What New Grads Should Know Before Accepting That First Job Offer

US News

A long-anticipated job offer can give feelings of security and relief to fresh graduates. But just because a company wants you doesn't mean you should say yes to the first employer that extends an offer. There are a number of red flags that prospective candidates should look for when deciding whether to accept a position.

Instability. It's no secret that many young employees job hop -- and some experts think this is good. While changing employers frequently and by choice has become more common, having your first job pulled out from under you will be much less appealing to most new employees. That's why it's important to look for signs of an organization's ability to withstand market pressure before you join it.

Rona Borre, CEO and founder of the tech staffing firm Instant Technology, notes that in the digital age, new companies are popping up rapidly in many industries -- particularly in technology. Unfortunately, this means that not all of them will have the longevity to make it long-term. "Though the innovation, hard work and 'bet big, win big' mentality of a startup can be an incredible match for some newcomers, it is something to keep in mind for those seeking stability in their career choice," she says.

Poor reputation . One advantage for today's graduates is technology allows greater access to information about specific companies than was available before. Borre points out that there is a wealth of information on nearly every company available online, including reviews from CareerBuilder, Glassdoor and other career sites, where current and former employees can discuss how they feel about their organization and its management and culture.

Researching companies using these tools, as well as social media sites like LinkedIn, can help you identify potentially problematic work environments. If a large number of employees have taken the time to vent about their dissatisfaction, it could be a red flag. However, Borre advises against letting online reviews sway you completely. "It's important to take these reviews with a grain of salt, as often times the most vocal employees are the most dissatisfied," she says. "If there are consistent issues among the reviews, it may be important to keep in mind."

Lowball salary. As a new employee, you may feel grateful for whatever starting salary is offered, since even a lower salary will likely be more than you've ever made in your life. What's more, many graduates ( particularly women) may feel reluctant to push for more pay given their lack of experience, concern about seeming pushy and the tougher job market.

Think twice before accepting the first number offered. According to Lisa Kaess, economist and producer and founder of the consulting firm Feminomics, negotiating for a few thousand dollars more in salary at the outset not only can help students pay down their loans faster, but it can add up to $1 million more in earnings over the course of your career. If you're not sure what the market rate is for your position in your location, check sites like PayScale.com and Salary.com for averages.

"This is particularly crucial for young women, who typically earn less to begin with, and are reluctant to ask for more," Kaess says. "When negotiating, be ready to discuss your skills and align yourself with a company's goals." She adds that even if the employer doesn't come up with extra cash, they might be willing to sweeten the deal with more paid vacation, personal days and other benefits.

Unhappy people. The interview stage provides a great opportunity to observe employees in their element. Be observant during your limited time at the job site to notice whatever you can about its culture and environment. Your interviewers may certainly provide some signs, whether subtle or overt, into how they feel about their own jobs. But other people you see in the office as you walk through may also offer clues. "Arrive to a job interview appointment about 15 minutes early (so you can do all pre-interview prep such as using the bathroom, calming yourself, etc.) and sit and observe how the people in the office interact with each other," suggests Randall Hansen, webmaster and publisher of Quintessential Careers. "If people seem cold and uncommunicative and you are accustomed to a happy/friendly work environment, then this place may not be for you."

Robin Madell has spent more than two decades as a corporate writer, journalist and communications consultant on business, leadership, career, health, finance, technology and public-interest issues. She serves as a copywriter, speechwriter and ghostwriter for executives and entrepreneurs across diverse industries. Madell has interviewed more than 200 thought leaders around the globe, winning 20 awards for editorial excellence. She served on the board of directors of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in New York and San Francisco. Madell is the author of "Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30" and co-author of "The Strong Principles: Career Success." You can reach her at robin.madell@gmail.com.



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