The COVID-19 pandemic has forever altered the landscape of the business world. To weather these drastic changes, businesses will need to adapt and innovate, which means hiring and promoting the right employees. While the pandemic has turned the labour market more competitive, there are new opportunities for those with the skills and knowledge to help organisations navigate through unprecedented times.
Pursuing higher education in business has always been one effective way to gain in-demand business skills and knowledge. But in the midst of a pandemic, what role might higher education play now? And can it still give you an edge when it comes to competing for jobs — both now and post-pandemic?
How Has the Pandemic Affected Businesses?
The global pandemic has dramatically changed the dynamics of the business world. Companies all over the world have had to close or scale back operations. The World Bank expects a five percent contraction in global GDP for 2020 and estimates that global growth could shrink by eight percent.
The pandemic has especially hit organisations related to travel and tourism, hospitality and event services, performing arts and entertainment and restaurants. Some of the largest brands have had to make massive cuts, such as:
- The shipping giant Maersk is planning to cut 2,000 jobs.
- Southwest Airlines has already laid off 28 percent of its workforce.
- The Debenhams, UK, had to cut 2,500 jobs.
Yet, other businesses have thrived. Companies like Zoom, Amazon, OakNorth, GrubHub, Peloton, Slack, and Publix have benefitted from the drastic shift in consumer demand due to the pandemic. While external factors have been largely responsible, these organisations still had to respond and innovate in order to beat out competitors.
For instance, Zoom certainly wasn't the only video conferencing service on the market. Yet the company’s commitment to quality and willingness to offer up to 40 minutes of free access to customers to try the product separated it from the competition. When people experienced how easy and effective it was to use, word-of-mouth marketing helped it become the favourite during the pandemic.
The takeaway is that while much is out of businesses’ control, when it comes to the pandemic, the most successful companies are the ones that have remained innovative and agile. The most innovative and agile companies are the ones that hire and promote the right employees. The labour market will no doubt remain highly competitive both during and after the pandemic. This makes it all the more important for job seekers to develop sought-after skills, knowledge and passion.
What Does the Pandemic Mean for the Job Market?
The job market will take time to recover as we continue through and beyond the pandemic. It’s difficult to know exactly how things will fall since much of this depends on the launch and effectiveness of a vaccine and the continued improvement in treatment and testing.
The pandemic has already caused greater pressure on manufacturers to increase domestic production while maintaining lower costs and consumer prices. Since consumers are not willing to pay higher prices during a recession, organisations that are able to keep prices down and please consumers will have a huge advantage. Keeping costs down does often mean cutting labour and not hiring.
But innovative companies are still hiring talented, skilled employees because these are exactly the type of employees who can respond to the increased demands of the current economy. In fact, many are optimistic that business will improve soon. Over half of a group of executives surveyed believe economic conditions will be better in six months. While the job market will take time to recover to pre-pandemic levels, the expected improvement means there will indeed be increasing job opportunities in the labour market.
Can Higher Education Help Job Candidates During (and After) the Pandemic?
Challenging times like these can offer the space to reevaluate your career trajectory. Losing a job, being spared time commuting to the office or having less social engagements gives you time to consider career goals and ask questions. You might consider:
- Are you happy with your current career?
- Are there certain skills or areas of knowledge that you’re lacking?
- How can you make yourself more competitive to advance in a career or make a more drastic shift?
The job seekers who stand out will be those who expand their business knowledge, adaptability and experience — despite the inherent difficulties of doing so. One proven way of doing this is by pursuing higher education in business. Earning an advanced degree in business equips you with valuable soft and hard skills, and it signals to employers that you possess initiative and drive.
If you’re interested in leadership positions, then an advanced business degree prepares you to take on greater responsibility. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey, employers expect those with advanced business degrees will excel in:
- Quantitative and qualitative analysis
- Cross-cultural sensitivity
- Innovation and creativity
- Core business knowledge
- Drive and integrity
Ultimately, pursuing higher education in business can help students learn to motivate, lead and inspire others. These are all necessary skills to earn management and leadership positions. Skills like these are vital for any business, and potentially even more so considering the economic effects of the pandemic and the increased need for forward-thinking leadership.
Why Is Pursuing Higher Education During a Pandemic Worth It?
If you have some flexibility in your budget, it might not be worth jumping straight into the next available job if you were laid off. Instead, it could be valuable piecing together an income through freelancing or temporary work and spending time developing skills or pursuing a graduate degree. Gaining higher education may ultimately lead to a more desirable long-term position post-pandemic.
Pursuing Higher Education Reveals Initiative and Drive
An investment in your career won’t go unnoticed by employers. While it’s important to have the necessary skills and knowledge — which pursuing higher education in business can offer — the willingness to learn can be just as important. Many employers highly value intrinsic qualities like curiosity and self-motivation.
In other words, employers don’t simply want to hire and promote individuals with the right experience and education. They want people willing to push themselves and remain learners in an always-changing business landscape. Pursuing higher education in business — even during a pandemic — demonstrates you’re committed to learning the latest marketing trends or management insights. You’re someone who takes your career seriously and is willing to invest money and time into it.
Pursuing Higher Education Can Offer More Career Opportunities
Business professionals with a graduate degree generally have more opportunities for advancement and earn higher average salaries.
In the US, those between the ages of 21 and 64 holding a master’s degree or higher earn nearly $USD 13,000 more per year on average. In the UK, the average salaries for Executive MBA, MBA, and Executive Master's are $USD 133,000, $USD 117,000, and $USD 96,000, respectively. The average salary in Canada for business professionals with an MBA is $CAD 79,076, with figures going up to more than $CAD 120,000. An advanced degree in business can be especially valuable in the areas of business strategy, technology management, finance, marketing and other leadership roles.
By pursuing higher education in business you can also connect with a network of business professionals and access professors and mentors with years of real-world experience. This translates to forming relationships in the field and building practical skills that can make an immediate impact on an organisation.
Ultimately, due to the competitive labour market, the benefits of a graduate education programme can set you apart even more than before the pandemic. In the current economy, employers have less leeway to make a mistake when hiring or promoting employees. They need individuals who are innovative and knowledgeable — employees capable of leading them safely into the post-pandemic future.
Explore the Value of Higher Education for Your Post-Pandemic Career
Aston's graduate business programmes are tailored to accommodate working professionals with management experience. Our online format allows students to enroll from any country in the world for optimal flexibility, convenience and global perspective. We have over 90,000 alumni working and living all over the globe.
Aston offers these online degrees:
- MSc Business & Management
- MSc Business Analytics
- Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA)
As a student, you’ll build a global network of business professionals through team engagement and networking events. You’ll also gain hands-on business experience by solving complex problems in the areas of leadership, management, strategy, analytics and more. You'll learn to collaborate with stakeholders from diverse cultural settings, which is all the more necessary as businesses continue to expand beyond their domestic markets.
Aston has earned triple accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA the leading accreditation bodies for business schools in the UK, US and Europe. Aston is among the elite one percent of business schools worldwide with all three accreditations.
Discover how higher education during the pandemic prepares you to lead the way in the marketplace of the future. Take the next step toward your Aston University graduate degree.