong work ethic, but don't neglect important aspects of your well-being.
Ashley Strausser: Graduates need to do their research, know their worth and negotiate their job offer. It amazes me how many students accept the salary offered to them without considering negotiation. Graduates should do their due diligence using sites such as Glassdoor and Salary.com to compare their salary offer to similar roles in the same region. If you are going to negotiate, you must be able to make a strong case as to why you are deserving of more money. This cannot be based on what you feel you deserve, but rather the skills you possess, relevant experiences you've had and the tangible results you've achieved that will enable you to be successful in the role. Evaluate the job description to determine if you possess some, or perhaps many, of the desired qualifications beyond the minimum qualifications listed. If so, use those as part of your negotiation. If not, consider how you might be able to develop those desired qualifications to make you a stronger candidate.
Competitive candidates should have a strong, well-rounded skill set. Being able to articulate your skills and experiences (academic, co-curricular, internships, research, study abroad, etc.) both on your resume and in an interview is critical. Know the skills necessary to be effective in the roles you seek. If you are lacking skills essential to your desired roles or industries, consider completing online courses or certifications through LinkedIn Learning or Coursera. Take advantage of skill-building resources and programs available through your university. Finally, research and prepare well for your interviews. This includes conducting mock interviews with staff in your career center to practice and gain valuable feedback on ways to improve your interviewing skills.
Montclair State University
Jeffrey Gonzalez: I have to stress that I'm not an economist but an English professor who does a little work helping English majors think about their career options. That said, the American economy seems to continue down a bifurcated path--white collar labor that provides a modicum of security and blue- or pink-collar labor or gig work that isn't secure or well-paid. I would bet that we'll see a great deal of jobs in both sectors emerge as more people are vaccinated and as the summer months mean more people interacting outside, and I'm also optimistic about the stimulus packages' effect on the economy.
The trends will, if you ask me, mean more hiring. But for the students I work with, it'll likely be more of the same: underemployment for Humanities majors upon first graduating college, followed by slow & steady growth in wages and benefits through a period of switching jobs and careers. They'll start in jobs that involve reading, writing, researching, and analysis, or they'll support individuals engaged in these processes, before they start designing or directing projects of their own. Workers who learn fast, who have great language skills, who are adaptable to different circumstances--these people have the best chance of achieving careers.
Where will we see growth? In areas that cater to the very wealthy; in app development; in health care/public health (of course); in finance; in entertainment production though housed in a handful of places.
Will we see growth in academic hiring? Not for the field I work in--the teaching & research side. We will continue to see growth in the administrative aspects of the university, which has been the trend for decades, while tenure-line hiring has declined considerably. It's not a good job to pursue.
Jeffrey Gonzalez: Students need to be able to write well; they need to listen well; they need to learn audiences quickly; they need to acknowledge that they're entering into conversations with grace, rather than running in full speed; they need to understand cultural and identity differences; they need to understand the digital environment has a contrary balance of speed (content production; viral reactions) and permanence (your data trail).
Jeffrey Gonzalez: My field is academia, and salaries have stayed fairly consistent if you get a tenure-line job. I'm part of a collective bargaining unit, which means I have a much better chance at a decent wage and decent benefits. Adjuncts do the bulk of teaching at American universities, and they don't have nearly the benefits or pay that professors get. English primary and secondary school teachers's pay has also remained consistent or declined, and teachers, like most public-college professors, have to rely on negotiations with the state for raises. We train a lot of teachers, and luckily, none of them is in it for the money.
For the students we have who go into the information or knowledge sector, they start underemployed and move up, as I said. The most recent research I've seen (and again, I'm not an economist) said that Humanities majors eventually make as much as business or more career-specific majors (public relations, etc.).
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Department of Political ScienceWebsite
Chad Newswander Ph.D.: It is a combination of soft and hard skills. Young professionals need to be reliable, conscientious, hardworking, and be able to work well with others. They also need to show early signs of leadership, allowing them to grow within the organization. Above all, they need to be trusted to get the work done and be likeable. They also need to have a concrete skillset that allows them to contribute. Each young professional needs to think how they can add value to their organization (not just what the organization will do for them). Those skills can range from data/statistical analysis, writing, speaking, research, etc. In order to show that they have these skills, students should do multiple internships while in school from credible organizations.
