Best & Worst Entry-Level Jobs

by John S Kiernan

Wallet Hub 2014 Best Worst Entry Level JobsMay is a month of big dreams and immense pressures for graduating seniors across the country. It’s time to find a job, after all, and that is certainly no small task with youth unemployment currently at 15.5% and 36% of Millennials choosing to live with their parents in the face of sparse opportunities.

But with that said, what we all really want at the end of the day is a career – not just a job. We want growth potential – both in terms of salary and responsibility. We want stability, and we want to do what we love. The question is how to go about obtaining such things in this uber-competitive job market.

One’s career options following graduation are largely dictated by their school and academic focus of choice – a fact which speaks to the importance of educational comparison shopping in this era of trillion dollar student loan debts. Students and parents alike must consider the return on their education investment when planning their careers, and the process needs to begin in high school. It must then continue, and in fact come to a head, when it comes to the rite of passage that is finding an entry-level job.

So, which types of jobs, industries and areas of the country gives you the best odds of following in the footsteps of Jack Welch, Jim Skinner and Brian Dunn – prominent CEOs who started at the lowest rungs of their respective companies? Or, perhaps more realistically, where might new job market entrants find the most attractive combination of a high starting salary and growth potential for their educational and experiential background?

In search of answers to those questions and actionable information for recent college and high school graduates, WalletHub decided to take stock of the entry-level job market. We did so by comparing 109 different types of entry-level jobs based on 11 key metrics, ranging from starting salaries to industry growth rate. You can check out a complete breakdown of our findings as well as more information about the methodology we used to conduct this report below.

Main Findings

2014 Best Worst Entry-Level Jobs

Detailed Findings By Job Type

Overall Rank Job Type Immediate Opportunity Rank Growth Potential Rank Hardship Rank
1 Web Applications Developer I 9 16 5
2 Information Security Analyst I 22 15 1
T-3 Designer I - Web 26 16 8
T-3 Attorney I 19 4 46
5 Software Engineer I 3 23 39
6 Financial Analyst I 13 13 59
7 Market Research Analyst I 36 11 21
8 Network Engineer I 7 20 46
9 Training Specialist I 15 34 21
10 Programmer I 18 47 5
11 Operations Research Analyst I 38 11 45
12 Employment Law Attorney I 49 4 46
13 Database Administrator I 16 28 46
14 Tax Attorney I 55 4 46
15 Civil Engineer I 19 18 66
16 Patent Attorney I 61 4 46
17 Architect I 31 10 91
18 Geophysicist I 56 1 86
19 Systems Administrator I 11 43 46
20 Drilling Engineer I 32 3 105
21 Engineer I 1 53 68
22 Electrical Engineer I 6 57 43
23 Credit Analyst I 47 37 10
24 Financial Reporting Accountant I 19 30 59
T-25 Network Planning Analyst I 37 20 46
T-25 Environmental Engineer I 22 19 83
27 Chemical Engineer I 17 36 68
28 Accountant I 28 30 59
T-29 Electronics Engineer I 10 66 43
T-29 Mine Engineer I 66 8 68
31 Geotechnical Engineer I 67 8 68
32 Benefits Administrator I 39 24 65
33 Logistics Analyst I 48 40 21
34 Mechanical Engineer I 5 70 67
35 Systems Engineer I 2 74 68
36 Biomedical Engineer I 71 14 68
37 Materials Engineer I 8 65 68
38 Consumer Loan Officer I 92 22 10
39 Tax Accountant I 44 30 59
40 Secretary I 35 82 4
41 Aerospace Engineer I 25 50 68
T-42 Buyer I 26 48 80
T-42 Geologist I 102 1 86
44 Env., Health, and Safety Engineer I 52 27 68
45 Hardware Engineer I 11 45 109
46 Industrial Engineer I 14 74 68
47 Safety Representative I 4 78 84
48 Cost Accountant I 59 30 59
49 Consumer Credit Analyst I 98 37 10
50 Chemist I 60 44 42
T-51 Budget Analyst I 30 92 10
T-51 Computer Numeric Control Machine Programmer I 86 60 5
53 Certified Nursing Assistant - Nursing Home Salaries 50 69 18
54 Network Service Representative I 69 74 8
55 Benefits Analyst I 29 88 21
56 Safety Technician I 22 61 95
57 Employee Relations Specialist I 52 71 21
58 Public Relations Specialist I 72 55 30
59 Installation & Maintenance Technician I 40 46 101
T-60 Writer I - Web 63 62 29
T-60 Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant 32 84 31
62 Technical Writer I 46 51 85
63 Environmental Engineering Technician I 81 53 33
64 Logistics Clerk 103 40 21
65 Underwriter (Life) I 91 67 10
66 Automotive Mechanic I 45 49 97
T-67 Chemical Technician I 74 64 33
T-67 Teaching Assistant (College) 90 79 1
69 Landscape Architect I 83 26 91
70 Telecommunications Technician I 42 56 103
71 Carpenter I 77 29 104
72 Computer Operator I 43 102 3
73 Electrician I 75 42 107
74 Interior Designer I 93 58 39
75 Accounting Clerk I 77 83 20
76 Plumber I 97 25 102
77 General Maintenance Worker I 58 62 98
78 Microbiologist I 101 39 80
79 Claims Adjuster I 61 80 64
80 Industrial Designer I 52 90 39
81 Systems Engineering Technician I 34 99 54
82 Machinist I 57 73 89
83 Biologist I 95 51 80
84 Electrical Engineering Technician I 64 86 54
85 Mechanical Engineering Technician I 64 93 33
86 Aircraft Painter I 99 81 27
87 Building Inspector 82 68 96
88 Environmental Planner I 85 72 88
89 Emergency Dispatcher 89 93 19
90 Electric/Electronics Technician I 68 85 93
91 Refinery Operator I 51 87 99
92 New Accounts Representative I 41 108 16
93 Technical Librarian I 107 77 32
T-94 Industrial Engineering Technician I 76 99 54
T-94 Mechanical Drafter I 86 93 54
96 Sheetmetal Mechanic I 109 35 94
97 Payroll Clerk 86 91 78
98 Records Clerk 80 106 16
99 Civil Engineering Technician I 84 98 54
100 Policy Processing Clerk 96 102 33
101 Tool and Die Maker I 79 97 90
102 Teller I 69 109 15
103 Welder I 73 96 106
104 Floor Assembler I 108 59 100
105 Architectural Drafter I 104 101 33
106 Electronics Assembler I 94 107 27
107 Claims Processing Clerk 105 102 33
108 Boilermaker I 100 89 108
109 Consumer Loan Servicing Clerk I 106 105 79

