5 great entry-level jobs for recent grads

Graduates

For millennials and recent grads searching for a career starting point, here are five great entry level jobs, says Robert J. LaBombard.

As summer marches on and student loan payments loom, millennials – especially those who have recently graduated from college – are getting serious about their job searches. Even though they may feel frustrated, these job seekers are not alone.

Some 60-70 percent of recent college grads don't know where their education and skills fit in the workforce and that's holding them back from several popular and lucrative career paths, GradStaff's candidate surveys of more than 5,000 entry-level job seekers show. They may have the skills to get these jobs, but they lack insight into the careers that fit both their personal passions and professional abilities.

At the same time, many companies are frustrated with the lack of qualified candidates responding to their job postings and they don't have a consistent pipeline for young talent because they aren't effectively recruiting millennials.

Job seekers and hiring companies often can't find each other, making the frustration mutual. Businesses are missing out on quality talent, and millennials are ignoring entire segments of the job market because they're unaware of those opportunities.

For millennials and recent grads actively searching for a career starting point, here are five great entry-level jobs.

Companies developing business software, mobile device apps and/or providing cloud-based services need people for software implementation and help desk positions who are comfortable with technology, can communicate well and solve problems.

Contrary to what many grads believe, these positions don't require computer science degrees or related certifications, as employers prefer well-rounded hires with a diverse range of talents. These positions are most abundant in urban areas with a high concentration of technology companies, with average starting salaries in the $35,000 to $50,000 range according to PayScale.

Strong problem solvers who also have excellent customer service skills often find this career track rewarding. As a result, there are plentiful opportunities for millennials to succeed in this field with any four-year degree, though firms in the property claims field may target job seekers with engineering degrees. Claims positions – such as workers' compensation, third party liability, and auto – are needed across in the country.

However, property claims positions may be concentrated in the Southeastern and Western U.S. due to higher rates of claims related to natural disasters. And the industry is in need of fresh faces. According to Insurance Journal, almost half of insurance industry professionals are currently over age 45, with 25 percent of the industry expected to retire by 2018.

What's more, there will be 400,000 open positions by 2020. This applies especially to the insurance claims field, which is not ready for the loss of baby boomers to retirement. The average starting salary range for an entry-level claims adjuster is $35,000 to $55,000, depending on location, with property claims positions on the higher end.

People with majors in math, economics or a quantitative science should strongly consider a career in this area. While a strong working knowledge of database software is helpful, people who like analyzing data and spotting trends will find solid job opportunities in this booming field.

According to Forbes, the industries with the highest job growth for data analysts include: professional and scientific services, information technology, manufacturing and finance/insurance. Health care and logistics are also growing fields of opportunity for entry-level data analysts. These positions are available with companies throughout the country, with an average entry-level salary of $52,000.

The old adage "Good sales people are hard to find" has never been truer than now. Unfortunately, over the years a sales career has lost its allure with many college grads now thinking it's a low-level opportunity. However, business-to-business sales still offers tremendous upside both in terms of income and career path. In fact, according to a recent Forbes article, sales positions are the most abundant opportunities for entry-level job seekers with little to no experience in the professional workforce. Licensing is required in some fields, such as insurance and real estate.

Sales positions in growing industries, including medical technology and outsourced services, as well as businesses with aging workforces (insurance, finance and real estate) offer some of the best chances for a lucrative entry-level position. Entry-level base sales salaries vary widely, as most positions are incentive-based. Base salaries typically start around $30,000, with incentives pushing total compensation as high $50,000 or more in the first year.

A wide variety of entry-level positions exist in helping health insurance and healthcare providers deliver services. From eligibility and enrollment to member services and claims positions, they are a number of entry-level career opportunities that provide a great pathway into this growing field. While this industry may go through continuing structural changes, the aging of the U.S. population indicates strong job prospects for the long-term. The average annual salary for an entry-level healthcare operations position is $35,000 to $50,000, depending on geography.

In addition to knowing what jobs may be a fit, a crucial aspect of any job search is getting interview opportunities. The key here is to network effectively, using both personal networks and social media networking tools like LinkedIn. Reaching out to college alumni or leaders in career fields of interest can be especially helpful to millennial job seekers.

Young job-hunters should use these interviews to break the ice, get information that may be useful in a job search and talk about the skills and experiences they possess that have value in the workforce. These meetings could help open doors.

As millennials look at job postings, it can be like reading a novel written in an unfamiliar language. For example, without any knowledge of the insurance industry, many wouldn't know that helping client companies manage important risks is an interesting and lucrative field. But by understanding emerging opportunities in the workforce and cultivating a more efficient, productive approach to job searches, millennial job seekers will be well positioned to take their first steps toward successful and rewarding careers.

Commentary by Robert J. LaBombard, CEO, GradStaff, Inc., an online career site that helps college graduates find jobs. Mr. LaBombard has more than 22 years of staffing industry experience as CEO of GradStaff, Inc. and founder and CEO of EnviroStaff, Inc.

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