Asa Jones’ career journey began with an unexpected turn.
The Kansas City, Mo. native was working on a marketing degree at the University of Houston when she happened to meet representatives from staffing firm Spencer Ogden at a campus event. That meeting led to a senior year internship, which in turn led to a full-time job as a talent acquisition specialist after Jones graduated in 2021.
“Talent acquisition is something I’ve always been interested in, but I didn’t think that I was going to take my business degree and do talent acquisition,” she says. “It’s just something that I fell in love with when I was interning as a senior.”
By paying attention to what she enjoyed — and seizing opportunities as they arose — Jones ended up joining one of the fastest growing industries for entry-level workers, according to LinkedIn data.
How can others follow Jones’ lead and find their path?
LinkedIn’s Guide to Kickstarting Your Career highlights the key opportunities for those looking to launch their professional lives. Our data scientists and editors have parsed the data to identify the top jobs, industries and cities for entry-level professionals, and we’ve gathered insights from career experts and actual career starters to guide you along the way.
Career starters: We’ve got good news
New grads and career starters — which we define as someone with fewer than four years of full-time work experience — are entering a robust job market, as the economy continues to evolve in the wake of the pandemic. While the LinkedIn Hiring Rate, which tracks the velocity of LinkedIn members updating their profiles with new jobs each month, is still below pre-pandemic levels for career starters in the U.S., it’s recovering and was up by 15% year-over-year in 2021.
The encouraging hiring climate has continued into 2022, despite growing concerns around inflation and the stability of the global economy. The number of entry-level job postings on LinkedIn grew by nearly 17% in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period last year. And employers are planning to hire almost 30% more new grads than they did in 2021, according to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Today’s recovering job market offers career starters several different paths to consider. And while having options is a blessing, it can be intimidating as well. How can you begin?
“Start somewhere. Start anywhere,” advises Lindsey Pollak, who is a career expert and author of Getting from College to Career. “I’d rather you get started and learn from experimentation than you stay paralyzed.”
Your first job doesn’t need to be perfect. Learning what you don’t like is just as important as learning what you do.
Where should you test the waters? Going where there’s growth is a useful place to start. And sales and recruiting roles are gaining serious steam at the entry level, according to LinkedIn data.
Sales development representative, business development representative and talent acquisition specialist were the three fastest growing job titles for entry-level hiring between 2020 and 2021, according to LinkedIn’s analysis. Hiring for business development reps jumped by 178% during that period, with employers like Oracle, Salesforce and Accenture among the top hiring companies.
See more: Skills needed for each job and how much they’re paying.
Paying attention to industries on the upswing can be just as useful as focusing on fast-growing job titles. And employers in several different sectors — including hospitality, health care and biotech and legal services — are on the hunt for entry-level talent. But out of all fields, staffing and recruiting led the pack as the fastest growing industry for entry-level workers, with a 50% uptick in hiring in 2021, compared to the previous year.
See more: The top 10 fastest growing industries for entry-level talent.
Job openings in the 10 fastest growing industries for career starters: Staffing and Recruiting | Hospitality | Health Care and Biotech | Legal Services | Tech and IT services | Consulting | Manufacturing | Financial Services | Advertising | Nonprofit Organizations
Navigating today’s job market: Get creative, stay flexible
If there’s one lesson career starters have learned during the pandemic, it’s that professional journeys don’t follow a straight, defined path — even at the outset. To set yourself up for a successful launch, creativity and flexibility are essential.
Kyle Sheehy, a business development representative at Oracle, wanted to break into Big Tech after he graduated from UCLA in 2021. But he lacked experience, partly because his 2020 summer internship was canceled when the pandemic hit.
So, what did Sheehy do? He created his own experience, by getting involved in several different extracurricular clubs on campus.
Pollak encourages career starters like Sheehy to apply the term “experience” broadly. She says it could mean enrolling in a course or reading a book on a topic that interests you.
Through his club participation, Sheehy says he was able to develop key skills like cold calling, which helped him stand out when he applied to Oracle.
More employers are paying attention to candidates’ skills, especially as many shed their degree requirements for open positions, says Jeff Selingo, a special advisor at Arizona State University and author of There Is Life After College.