Ask The Experts: Tips for Starting Your Career

Now that you've seen which jobs offer the most and least promise, we've consulted a panel of experts to share some advice for newly grads before they dive into the job hunt. Click on the experts' profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:

  1. What should recent graduates look for in an industry?
  2. When is the best time to start looking for a job?
  3. What can young job applicants do to get an edge?
  4. Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long career?
  5. What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?
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Manny Contomanolis

Director, Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services, Bausch & Lomb Center, Rochester Institute of Technology

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Students should always be focused on an industry that offers them the opportunity to pursue their talents and interests. More critical perhaps is what graduates should look for in a job/company. Graduates should ideally focus on a work assignment that interests them; that provides growth and professional development opportunities; and that includes supportive work colleagues and caring managers.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

The key is to perform! Do everything you’ve been asked to do well and seek out additional assignments and opportunities to learn new things and work on different projects with different people. Emulate those people that are successful at the organization and always think about your career not as "what’s the next step” but rather “what’s two steps ahead for me” and "what do I need to do to get there?"

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Taking things for granted. Employing organizations change, leaders and managers change, young people and their circumstances change! Don’t let yourself get into a comfort zone and pass up opportunities to demonstrate your worth and learn new things!
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Elizabeth Narehood

Managing Director, Future Focus Foundation

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Graduates need to forget about stereotypes and cultural perceptions when looking at industry. Technology has completely transformed some industries and is offering new realms of opportunity every day. Much of manufacturing is now defined as “Advanced Manufacturing” and is home to some of the most cutting-edge technology that is hitting markets currently. The factories of the future are much, much different than those of the past. There could be great opportunities with an industry that wasn’t one that came to the forefront of a graduate’s first thought.

Graduates should also look towards areas of industry that have projected growth if seeking sustainability over time. Although fluctuating markets may encourage a change to a different company, selecting a career in a growing field such as technology, healthcare, or engineering can ensure the availability of jobs currently and in the future. Other fields that are experiencing gaps in qualified skilled workers, particularly in areas such as the “trades,” also have the high potential for finding gainful employment.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

There are many companies that embrace a “promote” from within culture. These companies feel that management and executive level positions will be more effective if they have a first-hand experience at the positions they could oversee in the future. A company with this culture means that an entry-level job is one of the few paths into the company, but could lead to great opportunity in the future.

