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Entry level job, why landing this job right after school is so important

entry level job search

She didn’t take time off after graduation!

Why entry level jobs are so important:

The topic of the entry level job has come up with a number of friends graduating from college (seems I know a number of folks that want to take time off after graduation). These recent grads want to take a year off to travel, “find themselves” or “start a business”. The thought is that with the job market so tough, these graduates might as well do something other than look for employment. I always cringe when I hear this. Someone paid for that college education and it must be tough to not worry about getting an ROI on that 4-year investment. 

Entry-level jobs are thought to be some of the hardest positions to break into.  I disagree. I think that entry level jobs are the easiest to land because the employer knows they are looking for someone with no experience. What employers want when filling an entry level job is the right attitude. Think about it.  What kind of experience is the employer looking for when they know the candidate just graduated? This may sound harsh, but I think that many candidates just don’t how to go about their entry level job search.     

Hiring companies are taking a chance on recent graduates with no experience when hiring for an entry level job. Usually, the only data points available to make a hiring decision is the grade point average and how the attitude that is present in the interview. Prior behavior is the best indicator of future behavior and grades are an indication of prior behavior.  With no real world experience right out of school, the decision to hire for these entry level jobs will come back to grades, the school those grades were earned and the in-person interviews.  

Here is the main reason I don’t like to hear about college grads putting off their job search.  The first few years out of school are the formative years of your career, as well as the time where you will build a strong foundation for your future salary. Landing that entry level job as soon as possible after graduation (or before) is important because this position will set you up for the rest of your career. Land a job unrelated to your chosen field or with a lower than average salary, and your consequent positions and salaries will be impacted.  Put that job off one year, and you start the career chapter of your life behind the competition. 

Think of your entry level salary right out of school like you would the early contributions you make to your 401K.  These early contributions will compound over time and can make an exponential difference later in life. Start late on your 401K by 10 years, or even 5 years and you feel it towards the end of your career. 

A job looking for 1 or 2 years of experience may be willing to pay $45K a year, but if you were making $15.00 or $17.00 dollars an hour (approximately $30K – $35K a year) at your previous job, don’t expect to get bumped up to $45K. Expect to start at $30K or $35K and work your way up to the going rate.  

With this example in mind, I feel it is in the best interest of a recent graduate to do everything they can to try to land a job with a career path that leverages the chosen degree. If nothing else, establish a path for salary trajectory. A college degree and 1-3 years of corporate experience will provide you extra spring to your career launching pad, including: 

Solid work experience can be leveraged into your next position or promotion.  Those who put the career off are only playing catch up with their peers. More importantly, you will have learned a lot about yourself and how corporate life operates.  These are maturing years, and I (almost) consider them to be DOG years.  In these early years, 1 year is equal to 7 years of future career experience.  You will have the opportunity (I am not saying you will or that it is a guarantee) to mature more in the first 5 – 7 years of your career than you will later in your career.  You may go from Director to VP later in your career, but I would argue that the level of your corporate maturity will remain relatively flat at that point in your career.  

Don’t put off the entry level job 

If you decide to take a break, travel or start your own business for a few years right after school, this time off can be hard to overcome financially. Having a resume at 25 years old where the most important accomplishment is your college education will put you behind others that are searching for entry-level positions at the age of 21 or 22.  You are competing with candidates for the entry level job that will have limited or no real-world job experience and when given the choice of someone right out of school or someone who took a break with not much to show, my bet is on the recent graduate. 

Those first few years are critical to employers because they are under the assumption that a number of corporate values won’t need a lot of training. With 2 years of experience, you may need training on the specific responsibilities of the job.  You will NOT need training, or will need much less training on: 

  • How to manage your inbox
  • Email etiquette
  • How to go through a 90-day, 6-month and 1-year review. 
  • How to dress and behave in a 9-5 job.
  • What SMART Goals, OKR’s or MBO’s are.  You may not understand all three, but you get the idea.
  • Etc.    

Think of your early relationships with a significant other when you were back in high school.  I am confident this is more pronounced for women because guys mature later.  Let’s say Betty Sue is hanging out with Joey and this is Joey’s first relationship.  Betty Sue needs to train up Joey and explain to him how to be a good boyfriend.  There are advantages to being “the first” if you are into that sort of thing. There can be a lot of headaches as well when dating someone who has never been in a relationship. Joey learns a lot hanging out with Betty Sue. When the two break up, the next girl who Joey meets reaps all benefits of Betty Sue’s training. Joey hasn’t learned everything about relationships, but he is a lot better off than before Betty Sue.  

And the guy that is hanging out with Betty Sue next will reap all of her relationship frustrations.  He is the one that needs to deal with all of Betty Sue’s baggage because Joey didn’t know WTF he was doing.  Please, no jokes about HR being the place where bitter Betty Sue’s (or Joey’s) go to work.  

There are advantages to being with someone who has been in a few relationships, and one of them is that they have been “trained up”. 

This is why you will see a lot of job descriptions looking for 1 to 2 years of experience.  With one of two years of real-world experience, there is a lot less drama and training involved. 

We can all argue that a 25-year-old candidate is more mature than someone who is 21 or 22. At the end of the day, it won’t matter. Employers are looking for an entry-level candidate that they fully expect to train up these new hires. We are not looking for particular skills at this point. We are looking for a “go-getter / ambitious” attitude and this will be determined via the resume. A one or two-year gap won’t be the reflection of a “go-getter.”  

If you are working after graduation for a few years, it will be assumed that you have more “corporate maturity” than someone who wasn’t working that entry level job for a few years. 

So, don’t give up on your career before you conduct a methodical job search.  Entry level jobs are some of the easiest to land. 

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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