“It’s not that major and college are not important but, increasingly, employers are looking for skills,” he notes.
Sheehy’s initial skills helped him get in the door at Oracle, but he hasn’t stopped there. In his past year as a business development representative, he says he has been exposed to several different sides of the company, which has given him “a large opportunity to learn” and grow his network.
“I don’t know any other job where you’re able to call someone that’s a C-suite executive two months into the role,” he says. “It’s being able to talk to those people at a high level, understand their needs and understand how a company runs.”
See more: Industries that hired the most entry-level workers in 2021.
In addition to finding creative ways to build skills, many pandemic-era career starters have had to let go of preconceived notions of when school ends and work begins.
Asa Jones joined Spencer Ogden as a talent acquisition intern during her fifth year at the University of Houston. Jones says some professors limited their course offerings when the university moved to online learning, so she stayed another year to take classes she needed to graduate.
Jones is far from alone.
Arizona State’s Selingo says he is seeing a growing number of recent graduates, particularly those planning to attend graduate or professional school, take additional time to get the experiences they missed out on due to the pandemic.
“Internships, courses, finding mentors in college — things that would have happened sophomore and junior year in a normal circumstance — didn’t happen at the same level,” he says.
Taking a fifth year of college hasn’t slowed Jones down. After almost 10 months at Spencer Ogden, she started a new, remote position as a talent acquisition specialist at IT services firm LanceSoft, which allowed her to eliminate her commuting costs.
“I also think that talent acquisition helped me break into my own career options because I’m amazing with resumes now,” she says. “I know exactly what to put in front of a hiring manager.”
Where to launch: Remote’s rise has changed the game
While the pandemic has forced many career starters to adapt to circumstances out of their control, it has also given budding professionals new freedom. The rise of remote work has redefined where you can launch your career.
Job postings for entry-level remote roles soared by 187% in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to LinkedIn data.
The shift to remote work has given newly minted professionals the option to move to less expensive cities, rather than “big employment centers,” Arizona State’s Selingo notes.
That was the case for Jack Chamberlin, a data center sales executive at Dell Technologies. Before graduating from the University of Arizona in 2020, Chamberlin says he knew he wanted to establish roots in Austin, Texas, whether or not his job was based there.
“Two of my best friends were interning for Oracle and IBM here in Austin, so I visited them for a couple of weeks, got a pulse for the city, fell in love with it and then I decided going into senior year, ‘I want to be in Austin. It’s just a matter of how I’m going to get there,’” he says.
Southern cities have taken center stage for plenty of other career starters, too, with Austin, Texas; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C. area making up the three regions with the largest growth in entry-level hiring between 2020 and 2021. Austin, in particular, showed a 21% increase in entry-level hiring during that year-long span, with employers like General Motors, Amazon and Dell among the top hiring companies.
Knowing he wanted to start his career in Austin, Chamberlin matched with a recruiting service to help him land a job in the city. He says his main priority was to join a large company that offered training and development opportunities, which is what steered him to Dell. He received an offer in February 2020, but Chamberlin says his job search didn’t stop after graduation.
“There were a lot of different companies you were hearing about from friends that were having job offers rescinded,” he says. “Even though I did have that safety blanket, I still was in the background looking for different jobs, making sure I had all my options open.”
Chamberlin started remote work at Dell in August. But pandemic or not, he says nothing was going to stand in the way of his plans to move.
“I was like, ‘I’m moving to Austin when I start work. I don’t care if I’m working remotely from my apartment. I want this to feel like a new chapter,’” he says.
After living in Austin for almost two years, Chamberlin says it’s been a great place to start his career “without breaking the bank.”
“I’m from San Francisco and I want to live there eventually, but I knew that it wasn’t in the cards for me immediately post-grad,” he says. “Austin felt like a really great way to have that California culture, California mentality but at a Texas price point.”
With its flourishing music and food scenes, Chamberlin says living in Austin has helped him make new friends and expand his network.
“I think one of the hardest things about starting your career post-grad is making friends,” he says. “I think because Austin is such a community of transplants, everybody is so open and everybody wants you to be part of their group. Everybody wants to meet new people because they don’t know anybody in Austin either.”