So what are employers looking for in entry-level employees that have the potential for promotion? Some of the top listed qualities are: work ethic, trainability, teamwork, communication skills (oral and written), time management, and professionalism. Industry credentials will open doors, but it is the development of key soft-skills that will make an employee stand out as an individual. Listening and learning from mentors/supervisors with excellent reputations in the company, can be one of the fastest ways to learn company culture and expectations. Professional development/training provided by the company should be viewed as an opportunity to enhance your skill-set “toolbox” and not just a mandatory check mark for an evaluation. Employees who proactively seek out opportunities to develop professionally will also stand out among their peers.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Diversity and flexibility are going to be key for young professionals to be successful. All too often young people pigeonhole their career aspirations to a linear career progression. A progression that goes something similar to -- graduate high school, attend college, get a career in X, and hopefully move-up the career ladder. The risk with a linear career is if any one of your planned steps fail -- then your whole plan has the potential to get derailed.

The professional careers today and in the future can be equated much more to surfing than climbing a ladder. Students need to be flexible. Catch a wave of opportunity when it comes. Learn as much as he or she can while on that wave to be ready to jump on a bigger wave when it happens to cross their path. Don’t be afraid of failure and if you get knocked down, work your tail off to swim out to catch another wave. Even if you end up in a field or career that wasn’t in your original plan, realize that there is always something that can be learned in any position, build skills, keep a positive attitude, strong work ethic, and don’t burn bridges, as your reputation will follow you your entire career!
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Eric D. Johnson

Director of Graduate Career Services, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

I believe there are two main things that graduates should look for in an industry. The first is a fit with their personal passions or interests. While an overused cliché, the most successful people genuinely look forward to getting out of bed in the morning. They feel like they are going to a job where they get to do what they love. Recent graduates should put themselves in a position to feel the same way. When researching industries they should start in their house – what products do I use? What services do I value? When I’m happiest what am I doing? What are my core values and where do these play out macro economically? Personally, I am passionate about learning continuously and I am happiest when I am coaching others. That is what led me to higher education for a career in coaching. If graduates search inside themselves first, then their external search will be more focused and more robust.

Second, they should look for organic growth – meaning more customers are entering a market. Often students become infatuated with financial statements and assume that increasing revenues and cash flows automatically mean companies and industries are growing. That’s not necessarily the case. Price increases, favorable currency fluctuations, one-time charge-offs, mergers and a host of other factors can make companies look like they are growing when their customer base is flat or declining. Pharmaceutical firms are a great example – several of the big ones have shown revenue growth due to 10-15% price increases on blockbuster products; but a review of prescription data actually shows fewer product dispenses. This is an unsustainable model, and employees will eventually feel the impact.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

It all comes down to two words – performance and potential. In every role, employees need to be clear on how they are being evaluated and they need to exceed those expectations. It’s the employee’s job to gain that clarity – we’re the ones who own our careers. If performance consistently exceeds expectations, then the organization will do what they can to retain that person.

Retention does not equal promotion, however. That’s where potential comes in to play. Organizations have criteria that they use to evaluate the leadership potential and upwards mobility of each of their employees – sometimes it’s defined and sometimes it’s just based on instinct. These criteria are often soft skills, and may only be loosely tied to performance – traits like the ability to give and receive feedback, demonstrated initiative, curiosity, commitment to continuous improvement, the ability to influence others, etc. If an employee desires a long and successful career they should talk to their supervisors and mentors to identify the character traits that their organization is looking for when evaluating potential. Then the employee should ask for feedback on where they stand on these dimensions. Any identified gaps should lead to a developmental plan, and if progress is made then potential continues to grow. Balancing potential with performance should yield both retention and promotion.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Entitlement. Period. Young graduates will sometimes enter organizations with unrealistic expectations of career advancement, leadership responsibilities or being given “high level strategic work”. These are things young employees earn over time with tenacity and performance. They are not given out based on pedigree or personality. When new hires behave as though entry level work is beneath them, or that they should be able to advance with average performance and above average education, they end up in the performance-improvement model. Once you are hired the only things that matter are the quality of your work and the willingness of others to work with you.
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Chris Tilly

Director, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UCLA

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

It really makes sense to start looking before graduation. Start researching the job sectors you are interested in. Start reaching out to people you know. Start lining up professors who would be willing to write a recommendation. Beat the rush of graduating students.

