3 Tips to Figuring Out What an “Entry Level” Job Really Is

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
Get The Job, Guides - 2 years ago

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Entry level positions are, typically speaking, the first job you’ll ever have in your chosen industry.

Traditionally, these jobs have required either very little or no experience of applicants, which makes a lot of sense — they’ve never worked in the industry before.

But as workers today have grown increasingly qualified thanks to early college work experiences along with other extra-curricular experience, it’s becoming tougher and tougher to enter a low level job.

Nowadays, even most supposedly “entry-level” jobs require at least some degree of experience, which can make finding a first-time job an exercise in futility.

Fortunately, your friends here at Zippia have put together a guide to help make this experience a little more manageable.


1. What Does Entry Level Really Mean?

When it comes to declaring a job as “entry level,” there are more of what you call “guidelines” than there are actual rules.

Pirate references aside, what we’re saying is that every company has a different individual idea of what entry level means, which can be as much of a hindrance to job seekers as it is a boon.

One thing that entry level jobs have in common is that they’re almost always the bottom rung — you can assume that you’ll be entering the company at the lowest possible level.

Traditionally, this has also meant that jobs marked “entry level” don’t require any experience at all — but as we’ve mentioned, this is no longer the case.

In fact, it’s a common sight at this point for entry level positions to require anywhere from 1-3 years of relevant experience in order for them to consider you for the job.

But there’s a silver lining here: just as each company has a different idea of what “entry level” means, so too does each company have a different internal definition of what constitutes “experience.”

2. Why Do So Many Entry Level Jobs Require Experience?

The simple fact is that job seekers these days suffer from an overabundance of competition.

Even with rising employment levels, there are still too many applicants for the same jobs, and the same education initiatives that help give new college graduates a leg up in their given industry have resulted in one of the most competitive workforces there has ever been.

That means that even in some of the lowest level jobs in a given industry, you might be expected to have some kind of relevant experience.

But fortunately, what that experience is can mean a lot of different things — including things you might already have done by sheer virtue of having been in college for a few years.

So if you see that a job requires a year or two of experience, don’t give up hope just yet.

Here are some things you might have already done that could count as “experience” for an entry level job position:

  • Classwork: Granted, this one can be kind of a stretch, but if you’ve taken classes that are relevant to the work that you’re doing, that can often be an excellent thing to bring up in an interview. Talk about specific projects you undertook, or if you were lucky enough to work with professors who are or were experts in their field, mention them by name.
  • Hobbies, Clubs, and Other Extra-Curriculars: Odds are that if you were even a little social in college, you probably worked with at least some form of club designed around one of your interests. In addition to the way that club might have allowed you to do work relevant to the job you’re trying to get, clubs and other social groups often give you experience that’s a little more universal — the kind of experience that lets you develop teamwork or leadership skills, for example.
  • Side Jobs/Non-Industry-Related Jobs: Lastly, unless you were a trust fund kid or had a particularly stellar scholarship, odds are that you had some kind of job while you were going to school. Regardless of whether it was directly related to the entry level job you’re trying to get, you ought to be able to draw some kind of line from the work you did there to the work you hope to do in the future. When it comes to side jobs, most hiring managers respect the hustle.

3. What Do You Do When You DEFINITELY Don’t Have the Experience You Need For an “Entry Level” Job?

Now for the bad news — depending on how complicated your industry is, there’s a distinct chance that a hiring manager will be a huge stickler on what constitutes relevant experience.

That means that no matter what side stuff you did in college, they’re just not going to hire you unless you have direct experience in your chosen industry.

If that ends up being the case, you can despair a little bit. It’s allowed.

After all, finding that experience in such a bloated job market can be like looking for a piece of hay in a needlestack. That is, excruciating.

But not, contrary to popular belief, totally impossible.

Here are some things you can do to gain the level of experience necessary for an entry level job in your industry:

  • Internships: If you can afford to live on the negligible (and often non-existent) pay that an internship offers, there are always opportunities out there for people with no experience to work in an industry for free. But it’s worth remembering that, for one reason or another, employers often look for younger people when they’re considering candidates for internships — so make sure you look for these while you’re still a spring chicken.
  • Work in a related (but different) industry: Sometimes, it’s best to just start looking for work wherever you can get it. That doesn’t mean you’re throwing in the towel — in fact, it’s best if the job you’re looking for is as close to your chosen industry as possible. But it does mean that you’re taking more of a long term approach to finding a job — one that keeps food on your table in the interim.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all for this one! Just keep in mind:

Even in cases where companies definitely mean that they only want to hire people with genuine industry experience, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a job without that experience.

It does, however, mean that you’re going to have to get creative.

It’s often the case that even though companies want to hire someone with a lot of experience, their expectations are unrealistic compared with the candidates that are actually available to apply for the job.

So if you can sell your non-work experience well enough, you might just find that you’re being seriously considered for positions that, on their face, would never have given you a second glance.

A little confidence goes a long way there too.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips for Identifying the Worst Companies to Work For
3 Tips for Answering the Question “Why Should We Hire You?”
3 Tips to Answering the Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

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