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How to Avoid an Entry-Level Job After Finishing College

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Finish College »

No matter what took you out of the classroom or how long you’ve been away, finishing college is always a great idea. However, there are some challenges you should be ready to face: picking the right program, finding financial aid, balancing work and life and, of course, finding a job after graduation. Arguably, the biggest reason for going back to school is to advance your career, and if you’re not moving up within your current company, then you’ll likely be on the job hunt after you walk across the stage. You likely have years of work experience backing up your shiny, new degree, so it makes sense for you only to go up from here, even if your degree is in a new field! But that’s not always the case; a new advanced degree doesn’t always make you impervious to placement in an entry-level job. So to keep your forward momentum going, here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re ready for the role you want:

Get Even More Experience: 

You probably have years of experience in the workforce, which means you have an extensive repertoire of hard and soft skills. While you might think this makes you an ideal candidate, you would be wise to get a few internships or fellowships on your résumé. Employers are looking for specific experiences that demonstrate your ability in a particular field. So, if you’re going back to school to break into a new industry, or even if you’re moving laterally, an internship can set you apart as the ideal candidate. 

As a non-traditional student, you likely have other obligations that make getting an internship a little more difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Work with the career services department at your institution to find an opportunity that fits your schedule and will help you gain new skills. Most internships last 3 to 6 months, some opportunities require less time. Internships also help build your network and get your foot in the door with potential employers. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), more than 70% of interns were offered a job from their company at the conclusion of their internship. 

Network: 

One advantage that non-traditional students have is that they know how to network and have been doing it for some time. During your years of experience, you’ve likely built a strong network of professionals who can vouch for your work ethic. Tap into this network and let them know you’re looking for a position. A personal recommendation can go a long way with a recruiter. Carve out some time to keep growing your network while you’re in school. Again, you probably don’t have as much time or flexibility as a traditional undergraduate might have, but there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Institutions will typically host networking or career events to help students meet potential employers, requiring less time from you but otherwise making a big impact on your job search. Make an appointment with the career center beforehand to make sure your résumé is perfect. 

Learn How to Market Your Experience: 

If you haven’t yet guessed that the career services office at your school is your best weapon, here’s more proof. The career services office has a dedicated team of professionals who have years of experience helping students market their education and experience. Many institutions offer lifetime services for alumni, so they have plenty of experience helping professionals at every career stage. Make an appointment with them as early as possible; it’s never too early to start. They can help you write a résumé and cover letter that communicate your expertise and skills. They can also coach you on how to convey your work experience during a job interview. This extra support will ensure that you’re prepared to prove why the position you want should be yours. 

If All Else Fails… Take the Job:

You might not want to, but taking that entry-level job is not the end of the world. Don’t be discouraged! You shouldn’t look at this as settling for second best. An entry-level job can provide invaluable experience and prove to your employer that you’re serious about learning and earning your way up the ladder. Once you have your degree and some extra experience, regardless of the level, you’ll be exponentially more marketable and valuable to employers. 

Finishing college can be a daunting task, and you’re wise to make sure the money and the time will result in the job you want. While there are no guarantees in life, we are pretty confident that you can land your dream job if you utilize your tools and resources. Even if you don’t, you will continue gaining valuable experience on your life-long journey of learning and meaningful work. Abound: Finish College is here to help you every step of the way. Check out the schools we trust to find your match for when you are ready to take that first step toward finishing your degree.

 

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