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

The old standbys still apply. Work your networks, and your friends, and your parents’, and your parents’ friends… Think about what makes you different in order to make your resumé stand out. Research potential employers so you can tailor your resumé, or your approach in an interview, to who they are and what makes them different. At the interview stage, dress appropriately. Even if you would be happy to take any job, be sure to tell them why this is a job you would be particularly interested in.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

The most common mistake is thinking that it’s enough to look online. Aside from retail and fast food, most young people still get jobs helped by a personal connection of some kind. Plus even if there isn’t a job, getting on an employer’s radar as someone with drive and getting them a copy of your CV can pay off later. You may feel like you don’t want to bother off acquaintances you hardly know, or businesses that are not listing a job opening. But some of your classmates are getting jobs by doing just that.
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Tammy Manko

Director, IUP Career & Professional Development Center

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Recent graduates are wise to seek, at a minimum, entry-level or first professional positions with companies that will provide a solid training program and allow them to apply their education, gain a great deal of professional work experience, and expand and broaden existing and new skill sets. They may also wish to identify positions with companies where there is room for growth and promotion from within the organization. While salary and benefits are important, they should not be the only factors under consideration when making an employment decision

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

The industry standard advice is to demonstrate a strong work ethic by going above and beyond. While work-life balance is important, it should not dictate how one performs early on in her/his career, if s/he hopes to grow that career. Those who take the initiative to step up when needed, to volunteer when management is seeking ideas and leadership on a project, and to regularly re-evaluate their career goals and make appropriate career path adjustments are the employees who will find the most satisfaction and success.

Employees need to remain positive and demonstrate integrity no matter what, because such attitudes and behaviors illustrate who they are and people remember the way we behave and the way we treat others, including sincerity and helpfulness. Of course, we cannot neglect the need for networking and branding.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Saying no to opportunities and demonstrating a lack of integrity. Some young professionals seek the perfect job with the biggest salary and they say no to other jobs that may actually provide them valuable experiences and open doors for them down the road.

Some individuals also believe in networking only for their benefit and only with people in power positions or people they believe can elevate their careers. I remind them, again, to treat everyone with kindness, to offer to help others, and to network with just about anyone and everyone, because it's awfully hard to tell who really can and will help us at the end of the day. I advise people to be appropriately bold with their careers and their life and to exude confidence even if they aren't feeling it, because most people don't feel they are ready for new roles or positions when they initially assume them. Ultimately, we are far more capable in this life than we give ourselves credit for being!
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Ivette Duarte

Interim Director of Career Services, Florida International University

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

Students should begin their search well before graduation, even as early as their sophomore year. They need to hone their job search skills early and begin to network early on in the academic career. Internships are a great stepping stone, they can help clarify career goals and create a crucial network that can be refined as they begin to search for full-time employment.

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

The unemployment rate is recovering at a slower than expected pace, but college students need to start the process of becoming a viable candidate well in advance of graduation. If they have not begun their search until after graduation, they need to begin to put together their resources, network with fellow alumni and people in the field they hope to enter. A well prepared resume, practice interviews and a sound job search strategy are key. It is a full-time time job to get a full-time job!

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Perhaps one of the greatest mistakes job seekers make is that they “assume” that there are no jobs available. Job reports, unemployment rates and media coverage can often discourage the new grad. The second biggest mistake is not fully utilizing their Career Services office. They can offer resume and interview assistance, employer information sessions, career fairs and other networking opportunities.
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Pat Weaver

Director of Career Counseling, Baylor University

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

Students need to begin looking for a job before graduation. They need to take full advantage of any university sponsored job fairs and other services offered by their career services department. It can easily take 6 months to land a job, so it is important to begin early in your last semester. The goal is to have a job by graduation!

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

An internship is very important to have some relevant work experience as you begin the job search. Students need to begin developing their resume as soon as they arrive on campus. They need to think strategically about the clubs/organizations that they join and use these as a springboard to gain leadership experience. Volunteer work can round out a resume, but an internship and paid work experience is critical to being competitive. Students also need to work on soft skills: strong work ethic, positive attitude, verbal and written communication skills, critical thinking/problem-solving skills, time management skills, learn to be flexible and to accept criticism and make changes accordingly.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Students don’t network as much as they should. Students often assume that because they now have a degree, that they are ‘owed’ a job. Searching for a job IS a job and you must be willing to invest a lot of hard work in the process. Students needs to know that a perfectly executed resume is imperative…no mistakes.
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Carl Martellino

Executive Director, University of Southern California Career Center

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

While it is important to consider the future prospects of an industry it is equally important to consider one’s passion displayed through his or her interests, skills, and personality temperament. The most successful careers are launched when an individual’s likes and dislikes are well-matched with the particular job function and also with the industry. When all three of these areas match the individual has a myriad number of ways to thrive and succeed.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

