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 rough 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 you 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 and 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 ettiquette
  • 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.  Lets 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.  Although there are advantages to being “the first” if you are into that sort of thing, there can be a lot of head aches as well when dating someone that has never been in a relationship.  Joey learns a lot hanging out with Betty Sue and when the two break up, the next girl that Joes 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 that 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 that is 21 or 22 but 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, 

HRNasty 

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 that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”. 

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by HRNasty

college class schedule

The college class needed too land a job won’t be in the curriculum

The most important topic in your college class schedule

What is the most important skill to focus on with your college class schedule? Per the promise I made in the last post, this week I reveal what I believe to THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL NEEDED TO LAND A JOB.  Everyday, I meet with graduates who are applying for entry-level positions with their newly minted diplomas.  Unfortunately, 99% of them are missing the most important piece needed to solving the job offer puzzle.

The last two posts were centered on the skills and topics which should be included in the college class schedule during a 4-year education.  Two weeks ago, the topic was public speaking and why I think this is so important to landing a job and a successful career. Last week’s post pointed out why, English, Accounting and advanced skills in Microsoft Excel will help you stand out in the interview process and then after you are hired. I am not saying to go earn a degree in English.  I am saying that advanced skills in these areas are rare.  They are needed in every aspect of the job and will absolutely make a candidate stand out in today’s economy. 

If you are an effective public speaker, strong writer, and have a better than average understanding of Accounting and Excel; I am confident these skills will put you in the “must call” pile of resumes. Remember, if you are an electrical engineering major, everyone applying for the entry-level engineer position will have an EE degree.  If you have a general business degree, everyone applying for entry-level positions will have a Bachelors or an MBA. What will separate you from the rest of the pack are strengths with the above 4 tools. They separate you because so few candidates are familiar with them and they can be leveraged in any position.  

Effective public speaking and writing is needed to help you land a job and then communicate your ideas once hired.  With Excel, even if you don’t understand the business, you can be put to work on a task that can make a difference in the first week at a new job, and you don’t need to fully understand the business.  When it comes to Excel, it is very easy to prove advanced proficiency during the interview. I would be proactive in making the skill known. I list accounting because every company is working towards a bottom line and most employees don’t understand what that bottom line is.  Most managers assume their employees do not understand financials at even a basic level. Consequently, employees who understand financials are looked at as much more mature than their peers.      

These 4 skills are areas you can improve through your college career.  By the time you graduate, you can make an immediate and significant impact during the job interview and immediately after you are hired. These skills will help you stand out so that when it comes time for your 90-day review, you can not only check the appropriate boxes, but will have had a shot at adding value to projects your peers wouldn’t even be qualified for. 

As promised, this week I reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL FOR LANDING A JOB.  

What skill do I see most candidates missing?  What do most college class schedules lack during the a $40 – $100K, 4-year education?  Most college graduates have the credentials and degrees needed to land a job.  What most college graduates are missing the specific skills needed to interview their way to a job offer. 

This is a generalization, but I firmly believe that a lot more candidates would be receiving job offers if they knew how to go about the networking, resume, interviewing, and the salary negotiation process.  I don’t believe that this is a skill that graduates are including in their college class schedules. Because of this, my next business will be HRNasty’s job interview boot camp complete with CD’s and interactive videos.  But wait, if you act in the next 10 minutes I will throw in the top interview questions and answers!

Interviewing skills are not just needed so we can land a position, but so we can walk away with a stronger offer.  Knowing how to interview will also make us better interviewers.  Being a more accomplished interviewer will help you build a stronger team. 

Most of the recent graduates I meet fall into two categories. 

Category 1:

Received no exposure to any instruction or mentorship when it comes to finding a job.  Parents and college career counselors may have offered some advice, but the guidance is usually outdated.  I say this because of the old school questions and tactics I see candidates using in todays job hunt. Times have changed and this was proved when so many laid off baby boomers were not able to land jobs in 2007.  

Category 2:

This group is only one step ahead of group 1, but essentially in the same sinking boat.  This group of recent graduates has been through a single, one or 2-hour interview training session, conducted in a large group setting. One or 2 hours isn’t enough time to learn this dynamic skill. We spend 15 to 20 hours a week studying topics in our field of study for 2 years. We spend $50K to $100K or more over 4 years to qualify for a position. Why do candidates spend only 1 or 2 hours learning how to land the job we worked so hard to qualify for? It is tough to learn any skill in an hour, let alone THE single skill that will make the 4-year college investment pay off. Job landing skills are taken for granted at the university level. 

Category 3:

The third category is one I run into very infrequently, but I know it exits. Colleges with solid business programs will have a business club or business association. These clubs offer interview prep sessions and will not listed in the class directory. These informal groups will have an organized program, which will help students with their resumes and interview skills. The sessions are not just 1-2 hours, but are in the 20 – 30 hour range with multiple mock interviews. These candidates usually perform very well during an interview.  If landing a job was the goal of going to school then these candidates received what they needed out of their college experience. These sessions weren’t required to graduate mind you, these sessions were extra-curricular and outside the college class schedule. 

Remember, it isn’t the person most qualified for the job that receives the offer, but the person that is the most prepared for the interview.  

I remember hearing the story of fighter pilot training and I think the analogy is the relatable.  During the World War, it was recognized that if a fighter pilot made it through 7 dogfights, their chance of surviving the subsequent dogfights increased exponentially.  This number seemed to be the magic number where pilots learned enough to be successful and return home. Many pilots failed on their first mission and didn’t return. As pilots approached their 7th dogfight, they gained enough experience to be successful. With this in mind, the Air Force put together a training program that would provide the pilots with the proficiency level of a pilot that had 7 dogfights before sending them off to combat.

I try to use the same theory when I work with recent graduates by getting them to a level of comfort where they can be successful. A single mock interview won’t do it.  This is why I don’t care for the 2-hour seminar that covers networking, resume writing, interviewing and salary negotiation. Getting a candidate comfortable with the equivalent of 7 mock interviews does a lot. With 7 real life interviews, you get the experience, but you do NOT get any feedback on your performance. With multiple mock interviews, you get the most important piece of the puzzle, feedback on your answers and your body language.  We crash and burn in the mock interview, not in the actual dogfight.

If you are in school, my recommendation is to skip the 2-hour interview prep show.  My advice is to beg, borrow or steal your way to the interview prep series of classes put on by the School of Business or MBA program.  If you have already graduated, read and take notes on blogs like this one and Google “top 40 interview questions for “your position here”.  A degree isn’t enough anymore so don’t take the suggested college class schedule for granted.

See you at the after party,

HRNasty

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 that is good at something. E.G.  “He has a nasty fork ball”.

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