New entrants to the workforce often face a bit of a Catch-22: In order to get experience, one typically needs to have had a previous job, but in order to get a job, one often needs some level of experience. Of course, one might expect this Catch-22 not to apply to so-called “entry-level” jobs. After all, that wouldn’t make logical sense.
A Decline in Entry-Level Jobs
“As anyone who’s graduated from university or applied for their first job in recent years can attest to, something new—and alarming—has happened to entry-level jobs: they’ve disappeared,” writes Kate Morgan in an article for BBC Worklife. “A recent analysis of close to 4 million jobs posted on LinkedIn since late 2017 showed that 35% of postings for ‘entry-level’ positions asked for years of prior relevant work experience.
That requirement was even more common in certain industries. More than 60% of listings for entry-level software and IT Services jobs, for instance, required three or more years of experience. In short, it seems entry-level jobs aren’t for people just entering the workforce at all.”
Why Are Entry-Level Jobs in Decline?
There are several observations one can make about this recent trend. First, employers are, in some cases, becoming more demanding. This is interesting given the difficulty so many employers are having filling vacant positions.
In addition, applicants and soon-to-be applicants must find ways to escape the Catch-22 of job experience requirements. Unfortunately, this often means an internship, which may be unpaid or underpaid.
Finally, these first two factors combine to create an opportunity for employers willing to buck the growing trend and take a chance on true entry-level candidates. Those candidates may have great potential but are being passed over by other employers. Why? Because employers are increasingly finding that experience matters.
Employers aren’t being picky about experience for no reason whatsoever. They see value in experience and want to ensure they’re making the right hiring decision. The key then is to find some reliable proxy for experience. As mentioned above, this could include internships, but it could also include experiential learning qualifications from a traditional university or vocational college or even online micro-courses. Even letters of recommendation could help set apart an applicant with little or no real-world experience.
Even though many employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill open positions, many recent graduates and new entrants to the job market are struggling to find their first job. These two groups can find a way to help each other out to their mutual benefit if they can rely on some reasonable proxy for previous work experience.