Entry-Level Jobs Are No Longer Entry-Level

There’s a nasty trend sweeping the entry-level job world. At first, I overlooked it, thinking it was some kind of mistake. But now, I’ve seen it so often, and it’s clear, this is no mistake.

What’s going on? Take a look at the qualifications section of any entry-level job posting. Employers all say they want at least one or more years of experience. At least one year of experience required for a job that is supposed to be for someone right out of college?!

That’s right. Many employers are looking for recent grads with some work experience to fill entry-level roles. Or perhaps it is a thinly veiled way of attracting employees who graduated a few years ago and may be looking for a next job.  I can’t speculate about the actual motive.  But I do know that many recent grads are perceived as “not ready” for entry level positions.  Here’s why:

  • Employers have had negative experiences with recent grads who accept positions that aren’t the right fitYou’ve probably seen this too. Someone takes a job – just to “have a job” – and leaves for something better within 6-12 months.  While I would have to fault the employers as well for not more diligently ascertaining the employee’s commitment, it has left many companies with more than a distaste for the recent grad.  An employee that leaves a company is costly, especially if it is within the six months.  According to data from “WorkSource Oregon,” it can cost 150% of an employee’s annual salary to replace them due to lost productivity, cost of hiring a new employee and administrative costs of terminating an employee.  In addition, benefit costs as a percentage of total compensation are about 30% and training costs can be significant.  It takes about 5 months for a new employee to contribute 75% of ideal productivity – so the first several months of employment are clearly costly.
  • Companies today have higher expectations for their entry level employeesThey want their new hires to already have skills like problem solving and critical thinking and they are less willing to have them learn on the job.  Internships and volunteer work can help them develop these skills, as well as providing them with the familiarity of working in an office environment for people with different personalities and management styles.

Entry level candidates are lacking the skills needed to advance beyond that first position. It is thought that students are not graduating with the skills or background employers need. This may be as a result of a disconnect between traditional college curriculum and the skills employers are seeking in today’s grads.   Often, what the college graduates are interested in is not what employers are willing to pay for.

With this attitude from employers, what should college students and recent grads do?  Change your attitude. Your first job probably is not where your career will begin and end. Look at your first job as the beginning of your professional career. Make sure you pursue and choose a position that will help you get relevant experience to the career you want to pursue. Take a job that will allow you to develop valuable skills. If you just take a job to have a job, you are likely to be the victim of the Quarter Life Crisis.

The ideal is to start planning when you first enter college.  That might not be possible for you now, but tell younger siblings and friends to apply for internships and volunteer opportunities early.  Pay it forward.

Lesley Mitler is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs. An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Smart Money and dozens of other publications.

  • noyb

    I’ve always considered that when they say “entry level” and 2-4 years of experience it’s a big red flag that the company is cheap and trying to take advantage of this crappy job market. Ironically, it’s the same corporations whom have created this job mess. Corporations are doing everything to pay their employee’s less and less, while giving 200-300 times the avg employee’s pay to the CEO. My solution? I dropped out of the rat race and work independently for my own clients. I pay myself fairly, something I’d never get anwhere in corp america..

  • http://scottbomb.com/ scottbomb

    What about those of us changing careers? I have over 18 years experience in inside sales, acct. management, and customer service. I’m also a junior in college working on a degree in computer information systems. Everyone says “get a help-desk job”. All those “help-desk jobs” demand 2+ years experience in the SAME FIELD. Nevermind all my other business experience? Very troubling.

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  • James

    I have been searching for an entry-level job for 4 years now and I have personally looked at the very least 2-3 million jobs in the “entry-level” category and the average is 2-5 years of experience being required, and they not only want experience they want you to have already had that job title before… talk about a catch 22. It will catch up to them when people in their 20s and 30s are broke and the economy collapses due to all our parents supporting us because its difficult to get a job anywhere even fast food and retail. And I have a bachelor’s degree, an MBA and a year or two of projects and college experience with good grades (3.98 GPA).

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