Entry level positions are an imperative stepping stone for recent college graduates to put their foot in the door of their prospective workforce. Starting the path on one’s journey to a professional career always starts by attaining an entry level position to introduce you to the basic functions of your career.
These positions are more than just critical to one's start in the professional world, they’re necessary. However, in a recent effort to cut funding many of these professional companies have stripped themselves of entry level positions and training budgets. Instead, they now offer more sophisticated positions that typically require 3-5 years of prior professional work experience. In 2017, it was reported that 35% of entry job postings required adamant prior work experience.
In short, the term entry level doesn’t actually mean entry-level. This puts recent graduates at a significant disadvantage, as we are not being offered the same opportunities as those in the past. According to The Wall Street Journal, 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or don’t have a college-level job. The same study reported that two thirds of the same recent graduate population is anticipated to be underemployed for the first five years of working in their field.
The entry level system is deeply flawed, as it perpetuates economic inequality. Majority of current entry level positions, popularly known as internships, are unpaid. So you can acquire these important introductory skills that will stick out to an employer, but at a financial disadvantage. This unpaid labor, while it may pay off in the long run, doesn’t work for everyone. There is a 22% gap between those who work a college degree-level job and those who don’t. That is equivalent to over $100,000 in lost income in one’s first decade of employment.
Being a senior in college, I would be lying if I said that these statistics didn’t send chills up my spine. After working so hard over the past four years to obtain my Bachelors in Political Science, my biggest fear is that my hard work won’t pay off.
I am currently in my final semester of my senior year. Recently, I accepted the opportunity to partake in an unpaid internship for college credit. While I am excited for the work experience and the unique opportunity, I will admit that I am not looking forward to the unpaid labor. I already work two jobs, am a full time student and rarely have any time to uphold my mental health as it is. I fear that these fifteen plus hours per week will push me past my breaking point.
Not everyone is opportunistic and able to accept an unpaid position. Being lower class and completely financially self-sufficient as a young adult in today's society is difficult. Those who have to work full time minimum wage positions are kept from even being offered this type of unpaid entry level experience. These minimum wage or food service positions additionally are detrimental to the validity of a resume, says Alan Seals, an associate professor at Auburn University. This discredits the work that one has already done and additionally binds them to one area of work for the future.
So what are us college seniors left to do? How does one get that first job that can set the standard for the rest of their post-graduate career? The honest answer is that I don’t know. There is no set timeline for success, and there is additionally no requirement to uphold an occupation in your area of study. Everybody has a different timeline, and the definition of success is subjective. As long as you can keep yourself happy and healthy, that’s all that truly matters. Everything else will fall into place eventually.