Weighing Your Options: Things to Consider Before Accepting a Job
by Sharon Potsch, Talent Representative
Congrats—you've successfully passed through the rigorous interviewing process with flying colors! You're now the proud owner of a brand spankin' new job offer. So now what do you do? Before wildly signing your life away with abandon, check out this article to make sure you know just what you're accepting–or rejecting.
Check Out the Goods
I can still remember accepting my first job offer out of college. I sat across the desk from my future boss and blurted a rather abrupt, "I'll take it!" after he finished rattling off the very abbreviated salary amount and even shorter benefits package. The mere thought of earning a salary was enough for me. After surviving on ramen noodles and creative financial budgeting to make rent, I was ready to accept a salary–any salary. So of course I snatched up the first job offer that landed in my lap. If only I knew that the first offer I was given would chart the course for many more salaried offers to come, I would have given the proposition much more consideration.
Resources abound for checking into your offers. Use the Internet, call your recruiter, and talk to your friends in the industry to determine what type of offer is typical. There are a ga-zillion job boards out there offering salary information–anything from random statistics of creative professionals to customized reports costing anywhere from $9.99 to $29.99. Most of these analyses are suited more toward specialized industries than the creative world, so save your money and check out a basic, general site such as www.salary.com. All you need is a ballpark figure to determine if your offer is in line with comparable offers in your city.
If you are working with a recruiting agency such as Artisan, your talent representative is acting as your advocate. Updated industry analysis on job offers, including current competitive job offers, is yours for the asking. The more you know about comparative offers, the more confident you will feel in determining whether you are entertaining a competitive offer or a weak offer.
Read Between the Dollar Signs
Along with the obvious career advancement opportunities, a strong job offer entails a mixture of a competitive salary and affordable health and retirement benefits, along with unexpected company perks. When evaluating job offers, compare your own personal bottom line against the offer. Uncertainty about your personal financial requirements and cost of living leaves you susceptible to accepting subpar job offers that lead you down the path of perpetually searching for that pot of gold.
To help you determine your salary requirement, run through a quick analysis of your monthly expenditures (both current and predicted if you're thinking of buying a home or downsizing a dot-com lifestyle) to determine both your bottom line and blue-sky salary requirements. Next, compare these requirements against the research you've done to find out what is realistic within your field and location along with what you're currently earning. Don't forget to think about the total package when evaluating offers–not just your salary but how company-provided benefits add into your yearly take-home pay.
Say you're a graphic designer living in Chicago with about three to four years of experience. You receive a job offer for $40,000 plus benefits. What does this job offer really add up to?
A job offer of $40,000 masks many hidden costs and benefits which add to your salary. Some of these include health insurance costs, Social Security match (you may think "Why is this important?" but I'll explain shortly), retirement benefits such as profit sharing or a 401(k) match, or other company perks like free food in the company cafeteria. These hidden benefits are usually referred to as your "total package" or "total compensation." Typically, these costs add about 20%-25% to your bottom line salary.
Here's a pretty technical example: If you are an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying 100% of your Social Security and Medicare, which is 15.3% of your income. As a fulltime employee, your employer pays 50% of your Social Security and Medicare, or 7.65% of your income. If you've ever been stuck with a huge tax bill as an independent contractor, you know how important this added benefit can be!
Factor in approximately two to four grand to cover a basic employee-only health care plan with a national provider (a provider with more than one doctor's office in a 500-mile radius), life insurance coverage, and profit sharing or a 401(k) match, along with extra company perks like pet insurance (hey, it's possible), and you're looking at a total compensation package of around $48,000.*
Points to Ponder
Find a shady spot under a tree and park yourself. Think about what your new offer entails from three perspectives: personal, professional, and financial. Consider how this new job will affect your life. Perhaps this new gig is in the heart of the city and you live in the suburbs. Taking the train may add a significant dollar amount to your monthly budget, but it might also keep you from pulling your hair out sitting in gridlock traffic every morning.
Consider the total package–not just the salary or benefits but how the role will affect both your professional and personal life. Jot down a pro and con list. Does this opportunity allow room for advancement? What's on the horizon for the company's growth? Think back to your interview and try to imagine what it will be like working with your new boss. Did you get a good vibe? Consider how intense the level of peer interaction will be at this new place. When you checked out the atmosphere and working environment during your interview, did you notice what type of space you'd be working in? The privacy of working in a cubicle versus a free-form open space environment means different things to different people. Another huge point to consider are the hours and extra work involved with the opportunity. If you are salaried and your job entails expected overtime, inquire if overtime pay is an added perk. If so, this can dramatically influence your take-home pay!
After you've done your soul searching, remember the importance of believing in yourself. Unless you're being represented in your job search by a wonderfully talented agent, you are your own advocate. It can be easy to accept the first offer you get, thinking that this might be it and a better offer isn't just around the corner. This is a cue to stop and think, not sign the line. Think about what your reasons are for hesitating, because those reasons do not disappear once you start working at your new job. If you're not entirely happy with your offer you'll only end up job hunting again. Thinking about your offer holistically, researching competitive offers, and trusting your gut will help you accept or reject your new offer with confidence. Good luck!
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