Ask the Money Coach: What Should I Look for in My First Job

Let’s face it. Most people don’t have access to a financial advisor. And if they do, those financial advisors may not take into account the human side of managing money – like how spending, saving, and stressing about it actually makes us feel.

Cue the Nav.it money coaches.* We’ve long been helping users in the app, but now you can write into our money coaches.

Dear Money Coach,

I graduate from college this May, and I’m getting a little nervous.

The number one item on my to-do list is, of course, to get my first “real” job. I know I should consider more than just a job’s salary, but I don’t really know where to start.

I need insight into what to prioritize in a benefits package or other work perks. Bonus points if you have any salary negotiation tips!

-Ready to Make Bank


Dear Ready to Make Bank,

Congratulations! You are well on your way to adulthood. Getting your first real job is exciting. Your early 20s are for discovering what you like to do, what you don’t like, and what you’re good at in a professional setting. So be gracious to yourself as you navigate these choices. You might not get it right the first time or despise your boss. However, if you approach each job as a learning opportunity, these experiences will take you to the next level.

Second, you’re right.

Your job package is so much bigger than your salary. Here are things to look at when contemplating your first job.

Market rate

Negotiate

Employers expect you to counter their offers. If you have time to research, you should have a good idea of the typical range for your position and what a reasonable counteroffer may be. Nav.it, the money tracking app, also has a great salary negotiation calculator to think through your next move.

Employers usually have a range they can pay.

If they have offered you the job, they think you are the best candidate for it. It’s not common practice to rescind a job offer. In fact, employers may think negotiating shows professionalism and proactive nature.

The worst they can do is say no, and then you are left with a choice to keep looking or accept their offer. The best the employer can do is meet your asking salary or come back with a counteroffer.

Your starting salary matters as it affects your earning potential over time. Advocate for yourself, but don’t get greedy. You’re new to the professional world, so sometimes opportunities with less pay but more room for growth can springboard your career. Be strategic, and keep reading.

Look at the opportunity

Growth opportunities are ideal at an early stage in your career. You want to gain as much experience as possible. Then, see if there is an opportunity to grow and move up in the organization. If you don’t think there is much upward mobility (maybe it’s a heavy bureaucracy), the question is, does the position provide you the opportunity to build new skill sets that you can parlay into your next job?

Sometimes taking a job with a lower salary but with incredible growth opportunities to increase your job title might fast-track you to leadership roles that would be unattainable in larger companies that pay more. It’s helpful to think two steps ahead when considering your options.

Timing

Employers look at the duration you stay at companies. It costs a lot of time and effort to rectify new talent. They don’t love seeing someone who has barely stayed a year in multiple jobs, even during the great resignation.

When considering a job, ask yourself if you think you can work in that company and live in that city for two years.

The package

The first year gives you enough time to understand the job, the company, and the politics of the work. The second gives you a chance to hone your skills and take on more responsibility. Sometimes suffering through long work hours, intense colleagues, and professional pressure early in your career pays off with higher salaries, bigger jobs, or better skills that will be beneficial later in life. Then, strategically hop to increase your salary.

After assessing the salary and opportunity, the next step is to evaluate the package. Salary isn’t the only way to build wealth. Employees have created exceptional wealth in successful early-stage startups. Those who are offered equity in established companies also have an opportunity to build wealth. If a company offers you equity, ask an expert to assess the value of the equity. You may be sitting on another potential 50k of wealth.

Read more about equity here.

Other benefits

Of course, there are healthcare, 401(k)s, and other work perks to consider. Do they offer tuition assistance if you plan to return for your MBA? How about paying for lunch every day or offering a transport stipend? Are they providing a match for your 401(k)? If so, take the match!

This article can help you break down employee benefits, especially when it’s time to consider enrolling in them.

All these things add value for you, either through cost savings, cost prevention for healthcare, or direct income in your retirement account. Even though you’re young, investing early and having your employer pay you more through a 401(k) match results in freedom when you’re older.

All in all, the world is truly your oyster. Ask yourself what you want, be strategic, consider the whole package, and advocate for yourself. You’re on the path to greatness.

-Erin

Related Reads:

10 Ways to Start Over in a Career You’ll Love

Tuition Assistance 101

Ask the Money Coach: What Money Lessons Should I Know By 25?

Free or Cheap Ways to Develop or Grow Professionally

Free Downloadable Guide to Making a Career Change

Salary Negotiation

Online Courses to Grow Professionally

The Importance of Networking

What to Do Before You Quit

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