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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  • William Turner

    “You’ve probably seen this too. Someone takes a job – just to “have a job” – and leaves for something better within 6-12 months.”

    For me to care at all about the company losses in this situation; I would need to see the company has a commitment to the employee. The days of picking one company and working there until you retire are gone. You will work for the company for as long as it takes them to find someone cheaper and better. So what is wrong with employees doing the same with employers? The job market is flooded with college grads that are applying for jobs that are meant for non degree’d people. My ex-wife went to school to become a paralegal. She does not work as a paralegal and never has. Why? Because too many lawyers are out of work and are flooding the paralegal market. Law firms are hiring lawyers with a decade of litigation experience to work a $14 an hour job that is disposable. They know the lawyer is gone as soon as he finds better work; but, they don’t mind. They have many more lined up to fill his spot. So why not leverage him for as long as you can? Too many companies have a big pool of cheap and highly skilled workers to chose from. And what is the non grad to do? Go get a degree and wait inline for the same job he was doing 10 years ago but with a now lower wage? No thanks!

    I worked as a modular furniture installer 15 years ago and made $15 an hour. Well long story short; 9/11 happened and I spent the next 14 years in the military. Once my body was beaten and battered enough for medical discharge, they did just that…medically discharged me. Now I am looking for work again and thought I’d like to go back to what I was doing. Guess what? They want 3-5 years “recent” experience and only pay $12-14 an hour. That is absurd!!

    • Paul__Revere

      Same here, I joined in 2001. Spent 12 years. Top Secret clearance. Cetified instructor, leadership school graduate

      I am so sick of hearing the “we value military experience” bullsh**…as they follow up with a $12/hr job offer at a rental car company or home depot.

      I left the military with a 78k annual salary. I see now my biggest mistake was leaving. What I should have done was stay and been spared this future misery by a mortar shell.

    • P Kennedy

      OK, where are these paralegal jobs that WILL take someone with a JD, let’s say 16 years out of law school and has finally won their first case? When I was in law school no paralegal job would TAKE someone with a JD. (2000).

  • deb2000

    I have to agree with the others. Employers have their pick of the cream of the crop.There are plenty of applicants out there who have years of experience and are only too glad to take a so-called entry level job with low pay. Entry level jobs are becoming a thing of the past.The trouble with telling people go get a job say in retail or even in fast food just to get get work experience is that those jobs also require previous experience because every opening has at least 20 to 30 or more applicants. Not only that, in Canada they are trying to bring in cheap foreign labor to take these jobs.

  • Jack Specier

    graduated from top 15th university in the world, 3.6 GPA in chemical engineering. sent out 600 carefully tailored resumes for entry positions. either rejections or ignored. #rejectionGOD.

  • Whodeehoohoo

    And they wonder why the IT industry spawns so many malicious hackers that either steal funds from companies that won’t hire them, or simply destroy their systems by using commonly found penetration tools to gain access and release a payload. I can’t blame the hackers actually. If no one will hire them, then companies can’t complain when those folks steal from them.