Much like Millennials who graduated college in the Great Recession, the class of 2021 faces grim prospects in the job market (it’s still improved remarkably from last year’s COVID-stricken market, however). Or at least that’s how they feel, according to a new survey from the education technology and publishing company Cengage.
Among respondents gunning for their first job, about half admitted to shying away from applying to an entry-level position because they felt they weren’t qualified. That anyone brand new to the workforce would feel their skills aren’t worthy of an entry-level job speaks to a glaring disconnect between them and the expectations set by companies, in addition to the misunderstanding recent grads have about their own aptitude for learning.
The survey itself also underlines a misunderstanding shared by both groups: We rarely, if ever, clearly define what a real entry-level job entails.
What is an entry-level job?
If something is truly entry-level, it calls for a worker to apply basic skills and display an appetite for learning the ropes of their field. A real entry-level job is designed for a recent graduate, and shouldn’t demand anything beyond basic skills required of someone in the bottom rung of a company’s hierarchy.
Why are they so hard to get?
Entry-level jobs tend to only be so in name. Much of the time, companies cloak more demanding jobs in an “entry-level” guise to lure more experienced, and, theoretically, more capable candidates. It’s a way to pay people less to do more, which is an underhanded tactic to be aware of.
Moreover, the job market has been increasingly competitive — at least until it was decimated by the pandemic. More graduates become job seekers each year, compounding the crunch of newcomers vying for the same positions. As the job resource site Indeed points out, the issue begins in college and perpetuates from there:
Class sizes are on a steady increase. Tuition prices share the same increase, but it fails to dissuade many high school graduates from entering college. Because of this significant increase, the primary reason why graduates find obtaining employment difficult is the sheer amount of competition.
It’s a sad reality of today’s job market, but luckily you’ll know it when you encounter a true entry-level position.
Good companies nurture professional development
A real entry-level job will provide some pathway to a more senior position, and the introductory nature of the job will be evident in the job listing. Instead of spearheading the kind of work of a seasoned employee, you’ll be expected to assist more than lead, and perhaps you’ll be afforded more responsibility once you’ve proven adept at some of the scutwork.
Most importantly though, you’ll know you’re truly in an entry-level position when you have a manager who’s interested in mentoring, or who at least acknowledges that you’re intent on scaling the ranks one day. Good mentorship is rare these days, but a good company will at least provide some semblance of career development for their greener workers.
Don’t be discouraged by a “lack of skills”
Unless you went to vocational school or studied something highly-applicable to a certain field like computer programming or marine biology, you shouldn’t have to worry about lacking the perfect resume. The reason you don’t have certain skills is because you’ve never had a full-time job before, which is no reason to despair.
No degree is devoid of value in the real world, despite the perception that only majors with immediate career prospects are worthwhile. The truth is, if you’re given the chance to develop your skills, you’ll know that you’ve landed a real entry-level position, and that’s why you should never shy away from applying.