When you’re looking for a job but you don’t have much work experience or training, your options may be limited. Gateway jobs—also known as entry-level jobs—are a good place to start.
Finding the right gateway job can open a door to a career path that leads to your dream job.
What is a gateway job?
A gateway job is an entry-level position that usually requires limited work experience and training. It gets you in the door with an employer.
Some typical gateway jobs include:
- Labourer, such as drilling service rig personnel and furniture mover
- Retail salesperson
- Food service helper
- Kitchen helper and food assembler
- Call centre agent
- House cleaner
- Housekeeping attendant
How to spot an entry-level position
For entry-level jobs like those above, employers generally provide the on-the-job training required to perform the work. If the employer advertises that no experience is necessary, and no minimum education level is noted, it is likely an entry-level position.
TIP: If you have a college certificate or a degree and you respond to a job posting where no experience or advanced education is required, you’re likely to be dismissed as overqualified.
Other jobs might be labeled as entry-level but require a specific amount of education, training, or experience. These are usually junior positions that have a direct line to more senior roles in the same profession. A degree is usually required to work as a junior accountant, for example. With experience, junior accountants tend to move up into more senior roles.
Use a gateway job to your advantage
Gateway jobs offer more than basic work experience. Once you’re in a job you can:
- Prove your existing skills
- Discover your strengths
- Develop new skills
- Explore an industry or sector
- Make a good impression
- Connect with people and start building a professional network
If you had a job as a food service helper in a restaurant, for example, you could use it as an opportunity to:
- Learn how to manage your time and duties successfully
- Practise and improve your communication skills
- Learn about and practise customer service
- Observe servers and their work
- Observe chefs and their work
- Learn about the restaurant business
- Learn about the hospitality sector, and so on
Gateway jobs can open one door after another
Ask anyone with an interesting job how they ended up in that position. They’ll probably tell you a tale of zigs and zags—part strategy, part happy accidents.
You never know where a gateway job might take you
Annie took a summer job working as a labourer at a tree nursery. She liked the idea of working outdoors. The work was physically demanding and didn’t pay very well, but it proved surprisingly interesting. Learning about all the different species of trees and what each needs to stay healthy was an eye opener. She asked so many questions and that impressed the nursery owner. Summer came to an end and Annie was invited to stay on to work in the greenhouse. Over the next year, she took on several new duties and gained a greater appreciation for horticulture and nature. In the fall, she enrolled in an environmental science program at a local university. Today she works as a park warden in one of Canada’s national parks. She never would have guessed that a summer job at a tree farm would one day lead her to a career protecting Canada’s natural and cultural resources.
Gateway jobs can:
- Expose you to career opportunities that you might never have considered.
- Expand your network to include inspiring and influential people you may otherwise never have met.
- Help you build an impressive master resumé as you progress from one role to the next, gathering skills, experience, and expertise as you go.
- Lead you to your dream job.
The skills you develop in one job will naturally transfer to other, more advanced roles.
Choose a gateway job that matches your skills
Gateway jobs can help define your career path. Set yourself up for success by making sure that whatever job you pursue is a good match for you.
Take stock of your interests, strengths, and skills
Consider completing an interests exercise, an abilities exercise, or a core skills exercise. The information you learn about yourself can help you narrow your job search.
Use online search filters to focus on jobs that match
The Find Your Fit filter in Alberta Job Postings helps you refine your search, highlighting current job opportunities that match your identified skills.
For example, if you’ve always been good at math and picturing objects in your head, you can give yourself 5 stars for “Numerical Ability” and 5 stars for “Spatial Perception.” This will bring up a list of possible job opportunities for you.
Even if you’re not quite ready to apply for a job, it’s worth seeing what kinds of jobs you might look to apply for when you are ready. How can your skills transfer from one position to the next?
If you’re not drawn to any of the jobs that match your current skillset, you can change the filters to get an idea of what additional skills might benefit you in your job search. This will give you something to work towards.
Step into your new career
Gateway jobs can be an important stepping stone towards a successful career. By researching the right job for yourself and then meeting the right people in your new workplace, you can build valuable new skills and professional relationships that could last through your whole career.