Not all career starters are sold on remote work as a permanent arrangement, though. In fact, many new professionals are looking for hybrid or in-person arrangements after spending the past few years adhering to social distancing, according to Selingo.
“I think working in person is more encouraging,” says Oracle’s Kyle Sheehy, who is shifting from remote work to a hybrid arrangement in Santa Monica, Calif. next month. “When you have your colleagues literally right next to you and you hear them on the phones or you see what they’re working on, it’s way more collaborative and it helps put you forward a lot faster in your career.”
Younger workers are applying to remote jobs at lower rates than older professionals. In the first four months of this year, remote positions accounted for 36% of job applications from LinkedIn members between 20 and 24 years old, lagging behind all other age groups. By contrast, 49% of applications from those over 35 were for remote roles during the same period.
Startup vs. large company: What to consider
For many career starters, like Dell’s Chamberlin, landing a job at a large, established company is a top priority. But it’s not the right move for everyone. How should career starters decide between startup and large employers?
Arizona State’s Selingo notes that working at a large employer early on in your career can offer training and development opportunities that you might not receive at a startup.
“The best thing you could do is to continue to learn and earn in those first couple of years after college,” he says.
Startups have their advantages too, though. Such smaller firms can set you up with a strong network of contacts.
“Eventually, you may go start another company with them or go work with them somewhere else,” Selingo says. “It matters who your co-workers are more at a startup because they are going to be with you every day, but they are also the people that will help you get what’s next.”
Hiring activity among small businesses, including startup firms, has been strong in recent years. The average LinkedIn Hiring Rate for small businesses was 8.1% higher than the overall U.S. hiring rate in the first three months of 2022. And since the onset of the pandemic, new business formation has accelerated, according to LinkedIn data.
While going the startup route can be beneficial, Selingo encourages career starters to proceed with caution.
“I think that you really have to think about this as a potentially short-term thing, because a lot of startups fail. So, you just have to go in knowing that,” he says.
Read more: How to choose a startup that’s right for you.
Taking the next step
Now that you know which jobs and industries are in demand and where entry-level hiring is gaining steam, how can you narrow down your search?
“Know yourself and know what kind of work you want to do,” advises Cate LeSourd, author of Coming of Age: Our Journey into Adulthood. “It might be good to look at a job that’s hybrid or allows you to have that flexibility to be able to go into the office and build those relationships, especially as you’re starting your career.”
When you find a role that interests you, career expert Lindsey Pollak recommends reaching out to people who have experience in the role to learn how they landed their position. She also suggests building your network by connecting with alumni from your college to see how they have used their degrees.
“It is people who are going to give you a job,” Pollak adds.
Read more: LinkedIn members’ advice for recent grads and career starters.
Rest assured, you don’t have to have it all figured out because when it comes to your career, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” notes LeSourd.
Entering your professional life may not always go according to plan, and that’s just fine.
“Have a greater purpose that can guide you through,” she advises. “Don’t be discouraged and know that stories we love to hear and tell have those twists and turns. They have conflict. So know that your story isn’t over and that the challenges don’t define you.”
Good luck writing your first chapter — you got this!
What advice do you have for the Class of 2022 and other career starters as they navigate today’s evolving job market? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in a post using #CareerKickstart.
— With Scott Olster, McKenna Moore, Carl Shan and Pavlo Tsiselskyi. Graphics by Greg Lee and Noelle Smith.
To compile this report, data scientists on LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team analyzed millions of member profiles and job postings. The team collected all entry-level hires from 2020 and 2021 and used those to calculate the share that each role, industry and region held, then ranked those by year-over-year growth. Skills data was gathered from member profiles and transformed to surface the most unique skills for each role. Salary data was collected from anonymous member input and external data sources. For analysis involving the age of members, results were gathered either explicitly from members, or was inferred from other profile data such as high school or college graduation year. Data for 2022 was collected from January 31 through April 13. The LinkedIn Hiring Rate (LHR) is the percentage of LinkedIn members who added a new employer to their profile in the same month the new job began, divided by the total number of LinkedIn members in a specific cohort (e.g. all LinkedIn members in the U.S., all career starters, all members who work for small businesses, etc.). The LinkedIn Hiring Rate for small business defines a small business as an employer that has anywhere from 2 to 200 employees.