Recent college graduates face Covid, intense competition and three years of experience required for entry-level employment

If you’ve recently graduated from college, or are a parent of a college student, you’ve probably noticed a disturbing, frustrating, and frightening trend. Even though we are in a strong job market, with over 10 million jobs posted, it’s incredibly difficult for young adults of Gen Z to get their first job.

Positions posted as “entry level” require approximately 3 years or more of relevant experience. Graduate degrees, mastery of certain software and technologies, licenses and certifications are also required.

It’s more than anecdotal stories from frustrated Gen Z graduates and their parents questioning thousands of dollars spent on a college degree. A study of around 4 million job postings posted on LinkedIn, the leading job search and networking platform, found that around 35% of job postings for ‘entry level’ opportunities required three years or more of relevant previous relevant work experience. It is becoming more difficult for certain sectors. Over 60% of entry-level software and technology services jobs require at least three years of experience.

To add insult to injury, the new first job is now an internship. This is the sad answer to the age-old question of “how can I gain experience if no one gives me the chance to gain experience?” An internship, some paid and some not, is the new default way to gain practical experience. After taking over a hundred thousand dollars in tuition debt, this result was not mentioned in the college brochure.

Sometimes you need an internship to get an internship. As many high quality jobs are found in places like Silicon Valley and New York, most young people cannot afford to live in these ridiculously expensive places, especially if they are doing an internship for the experience and not money.

It’s about the brand for the way many companies act towards workers. On the other side of the spectrum, older workers are being kicked out of the labor market and taking early retirement, but not of their own choosing. It’s not just a question of age. People over twenty to over thirty years of experience tend, on average, to earn more than their younger peers.

To cut costs, management let these seasoned employees go to hire cheaper Millennials in their mid-twenties and early thirties. Companies have also relocated jobs from large, expensive cities such as New York and San Francisco to lower-cost locations. Then they moved positions to other countries around the world to find cheaper labor.

The job application process has become highly automated. Liberal arts graduates in fields like psychology find that keywords on their resumes may not match the investment banking positions they are looking for. As more and more people attend universities and graduate, the competition has grown fierce.

Being in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t help matters. Companies have suffered a whiplash by changing their employee return dates in the office. They’re trying to find hybrid and other working models. Polls show a significant percentage of workers say they will quit if they are forced to start returning to an office. With these challenges, it makes sense that management’s top priorities should be the needs of their current employees, before recruiting new people.

Lately, an uncomfortably high number of graduates are unable to use their degree to find employment in their field of study. The first rung of the corporate ladder is essential to long-term professional success. It’s easy to get stuck in a role that wasn’t your first, second, or even third choice. They may be stuck in this space for a few years to come. The more time passes, the more difficult it becomes to find work in your chosen field.

The unemployment rate for college graduates is above average. Over 40% of recent college graduates are underemployed. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, college graduates hold jobs that do not require a college degree. The Wall Street Journal reported on a study which found that “since the start of the pandemic, hiring for undergraduate university positions has fallen 45%, more than for any other education category.”

Even if it sounds daunting, don’t give up hope. In addition to submitting resumes, consider networking. Find alumni, family, friends, neighbors, and others who can suggest leads for new employment or who could make a personal presentation to a target company. Contact recruiters who specialize in your field. Actively participate on LinkedIn to get noticed.

Keep trying, stay positive, and eventually you’ll find the right job. Careers are marathons, not sprints. Even if you start slowly, with drive and determination, you can catch up and eventually win the race.


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