Oklahoma Baptist University
College of BusinessWebsite
Dr. Daryl Green: Today's students need to embrace emerging market trends. For marketing students, the marketing concept means intimately understanding your customers and satisfying their immediate needs. The lingering pandemic from 2020 will make the job hunt more difficult this year. From my research, here are 2021 employment trends to consider:
Marketing strategy still matters. Today's businesses are using ineffective marketing strategies despite using digital tactics like social media platforms. According to HubSpot, only 61% of marketers believe their marketing strategy is effective. Yet, they are still pouring massive amounts of dollars into digital advertising. Understanding the basic marketing strategies will equip college grads for the challenges ahead.
Artificial intelligence and automation rise in 2021. Marketing professionals will need to be more tech-savvy. AI will make analyzing and implementing decisions more efficient. According to a McKinsey study, Netflix saved $1 billion in lost revenue in 2017 by using machine learning to make personalized recommendations. Other businesses, like Amazon, are doing the same.
Data analytics continue to emerge as a critical ingredient for market decision making. About 82% of marketers plan to increase their usage of first-party data (Source: Signal). Taking a marketing analytics course will be helpful to graduates.
Digital platforms will continue to dominate the economy. Thus, an online presence is essential. According to a Bright Edge study, digital ad spending will reach $389 billion in 2021. Thus, students need good digital literacy to succeed.
Mobile platforms like smartphones are the future. As for May of 2020, Google was responsible for 67% of all smartphone search traffic.
Dr. Daryl Green: According to a 2013 Gallup poll, more than one-third of business leaders doubt that higher education institutions in the U.S. are graduating students who meet their particular businesses' needs. In fact, the study showed that there is a disconnection between what business leaders need and what higher education is producing. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has identified eight competencies associated with career readiness. These skills include career management, communication, critical thinking, cultural intelligence, digital literacy, leadership, professionalism, and teamwork. Sadly, most students are not aware of employers' expectations of career readiness competencies.
Dr. Daryl Green: Based on my research, I predict that the current salaries for marketing majors will be unchanged from 2020. There are 'riches in niches.' Certain areas, like marketing analytics, may see a surge. For example, market research analysts are projected to grow 18 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to US BLS. However, Covid-19 is the X-factor for the economy.
William & Mary
Department of Modern Languages and LiteraturesWebsite
Dr. Matteo Cantarello Ph.D.: In regard to the academic job market, I can talk about Hispanic/Latin American studies and, broadly speaking, literary and cultural studies. In the past year or two, trans- and interdisciplinarity are a must have to be successful. Research topics that are related to race and gender are also extremely important. More than trends, I would talk about urgency when it comes to higher education. The job market outside of higher education seems to be liking business and computer sciences. In the United States, in particular, any intersection between these two fields (e.g., digital security, cryptocurrency) has been extremely popular.
Dr. Matteo Cantarello Ph.D.: Programming has become an asset within the humanities, too. Even though hires of digital humanists are still limited in number (at least within my discipline), they are probably destined to increase in the near future. Also, flexibility and versatility with respect to teaching are also highly marketable. Any candidate who has experience with in-person, hybrid, and online courses and who has degrees, titles, and certificates that demonstrate that is extremely appreciated on the academic job market.
Dr. Matteo Cantarello Ph.D.: I don't have data and I am sure it varies a lot depending on the institution, the position, the field, etcetera. There is a close relationship between "prestige" of a position (tenure-eligible or a renown postdoctoral fellowship vs. visiting, more teaching-oriented positions) and compensation. A prestigious postdoctoral fellowship with 1 or less courses per semester to teach and/or TE positions with a 2-2 or a 3-3 pay up to 100% more than the average NTE position, that typically dictates a 3-3, 4-4, or 5-5 teaching load. In general, however, the more secure your position is the easier it is to secure funding and other resources that complement the base salary.
Thomas More University
Department of Business Administration and AccountancyWebsite
Dr. John D. (Jack) Rudnick: The COVID-19 pandemic heightens an awareness of the tremendous need and talent gap that presents opportunities for those interested in healthcare leadership and staffing. The lack of preparation for this catastrophic event that many contend should have been anticipated illustrates a strong need for increased disaster preparedness and improved supply chain systems and processes throughout the health care system. Professional opportunities that integrate in with all aspects of the continuum continue to abound. Professionals with an entrepreneurial spirit are valuable to generate creative ideas aimed at cultivation of revenue producing concepts. Those with an interest in further improving efficiency and contributing to an increased return-on-investment through process improvement techniques will find opportunities throughout the field. Finance, strategy, information technology, entrepreneurship, compliance, and marketing are among highly sought-after specialties within the field and projected to rise in need. Crisis management planning has the potential to become more necessary to mitigate against loss and business interruption.
