February 11, 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.
Kate Kurtin Ph.D.: Yes! Absolutely! We can only assume that the whole world will be affected by this pandemic for years to come. The workforce, for starters, will be tremendously affected. Currently, for example, there are limited service jobs in parts of the country. These are jobs that millions of graduates hold. We also have the highest unemployment rate in modern history. Once the country opens up again and companies begin to hire again, everyone who lost their job in the last year will be competing with recent graduates on the same job market. We saw this after the recession as well.
Speaking more positively, companies are now realizing that their employees can work effectively and efficiently from home. It has been predicted that this will shift many more traditional office jobs to permanent telecommuting. This is great news for graduates because they can broaden their job search.
I am also hopeful that creative industries will getting very busy soon. Personally, I teach in advertising and public relations and those industries will be in high demand.
Kate Kurtin Ph.D.: Any job that you are passionate about and brings you joy is a great job out of college. Don't look for a "forever job" after college, look for a job where you can learn and grow and support yourself.
Kate Kurtin Ph.D.: Every article on the subject says that communication skills are the most important skills to have when on the job market - and this is not my bias speaking, even Warren Buffet said it! Public speaking, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, etc., these are things that stand out to employers.
Milwaukee Area Technical College
Television and Video Production/eProduction- Milwaukee PBS
Kevin Pulz: There's no doubt that the pandemic has and will continue to have a clear impact on current college/university students and upcoming and recent graduates. The way things are 'done', for example, has been redefined in a fashion that in some ways makes traditional broadcast production unrecognizable. Studio camera operators have been replaced by fixed computer camera lenses for Zoom calls; efforts to collect high-quality audio have fallen to camera mics at best, and poor computer mics at worst in order to distance audio operators from talent or interview subjects; studio productions are a shell of what they once were; sports and event programming have diminished in frequency or disappeared altogether.
However, while many facets of media and broadcasting have seen a degradation of quality, content continues to flow. Rethinking the production process is not a bad thing, rather a challenging one. Local broadcasters may not be enjoying the large production teams they were before the pandemic, but viewing has not abated. Streaming content has exploded as it offers flexibility in accessibility to viewers and all of a sudden episodes of long forgotten shows appear quite palatable.
The landscape of these industries are evolving. The challenge is to be able to adapt to that evolution, all the while ensuring that high-quality skills remain attainable and sharp for the time when viewers no longer passively accept muddy or choppy looking video content on their 4k home screens.
Kevin Pulz: What skills AREN'T desirable to employers? Video Editors need to be motion graphics stars as well. Videographers are more valuable if they are photojournalists or video essayists in addition. On-line content mediators and creators are in demand as corporations that once flew in employees for training are finding all sorts of benefits to creating visual media locally and sharing globally.
There's no substitute for solid production skills and strength in technology as a whole; but there's a voracious appetite for cutting edge approaches to content treatment, acquisition and delivery. Possessing the ability to deliver on both the audio and video quality we've come to expect as well as the promise of developing fresh modes of content creating utilizing new and exciting technologies positions anyone early on their career well for long-term success in a rapidly challenging and exciting world of media.
Kevin Pulz: Broadcasting is still, strangely, considered a glamor field in so many ways. Little do people realize that cable wrapping and happily executed grunt work are essential talents that often separate the job recipient from the 5 interviewees and 95 applicants for a gig that pays less than fast-food work, even with a college degree.
So a good job out of college is ANY job in the field. Being 'in' and demonstrating one's ability in a professional environment remains key to opportunity in the future.
That said, it's clear that an area of media that's ripe for growth is multiplatform content delivery. It's in the wheelhouse of recent graduates based upon age and media consumption habits and, with traditional broadcast audiences growing older, an aspect of content creation that promises to grow even more legs as distribution methodologies develop and mature.
John Pantalone: I don't think we have any idea what the long-term effects of the pandemic will be either in economic terms, health terms, or employment terms. It is much too soon to tell. Everything depends on what the government does, how corporations respond to the changing economic climate and evolving technologies. In the field of journalism, everything is up in the air and it will be years before we have a good idea of how journalism will evolve and survive.
John Pantalone: At this point, at the risk of being sarcastic, any job is a good job. The real answer is that it depends on the field you plan to go into and what you consider a good job. A livable wage with reasonable benefits is part of the equation; the other part is whether you genuinely enjoy the work.
John Pantalone: Hard to say. I'm sure good computer skills are important in any job, but so are strong communication skills. If by technical skills you mean software programs, etc., it again depends on the nature of the job/work. Knowledge of basic software, social media platforms, data interpretation all seem important now.
Shane Tilton Ph.D.: This line of evidence is pointing to one central truth. Those that practiced multimedia journalism techniques before the pandemic will find success now. Also, organizations are looking for those graduates that can be a "one-stop-shop" for producing stories from home. I don't believe that trend will change. This trend also addresses the third question. Graduates are leaving colleges better prepared to use computer-mediated communication tools to complete their jobs' essential tasks. They understand how to be engaging and communicate effectively via their more contemporary communication tools.
Shane Tilton Ph.D.: Weirdly, the pandemic has been good to those trained in media production. All organizations now find themselves in the position to need to use digital media production tools more regularly. I can not count the number of conversations I have had with colleagues and interested parties looking for students and alumni to work with them to develop their media platform. Even if a student can not find a job in journalism, the skills they learn in our program are adaptable to a virtually endless number of organizations across the world. They know how to be effective communicators using media production tools.
Shane Tilton Ph.D.: I have argued that the pandemic has dropkicked society, culture, and daily activities fifty years into the future. We are doing more decentralized work virtually from home. The journalism industry seems to have felt the boot prints of that dropkick as much as any industry. One of the continuous influences of COVID-19 post-pandemic appears to be the "home studio model" for broadcasters and journalism organizations. I would point to the "Room Raters" Twitter account as evidence for this claim. It seems that people are more comfortable with reporting from home. Journalism graduates are now presenting news stories in a quasi-informal manner. The general public seems to be okay seeing journalists in more business casual clothing than the power suit.
It has also fundamentally changed the functional roles of journalists. Contributors and correspondents show off their credibility by displaying the books they wrote on the shelves behind them or the visual artifacts of their subject of expertise. Anchors have a screen behind them, highlighting the story with some visuals. Citizen journalists are finding more accessible access to essential sources via Zoom or Skype. Reporters are framing their interviews via those services as well.