October 19, 2019

What Does “Entry Level” Mean?

Looking for your first job can be confusing. It’s hard to know what to search for, and even if you do find a job that looks interesting, it’s hard to tell if you have the required experience to actually land the job. Here on One Day, One Job, we write about entry level jobs for new college gradates. If you’re a college student or a new college grad, then you’re in the right place. We’re going to take a look at the intricacies of what “entry level” really means, and help you figure out how to determine what companies really mean when they list experience requirements on a job posting.

What Does “Entry Level” Mean?

The only word that is commonly used to to identify jobs that are suited for new college graduates is “entry level.” Many companies use the term, but there are just as many that don’t. Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

An entry-level job is a job that generally requires little skill and knowledge, and is generally of a low pay. These jobs may require physical strength or some on-site training. Many entry-level jobs are part-time, and do not include employee benefits. Recent graduates from high school or college usually take entry-level positions.

Entry-level jobs which are targeted at college graduates often offer a higher salary. These positions are more likely to require specific skills and knowledge. Most entry-level jobs offered to college graduates are full-time permanent positions.

As you can see, there are really two definitions. For this reason searching for “entry level jobs” often won’t yield the results that you’re looking for. You’ll come across too many jobs that you’re overqualified for because you have a college degree, and you’ll also miss out on all the jobs from companies who don’t call their jobs “entry level.” You can try searching job boards that only list entry level jobs for new college grads, but those also offer limited options. The only way to consistently find great career opportunities at companies that are willing to hire new college graduates is to learn how to read between the lines in a job description.

Does Anyone Really Have No Experience?

Now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of what “entry level” actually means, we need to discuss how you can figure out which jobs to apply to as a new college grad with “no experience.” If you find an awesome job that says that it’s specifically suited to new college grads who have no work experience, then you’re all set. If you find a company with a college recruiting section on their website, then you’re also in good shape. That is, unless you come across a company that lists “entry level jobs,” but then includes job descriptions that say that they require “3 years of experience.” Before you rip your hair out in frustration, you should realize that every single company has a different interpretation of what a year of experience actually is.

One company that we worked with said that internships, volunteer work, coursework, membership in college organizations, and almost anything else that might help you hone your professional skills can be considered experience. That means that this company would actually list a job as being entry level and requiring 3 years of experience, but they would consider applicants who had never had a full-time job before. This is probably the broadest interpretation that we’ve seen, but you should make note of it.

There are also companies that say that they want someone who has 1-3 years of work experience. They mean what they’re saying. They want someone who has spent time in a full-time job. That doesn’t mean that they won’t hire you, though. Companies are often overzealous in the experience requirements that they list. They have an unrealistic perception of who the ideal candidate is. These are the types of jobs that many new college grads don’t have the confidence to apply for. That’s the wrong attitude. Many of these jobs are within the reach of new college grads who are able to sell themselves. The key is being confident enough to apply and framing your non-work experience in terms that make you sound like you’ll transition into the new job with ease. We’ve seen it work time after time.

How Do You Identify These Jobs?

Reading between the lines is tough. The most simple advice that we can offer is to apply for any job that you think that you can do. If the job description sounds interesting and doesn’t seem to be beyond your capabilities, go for it. As long as the experience requirements on the job posting are within the range of 1-3 years, you should at least get a look. Whether you’re scanning job boards, searching Google for jobs, or targeting specific employers, you need to realize that there is almost no consistency between companies when they list experience requirements. When you’re job searching, you need to look carefully at job descriptions and company websites to get an idea of their culture.

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