By Monica Torres

Emerging professionals who are early in their career face a conundrum: You need a job in order to get experience, but you need experience in order to get a job — how do you get one without the other?

New employees recognize that it can be hard to convince an employer to take a chance on them, but a new survey revealed just how hard it can be to find an entry-level job willing to take a chance on someone with little to no experience.

Analyzing a random sample of 95,363 jobs, TalentWorks found that entry-level job candidates face an uphill battle finding jobs within their experience level. The majority (61%) of all full-time jobs seeking “entry-level” employees required at least three years or more of experience. That’s a lot of experience for someone just starting their career. In fact, TalentWorks expects this number to only get worse for future entry-level employees.

“Employers have also been driving ‘experience inflation,’ which is especially dangerous for younger workers,” the research states. “For entry-level jobs, the amount of work experience required to get a job has been steadily increasing at 2.8% per year.”

That means future generations of workers have raised expectations to look forward to when they join the labor market.

If you don’t have the years of experience, don’t be discouraged

If you’re an entry-level employee feeling discouraged by these findings, don’t count yourself out, though. The good news is that most employers use job year requirements as ideal guidelines, not hard requirements.

”‘Required qualifications’ in job ads are like wish lists, not inflexible lists of requirements. Those qualifications are a composite of someone’s idea of the ideal candidate,” Ask a Manager’s Alison Green advised one under-qualified candidate. “Believe me, they will look at people who don’t perfectly match it. So when a job posting requires four years of experience and you only have two, you’re not automatically disqualified. If you think you could do the job, apply anyway.”

Of course, if you are lacking in one area of experience, be sure to play up how you excel in others.

Succeeding in a job search means selling the story of why your particular set of qualifications matter more than what you lack.

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