The biggest mistake a recent graduate can make is selecting a position simply based on salary. This does not mean that this should not be a consideration, but it should be weighted with a whole host of other criteria. Chief among the criteria, at this early point in one’s career, are the opportunities to learn and to advance.
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Kate Brooks

Executive Director of Personal and Career Development, Wake Forest University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Look for industries that are growing and developing and on a long-term trajectory (even if there's a slight dip now). This would include healthcare, technology, and service fields like the travel industry and personal services. Most fields are rapidly changing due to technology so if you have the skills to combine a tech background with a field (for instance, higher ed has been and will continue to be rapidly influenced by new technology) that's the way to go.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Not devoting the necessary time to do the job search well. They need to approach every opportunity in a professional manner and understand that looking for a job is actually a full-time job-- not just something to do when they find the time.

Also, expecting the first job to be perfect or the beginning of their career trajectory. Sometimes a first job is just a transition-- it's a step away from the academic world and a step into the corporate or nonprofit world. It will likely not be the job of their dreams-- but they will learn, they will understand what they like and don't like on that job and that will help them when they are ready to look for the next job.
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Jeff W. Garis

Senior Director, Penn State Career Services

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Growth associated with the industry products or services. Diversity of other industries that my have opportunities for advancement.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Over reliance on external factors including salary rather than pursuing careers based upon internal information such as interests, values/life style and skills.
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Sheri Young

Director, Experiential Education & Career Services, Johnson & Wales University

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

Hands down, a student MUST begin the job search BEFORE they graduate. In fact, in my experience, it is taking at least 9 months for graduating college seniors to find a job. I strongly encourage college juniors to begin their search by interning with potential companies in what I refer to as the 11 week job interview. Across the US, we are seeing internships turn into job offers which is a best case scenario for our college students.

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

Most young candidates overlook a simple step in getting the edge. When applying for a position, it’s so important for the candidate to customize their resume to the specific company they’re applying to and more importantly the specific position. Candidates need to search the job posting for keywords that describe the skills sets the company is looking for and then use those keywords in their own resume. Of course, the skills must be in line with the candidates experience but it’s important to use the same language the company is using to ensure the students resume is actually read.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Definitely, it’s shying away from networking. Networking continues to be the no. 1 way to land a job regardless of all the online job search engines. I strongly encourage college students to actively seek out informational interviews to build their network. At a minimum, these interviews can give them perspective from a professional already in the industry they aspire to. More often than not, it leads to further connections and one step closer to the first job after college.
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Robert Ployhart

Bank of America Professor of Business Administration, Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

BEFORE GRADUATION! It’s too late to start looking after you’ve graduated. The best time to be looking for a job is…always!

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

Strong candidates need to have something that differentiates them from other applicants. This doesn’t have to be work experience. For example, being involved in leadership roles in one’s school can serve the same purpose. The key is that the person has a record of achievement, engagement, and frankly, energy. There is no secret here; the simple fact is that if young people have not applied themselves in some meaningful way, then they are going to have a rough time “getting an edge.” GPA is important of course, but it is not the only thing, as many students have good grades. Show you can be employable—you can work effectively with diverse others, you can lead but also learn, you can manage the performance of yourself and others—and you will have an edge.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Young job seekers make many mistakes, and most of these mistakes stem from mistaken perceptions and unrealistic expectations. First, they think they are more unique and qualified than they really are. They look at their classmates and think they are more qualified, but what they often forget is that their competition is global, not local. Second, they think that graduating is enough to differentiate themselves. Universities turn out thousands of graduates a year. A college education is a fantastic investment but no immediate guarantee for getting a job. Third, they think they don’t have to work at the job search process. Fourth, they have unrealistically high expectations about starting salary, working conditions, and working hours. They often don’t understand that they will most likely start at the bottom.
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Douglas J. Ricci

Career Development Specialist, Rutgers University

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

As a first year student, start with the end in mind and over the course of your undergraduate education work toward building a resume that reflects meaningful work experiences, skill development, leadership and community service. Visit University Career Services to help understand the importance of career planning and as a step toward building a career success identity. Build industry specific skills and a meaningful inventory of technical skills regardless of whether or not you are entering a technology-based field. Waiting until after graduation a student misses out on many opportunities that other students have been able seize and take advantage of!

