How to Find an Entry-Level Defense Industry Job

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It’s surprisingly hard to find an entry level position. For starters, entry level positions often are marketed as entry level, but then list several years of experience as a requirement. To truly compete for any position – including entry level ones – you need to translate former experience into a new field, or pick a field where a degree and certifications are enough to earn your first job. One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that you are actually searching for entry level positions.

If an entry level position is listed properly, it should be easy to spot with the following terms:

  • Assistant XYZ (Researcher, Marketing, Buyer, Editor, etc.)
  • Coordinator
  • Junior XYZ (Engineer, Systems Administrator, Developer, Consultant, etc.)
  • Trainee
  • Specialist

Occasionally, you might spot an entry level position with the term “associate” in it; however, associate level may more accurately be described as a candidate that has work experience, but is transitioning to a new field. Additionally, terms like “analyst” or “coordinator” may have varying levels, depending on the organization. Each organization has different career ladders with different terms. Without the use of the terms “junior” or “associate” in the job title, you will need to read the requirements to determine what experience level the organization is really for.

You can take additional steps to better position yourself to grab a great entry level position.

Communicate your ability to work well with others.

Technical abilities and degrees are important, but if you come across as a solo artist and not a team player, you might be losing an opportunity without even realizing it. Entry-level positions require someone willing and able to learn on the job. And that will require you to work well with others

Don’t be too well-rounded.

Once you have an entry level position, it can be helpful to round out your skills to meet needs throughout the organization. It’s helpful for your career to be agile and adjust to the changing needs of an organization. But when you are looking for a job, you need to identify specific ways you are suited for a particular job. When we come across as a jack of all trades, it can easily translate into a master of none. Understand what technical or soft skills are your particular strength and highlight those.

Don’t forget your job search and interviewing 101 basics.

Yes, typos and lazy mistakes count against you. If you get an interview, do your homework and ask good questions. Entry level does not mean an easier job search or interview process. The competition is high for entry level candidates, so no matter where you are in your career, you need to own that process.

Don’t believe a degree or certification will be treated the same as experience.

Degrees and certifications are important; however, they cannot be a one-to-one trade for experience. While education can get you an interview, it may not actually get you the position. Articulating the experiences you have gained can take you the extra mile to actually getting the job offer. And it’s a good reminder that it’s to your advantage to get some experience while obtaining your career – even if it’s a dreaded unpaid internship.

Be honest.

Don’t give into the temptation to stretch the truth about what you know or who you know. If you sound vague, a few follow up questions will quickly show that you are grasping at thin air and you will look silly. Don’t claim to know someone in the company when you are merely an acquaintance. And don’t oversell your experience – be specific about your experience.

Have a learner’s attitude.

It’s a challenging balance – prove what you know but demonstrate a desire to grow and learn. It’s not hard to remember how painful it is to work with a know it all, so an individual with a learn it all mentality really stands out. Not only can this attitude land you a job, but it will always propel you forward at every point in your career.

Getting an entry level position is about applying to the correct position, but don’t forget all of the other pieces of the equation throughout the hiring process. At times,the jobs are hard to find, but sometimes, the real problem lies in the personal application and interview approach.

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.

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