Choosing the right job out of college—five things to consider

You’re graduating. All you’ve ever known was school, and choosing the right college seemed like one of the biggest challenges you’ve had in your life thus far. Now, to choose between competing job offers. How do you decide which company is right for you? What makes a good benefits package? You’re transitioning from life as a college student to life as a working adult in a few short months—there are lots of big decisions to make.

So, how do you know you’re choosing the right position? Good question.

1. Pay

This is the most obvious factor in choosing a job. But with pay, there are a few things to weigh that you may not initially think of. First, is this job in a high cost of living area? If so, you may want to check out a cost of living calculator to see how far your paycheck would take you in the city you’d be working and living in. Try not to focus too much on the salary figure—for example, $70k in Indianapolis will go further than $120k in New York City. You need to consider the cost of housing, transportation, food, student loans, fun, and much more in this number. If you’re considering a job in a specific city, the CNN Money cost of living calculator is great. Second, find out if there is a chance you could get a raise relatively quickly if you’re doing excellent work.

2. Company Culture

How did you feel when you interviewed there? Did you feel like one of the team immediately or did you have a weird feeling while there? Go with your gut on this one. It is much harder to gauge than pay is, but finding a job with a great company culture will make you much, much happier in the long run. And even though it’s listed second on this list—I believe it’s the most important factor to weigh as you make a decision.

3. Location

Is this where you want to live? Could you eventually buy a house here and settle down in the area? Does the pay they’re offering offset the cost of living in this city? What are some fun things to do? Are you going to have to have a ridiculous commute? Location can help determine your quality of life, so while those big cities may have some perks, there are also major drawbacks—like having a lot of roommates to keep costs down or living far away to afford rent.

4. Benefits

Ask how much will come out of your pocket for medical, dental, and vision insurance? What about paid time off ? 401k matching? Other important benefits to look into are short and long-term disability, and life insurance. Yes, this all sounds really boring now but in a couple of years, you’ll be happy you paid attention—trust me.

5. Autonomy

Does this seem like somewhere you’re going to be able to work autonomously? If you’re looking for a role where you can continuously grow and learn, an environment that encourages you to take initiative will probably be the best fit for you.

Obviously, there is a lot to think about and there are many questions you will want to answer before committing to a job. If you find you can’t answer one (or lots) of the questions I posed above, reach out to your recruiter or someone who took you through the hiring process at the company you’ve been interviewing with. Ultimately, the decision you make about where to work is yours and yours alone—that doesn’t mean you have to go through the decision-making process alone, though. Consult with those you trust, listen to some of their perspectives, and keep the five points I listed in the back of your mind. Good luck in your decision making!

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