June 13, 2008
By: Rachel Zupek
Finding your first job is easy. You send in your résumé for a position to
which no one else is applying. You get a call back right away, have a
successful interview (during which you are promptly offered the job) and
of course you're offered the salary to last a lifetime. Nothin' to it.
A more likely scenario might look something like this: You send out
multiple copies of your résumé to several different positions that have
hundreds of other applicants. Maybe (if you're lucky) you'll hear back
from five employers. Of those five, you might get two or three interviews,
none of which will go as seamlessly as you think. After waiting several
weeks in career purgatory, you may or may not get an offer for a job that
is closer to a nightmare than a dream and that pays just enough to foot
"Although the job market is a little shaky right now, recent grads don't
want to settle, either," says Kristen Fischer, author of "Ramen Noodles,
Rent and Résumés." "Many recent graduates feel like taking a job is a life
or death decision. While every job will impact their career, they have to
remember that a first job is a stepping stone. Chances are that it won't
be an ideal situation or their dream job, but it can provide the
foundation for a fulfilling career."
To avoid landing in a position that's not for you, here are 12 pieces of
advice to consider about the job hunting process before you accept your
1. Consider reasonable expectations for an entry-level salary.
Research your desired industry and the jobs you're interested in within
that sector. Use Web sites such as cbSalary.com to find the average salary
for the job you want, in the location you're looking for work. Use that
knowledge when deciding if a salary offer will be enough to pay the bills.
2. Weigh the entire benefits package.
"A salary offer is only one part of the compensation package," says Dwayne
Keiffer, assistant director of career development at Messiah College in
Grantham, Penn. Evaluate the entire benefits package. Does the company
provide insurance? Will it contribute to a 401(K) plan? How much vacation
do employees receive?
3. Reflect on company quality.
Job content and the quality of the organization you're going to work for
should take a backseat to most other things, says Shawn Graham, author of
"Courting Your Career." After all, you want the job that gives you the
most options for your next career move. Compare job content, fit within
the job and organization's culture, opportunities for advancement and
compensation before saying "yes."
4. Job satisfaction is more important than salary.
Consider job satisfaction as well as salary, suggests Rachelle Canter,
author of "Make the Right Career Move." Launch yourself in a direction you
want to go by considering the skills you have and enjoy using, skills you
want to acquire and rewards that are meaningful to you.
5. Evaluate the employer's brand.
Does a company place an emphasis on its talent? Does it engage in employee
development? What reward incentives does it have in place? Are employees
encouraged to participate in company decisions? All of these questions are
key indicators of an employer's brand and how much a company invests in
its employees, says Ed Lawler, professor of the Marshall School of
Business at the University of Southern California.
6. Get rid of the "shoulds."
Don't listen to what other people tell you that you should want. "Before
accepting a job, make sure it's a job you want and not a job your parents
want, your college counselor wants or your friends want," says Lindsey
Pollak, author of "Getting from College to Career."
7. Make your decision based on your current life realities, not "what if"
"You don't have to create a fit today that will fit your life in 20 years,
when you may have children or a mortgage," Pollak says. "Just be where you
are today and know that managing your work and life will change many times
over the course of your life."
8. Find out where former employees of the position are now.
Training and development is the most important thing about a first job
because it's the spring board for your career.
"Your prospective boss's record for having his employees promoted to good
positions both inside and outside the company is a key indicator of how
good that person is at developing his people," says Lee Miller, managing
director of YourCareerDoctors.com.
9. Consider job location.
"Would you rather have a good job in a great location or a great job
somewhere you're not so crazy about?" asks JillXan Donnelly, president of
the Career Exposure Network. If location, culture and way of life are
important to you, consider taking your second or third job choice if the
location appeals to you more.
10. Know what you're looking for.
"Despite the fact that you've invested a lot of time and effort - not to
mention money - into getting your degree, far too many of us don't really
know what we want to do after graduation and we're hoping we'll just
figure it out along the way," says Elizabeth Freedman, author of "Work
101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself."
You don't need your whole life planned out, but at least have an idea of
what you want to do so you don't waste time and energy applying to jobs
you don't really want.
11. Don't underestimate the power of networking.
"If location, location, location is the slogan for real estate, then
networking, networking, networking is the mantra for career development
and landing full-time jobs," says Bill McCarthy, associate director of
Binghamton University's career development center in Binghamton, New York.
Don't wait until you need a job to utilize your network, he says. Most
openings are filled through word of mouth and referrals, so keep in touch.
12. Finding a job is a job in itself.
"It can take months to find a job and for many people, finding a job is a
job in itself," says Amy Diepenbrock, director of career services at Barry
University in Miami Shores, Fla. "Most of the time, students think that by
stating that they will take any job, in any company, that their chances
are increased. In reality, this hurts their candidacy because employers
want to hire individuals who know what they want to do, understand how
they can impact the organization and who display an interest in their
specific position and organization."
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches
and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and
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