Future of Work: Jobs Landscape for Graduates In Times of a Pandemic

Global Employability

Corona has been an accelerant, making the future happen faster. Remote, digital, cloud, automation and AI are reshaping the fabric of every role, function, business and industry. With structural shifts and a rapid acceleration into a new economy, companies are rebuilding their operating stack and creating new classes of jobs, skills and learning to help them transition into the future.

Question that graduates need to ask themselves is – what lies ahead, and are they well equipped to adapt to the fast paced, agile and digital economy humanity has entered in Industry 4.0.?

Let’s look at what the jobs landscape looks like.

Short and mid-term impact on graduate employment

The pandemic has had direct impact on overall recruitment – graduate or otherwise. A comprehensive study carried out by ISE, called the – Institute of Student Employers. (2020). Covid-19: Global impacts on graduate recruitment. London: Institute of Student Employers –paints a realistic picture of what’s happening, and what’s to come. The respondents of the survey were CEOs or heads of research from employer associations, senior higher education careers professionals or employers.

The conclusions of the study, which explored the impact on graduate recruitment in 21 countries, are not surprising.

Here are some key findings:

  • Graduate recruitment is down in most parts of the world, with many employers having decided to delay or reduce the number of graduates being hired.
  • The pandemic has not been very discerning – even in countries where the impact of COVID has been relatively less devastating (like Australia and New Zealand) organizations have still clamped down on some activities in the short term, with worries about longer term impacts.
  • The graduate market dip reflects a bigger problem. The crisis has impacted people of all skill levels and will be particularly difficult for those entering the labour market for the first time and those in the worst-hit sectors.
  • The graduate market will probably not recover right away. The survey found that in 15 of the 21 countries the volume of graduate recruitment would continue to go down. Three countries (New Zealand Canada and South Africa) expected that the market to stabilize and three expected to see growth (Poland, Belgium and the UAE).
  • Working practices as well as business processes have now gone online. What this means for graduate recruitment is that the attracting and selecting process is now almost completely online (or a blended format that combines face-to-face as well as online)
  • Graduating students may think about taking more courses, like postgraduate study, to prolong their time in education.

While these findings are not a conceptual surprise, they do confirm some fears – that the employment market will stay depressed for a while. However, what is needed at times like this is not to lament on what’s not, but to focus (and find) what is. The truth is that the pandemic has created seismic shifts in the way we work and live, and businesses have moved online, en masse and practically overnight. Coupled with this, as we said at the beginning, is the fact that COVID has also accelerated change and brought the future to our doorsteps. What this means is that technologies which were in the coming, are now here – automation, AI, big data, especially are redefining roles and job functions. And these are the pockets of growth that graduates need to have razor sharp focus on (we look at some key roles a little below).

Slow roads to recovery

The reports on how the job landscape looks are a little mixed – it depends on the countries, sectors and stages of unlock. In places where the lock-down has been fully lifted, hiring is seeing a rise (gradual, but rise nevertheless). In some countries the recovery has been flat, in others, it’s been encouraging. In the UK, for instance, employment has fallen by biggest quarterly number since 2009. This is part of trend where falls in employment is accompanied by reduced hours of work. Also, the fall is greatest in the youngest and oldest workers, and also with those in lower-skilled jobs.

And that’s one of the points that new graduates should make note of – the fact that upping skills is now critical to staying relevant and being employable. But, before we get to skills and what graduates can do, let’s complete the jobs-landscape story.

In the US, for the past three months jobs are being added. In July 1.8 million jobs were added, which was much lower than June, but they were higher than many economists had anticipated. And despite the gains and the fact that the unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, the US economy is still down some 13 million jobs (during the pandemic).

The truth is that while the pandemic has forced many organizations to cut jobs, there are some industries which are reaping the benefits of living in a post-pandemic world. There is definite growth in sectors like healthcare, online education, e-commerce and consumer goods.

In India, a recent Employment Outlook Report by TeamLease (HY-1 April – September, 2020-21), states that the hiring sentiment, that had fallen by 86% points from the earlier half of the year is now showing signs of improvement. Till the lock-down was partially lifted the hiring sentiment for the current half year (H1-April-Sept’20) was as at 11%. Now, it’s marginally gone up to 18%.

The study analyzed 21 sectors, all of which (except for travel and hospitality) showed positive outlook towards hiring. Some sectors are better than others. (note: hiring intent here means the percentage of hiring managers planning to recruit; it does not mean the volume of hiring).

Some key findings of the study

  • Global Trends: Labour markets, worldwide, saw a steep fall, where Intent to Hire to fell by 68% – 79%. In the Americas the Intent to Hire was the lowest, at 8% (though this drop in intent is the lowest among the geographies). Europe was at 9%, Africa at 10%, the Middle-East at 11%, and APAC at 14%.
  • India: Here the scenario is marginally better. The Intent to Hire recovered from 11% (which was during the lockdown period) to 18% for the current HY (April – September, 2020-21).  However, this  recovery is driven by bigger businesses looking to hire Blue Collar labour as well as leadership level talent, primarily in the metro and tier-1 cities.