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

Things a young adult can do to gain an edge and maximize their job search include treating the job search function, itself, as a full time job (which it is). Young adults need to be disciplined enough to be putting 35-40 hours/week into an active job search. This includes actively networking in person, by phone/email and through social media; creating and maintaining a LinkedIn account to network, and search for jobs. Speaking to 2-3 new contacts each day. Set up job search agents on the major job boards so that opportunities and postings can be electronically pushed to them. Review these job postings daily and responding accordingly.

Understand industry and professional keywords and make sure resumes include such terms. Apply to at least 10 qualified job postings each week, tailoring a cover letter and/or email that is specific to that opportunity. Research companies/industries you would like to target and try to uncover contacts at that company or in that industry. Increase skill sets by taking advantage of free university level courses that are published on sites such as and through the open courseware consortium, at, among others.

Stay in touch with your undergraduate academic institution to see what opportunities the school has to assist alumni including job fairs, alumni connections, networking events, etc. Volunteer as a way of staying active, to network and to increase one’s skill set. Join professional associations as a way of networking within your chosen field and as a way of strengthening one’s career identity as a young professional in that field. Don't put aside a job search because it’s a 'difficult job market right now.'

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

The single biggest mistake young job seekers make is failing to understand the importance of networking as it relates to the job search. Current research indicates that approximately 75% of all jobs are obtained through networking. If a student is not part of that process they are missing out on large number of opportunities that they may otherwise benefit from!
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David Ginchansky

Senior Career Counselor, University of Southern California

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

This truly depends on the student, what career they want, and when they want to start their career. Many students choose to travel right after graduation, and, if this is the case, it might be appropriate to hold off on the job search until they return, as most employers won’t wait for them to start. However, it is important to keep in mind that many job searches can last up to 6 months, even when taken seriously and treated as a full-time job (that is, the candidate spends at least 8 hours a day on their job search). The student also needs to know the general hiring trends of their field of interest in determining when to start looking for a job. For example, consulting and financial services companies start their recruitment process as early as the fall semester of the student’s senior year, even hiring all their entry-level candidates before the Christmas break! Yet, at the same time, many other industries hire on a more immediate basis, often posting jobs right before, or even after, graduation. In either case, it is important to start networking early and often so that when they are in full job searching mode, college students have a group of advocates helping them secure interviews, therefore increasing their chances of being hired.

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

There are three things that are key in giving students and young people an edge in their job search. First, it is tremendously helpful if they have had, at least, one internship by graduation. An internship helps the student understand the world of work, provides “real-life” examples and achievements for employers in interviews, and offers evidence of key elements important in a candidate such as strong work ethic, a honed skill set, and company fit. Second, it is not only important the student knows their brand (i.e. skills, talents, interests, etc.), but also that they are able to COMMUNICATE that brand to employers. The resume, cover letter, and interview have a much greater impact when they are tailored to the employer and shows how the candidate’s background, education and experience match the organization’s mission, values, and needs. Finally, applying to all the jobs in the world will bring little success if you don’t balance it with a fair amount of networking. It remains true that 80% of jobs are filled through connections, and while this tends to be a more necessary strategy at the mid- to senior-level careers, it still is a fundamental element of success in securing employment after graduation as well.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

This is a great question, because there are a lot of mistakes job seekers, both young and mature, make, from not networking to jumping at the first job offer they get to not having a plan B (or seeing how a plan B can eventually lead to plan A). However, at the top of the list for me is their reliability on applying to jobs through online job boards and company websites as the sole strategy in their job search. Applying for jobs online is a necessary evil. In fact, many companies have it as a rule and regulation that a candidate cannot even be considered until they have submitted their resume and cover letter online. Yet, the jobs available online are available to EVERYBODY, and usually, EVERYBODY applies. This means that the candidate might be one of 200, or even 1,000, people applying for one job. It is very easy to get lost when those numbers are against you. When a job seeker utilizes multiple strategies to apply for jobs, they increase their chances dramatically in securing that job. Follow up, network, ask for job leads, and knock on some doors (figuratively). If the job seeker is more proactive in their job search, they will see a difference in the results.
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Terry Dowling

Career Counselor, University of South Florida

When is the best time to start looking for a job?

Before, well before. Conducting an effective job search involves a process…it’s not an event.

What can young job applicants do to get an edge?

