Jennifer Stiegler-Balfour, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and principle investigator of the Reading Comprehension and Cognition Lab, was recently interviewed by Zippia, a website that helps job seekers find new career options and land employment.
Stiegler-Balfour was included amidst a panel of prominent academics from across the country who offered their expert analysis on how the COVID-19 pandemic and other forces have affected the employment outlook for today’s psychology graduates and the workplaces they will join.
Stiegler-Balfour emphasized that so-called “soft-skills,” those aptitudes that don’t necessarily show up on a resume but come to light in an interview or any number of workplace interactions, are more important today than ever before. “For example,” she explained, “many employers are looking for graduates who have excellent communication and listening skills, are able to problem solve, manage their time well, are team players, and adapt easily to new situations.” She went on to explain that psychology majors have a leg up on acquiring these skills and employing them in the workplace, since many psychology programs, including the one at UNE, emphasize them.
When asked to opine on how she expects emerging technologies to impact the field of psychology in the years ahead, and with it, the suite of tools graduates will need to succeed in the workforce, Stiegler-Balfour explained, “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many of us to work and collaborate remotely at a level that was hard to imagine a year ago. It has really increased the importance of possessing strong computer literacy in this day and age.”
But just because today’s students are comfortable participating in Zoom calls or collaborating with partners on remote projects, academic institutions shouldn’t assume they possess all the skills to navigate the bright, pixelated future according to Stiegler-Balfour. She explained: “I think it would be a mistake to assume that just because today’s college students or young graduates have grown up with different technologies and devices that there is no need to teach, for example, skills for evaluating the credibility of online resources or how to use vast amounts of information to their advantage — and not their downfall.”
Ultimately, Stiegler-Balfour made the case that a degree in psychology offers today’s graduates a multitude of potential career paths beyond that of professional psychologist. “Today we are seeing students apply their psychology degree in a variety of areas ranging from mental health and education to business, research, and politics,” she explained. “The flexibility that psychology students have as they enter the workforce and chart their career path is really exciting.”