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5 Questions New Graduates Should Ask Before Accepting a Job Offer

How can 2015 grads just starting their career journey improve the odds that their first job is the right one — especially this year when employers are hiring, and there may be a second or third offer waiting in the wings?

“It’s not surprising coming out of the previously poor economy, that new grads may feel pressure to accept the first offer they receive, thinking that the ideal job is in a distant future,” says Katharine Brooks, executive director of personal and career development at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. “But, there are questions to ask before accepting a job that can help determine if it’s really the best career choice and a good first step.”

1. How much income is enough?

Reducing the decision to accept or not accept a position simply due to the salary offer can be a form of tunnel vision. Look at the total package: consider other benefits the company offers that may be just as important, such as flex time, the ability to work off-site, an open work environment or a flat organizational structure. Add health and wellness benefits to the salary for a more complete picture.

2. How will I feel about myself if I accept this job?

Today’s graduates are concerned with finding a meaningful career. The sense of pride associated with answering the question ‘where do you work’ is important. When considering an offer, make time to do in-depth research on the company or organization and explore its online brand to get a sense of whether its mission aligns with your values. Your feeling about the work you will be doing matters to your success.

3. How will I use my talents in this position?

By the time grads are ready to enter the workforce, most have some idea of their top five talents and skills. Accepting a position may be about building on existing skills or deciding to learn brand new ones. Think about how this choice may affect your ability to meet your long-term personal and career goals.

4. How does this work fit with my passions and interests?

An employer expects an employee to bring a certain level of enthusiasm and commitment to the workplace. Before you accept a position, think about what excites and interests you about the opportunity.  At the same time, keep a long-term focus. You may not be able to use your talents immediately. Remember that if you’re starting in a new career field, you have a huge learning curve ahead of you. Many of the duties you will be asked to do probably won’t be exciting, but you are building your knowledge of your career field regardless. You’re getting to know people, learning how the business works and developing relationships—and hopefully finding a mentor to guide you.

5. Does this position enable me to make a difference in a way that feels meaningful?

Sometimes treated as a naïve or youthful pipe dream, making a difference is, in fact, an extremely important component of work, but it is one that varies from person to person. Making a difference doesn’t only mean working for a nonprofit or contributing to a humanitarian project; you can also make a difference when you compile the payroll for your company. Is making a difference important—or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

For grads who accept a job offer and are still not sure it’s the ‘right’ one or the hoped for position, Brooks says that there is something to learn from every career step.

“Rarely is a job the right one or the wrong one. Entering a new position with an attitude of growth and learning shows a respect for your employer and an understanding that every experience is valuable to learning more about yourself.”

Guest Author Katharine Brooks

Katharine Brooks has been providing career services for more than 25 years, specializing in the career needs of college students and alumni in career transition.

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