Opinion | Entry-level jobs don’t exist anymore

By Kelly Xiong, Staff Columnist

If you’re frantically scrolling through LinkedIn, Handshake or Indeed looking for jobs and internships like me, you probably noticed that the standard for entry-level positions has risen exponentially. The idea of entry-level jobs is practically disappearing before our eyes.

For many college students and recent graduates, the search for post-graduate jobs seems almost impossible. Since 2017, 35% of entry-level positions posted on LinkedIn required years of prior relevant work experience. To meet this experience requirement, not only are we expected to start working nonstop from our sophomore or junior year of college until graduation, but the jobs we do take on must also be relevant to our future career field. 

College is a place where we begin to figure out who we are and what we want to do in life. For many students, the major they come into college with isn’t always the same one written on their diploma — and that’s perfectly fine. Around 50-75% of all undergraduate students change their major at least once. 

No one should be expected to have the rest of their lives planned out at the ages of 18 to 22. But the workforce seems to think otherwise. We are rushed to start working early on in our college careers in order to gain that highly valued job experience without ever thinking if it’s what we actually want to do. 

For many students, internships are how they break into a certain career field. But many people can’t afford to accept 10 to 13 weeks of unpaid or low-paid labor — especially when economists predict we may enter a recession soon. The economic situation in our country has slowly declined over the past year, and that just makes covering expenses harder. More than 40% of interns are unpaid throughout their internship, but most students are paying for their education and bills, which makes taking on an unpaid internship a privilege many don’t have. In turn, this ends up hurting their chances in the future when it comes time to look for a job. 

Not everyone can handle a job while in college that’s related to what they want to do in the future, especially if that job pays little to nothing. Sometimes it’s just about finding a way to pay for tuition, bills or groceries. Many Pitt students take on some sort of on-campus job or work in food service because it provides a means of income for the time being. 

Besides writing for The Pitt News, I myself also work at the Teaching and Learning Center at Alumni Hall. It has no relation to my future career, but it’s how I afford to pay my bills and groceries. It should be the skills you take away from the job rather than where you worked that matters most. 

Almost 70% of all college students work while enrolled in school. The emphasis on prior relevant experience seems to almost disregard the hard work of student workers who worked to afford college. 

Campus jobs or internships aren’t the only way a student can learn valuable skills. Participation in extracurricular activities, such as clubs or team sports is also a learning moment in a student’s college career. It gives students the chance to hold leadership positions, work as a team and develop networking and time management skills. These are also all transferable skills that are super beneficial once entering the workforce. My involvement at The Pitt News has definitely made me a better writer, but on top of that, I have also learned to work and communicate with others in the office — whether that’s as a copy editor or opinions writer. I have also learned leadership skills through my club — the Fashion Business Association — by taking on e-board positions. Learning to delegate tasks among members and taking initiative is a skill that transfers across almost all careers. 

Extracurriculars might be the closest a student can get to “prior relevant experience,” given that not everyone has the ability to take on an unpaid or low-paying internship. But this shouldn’t hold them back if they have skills learned from other areas, especially considering that current juniors, seniors and recent graduates have had internship opportunities taken away from them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We are all trying our best coming out of a global pandemic, and employers don’t seem to understand that. Regardless of the intimidating and heightened job requirements, don’t let them deter you from even applying. Even if you feel unqualified, apply anyway. There’s a reason why the job posting is still up. 

Kelly Xiong writes primarily about personal health and wellness. Write to her at [email protected].