By Felicia King
President & CEO, QPC Security

Have you ever stopped to think about the costs an employer incurs to bring on an “Entry‑Level” person to their team? I’m not just talking about the obvious payroll costs and taxes. There are also costs associated with the rest of the team having to take their productivity time away from their jobs to train and coach the Entry‑Level person. Even the proper onboarding of a new staff member can take weeks if not months. There is no question that, at least in the beginning, there is a huge gap between pay and the value the Entry‑Level person brings to the company. An Entry‑Level person has to understand this and be focused on delivering enough value to, at the very least, cover the expense of having them as a member of the team.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons an employer wants to bring on an Entry‑Level person including allowing for job growth and upwards movement for existing employees and an opportunity to bring the younger generation into a particular industry. And there is no doubt that the Entry‑Level job seeker is typically very eager to secure their first real‑world job. The challenge has become that the general attitude many Entry‑Level applicants bring is that because they have their college degree that somehow equals experience, and that experience will bring immediate value to the organization. This is just simply not true.

Yes, there is value in book learning, and certainly where there is an opportunity to intern in a particular field that adds to the academic knowledge. None of that however can replace the real‑world, hands-on experience that a person gains when they are hired into a position. Until you can hit the ground running and drive economic value to your organization every single day, you are Entry‑Level. As such, you can’t walk into an organization and expect the same level of pay as someone that has been there three years. Going into an interview with the expectation that you will receive anything other than Entry‑Level pay when you have Entry‑Level experience is a guaranteed way to be passed over for a position.

I get countless people submitting their resumes, with emphasis on their degree(s), and expecting a $55K/year salary. Keep in mind that fully burdened (meaning payroll taxes, insurance, supplies etc.) the actual amount is closer to $75K/year as far as what QPC Security will actually pay for that Entry‑Level person. The problem is that they have little to no real‑world experience and can’t bring immediate value to QPC Security to cover those costs. For Entry‑Level, immediate value comes in the form of experience with networking, patch management, and the ability to setup a new PC. If you don’t walk in the door being able to do those three things, do them well, and on your own then you have no business asking for $55K/year. You can have the best degree and numerous certifications (and yes, I do place higher value on certifications than a degree because certifications demonstrate your ability to learn, retain, and assess) but ultimately, you have to be an individual contributor that exceeds in value, significantly, the costs to the organization.

I say all of this coming from direct experience. When I first started out, I had the “do whatever it takes” approach to gaining experience and driving my value. If there was a weekend project to be done or something urgent occurred on a holiday, I did not wait for my boss to assign the work to someone. I volunteered. I didn’t expect or demand extra pay for this work. I also did not take the healthcare and retirement benefits at the start. I did these things because I knew I had to prove my value from the beginning. As I gained the experience and became the one they knew they could rely on, I started to become the one they gave the choice project work to. I quickly started to work my way up through the organization. And what do you think happened to the other Entry‑Level staff? They did the bare minimum, worked their 9-5, and are probably still doing Entry‑Level type work.

Now as a company owner, I can tell you that any candidate that has a genuine can‑do attitude and is focused more on the opportunity to learn and grow instead of having the “what’s in it for me” focus on incentives and pay will be hired by me every single time. The saying “you have to learn to walk before you run” holds true when it comes to securing that first Entry‑Level job. Put in the time and learn the skills; before you know it, you will be running a marathon.

And yes, in case any of this resonates with you and you are seeking an Entry‑Level position, I'm hiring.