A broad array of careers along the continuum will continue to be in need include the following: Quality and Performance Improvement Specialists, Post-acute care administrators (nursing home, rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, hospice directors,) behavioral health executives, strategy officers, consultants, compliance officers, agency administrators, health informaticists, and university professors to assist in training leaders and staff for these important roles.
Dr. John D. (Jack) Rudnick: Proficiency in informatics, finance, entrepreneurship strategy, and quality improvement with an intentional strategy to drive these processes can have a large positive effect on revenue generation and expense reduction. CPA certification, process improvement certifications (Scrum, Lean Six Sigma, AGILE), IT certifications and long-term care licensure are beneficial credentials to consider. Leaders with a clinical background bring credibility to positions where flexibility and depth of knowledge offers prospective employers an attractive combination of credentials.
Dr. John D. (Jack) Rudnick: The consolidation of health systems into larger entities throughout the continuum and the infusion of private equity into healthcare have prompted meteoric rises in base salaries and bonuses for many executives. Reimbursement specialists and strategy consultants have also benefited from salary increases over the past 40 years. Salaries have shifted to more of an incentive-based model with a foundational base salary aligned with bonuses linked to pre-established metrics aimed at revenue-growth and expense reduction to optimize a health organization's return-on-investment (ROI).
University of North Alabama
Management & Marketing DepartmentWebsite
John Cicala Ph.D.: Increased use and reliance on digital-based marketing, thereby resulting in an increased need for people who understand and appreciate the differences in and among the many digital marketing avenues available. Also, a need for individuals who can not only analyze collected data but who can understand and interpret it as well.
John Cicala Ph.D.: The ability to write for reading and not to write as if they are simply transcribing an internal conversation with the paper or whatever media is being used to communicate. They should also possess the ability to interact and to converse with others in person and to actively listen.
John Cicala Ph.D.: It will not be as structured or segmented as previous generations' workdays have been, but it will involve more tasks and responsibilities. It will involve more research and inquiry. It will involve a significant amount of time working online and less time interacting in person. That said, the times that do require/involve interpersonal engagement will be more important than ever before due to the increased value that people will place on their time. Hence, the need for individuals to be skilled at both distanced and face-to-face interactions.
Jacqueline Babb: The pandemic has been a tipping point for innovation in technology. I anticipate that we may see a more of an emphasis on technology in business that will bring teams together virtually, but also automate tasks that are simple and repetitive.
Jacqueline Babb: Technical skills paired with strong communication, flexibility in thought, diversity, and creative problem solving are a winning combination for job candidates. Candidates with a strong acumen in data analysis and storytelling are marketable right now.
University of Central Missouri
Division of Business Strategy, Marketing ProgramWebsite
Stephen (Tyler) Hirlinger: The pandemic will certainly have a lasting impact on graduates, both positively and negatively. To start with the positives, I think the transition to online learning the past two semesters has forced students to gain many valuable skills that will be necessary for success in the post-pandemic work environment. The work dynamic in many industries may remain radically different for the foreseeable future and I think graduates will be more resourceful, organized, more productive in remote settings, and work better in groups due to the recent circumstances. I also think students will learn to be more entrepreneurial and improve their ability to "sell themselves" due to fewer career opportunities and higher competition in the workforce. Time will tell, but I think the lack of job availability may stunt the career growth for many recent graduates, while those that learn to grow when faced with adversity will thrive.
Stephen (Tyler) Hirlinger: This is a rather difficult question to answer because it entirely depends on a student's field of study and goals and aspirations. Any job that helps a student understand their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and disinterests is a good starting point. Changing careers and/or career paths is no longer looked upon negatively, so I believe any career out of college that allows the graduate to learn and grow (personally and professionally) is a good one, as they can always pivot until they find a career that's fulfilling and rewarding.
Stephen (Tyler) Hirlinger: I think creativity is a skill that's often overlooked, especially in the businessworld. If I were a student looking to differentiate myself and increase my earning potential, I'd diversify my skill set and develop my creativity as much as possible. In my opinion, creativity is the human ability that's most difficult (if not impossible) to automate with technology and will always be rewarded. Also, the ability to communicate and articulate one's ideas and thoughts effectively is a desirable skill regardless of the profession. The best communicators are often the highest earners!