The experience of starting a new job can feel pretty overwhelming, even before you arrive for your first day — but the good news is that there are a variety of things to know before accepting your first job that might help you navigate the pros and cons of saying "yes" to an offer. Depending on your career path and the type of employment you're looking for, you'll have a unique set of needs and desires in terms of your work situation; even if they don't necessarily line up with what our culture still considers "the norm," though, they're always worth addressing. Fields can be wildly different, and looking closely at the specifics of a job offer, as well as your own personality and goals, is imperative to figuring out whether a certain position is the best match for you.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be in a position where you feel pressured to accept the first job offer you get. If you have the luxury of being able to reflect on things like the pay rate, the hours, and the commitments involved before signing a contract, though — and to be clear, being able to carefully consider these things without fear of falling into a precarious financial position is a luxury — it's worth it. Whether or not a job is your dream profession, thinking about how this new employment will impact all aspects of your life, including your mental and physical health, your income, and your general lifestyle, is crucial to making an informed decision.
So, how can you know you're making a solid decision when it comes to accepting an offer for your first job? What can you do to keep from feeling lost when you've never had a job offer to negotiate? While this will certainly vary from person the person, the following five things are a good place to start. To be fair, these things are all worth considering when you're about to start any job, whether it's your first or your fifth — but if you're just entering the workforce, don't forget to consider these five issues:
1. How Much Of Your Pay You'll Actually Take Home
When negotiating your pay, whether it's in the form of a salary or an hourly wage, it's so important to look at not just what you'll make total, but also at what your take-home pay will be. This might vary depending on a slew of personal factors, ranging from your marital status to the city you live in, but between taxes, social security, and other things that get taken out of our paychecks (or that we have to set portions of our paychecks aside for — for example, if you're a contract worker who pays estimated taxes), not every penny you make will be reflected in your bank account. How much will you actually have available in working capital every pay period? And how much do you need to live? How these numbers (and many others) match up might affect how attractive a job offer is to you.
2. What Your Commute Involves
Your commute can have a huge impact on how you feel about your job, but luckily, you do have options. Do you want to live closer to work and save time on commuting, but possibly sacrifice cheaper rent or living in a more hip area? Do you want to invest in your own car or rely on public transit? If you can live at home, do you want to move back into your childhood bedroom to save up on rent money?
There are many options here, and it's important to consider all of them. When you have a job offer, it can be tempting to idealize the situation and forget the grittier details, like commute time, but these factors do end up being a major factor in your day, so it's important not to push them to side.
3. How Much You Can Put Into Savings
As we all know, a job isn't a lifetime guarantee. While we generally make decisions about what we can afford based on our income, it's significant to remember that our income may not always be there. So, what can we do to prepare for periods when we might be out of work? Save money. After you put aside money for your rent, commute, food, and other necessaries, it's a good idea to build some savings for your future. And if you don't end up losing your job? Then you have a nice nest egg you can use to enrich other aspects of your life, like travel or entertainment.
In many ways, this consideration goes hand-in-hand with what your take-home pay is; along with the actual dollar amount you take home every month and what you need to love, one of those many other numbers you might want to consider is how much you want to be able to save, and how much you will be able to save. If you have certain goals that a particular job offer may not help you reach, that might affect whether or not you decide to take it.
4. How The Schedule Impacts Your Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is a pretty big deal. Especially when you're new at a job, it's tempting to throw yourself into it completely and forego every other aspect of your life; however, doing so has the possibility to leave you feeling totally burnt out, as well as making it easy to neglect the other parts of your life that matter: Your mental health, your physical health, your friends, your family, and so on.
As such, how your schedule will break down, how much free time you'll have, how much energy you think you'll have when you clock out each day, and so on might be a make-it-or-break-it element of the decision about whether to accept a job offer — especially when you're entering the workforce for the first time. It's also good to consider, too, how often "outside of work" activities like happy hour end up being required based on the company's atmosphere.
5. How Your Values Align With The Company's
As with everything else on this list, it's important to bear in mind that sometimes we need to take a job that isn't ideal, or when our values don't necessarily align with the place we're working. That said, if you have the option, it's a good move to consider researching the company and what values and ethics seem to be the driving force. If they're things you can support, awesome; if, however, you think you might feel less than awesome supporting them, and you suspect it might start to wear on you after a while, then you might want to consider taking the job a little more carefully.