Even so, there is some good news for career starters: 1.5 million entry-level jobs are open in the U.S. right now, according to LinkedIn data, which shows a real-time picture of the global job market based on insights from millions of members, jobs, companies and schools.
What's more, there are certain skills in demand across all industries that can help grads stand out from the crowd, start their careers on the right foot and position themselves for advancement as the economy recovers. Having the right skills can make all the difference, even in difficult times.
During the Great Recession, for example, a large subset of the class of 2009 chose to forgo an immediate job search to pursue additional education and upskilling, setting themselves up to be better positioned for opportunities as the economy began to recover the year following. Importantly, data suggest that did not delay those grads' career progression.
The same might be even more true for today's grads, who have far greater access to a larger variety of upskilling programs than their predecessors. Acquiring new and relevant skills is no longer limited to going back to school to earn a graduate degree. From short-term credential programs to skill-specific online courses, graduates can choose from many paths to pick up the skills necessary for success in a rapidly changing workforce.
According to LinkedIn's new "Grad's Guide to Getting Hired," many of the most in-demand competencies — the ones most requested in job postings across every industry — are soft skills, like communication and leadership. While colleges may not offer courses called "Leadership 101" or degrees in critical thinking, these are skills that can be learned. Maybe you've acquired them while volunteering or participating in school clubs and organizations. Like technical skills, all of them can be developed, polished and leveraged to make yourself stand out in a crowded post-Covid market, no matter your original area of study.
Here are six of the most in-demand skills you should have in your career toolkit.
As Covid-19 continues to impact the way companies do business, strong customer service skills remain vital. Employees who know how to ensure that customers feel valued, especially as many services are conducted online without that face-to-face element, are in high demand. In fact, we found the role of customer service specialist to be one of our top entry-level jobs right now.
Those that know how to innovate and foster customer loyalty are even more in demand. Whether you plan to go into this space or not, it doesn't hurt to learn the foundations, finer techniques and the power of creating customer value.
Leadership is not just a skill for managers. It's a sign of self-awareness and authenticity and one that can take your career to new heights when honed.
Opportunities to lead present themselves every day, and that's never been more clear as employees lose the in-person mentorship they might have grown accustomed to and workers must make difficult decisions when confronted with situations that could endanger the health and safety of their colleagues and customers.
Being able to project clarity, credibility and self-confidence — the characteristics of a well-developed executive presence — amid stressful and uncertain circumstances is quickly becoming table stakes in our new world of work.
Communication skills are even more important as Covid-19 has led to a dramatic increase in employees working remotely, a change that is likely to stick around after the pandemic fades.
Effective communication foundations will always be an asset in the workplace, no matter your function or industry. Start by learning how to better pitch yourself to employers, helping you stand out from the crowd at a time when so many will be applying for the same jobs. Also, brushing up on your body-language skills will help you more effectively communicate, and empathize, with your colleagues and managers in a newly digital workspace.
Even before the pandemic, the pace of change and volume of information employees encounter each day made it difficult to make the right decisions.
The result: People largely rely on biases and uninformed gut feelings that cloud their judgment and draw them to the wrong conclusions. The world is now more confusing and overwhelming than ever, and well-developed problem-solving skills — like critical thinking and rational analysis — will be vital in navigating the demands of a post-Covid workplace.
As companies struggle with the complexities brought on by Covid-19 — from team members working remotely to staff shortages brought on by furloughs or layoffs — mastering important operational and management concepts like scrum and Six Sigma will be key.
How is it that some brands are able to stand the test of time, enduring fluctuating market and consumer demands?
Covid-19 has started to reveal which of today's brands have this staying power and which do not, which brands are so well-defined and executed they can outlast even a pandemic that has dramatically altered how customers view and interact with the products and services they use.
Marketing plays a large role in this, and companies are looking for employees who understand how they can best connect with consumers even in challenging times.
Spending time learning these skills, which will be necessary to thrive in today's ever changing world of work, will help career starters get ahead as the economy recovers. And consider making it a habit. Lifelong learning can bolster your resilience in economic downturns as well as advance your career.
—By Emily Poague, vice president, LinkedIn Learning
For more on the convergence of new technology and the future of work, request a ticket to join the CNBC @ Work Spotlight virtual event on June 18, featuring VMware's Pat Gelsinger, Honeywell Connected Enterprise's Que Dallara and Genpact's "Tiger" Tyagarajan.