Your first job offer feels great. It’s a validation that you have begun to succeed in your career search efforts. It also gives you a sigh of relief knowing that you have potentially secured employment. Make sure that you don’t jeopardize the opportunity and digest this simple advice when evaluating your first job offer.
I always tell my students not to take a job that does not pay enough for you to live. Be realistic of course, but also be honest with yourself. Think about your living, commuting, and eating expenses and then add in some money for unexpected and leisure items. Make a spreadsheet in Excel and add it up. Figure out what your weekly and monthly salary would be to insure that you will have enough to live. Otherwise you will be looking for a new or additional job sooner than you think.
Make sure that you consider the entire suite of financial benefits when evaluating a job offer. Ask the HR manager about any 401K or 403b plans, tuition remission, bonuses, and profit sharing or matching funds. These benefits can potentially raise your total compensation package by thousands of dollars.
Remember that the longer the commute, the more it costs in gas or mass transit expenses. Also, long commutes can be debilitating after a while. Make sure you do a dry run to work during rush hour to see what the trip would be like. A long commute creates a longer work day. A two hour commute each way is an additional 20 hours a week of your time.
Check blogs and social media groups to see what you can find out about the company and what the culture might be like. Check the company website for photo galleries and other informal information about the corporate philosophy.
Go through a pros and cons checklist to evaluate your overall happiness with the position. What will make you happy? Ask these questions before you say yes. Will it be autonomy or team projects? How happy will you be with the commute, salary, benefits, job tasks, and the industry? It comes down to being able to say no if the negatives outweigh the positives.
Unless you already have insurance through a parent or spouse, make medical benefits an important consideration. As a young person, you seem invincible. But as time goes on you realize that your health and maintaining it are the most important part of your life. You must have health insurance, so if the job doesn’t offer it in some way and you still want to take the opportunity, make sure you have made arrangements to get it on your own. Medical bills for a serious situation could cause extreme financial distress for you and your family.
But make sure you negotiate the right way. If you want to ask for more salary up front, you will need a solid justification based on evidence, not personal circumstances. For instance, you shouldn’t ask for a higher starting salary because you need to get a new car. Ask for additional money based on industry salary standards, which can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Website or at career and industry websites. You can justify additional salary with a statement such as: “I’m inquiring about a higher starting salary based on the median salaries of professional in my field at the same level.”
This is a prerequisite to getting the offer, but an important item to remember. Don’t put down things on an application like having a college degree, but in reality you are three credits short of graduating. I have seen new employees at jobs get hired and then fired a week or two after they started because the HR department discovered that they indeed did not have the college degree they stated.
Be humble in your discussions on the job offer. Be thankful and proud, but don’t assume that you are the only one. If you try to manipulate the HR department into something extra without true justification, the offer may be rescinded. I once heard a story from one of my former managers that had resonance. He was in job offer negotiations with someone and was told by the prospective employee that they absolutely needed four weeks vacation. The job and the company only offered two to start and that person didn’t get the job.
New graduates often say, “I’ll take anything” when it comes to their first job offer. If you have built up a sound resume and have a polished portfolio that shows evidence of your skills and abilities then you will have a better opportunity to be choosey. You simply don’t want to take a job just to have a job unless you are absolutely desperate for income. Taking a job that you don’t like will cause stress and inevitably you will have to go through the job search process again, full force. Be positive about your value and get in touch with what will make you truly happy. Eventually, you will really be interviewing them to see if that job fits you.
Getting offered a job is a wonderful experience, but you should be diligent in making sure that you aren’t just taking the job just to have a job, unless of course you need the money. Make sure that you research your pay, benefits, and commute before you dedicate yourself to a job you might not enjoy.
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