Entry-Level Jobs Are No Longer Entry-Level

Jolene Pilgrim
23 Aug 2017

When you think of entry-level jobs, a few common qualities probably come to mind.  Most will ask for a High School diploma while others may even prefer a college degree, either generalized or specifically in an area applicable to the given job.  Soft skills such as the ability to communicate, work well with others and keep data and information well-organized may also be on the menu.

What you don’t expect to see in an entry-level position, however, is a call for one, two or more years of experience.  After all, doesn’t that go against the definition as we understand it of an entry-level job listing?  It turns out that in today’s market, employers are expecting more than just a college degree and may even be dismissing recent grads with no prior experience, regardless of the position being listed as not requiring any work history in the field.

The Bias Against Recent Grads

While the requirement of experience for entry-level work is a new phenomenon, it’s one that is rooted in a long-standing issue.  Employers in many companies have a general dislike of recent grads fresh on the job market.  If you’re on the receiving end of the disdain, it may seem more than unfair but employers often have good reason for their reluctance to hire fresh out of school.

Employees fresh out of school are often looking for a job for a job’s sake, in other words, employment to pay the bills.  These types of acceptances can lead to temporary positions and high turnaround, which is bad for a company’s bottom line.  According to some studies, it can cost a company as much as 150% of a person’s salary to replace a short-term employee.  This includes things like training time, loss of efficiency and covering overtime for employees left behind to fill in.

In addition, while the job market is much improved there are still numerous qualified candidates with experience that are underemployed in part-time positions.  These would-be employees are often willing to take a pay cut for an entry-level position in their field in order to secure a long-term assignment.  The result is a number of employers who know they can offer a job as entry-level with corresponding starting salary while expecting something more in the way of job history or hands-on experience.

So What’s a Recent Grad to Do?

If our frank analysis and your own experience in reviewing recent entry-level job openings has left you with a doom and gloom view on your potential employment prospects, take heart.  All is not lost in the entry-level market and there are a number of steps newly minted graduates can take to help set themselves up for entry-level-plus success.

While you’re in school, whether it be high school, trade school, college or beyond, consider taking on an internship, volunteering with a non-profit or community group in your field or working with a leading expert on research or publishing in your desired area of employment.  While not technically “work” experience, this type of relevant background will both let your potential employer’s know you’re serious about working in the area and show them that you have more hands-on application in the position than a standard, wet-behind-the-ears recent graduate.

If you want the best chances of scoring that -just-out-of-work position, look for openings that are applicable for your major, degree or study concentration.  This will help you rise above the candidates that are looking to “just get employed” which makes you more attractive to potential employers.  If you’re genuinely interested in a position which you may not have relevant practical experience for, consider pleading your case in a cover letter (yes, those still exist).  Writing a paragraph or two about why the particular career is a passion or something you see yourself interested in can go a long ways to showing you’re interested in the company for the long haul.

Article updated from the original August 23, 2017

Jolene Pilgrim