March 12, 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.
Art History DepartmentWebsite
George Gorse: We see many students go into museums or to graduate school where their research and writing skills, their communication skills, creativity and determination, are most important. This year has been a test of character. Museum or art market/art gallery jobs are often a transition into professional fields and graduate schools lead on to professorial or museum curatorial work in the future. Each year, graduates often take a year or two off in related fields before going on to graduate schools or the next step in their personal and professional lives. Familiarity with working remotely has (perforce) added new skills to us all and to our graduates in working today in our media world culture, a positive side to what otherwise has been a tragic year of pandemic, hardship, and death. There are "silver linings," but this has been a hard year for our students and us all, a real test of character and determination.
College of Arts and SciencesWebsite
Katie Madigan Ph.D.: Certainly, our graduates will take away many lessons from these challenging times, but in addition to constraints and loss, our alums have learned to be resilient and to witness and find for themselves new ways of working and accomplishing goals. Our core values of reflection and discernment, among others, aid them in seeing the bigger picture and taking steps towards finding meaning even in these times, making ethical decisions, and contributing to the common good in their workplaces and communities.
Katie Madigan Ph.D.: All of our students with majors in the Humanities take at least one year of a foreign language, and we have learned that even while needing to work virtually, we nevertheless continue to live and grow in a global environment. Another language opens up other worlds and equips our alums in the Humanities to serve others better. This is enriching for a lifetime.
Michigan State University
College of Agriculture & Natural ResourcesWebsite
Jill Cords: Agriculture & Food Industry remain resilient - high placement
Jill Cords: Technical Skills - passion to work in agriculture, Precision Ag, Drone, - people skills, work ethic, farm background
Jill Cords: Salaries have remained strong
Southern Methodist University (SMU)
Political Science DepartmentWebsite
Hiroki Takeuchi Ph.D.: Yes, I think so, especially for those who are college students now and graduating in next few years. For example, at SMU all the study abroad programs have been cancelled in 2020 and 2021. So, those who graduate for the next few years would have missed the opportunity to go study abroad. The same for many of the internship opportunities.
Hiroki Takeuchi Ph.D.: Here I quote what I wrote when I was asked by a prospective high school student what majoring in political science is good for:
Thank you for your interest in a Political Science major at SMU. Studying political science is a good way to learn what is going on in the world (including the United States). So many of the graduates take the jobs not directly related to politics. Instead, if you have taken many political science classes, you will master the communication skills based on reading comprehension and analytical writing. This kind of communication skills has been increasingly important in the age of automation and globalization.
Many political science classes are overlapped with major requirements of International Studies and Public Policy--all of which belong to the SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Also, political science classes are complementary with classes offered in Economics and the SMU Cox School of Business. Economics and Business classes provide you with a different skill set from the one you will master in Political Science classes. So, I usually recommend my students to consider double-majoring Political Science with Economics or Business.
Overall, studying political science is rewarding in the tumultuous time when we are navigating in the uncharted world--especially after the pandemic. The communication skill is essential to be a "world changer" and make you competitive with machines and robots.
Hiroki Takeuchi Ph.D.: Political science is a good field to master the communication skills based on reading comprehension and analytical writing. This kind of communication skills has been increasingly important in the age of automation and globalization, and will help students increase their earning potential.
University of Wyoming
College of EducationWebsite
Dr. Andrea Burrows: In an education job market, there will always be a need for in-person and virtual teaching of all grades and disciplines as well as counselors, nurses, and other student support providers. The biggest trend could well be the expansion of virtual teaching and support personnel positions, as this past year has opened that virtual space to a wider student and student support audience. Where in the past some areas may not seem conducive to online teaching or support, opportunities now exist and will most likely persist even when the pandemic subsides. Another trend is understanding computer science and how it integrates on an overall or specific disciplinary level (e.g., patterns, problem-solving, steps in a process/algorithm, coding).
Dr. Andrea Burrows: Technical skills in education involve pedagogies, disciplinary content, and team skills such as communication and reflection. For educational team leaders searching for teachers and other school support personnel, all of these technical aspects are important. Teachers and support personnel need to be "all things" to "all students," and this is an enormous task. Do additional technical skills, such as understanding computer science themes matter (like problem-solving and pattern recognition, regardless of the grade or discipline)? Yes! Those types of particular technical skills could make the difference in getting the job or not.
Dr. Andrea Burrows: The word "good" is subjective and can vary widely. Is a good job one that provides a feeling of giving back (self-reward), certain monetary provisions, social interactions, and/or opportunities to engage in new experiences? Depending on the answer, a person can locate a job that fits the needs of the individual. Teaching and counseling are incredibly rewarding education professions where a person can experience helping and supporting students. These experiences are almost never the same, and a "good job" provides an educational worker the space to thrive in situations that call for flexibility, reflection, and persistence. Professional education jobs are not easy, but they are good jobs, in many definitions of that term, that offer so much to the individual in a variety of areas.
School of BusinessWebsite
Jill Koehler: The pandemic has turned the world, and with it, the job market upside, but that is not to say that it is all doom and gloom. The last year has allowed, and in many ways forced, employers and job seekers alike to do a reset and to take stock on what is truly important at the core in moving forward.
Because so much of business is being done virtually, it begs the question of how important is prime office space and geography? It has allowed for both employers and job seekers alike to expand their potential geographic reach that brings great positives and potential to the workplace. There is a greater reliance on the role and use of technology in creative and innovative ways which has impacted the way business gets done and with that, the need for prime office space will likely diminish and allow businesses to reallocate operational overhead to other areas.
Jill Koehler: Employment marketability is more often than not tied to "what can you do for the employer if hired" so upskilling in areas that offer very tangible technical skills and being able to "sell yourself" through soft skills is crucial.
Regardless of industry or function, the ability to exhibit a data-driven mindset and having the ability to formulate complex questions into words, being comfortable evaluating data, and using various programs to assist in work efforts such as Excel, Tableau and other analytical software is a sure-fire win!
Coupled with technical skills, being able to sell oneself and exhibiting well-developed soft skills (written and verbal, critical thinking, confidence, creativity, flexibility, leadership, agility) is also critical because a large portion of an employers' hiring decision is based on how well an employer sees your ability to communicate and work well within a team.
Do you come across as someone flexible, polite, honest, and able to problem-solve? Can you be persuasive, innovative, and take on a leadership role while being able to pivot when necessary? Spending time evaluating how well you can convey your soft skills and dedicating the time to ensure they are being viewed accurately is key!
Jill Koehler: We typically see an increase in salaries annually; however, during the pandemic we witnessed many salaries being reduced, as well as the lack of salary increases and bonuses. In the wake of 2020, year 2021 offers a more optimistic outlook. Employers are starting to loosen up the purse strings, hiring freezes are being to melt a bit, and we are seeing an increase in salaries in areas that remained steadily afloat during the pandemic, or even increased such as pharmaceutical, distribution, high tech and business consulting industries.