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 don’t really know where to start.

I need some insight into the top things 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 to do, 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, you might hate your boss or your work, but 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 offer. If you have time to research you should have a good idea of your stats for your range and what is a reasonable counter. Nav.it, the money tracking app, also has a great salary negotiation calculator you can use 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 their job offer. In fact, they may think it shows professionalism and a 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 they can do is meet your ask 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 see below).

Look at the opportunity:

One thing you want at an early stage in your career is growth opportunities. You want to gain as much experience as possible. Then see if there is 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 then 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 opportunity 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 stayed 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 you are 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 really understand the job, the company and the politics of the work, the second gives you a chance to really hone your skills and possibly 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 just better skills that benefit toy later in life. Then strategically hop to increase your salary.

Now that you have assessed the salary and opportunity, the next step is to assess the package. Salary isn’t the only way to build wealth. Exceptional wealth has been created by employees in early stage startups who have succeeded. They have also been created for those who are offered equity in established companies. If you are being offered equity, ask an expert to assess the value of the equity being offered. You may be sitting in another 50k of wealth.

Read more about equity here.

The other benefits

Of course then there are healthcare, 401ks or their equivalent, and other work perks to consider. Do they offer tuition assistance in case you plan to go back for your MBA? Does the company pay for lunch everyday? Do you get a transport stipend? Are they providing a match to your 401k (if so, take the match!).

This article can really help you breakdown employee benefits, especially when you contemplate enrolling them.

All of these things add up to value for you, either through cost savings, cost prevention for healthcare, or direct income in your retirement account. Remember, even though you’re young, investing early and having your employer pay you more through a 401k 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?

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