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Why the “entry-level” graduate job market is barbaric

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Graduating university is stressful in itself, but trying to find an entry-level job is another beast entirely. I struggled to find my casual job, which I ended up getting via connections. I’m now discovering how hard it is to secure a graduate-level employment opportunity without being bombarded with the requirements that come along with an entry-level position. The worst part for me is that the majority of these positions do not require or even care about a degree; they would rather have someone with more experience.

The definition of entry-level is: suitable for a beginner or first-time user and/or the lowest level in an employment hierarchy.

Work Job GIF entry-level
Big mood (via Giphy)

So, my question is, why do firms, agencies and companies use the term ‘entry-level’ so loosely? It makes recent graduates feel disheartened about what they can and cannot apply for once they have finished their years of hard work studying. More often than not, I find that ‘entry-level’ is used as a broad term. It is applied to a plethora of employment opportunities that involve years of experience which students do not have the time for. We do not only study fulltime but have part-time jobs, social lives and take on internships to build up as much experience as possible to remain competitive in the job search – but somehow it still isn’t enough.

How in the world are we meant work part-time or have a role in a large company and gain this required experience when we already spread ourselves so thin across our commitments? It feels as though the antagonist in this narrative is time, where graduates are all attempting to borrow the same video from the rentals store, unable to get the VHS tape we so desperately want. If that allusion doesn’t show my age, I don’t know what will.

80S Floating GIF by leeamerica entry-level
via Giphy

Entry-level roles for graduates are alluded to as a place to start professionally, where opportunities are not given but sought after. Of course, we realise there is competition. The industry experience expectations of graduates moving into full-time employment are far too high to reach in the time we are given at university, where our studies and commitments coincide with one another. It is disheartening to be declined opportunities because the experience you have isn’t enough – despite the job description clearly defining this job as an entry-level type of employment.

I strongly believe that there is a trade-off with the mindset of time being money versus companies recruiting reliable graduates. Of course, a goal of a company should be steady growth and the best to achieve this is through having reliable employees. However, what makes a recent graduate unreliable compared to someone with an abundant amount of experience?

Australia has a low power distance index which is why this may seem so foreign to me and why I come off as being entitled in wanting jobs to be available for me to apply for. I just believe there is more to employment than experience, numbers and money. The past is the past, what we can accomplish in the future is what matters here. I believe there should be a balance between asking for experience and advertising an entry-level position. In our world, time is our antagonist, what time can we forfeit before we burn ourselves out or implode. We need our industries to invest in developing graduates.

donald duck money GIF entry-level
via Giphy

Of course, we can always just apply, what they want is not necessarily what they’re going to get, kind of like a box of chocolates. However, the competition to find a job in such a saturated industry is difficult to come to terms with. It’s frightening having such hefty student loans with no way to pay them off and your family’s questions and antics of asking you what you will do with your life next becomes a ringing noise in your ear, damaging self-confidence, self-esteem and will to continue on the path that you fought so hard for.

This causes people to go into unpaid work such as internships just to compete with their peers for a job. This still doesn’t make up for the fact that employers are looking for even more skills from their applicants. It will be 25 years before I meet all their expectations. My last question is: when does this rat race for a job become a quality of life issue? Where we kill ourselves working to even get to an entry-level position? It would be the equivalent of dying right as the gates to heaven open, all that hard work, for nothing really. Let hope that one day, entry-level will actually be defined accurately in our workplaces and industries.