• Participate in an Internship • Join student professional organizations • Connect with the campus career center-staff. and learn about the information services, and events • Get assistance from Career Center professionals on employer research, resume and cover letter composition, job search strategies , interview preparation and learn how to network

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Not having a plan or an identified career goal andnot participating in the services, events , and opportunities to connect with employers through their Campus Career Center.
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Andrew Duffy

Senior Assistant Director of Career Services, Steinbright Career Development Center, Drexel University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

We encourage all our students to research potential industries throughout their time at Drexel. While there are a variety of resources available for students to conduct research on industries, two I would encourage individuals to use are the Department of Labor ( and O*Net Online ( . Both resources provide a variety of information that students and alumni can access to research the overall health of industries, career prospects, opportunities for growth, skill requirements, among other industry factors students should be aware of as they evaluate industries.

In addition to these external resources, students are encouraged to meet with employers to learn about different industries. At Drexel, we offer a variety of events that enable students to get in contact with professionals to learn about different industries. We offer career fairs, on-campus recruiting, information sessions, and other networking events to students. The majority of Drexel students are also in co-op programs that require students to work full time in industry for up to 18 months prior to graduation. Our programs are structured such that students will understand their “industry” by the time they graduate.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

Students interested in turning an entry level job into a long successful career should identify mentors that can help them grow professionally, join professional associations, network, and continually seek opportunities to develop and enhance their skills.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

There are a few career mistakes I have witnessed young people make over the years when I worked in corporate HR. The one theme that underlined most of the mistakes was that students did not think their decision to accept an offer thoroughly enough. They made assumptions about the job or industry that ultimately turned out to be wrong which would lead to them being dissatisfied with their career choices. Other students would accept a job due to external pressures despite realizing it was not a great fit (for example a parent influenced them to take the job or it was the only job offered at the time).
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Suzanne Scott-Trammell

Executive Director, Career & Professional Development, University of Alabama at Birmingham

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

While it is true that some industries and professions are more in demand than others, to be truly “successful” one must choose a career area that is well suited to one’s personality. Professions can be practiced in multiple industries, (accountants can practice in the healthcare industry, English majors work in communications and media, …). Conducting information interviews and taking career assessments are key to determining what profession (or major) to choose and choosing which industry in which to work. The more students explore their options earlier in the process, the stronger their network and the greater their chance of success. To be an eager learner and take initiative for managing one’s own path demonstrates initiative and tenacity, two very marketable skills.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

Internships are viewed as entry level jobs now. It is essential that students gain experience in their fields AND to integrate skills from campus involvement in their resumes. These experiences build leadership, communication, teamwork, presentation abilities, and many other skills highly sought by employers. Once in the position, students (or new employees) need to prove their value by a willingness to learn, contribute, and be a part of the team. “It’s not my job” should never be part of the vocabulary. Be aware that a professional reputation is being formed with every interaction and assignment. The better the performance on one committee or assignment, the higher the likelihood of being asked to serve in other areas (or being identified as a high potential employee). Focus on the strategy, what is being accomplished by the organization, so whatever position is currently held will be relevant to the strategic plan of the organization.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

While in college, the biggest mistake is not focusing on internships, co-ops, research, and other career-relevant experiences at their disposal. Also, in too many cases, students don’t visit their campus career offices before senior year, so they don’t think about what it will take to get a job or secure a graduate school spot until it is very late in the game. They can be “killing two birds with one stone” if they plan early – getting involved on campus while simultaneously building relevant marketable skills. When on the job site, young professionals often don’t think about reputation early enough. They need to be cognizant that each assignment and task communicates who they are and seize opportunities to make themselves a leader in the organization.
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Kate Dey

Senior Director for Career Development, California College of the Arts

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

They should seek an industry that is geared toward supporting professional growth, innovation, risk-taking, and one that provides a work ethic in alignment with their core values. Recent graduates are in a wonderful phase of future possibilities as they walk across the stage at graduation. My advice is to find a field that sees them as emerging professionals with new ideas to contribute but one that also expects them to be continually learning. Seek an industry that is agile and entrepreneurial in its approach to business and that provides the professional space to expand their career horizons.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

I view the entry level job as the first step on a new, exciting, and iterative career journey. My guidance is to understand that even if the job is at the coolest big name company; this job is just the beginning. This first role will most likely be relatively short-term but is significant in setting a career foundation.

In this role be sure to:

• Learn everything you can, be a sponge. • Speak up and contribute but also respect the knowledge already in the room. • Find a mentor; continue to seek out mentors throughout your career. • Be open to change and become comfortable with ambiguity, quickly. • Never assume you know the best answer but do believe you have an answer worth sharing. • Take credit for the work you do but do not take credit for the work of others. • Build and feed your network as a group of valued friends and make that network a two way street; give as much as you receive. • Always be in career development mode, do not rest on your laurels. • Career progression is earned and not guaranteed. • Some job duties are boring but still vital to do well. • Say thank you.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

Magical thinking. There can be the tendency to believe that everything will somehow work out even if they do not take the initiative to define a preferred outcome, set a strategy, and do the work required to reach their goal. Thinking about the realities of the career market, looming financial responsibilities, and developing the tool kit for launching their careers is often on the back burner until graduation or after. This is late when you take into consideration the global and competitive world of work that now exists for young talent.

