As 2020 comes to a close, upcoming college graduates are set to enter a workforce unlike any other in history.
There's a chance that they'll interview and train for their first full-time jobs entirely remotely. Down the road, forming relationships with coworkers and beginning leadership roles on a virtual basis can come with its own unique set of challenges.
Dr. Tim Hodges, executive director of Nebraska's Clifton Strengths Institute, recognized the need to prepare students for the new working world early on in the pandemic. He responded by creating "The Future of Work," a management course in the College of Business currently being offered during the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's three-week sessions.
"It's a course that we built for one of the five-week sessions last summer. We got great feedback from the students who took it, so when the need arose for some additional courses in the December three-week term, we decided to offer it again," Hodges said. "It's a topic I'm interested in, and it's a cool opportunity for students to be able to pick up an extra class before the semester officially ends."
Hodges designed the course with an emphasis on positive psychology.
"Obviously, students are entering the workplace at a difficult time, and there are a lot of things that are not in their control. I built the course so that they're more focused on what they can control to build up what's called 'personal agency,' which is their competence in being able to control a situation and move forward in a more confident manner," Hodges said. "My mission behind it is to help students be more confident and ready to control what they can as they enter an uncertain workforce."
In the class, students watch Ted Talks, listen to podcasts, read articles and the book "The Happiness Advantage" while covering topics like remote work, leadership through turbulent times, maintaining well-being and dealing with generational differences.
"It's a management course, so they come at it from the perspective of what they can do as an individual and as an aspiring manager someday to create conditions for their team to be successful in the future," Hodges said.
Hodges said he's excited about the wide variety of students enrolled in the three-week class.
"We've got a full roster of 50 students, and it's interesting to see the diversity of places they're coming from. I've got some students that are freshmen and some that are graduating in December, which is the day after classes are over. We've got some students that are working parents, and we have several international students - at least one of them is taking the class from home in Vietnam," Hodges said.
Like many other students enrolled in three-week courses this December, Lauren Kubat, a senior in the College of Business, said taking Hodge's class is giving her a career advantage she wouldn't have otherwise had.
"I enrolled in a three-week course because it allowed me to reduce my credit hour load in the spring and declare a double major. I am an accounting major and prior to the announcement that there would be the mini sessions, I didn't think I would be able to move my minor up to a major. This gave me an opportunity to do just that," Kubat said. "Following this class, I will be able to graduate on time in May 2021 with a double major in Accounting and Clifton Builders Management."
Though the sessions move at a fast pace, Kubat has enjoyed being able to enhance her resume while picking up skills for the future.
"The material I have learned thus far has already made me shift my perspective on work environments and also change some of my habits. Overall, the material/textbook has inspired me to live a more fulfilling life and hopefully provide that for my future employees as one of my career goals is becoming a leader in the workplace," Kubat said.