Entry-Level Jobs Aren't So Entry-Level Any More

Julie Shenkman
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Many recent graduates are struggling to find work due to the increased requirements of entry-level jobs. Young people without college degrees are having an even tougher time. Entry-level jobs today require more skills and experience than in the past, which puts more pressure on young people who are looking to take their first steps into the job market.

In July 2014, unemployment among 20- to 24-year-olds was at a historically high 11.3 percent. One reason why these young people are having so much difficulty in finding employment is the experience paradox: an ever-increasing number of entry-level jobs require experience, but newly minted graduates have never had an opportunity to gain any relevant job experience.

Due to the recession that has been plaguing the economy for the last few years, struggling companies can no longer afford to invest time or resources in training new recruits. Instead, an increasing number of companies have ramped up the requirements of their entry-level jobs in an attempt to get job-ready candidates.

Young people looking for their first jobs may also find themselves competing against experienced professionals who were made redundant when companies were forced to downsize during the recession. The large numbers of experienced people hungry for work have allowed companies to increase the demands that they place on entry-level workers.

Another factor that has changed the face of entry-level jobs is automation. According to Kathy Horgan, Executive Vice President of State Street Corp., many tasks that would once have formed part of an entry-level job description are now done automatically. Instead, the entry-level workers are expected to carry out much more highly skilled tasks, such as dealing with software glitches, corresponding with clients or identifying problems with the automation process.

Entry-level jobs that involve "just following a checklist" are quickly dying out, according to David Vogel, career-development office manager at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. Today's entry-level jobs place strong demands on new recruits to think for themselves, solve problems and take on more responsibilities than ever before.

In light of these changes, job seekers looking for entry-level jobs need to set themselves apart from the competition. An application for an entry-level position needs to show that the candidate has a deep understanding of the role, as well as highlighting all relevant experience. Some graduates gain direct job experience through internships, while others are able to leverage related experiences that they gained through extracurricular activities while at college.

Times are tough for entry-level job seekers. With companies demanding more skills and experience from new recruits, as well as greater competition from more experienced professionals, graduates applying for entry-level jobs need to work harder than ever before to stand out from the competition.

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


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