The New Meaning of "Entry Level"

In the past, entry-level jobs were designed to teach college graduates the tools necessary to thrive in the workplace, but unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Many of the simplest or rather menial tasks traditionally performed by entry-level employees, such as data entry and file organization, have been replaced by automation and outsourcing.

What this means is recent college graduates can no longer expect to land a job with no prior professional experience, something evidenced by job postings. So what does “entry-level” mean now? TalentWorks analyzed the job descriptions of over 95,000 postings and found that 61% of all full-time jobs seeking entry-level employees require at least three years of experience.

What employers are looking for today are applicants who not only possess the skills needed for a specific position, but also individuals who know how to apply these skills to a professional setting. This saves the company valuable time and money as less training is required for an individual to become a contributing member of the workforce.

95% of employers say they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.

But how can a college student gain the necessary knowledge and experience employers look for while also attending college full time? The answer is internships.

Internships offer students exposure to the working world and provide insight as to what will be expected of them upon graduation. Beyond industry knowledge, employers look for students who demonstrate the ability to think critically, solve complex problems and communicate both verbally and in writing. Although an undergraduate degree provides students with a foundational understanding of these tools, work experience allows students to apply their learnings and skills to further refine them.

The value of an internship is best articulated through an example: A student who hopes to secure a position as a Content Marketer may choose to major in English or Creative Writing. While in college, the student may learn how to write eloquently worded five-page papers and analyze the meanings of complex passages, both of which are great, but they receive no instruction on how to construct memos, email newsletters, or blog posts, which are all Content Marketing skills employers look for. Without relevant experience, this student will most likely struggle to stand out in a pool of competitive applicants. However, if they hold internships during their freshman, sophomore, and junior years, this student will gain exposure to a range of professional writing styles, as well as pick up on tools needed to succeed in the industry.

Although this student learned the basic tools needed to become an impressive writer in a classroom setting, the internship experience is what was needed to further develop their skills in a business setting. In addition, internship experience gives a student the opportunity to work on their soft skills, such as critical thinking, communication, being a team player, etc.

Internships also allow students to pull together writing samples from their work to create a portfolio to show to future employers. This highlights skills, proving more useful than a collection of college essays on irrelevant topics, and shows a potential employer that you are dedicated to your future and can be an asset to the company from day one.

Okay, but if internships are so important, why don’t all college students have them? The answer comes down to numbers.

Around 1.5 million internships are offered each year, but there are over 19 million undergraduate students. Statistically, this means the chances of getting an internship is a little less than 8%.

This means you should start building up your resume as soon as you get to college. You may think you have four years before you even have to think about finding a job, but you will help yourself out immensely by being proactive and continuously focusing on advancing your future.

Simple things you can do to boost your resume and increase your chances of getting an internship are by joining clubs relevant to your major or desired profession, attending networking and industry speaker events, reaching out to your teachers to see if they have any internship connections, seeing if your college offers complementary courses on software such as Adobe Suites or Microsoft Office, or even finding a relevant on-campus job, like running social media for the Student Union. This will allow you to get ahead as you will slowly acquire valuable tools that you can build on as you advance in the professional world.

By making a conscious effort to do a few things each semester to improve your resume, you will position yourself as a desirable candidate upon graduation. You will have gained the fundamental skills needed to thrive in the job market and will be able to confidently explain to employers why they should hire you. Need help getting there? Check out our plans to get the support and guidance you need to get the competitive edge over other students.