Entry-level jobs are down, but that doesn’t mean you’re out

Here we are. Another round of college graduates are about to head off into the professional world in the wake of the pandemic. As more vaccines become available in these next rollouts, it opens the door for new groups of people and gives hope of a more normal life to come. But the economic affects of this last year haven’t left the door quite as wide open for entry-level positions essential to college graduates.

The major matters

The reality of it is, even in a normal year, major matters. A study that was recently completed by Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman using data from Burning Glass Technologies, a labor-market analytics firm, showed that those in the visual and performing arts and communications/journalism industries dropped 43 and 42 percent. It’s important to note, however, that all job markets have seen drops to their labor-market. Something I, a soon-to-be journalism grad, can feel in my current job search. 

All is not lost in the post-grad job search though. The study suggests looking into “target occupations”, professions across a range of majors with solid salaries and where employers continue to hire at the entry level. They also suggest “lifeboat occupations”. These jobs typically require less than a bachelor’s degree but allow employees to gain important skills they can use to transition later.

Find a job with sellable skills

“When it comes to future prospects, there’s a big difference between taking a job on an IT help desk versus winding up as a barista.” Jeffrey Selingo and Matt Sigelman said in an article by the Wall Street Journal.

While there’s nothing wrong with working as a barista for a dream job, in fact service industry jobs provide great customer service experience, it’s important to make sure that it’s helping to build your resume in the right ways. If your major lends itself to a 9-to-5 office job, you’ll want to find work that puts you into that environment. Knowing how the culture and structure of an office works while getting used to the hours is going to benefit you when you finally land that dream job.

Using the communications and journalism majors as an example, the study suggests targeting industry occupations such as reporter, web developer and writer/author for their slightly higher availability. But let’s face it, there isn’t enough for everyone. “Lifeboat jobs”, albeit not everyone’s #1 choice, can offer you skills that employers are looking for. The study shows “lifeboat jobs” like a computer user support specialists and loan officers can make a salary up to $55,000 with some benefits. It’s worth it to take a deep dive into job search sites like Indeed or LinkedIn to find entry level jobs that match key resume builders. The nice thing about LinkedIn is that you can see if any of your connections also work at the companies you’re applying to. Don’t be afraid to reach out, you never know where a connection may take you.

We’re not saying to completely abandon the career path you set out to achieve, but there is the hard truth that you may not get it directly out of college like you expected.  A look into the future of an automated economy also shows an increase in jobs for positions like UI or UX (User Interface/Experience) designers, writers, and developers averaging a salary of almost $100,000. Having knowledge about design, react javascript, and robotics can help you potentially transition into those jobs later on. Even landing a job at a tech company as a receptionist or customer service representative could gain you that tech knowledge needed for those higher level jobs. 

Reach out to EVERYONE

There’s nothing more true than the age old saying of “who you know matters”. Having that one mutual connection can be the difference between getting the job or not. That may seem a little dramatic but it’s true. Reach out to old bosses, past coworkers, your parent’s friends, older graduates, alumni, the mail man (okay maybe not that one), but you get the idea. Ask if they know of any opportunities that would be good for you and set up an informational interview. If you can, get in touch with someone in the company you’re applying to and ask them out for a zoom coffee. you could even send them a virtual gift card to their favorite coffee place as a way to “buy” them a coffee on you. The Starbucks app offers a lot of themed gift cards and Venmo is always an option as well.

Then, when you finally get that informational interview, come prepared with questions and make a good impression. You are the one who asked them, don’t make them carry on the conversation. Also, don’t log on looking like you just rolled out of bed either (we’ve all done it). Get up, eat a good breakfast, and put on a professional outfit that you feel confident in. If you can, casually mention that you’re applying to a position in their company, but don’t push it. It’s up to them whether or not they mention you to recruiters.

Lastly, get their address. No, this does not mean go to their house. Once the informational interview is done, you want to send a follow up thank you email and then send them a handwritten thank you letter. SEND. THE. LETTER. People love to receive handwritten letters and it shows that you’re proactive. Stamps and stationary are cheap and writing is free. It’ll be worth the investment.

Keep learning

For those college students that still have a year or more left in their studies, look into classes that may not be in your major but could be sellable skills that will make you stand out. Take an app design class or take a class that teaches you software systems such as Adobe Suites, Excel, and some CMS systems to name a few. You can also check out Surviving the Pandemic – What Technology Our Team Has Been Utilizing for more ideas. 

However, even if you are graduating at the end of May 2021, don’t think that your learning needs to stop there. Look into online courses and programs that can teach you these sellable skills if you didn’t get to them in college. Many industry professionals continue to attend webinars, speakers, classes, and other informational sessions to keep up with trends and changes in the marketplace/industry all the time. Zoom has also made it so much easier to attend such events by removing travel time and increasing accessibility. 

The hard reality is, they are just not that many jobs right now. As someone who is about to graduate, I am all too aware of that fact. But there are things we can do to obtain that workplace experience so that we can end up in the jobs we went to college for. Try out your top jobs first, you may actually get them––but if you find yourself struggling in the entry-level job market, use some of the tips above to help you find something that will still benefit you in the long run.