You Can Land that Dream Entry-Level Job—Yes, Even Now

If you just got your degree or just entered the job market, the landscape right now looks frightening. Take heart! Your dream job is out there; you just have to know how to chase it down. #ENTRYLEVELBOSS author Alexa Shoen shares strategies for success.

Rachel Cooke
5-minute read
Episode #596

Today’s episode is a conversation with Alexa Shoen, career coach and author of the new book #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: How To Get Any Job You Want. Alexa shares her advice on how to position yourself to land your dream job in any market.

Maybe you have questions like:

  • If every entry-level job requires one to three years of experience, how do I get the experience to get the job?
  • How do I convince an employer that my degree in music/arts/basket-weaving positions me to be a great hire?
  • Are companies even hiring in a recession?

Read on for actionable advice that will get you ready to get yourself hired. There's also a lot more great information in the interview, so click on the audio player above or have a listen on your favorite podcast app to get every nuance.

Let go of beliefs that limit you

It turns out, landing a job requires action. (Who knew?) And you're more likely to take action when you believe the desired outcome is actually possible. Here are just a few of the beliefs Alexa gives you permission to let go of.

Limiting belief #1: Companies don’t hire during a recession

Actually, yes they do. Even in the darkest economic moments, companies are hiring. Your job is to research the industries that are booming.

During the pandemic, for example, unemployment is high. But some industries are in high demand for skilled labor. Think healthcare, virtual communication platforms, and virtual learning providers (both for adults and kids), to name a few. Spend some time researching the industries that might offer you your next opportunity.

Alexa says:

At the beginning of your career, it's not like you can just wait to get started. And you shouldn't be waiting to get started! There are a whole bunch of companies that are hiring.

Limiting belief #2: I don’t have any valuable experience

I'll bet you do! Maybe you’re fresh out of college and you don’t have any full-time employment on your resume. But experience comes in many forms.

Have you had internships? A leadership role in a campus organization? Did you lead a group project, or spend a semester abroad navigating a different country? Have you volunteered for your church or babysat for a cousin or written for your school paper? You can weave any of these experiences into a powerful story sure to impress.

Alexa says:

Reframe any experience you have, whether that's internships or leadership activities or volunteering at your church—any sort of tool you have in your tool belt. And say, 'Here's how this is going to be valuable to you and your company. Here's how I'm going to provide value on day one.'

Limiting belief #3: My degree in _____ isn’t professionally useful

Let's say you've just received your degree in basket weaving. Even if you’re not applying for a job weaving baskets, a degree in any subject has influenced how you  process and synthesize information, problem solve, and learn new skills, among other things. It’s all in how you position the person you are—and the accomplishments you’ve achieved—as a result of your learning experience.

Alexa says:

You are probably not the one unhireable person on the planet. ...The best thing you can do is breathe in and get yourself organized.

Develop your sales materials

Whether you know it or not, if you’re a job hunter, you’re a salesperson. The product is you. And the sales materials are otherwise known as your resume and cover letter. Your job is to sell the product (you) to the buyer (the employer). Alexa offers some basic tips on writing a standout resume:

  • Speak simply. Too many people think bigger words and a formal tone are more impressive. They're not. Recruiters are busy. Impress them with an efficiency of language instead of talking "like an old-timey vampire." Alexa says, "Use simple, short words that somebody's lizard brain can understand, so within five seconds they're like, 'Okay, I get who this person is.'"
  • Highlight achievements. Skills and abilities are nice, but outcomes matter most. Instead of bulleting your skills (dependability, curiosity) focus on outcomes you’ve delivered (fundraised $1,000 in a campaign to feed the homeless.)
  • Create a “nice to meet you” section. This is a short bit at the top of your resume stating your intent. Let a potential employer know you’re not just blasting out your resume, but that your focus is aligned to their industry, geography or customer base. "'Ambitious professional seeking new opportunities' doesn't mean anything. Instead, say whatever's going to tee up your resume. 'I'm looking for a junior marketing role in Los Angeles, this is what I'm great at, and here's what I want to work for this company.'"

Craft your story

A great resume will get you in the door. But now it’s time to make the sale.

You might be excited—hungry to learn new skills and grow your abilities—but an employer doesn't want to hear what you want to learn. A potential employer wants to hear that you'll bring value to the company because:

  • You understand what they do and who they serve
  • Your experience will position you to enhance their products, customer experience, or overall efficiency
  • You have a track record of delivering a relevant result or outcome (again, this experience can be professional or otherwise)
  • You’ve been intentional in your choices (the story of your resume makes sense)
  • Your cumulative experience adds up to you being the clear winner for the job

Plan and persevere

A thorough job search has a lot of moving parts—researching, resume and cover letter writing, networking, applying, interviewing, following up, and more. It can be overwhelming.

Finding a job is an enormous task. Identifying target companies or tapping your network or writing your resume are big tasks. But identifying three companies of interest or writing the “nice to meet you” section of your resume are tasks that are achievable within a single day.

I always say one of the biggest frustrations about the job search is it feels like you are failing every single moment until you get the offer.

Alexa’s advice is to develop a plan—take big tasks and break them into smaller, more achievable pieces. Then sequence those pieces day by day. This allows you to get up each day knowing what you need to achieve. It also invites you to celebrate each achievement. You can’t control when the job offer comes, but you can control the actions you take. So when you do it, celebrate yourself.

“I always say that one of the biggest frustrations about the job search is it just feels like you are failing every single moment until you get the offer,” Alexa told me.

But if you’re doing what you committed to doing in a day, you’re succeeding.


Keep developing along the way

You can’t predict how long your job search will take, but you can ensure you make the best use of whatever time passes. What can you be doing to make yourself a more attractive candidate whenever the opportunity to interview arises? Can you volunteer for a non-profit, helping them budget or fundraise or build a website? Can you take free online courses or teach a virtual webinar? Can you read some industry books or write thought pieces on LinkedIn or attend virtual conferences to build your network?

Every day, find a way to make your resume just a little bit shinier than it was yesterday. And most importantly, never give up. As long as you’re taking action every day, you’re on the path to your success.

About the Author

Rachel Cooke

Rachel Cooke is a leadership and workplace expert who holds her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. Founder of Lead Above Noise, she has been named a top 100 Leadership Speaker by Inc. Magazine and has been featured in Fast Company, The Huffington Post, and many more.