Magical thinking may mean that students miss taking the opportunity to complete an internship, they do not build a robust professional network, they do not visit the career office, they do not utilize the expertise or professional connections of faculty, and they apply to jobs online without making a more personal contact. Despite available resources and support, they try to navigate a multifaceted process on their own or with the uninformed guidance of friends and family.

A successful career strategy requires focus, energy, technique, resilience, and a sense of play. A job search can be gruelling and the support of a mentor or coach can be vital in developing the ability to put everything in perspective, develop a sense of self, be proactive, and acquire career development skills that can be used now and in the future.
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Christine Miller

Director of Career Development, Chatham University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Recent graduates should look for positions in industries where they can use their skills, interests, and education, of course, but they should also look for industries that are projected to have sustained or continuous growth over the coming years. Resources like O*NET (sponsored by the U.S. government) is one great resource for that. In addition, they shouldn’t avoid a field like commercial real estate, for example, because they don’t want to sell real estate. The commercial real estate industry is composed of individuals from a wide range of disciplines: law, finance, architecture, environmental science, marketing, insurance, etc. Recent graduates should look for industries that provide a wide range of options.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

Go to work every day determined to learn something. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to work with new people and to take on projects that challenge you. Offer ideas, do what you’ve been asked to do, ask to do more, help your co-workers, and never let your boss be blind-sided.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

The biggest mistake young people make is treating a job like it’s not “a real job.” Every job is a real job. If you give your best at even the most mundane job, you will be remembered and thought of when other opportunities come along. You never know who your boss knows, but you do want him/her to speak highly of you when s/he has the chance.
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Kevin G. Monahan

Associate Dean of Student Affairs for Career and Professional Development, Carnegie Mellon University

What should recent graduates look for in an industry?

Recent grads would do best to find industries that are a fit with their skills, values and lifestyles. For example, a recent graduate may have an academic background and job relevant skills in the financial sector – but where he/she wants to use those talents is important. Working for an investment bank, a retail bank, a corporate finance role, or financial role at a nonprofit – all are in the financial spectrum but the skills and lifestyles are vastly different. Be honest with yourself and focus on industries that are a match with your skill sets and support the lifestyle that you desire.

Do you have any tips for turning an entry-level job into a long, successful career?

As you learn the ropes in your first role, identify individuals around the company and within the larger industry with whom to build relationships. Knowing people within and outside your organization will provide you access to opportunities as they become available.

What is the biggest career mistake that young people make?

The worst mistake I see young professionals make is depending upon others to define a career path for them. Young professionals need to embrace early on the fact their career advancement rests on their shoulders. Building connections, asking for more challenging assignments (after proving success at their current assignments), and advocating for themselves is an important part of managing one’s career.


WalletHub began this report by assembling a list of 109 different types of entry-level jobs. We then identified 11 key metrics which speak to various aspects of the immediate opportunities, prospects for growth, and potential hazards associated with each type of job. This allowed us to ultimately construct a hierarchy for the entry-level job market that illustrates the types of jobs that should be most attractive to new labor market entrants – particularly recent graduates – in both the near and short term.

The specific metrics and corresponding weights that we used to construct these rankings can be found below. The three overall categories in which the metrics were grouped – Immediate Opportunities, Growth Prospects and Hardship – were used for organizational purposes only and had no bearing on the overall rankings.

Immediate Opportunities

  • Median Starting Salary: 1
  • Number of Job Openings: 1
  • Unemployment - Rate: 0.5
  • Education Requirement: 0.5

Growth Prospects

  • Projected Job Growth by 2022: 1
  • Income Growth Potential: 1
  • Typical On-the-Job Training: 1
  • Median Annual Salary: 1
  • Median Tenure with Employer: 0.5


  • Number of Fatal Occupational Injuries Per 100.000 Employees: 1
  • People Working Over 40 Hours Per Week: 0.5

Sources: The information used to construct this report is courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, and

John Kiernan is Senior Writer & Editor at Evolution Finance. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BA in Journalism, a minor in Sport Commerce & Culture,…
1221 Wallet Points