Here’s a look at the sectors that are the most been to hire according to the study (it’ll help to male note of these and look in these areas for opportunities)

Based on what’s heading for recovery, where the pockets of growth are and sectors that are getting a push due to advancements in technology and reactions to Corona, here are some job functions that will see growth in the coming years. The maximum growth, unsurprisingly, is taking place in tech and related fields (here are some top tech companies that are hiring). Also, because there’s now a tech aspect to almost anything we do, most sectors have tech integration within their fields (so, if you’re in tech, there’s a lot happening).

Here’s a list of tech-related job functions that will see growth in the coming years (not in order of growth).

  • Artificial Intelligence Engineer
  • Big Data Specialist
  • Data Scientist
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Architect
  • Digital Content Specialist
  • Blockchain Engineer
  • Cloud Architect
  • Developers – Full-Stack, JAVA, PHP, Python
  • Web Designers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Software Engineers
  • Data Analysts
  • Software and Applications Developers and Analysts
  • Medical and Health Services Managers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Biomedical Engineers
  • Digital Transformation Specialists
  • Information Technology Services
  • Product Managers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers
  • Financial Analysts
  • Mobile Application Developer
  • IT Support/Help Desk
What does this mean for graduates?

What it means is that there’s a need to zero in on where the growth is and to do a self-skill check to know if you need to add to your qualifications or skills set. It’s imperative that you have a bird’s eye views of both the job trends as well as the skills in demand and strategize accordingly.

Also, the good news is that since organizations have gone remote, graduates have access to opportunities in any location – this, in itself, has opened up a whole new word. A simple search for work-from-home or remote jobs throws up multiple pages that enlist names or organizations and sectors where the opportunities are arising – so keen an eye on the jobs ball.

Teleworking, in fact, is coming to the rescue at this time of crisis, and it’s something graduates can fit into easily. In fact, in both the recent recessions (2008 and now) teleworkable occupations have been more resilient, according to data from the IMF.

The above information gives a good idea of where the opportunities lie. You’ll need to also understand what skills you’ll need to be employable now, and going forward. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list that details the must-have skills (both hard and soft).

Steps to take to get that job

The one thing to do is to keep at it. You need to stay on top of the search. It can be tiring, but it’s the only thing to do right now – so punch in the right keywords for your search, and keep looking.

Here are some ways to keep up your search.

  • Update your LinkedIn profile
    • Get help, if needed, to get this part right.
    • Your profile should state clearly on who you are and what role you’re seeking
    • Set up a keyword search job-
  • Look at career pages of organizations
  • Create profiles on popular job portals – some include

If you have any inclination to go the entrepreneur way, this would be a great time to experiment.  Flesh out the idea, partner with someone like-minded and take a shot at it. Once you start working, you’ll never get the time to do this.

Your actions matter
  • Don’t wait for the ideal job – it’s not an ideal world right now

The reality is that you may not get the job you want right now. However, there are many roads that could lead to it, and you should not dismiss an opportunity simply because it may not be ideal. In a pandemic situation you should weight your options – it’s not about settling for less, it’s about strategizing and playing your cards right.

Take up small gigs to stay afloat. These are easier to come by right now. Be open to taking up projects – many organizations are more open to giving out smaller gigs and projects. This helps them not commit to long-term costs and it helps you get by – both in terms of experience and earnings.

  • Up-skill as you wait – become more valuable
    As mentioned earlier, do a check on what skills are in demand and align yourself to the new demands. With growth of online learning, you can learn almost anything sitting at home. Make use of this opportunity. Employers will see value in the fact that you’re working on yours skills – shows that you are proactive, and people like that.
  • Consult experts and network
    As a graduate student, don’t cut off from your university network. Keep in touch with your old professors and classmates – you never know who can help you. Also, attend webinars and make use of LinkedIn to follow and interact with people and recruiters for real-time advice on how to prepare for an uncertain post-COVID world.
  • Now’s the time to work on that idea

If you have any inclination to go the entrepreneur way, this would be a great time to experiment.  Flesh out the idea, partner with someone like-minded and take a shot at it. Once you start working, you’ll never get the time to do this.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

There always is, it’s the length of the tunnel that matters – you need to hold it out and work on a plan. How long this one is, is hard to say. But, if you keep going, you’ll get there. That’s the advice many leaders are giving graduates right now. Here’s a superb piece that enlists words of wisdom from industry experts.

In the words of Sundar Pichai (as he told the graduating class of 2020 in his memorable speech) –  “Be open, be impatient, be hopeful. If you can do that, history will remember the Class of 2020 not for what you lost, but for what you changed.”

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