Are companies setting unrealistic expectations with their entry-level job descriptions?

When crafting your résumé, include any volunteering or life experiences you've had that equipped you with transferable skills, experts say. Getty Images

If you’re searching for an entry-level job in Canada, there’s good news — there are over 6,600 such positions listed on the career website alone. The bad news? Many of them require that you already have three to five years of work experience.

So how is any new graduate or young professional — the demographic these positions target — supposed to get experience if companies won’t hire them to give them that experience in the first place?

READ MORE: Job interview questions: Possible curve-balls to watch out for

It’s a question many millennial and Generation Z professionals have been asking for a while now, and the issue is causing quite a bit of frustration.

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What’s an entry-level job seeker to do?

Global News spoke with Arturo Gallo, content manager at Monster Canada, and career counsellor Lee Weisser of professional consulting agency Careers by Design, who both offered up some tips for young professionals as to how they can best navigate this professional dilemma.

What does “entry-level” actually mean?

“‘Entry-level’ can be anything,” Gallo says. “Anything that gives you any kind of experience can be considered entry-level.”

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

But as more and more companies ask that their candidates already have years of experience under their belt, many young professionals starting their careers are confused about who these positions are actually geared towards.

The answer? Young professionals.

However, Gallo says that experience requirement can incorporate any job or volunteering experience up to that point.

“When companies ask for experience, it might not be specific to just workplace experience, but any type of experience — and sometimes that’s not specified in a job description,” Gallo says. “Those years can be volunteering, training, part-time jobs. It’s just a matter of speech sometimes, and it can create a bit of confusion.”

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But career expert Amanda Augustine argues that companies are not actually gearing these positions to young professionals who are starting out, she tells Business Insider. She believes companies do want candidates with a few years of work experience under their belt, and it’s for a reason: Companies are afraid workers will job-hop.

This is a common misconception companies have to get over, Gallo says.

“It’s one of those big myths surrounding this generation of recent grads and millennials,” he says. “It’s not the fact that they don’t want to work, it’s the fact that they don’t feel attracted to the job descriptions… They’re becoming more picky, yes — because they really want to develop their skills, and they’re trying to find the right place where they can do that.”

Gallo says there are reasons for job-hopping, but it’s up to companies to make the most of their talent and focus on retaining good workers, rather than worrying about that generational myth.

Unrealistic expectations?

For companies to expect new grads and young professionals to already have the experience they’re looking for is unrealistic, both Weisser and Gallo say.

“What comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ Gall asks. “We try to educate companies that the three-to-five [years’] experience bracket is becoming more irrelevant nowadays, especially with this millennial workforce coming in.”
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If anything, Gallo believes companies should eliminate that requirement altogether — or at least specify that experience doesn’t only have to pertain to the specific field, but can encompass any type of working-world experience.

“If we don’t re-educate employers, having them learn how to attract new talent, of course it’s going to be much more difficult for them to bring job seekers into their companies because of this three-to-five-years bracket that creates an issue,” says Gallo.

However, Weisser says companies may put that down in the job description, but see it more as a bonus rather than an actual requirement.

READ MORE: Millennials in the workplace: why they’re not entirely to blame for everything

“It’s sometimes more of a thing on their wish list,” Weisser says. “On the other hand, employers are getting so many résumés these days that obviously those people who do have some experience are going to be ahead of the game.”

Don’t neglect to put down any life experience you’ve had where you’ve gained some sort of key transferable skills, Weisser adds.

“It’s standard that they’re going to ask for experience, so any way you can demonstrate that you have some experience — even though it may not be full-time employment — is going to help you get in that door.”

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But even if your experience doesn’t add up to the amount of experience the posting calls for, Gallo and Weisser agree that job seekers should not hold back and still apply for those jobs nonetheless if they have the skills and it seems like the right fit.

Here’s how to get experience

Job-seekers looking to build up their experience do have options.

Gallo and Weisser suggest looking for volunteering opportunities that pertain to the career you’ve chosen, or company you’re looking to be a part of.

Another suggestion is an internship. However, it’s important to be aware of the laws surrounding internships, as it may vary depending on the province.

For example, the Ontario Ministry of Labour says an internship must meet certain requirements for it to be unpaid — and all those conditions must be met:

  1. The training is similar to that which is given in a vocational school
  2. The intern must receive some benefit from the training, like new knowledge or skills
  3. The employer derives little, if any, benefit from the activity of the intern while they are being trained
  4. The intern’s training doesn’t take someone else’s job
  5. The employer isn’t promising the intern a job at the end of their training
  6. The intern has been told that they will not be paid for their time

You are considered an employee if you are performing work for another person or company or other organization and are not in business for yourself. In that case, you are entitled to the rights outlined in the Employment Standards Act — that includes being paid at least minimum wage for your time.

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Often job applications go through an automated applicant tracking system. So when crafting your résumé, include keywords and skills listed on the job posting, Weisser advises. That may give you a better chance of going on to the next step of the screening process.

But the best chances of job-seekers to score a position — or at least get noticed — is to network, Weisser says.

“It can be really hard for young people to get a foot in the door,” Weisser says. “I think that whatever they can do to stay positive and persistent is going to help.”

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