In your opinion, what are the biggest trends we'll see in the job market given the pandemic?
I believe one of the biggest trends we are seeing and will continue to see is an increase in remote work or work from home. As a sociologist, I find this fascinating. On the one hand, disability activists have been fighting for decades to achieve the kind of flexible work policies that the coronavirus pandemic has accomplished in a year, and I believe now that able-bodied workers see the benefits, some of those changes will stick. At the same time as I am excited about this, I wonder what impact it will have on workers- for example, few employers will likely cover the cost of their employees' WiFi, so workers will be subsidizing their own work. For folks who have the opportunity to negotiate the terms of new employment, they may want to consider negotiating some of these kinds of costs- computers, WiFi, office furniture (all of which would typically be provided in a workplace) as part of their startup, in addition to typical negotiation around salary and benefits.
What soft skills should all graduates possess?
I cannot stress enough how important soft skills are! For college students (and high school students thinking about college), you should be focused on these even more than finding a major that "matches" your career goals. Being able to write succinctly and clearly; being able to communicate effectively and work with others on a team, and being able to critically evaluate information are probably the most important skills to acquire in college. They are valuable in every job setting, and every employer expects you to have them. I may be biased, but this is why I encourage students to major or minor in sociology (humanities are also great for these) above and beyond the pre-professional majors. You will learn industry specifics in your job, but you won't get that job if you can't write well, speak clearly, and think critically.
What will help people in your field increase their earning potential?
Sociology feeds into a lot of different fields, all with very different earnings potentials, so it is hard to give sweeping advice for this. Sociology majors go into business settings, helping professions, media, law, and health care. Increasing soft skills, and learning to network well, will at least help you get the job that sets you on your desired path. Some facility with quantitative data analysis can be helpful in increasing earnings if you're headed into business but may also be helpful for those headed into non-profits, where you may be assessing projects or securing grants. For those headed into social work, an important choice is going to be where you get your Master’s degree, and how many placements you have there- these often lead to your first job so it's an important consideration. Depending on your future path, I recommend that students consider doing at least one internship and/or independent guided research project during their four years. It's an excellent experience, networking, and gives you something interesting to stand out during an interview. Last but not least, learn to negotiate. This can be especially difficult for women, as they are not taught these skills and are socialized to appear modest. Know your worth and get a mentor to help you practice asking for it! Organizations like the American association of university women (AAUW) run negotiations workshops that teach some of these skills