6 Education Routes to Get You Over the "Entry-Level" Experience Hurdle
- Student Tips
Deciding on your post-college career path is not only daunting, it can be downright depressing. Despite the fact that you devoted at least four years of your life to your studies, and probably have at least one internship under your belt, you still probably qualify only for jobs labeled "entry level."
What does this mean?
It means that they're jobs designed with you in mind--and jobs that can potentially allow you to grow into something bigger and better.
There are a few types of "entry-level" positions. There are those that do not require a college degree, such as working as a store clerk or a food server, and those that do require a degree.
You're likely to find entry-level jobs that require a degree in finance, marketing, consulting, and the healthcare industries. You'll need not much more than a degree and maybe an internship or two.
You may also find "professional" entry-level positions, which still put you at the beginning of your career, perhaps with one or two years of post-undergraduate work under your belt.
The value of an entry-level position? You gain experience and add to your professional network. The right entry-level position can take you anywhere.
Let's take a closer look at six routes to find the best entry-level fit for your needs:
1. Find a college job related to your major
Ideally, you've already visited your college's career services office. Start early. Develop a relationship with a counselor and figure out possible pathways. Your career advisor can point you in the right direction for job opportunities and internships.
Not sure what that direction looks like? Get a campus job in your major's department to get a sense of what an academic job looks like in your chosen field.
Another direction in an off-campus part-time job in your chosen field. How can you find one? That career services office again!
If your field is more research-based, you can also seek out undergraduate research opportunities. There's some debate about undergraduate research, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
If your major lends itself to freelance work, or you are an excellent writer or photographer, consider freelancing. You can add to your portfolio, gain some experience, grow your contacts, and do something you love to do.
Common freelancing gigs include website design, logo design, content writing, website writing, and basic photography.
The beauty of freelancing? You can decide how much or how little you want to take on and you can choose to work whenever you want.
Make sure you keep a portfolio of your work for future clients and career opportunities.
Just getting started? Check out freelance websites like Upwork and Fiverr to get a sense of what's out there.
Unfortunately, your most useful "entry level" experience might be an unpaying one. Fortunately, it will pay off.
In the winter of your first or second year in school, meet with your campus career office to understand internships. Start the application process early, interview for interesting internships, and find a good match.
Remember: you may want a variety of experiences, so multiple internships throughout your academic career aren't unheard of.
4. Try an international experience
If your budget allows, see the world, or at least part of it. Study abroad or intern abroad. International work experience not only gives you job skills, but it also offers you language skills and cultural awareness.
With international experience on your resume, you'll definitely stand out. A recommendation from an international employer or internship advisor is even better.
5. Volunteer in a related field
If interning or working aren't options and you prefer to work in the non-profit world, consider a volunteer opportunity. Reach out to organizations that interest you and see if they need a volunteer, even an hour or two a week.
You never know: volunteering can lead to internships and jobs down the line. Developing a solid relationship with an organization or company in a volunteer capacity also gives you the opportunity for a great reference, too.
6. Participate in experiential learning programs
Experiential learning experiences cover a range of experiences including volunteering and internships, but also service learning, study abroad, undergraduate research, and other opportunities.
Experiential learning contains the following elements: reflection, opportunities for initiative, opportunities for intellectual engagement, and a designed learning experience.
Want to find one? Start with career services. Larger campuses may have offices of experiential learning, too, in addition to university departments. Ask around.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.