When you’re looking for your first job after years of school, it’s natural to want a large salary. Part of the reason for this is because more money can mean a better standard of living. You could afford a better place, a nicer car or pay off your student loans more quickly.
But we’re also conditioned to see our salaries as a sign of our success in life. By that metric, more money means we’re more successful.
Although salaries are absolutely something you should consider when evaluating your first job offers, they’re not the be all end all. The best company for you may not be the one that offers you the most money. Here are several other important factors to keep in mind…
Let’s start with one of the biggest job perks for Millennials – flexibility. If you like to travel and pursue other interests outside of work, then you need a company that will let you maintain a nice work-life balance, instead of one that expects you to devote your life to them.
There are two types of job flexibility:
- Flexibility regarding what time you work, such as setting your own schedule or at least being able to adjust your hours when necessary
- Flexibility regarding where you work, such as telecommuting
You probably won’t find a company that tells you “go ahead and work whenever you want, whenever you want” right off the bat. If you want that, working as a freelancer would be a better option. You could, however, find a company that gives you some flexibility in the beginning, with the potential for more in the future.
When you interview with a company, take a close look at what the work environment is like. Does the company foster a collaborative environment, where everyone provides their input, or does management take a more authoritarian approach? Does the office have a relaxed vibe with a casual dress code, or is it more of a buttoned-up feel?
With work environments, it’s not like there’s one specific setup that’s best. It’s all about the type of environment that’s best for you. You could be the type of person who thrives in a laid-back, creative environment where your coworkers become your friends. On the other hand, you could also be the type of person who does their best work in a structured environment where the focus is on work and socialisation is kept to a minimum.
Honestly assess what type of environment makes you feel most comfortable and helps you achieve your peak productivity. A higher salary won’t help if you can’t stand a company’s environment and your work is suffering because of it.
How successful you are at a new job will depend in large part on the leadership there. Even if you’re highly educated in your field, you probably have little, if any, professional experience. There’s nothing wrong with that, as it’s to be expected at your first job. You’ll be able to improve by leaps and bounds, but only if you have management who can help you reach your potential.
Ideally, you’ll get a chance to meet with your potential manager before you accept a job offer. This will allow you to get a feel for their personality and what they’re good at. Remember that even though professional accolades are impressive, you shouldn’t take them as proof of a manager’s abilities. Watch how they talk about the company and their level of enthusiasm.
Here are a few of the most important questions to ask yourself about a manager:
- Will they put you in a position to succeed at your job?
- Can they help you grow professionally?
- Are you comfortable asking them questions?
- Would you be enthusiastic about being on their team?
With a good manager, the answer will obviously be a resounding “yes” to all four questions.
Room for Growth at Your First Job
So, you’re comparing two positions, one with a $60,000 annual salary and another with a $50,000 annual salary. This seems like a no-brainer if the perks are similar. That’s not always true, because you need to think about more than just the first year’s salary. What about the second year, and the third and so on?
Your $60,000 starting salary may be nice, unless it’s at a startup that goes under after you’ve been there nine months. Or if it’s the type of company where it’s extremely difficult to advance, meaning everyone either leaves after a couple years or stays at the same salary.
How do you find out if there’s room for growth? If you ask during your interview, of course they’re going to tell you there is. A better approach is to read reviews of the company online from past and current employees. Glassdoor is great for this. You can also reach out to employees on LinkedIn to get the scoop.
There are all kinds of extra benefits companies may offer, such as:
- Free meals or snacks
- A break room with games or a TV
- More paid vacation time than average
- A gym area with exercise equipment
These perks may not be a huge factor for you, but they’re still worth considering. If one company is offering a slightly lower salary than another, but it has a gym and will give you more vacation time, you’ll need to weigh what that extra vacation time and a free gym are worth to you.
Choosing the Right Job
Your first job is a huge decision to make, especially when you have multiple attractive options. The salary matters a great deal, but so do certain other factors. Try figuring out what type of environment and job perks you like before you start comparing offers. This way, you’ll be able to weigh the benefits of working at different companies based on what’s most important for you.
Most of all, choose the job that makes sense for the next several years, not just the immediate future.
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Hey Job Seekers! There’s More to Your First Job Than Salary