If you’re like many college seniors, you and your roommate probably have a large calendar posted on your wall, and every morning you wake up with a Sharpie to cross off yet another day because, let’s face it, your graduation is quickly approaching.
OK, who uses print calendars and Sharpies anymore? Still, graduation’s an exciting time. You still have to endure final exams and turn in those lingering papers, but you can’t help but think about what you’re going to the second you’re set free from the chains that have bound you for two decades.
Even if you’ve enjoyed your four grueling years pursuing an undergraduate degree, right now, you’re feeling passionate about seizing your dream job as a newly minted graduate.
Hold on! Don’t make impulsive decisions about the first career offer that comes down the pipeline. You may have some time: New research shows that class of 2016 graduates are entering one of the richest job markets.
Here are 10 things you should consider before you sign that fancy new job contract.
- What Is My Commute Going to Be Like?
A commute might sound like a trivial detail, and if you’re still living on a college campus, strolling casually from class to class on the same grounds, you probably haven’t given this issue much thought. But traffic can be a nightmare for those who face it on a day-to-day basis while commuting back and forth to work.
In the last year alone, he average American driver wasted 38 hours sitting in traffic, and that’s a lot of time to lose. If your new job happens to be in one of the top 10 cities with the country’s worst traffic, you may want to reconsider your plans — or at least learn the area’s public transportation system.
- Will I Really Thrive in This Location?
The area you decide to relocate to for the sake of a job will have major implications for your future, which could be costly.
Before you drive that U-Haul to a new city for your dream job, carefully consider the costs and benefits. You’ve been living as a broke college student for so long that it might not make sense to you right now, but do your research and make sure that, even with a new salary, you’ll be able to manage the price of groceries, gas and rent on a regular basis.
Make sure you check out local taxes, too. Since they vary from state to state, and even from county to county, you want to make sure they’re within your budget.
- Do I Even Like This Location?
Let’s say you’ve done your cost-benefit analysis and it turns out that, yes, you can make it along perfectly — at least financially — in your new location. Just because the salary is right, can you really have a strong quality of life in your new location?
Before you pack up your plastic boxes and move, even if you can afford to do so, you need to evaluate whether you even want to be a part of that new city or county.
Work may be your primary activity, but it shouldn’t consume your life. Hobbies and interests are essential to your physical and mental health, and you need to make sure you can pursue all your passions — both work and play — wherever you decide to travel. Whether you have a penchant for diving off of cliffs or for attending dance classes, make sure you’re not giving up your personal life for a new office job.
- How Corporate Will This Job Be?
A position within a large corporation isn’t bad in itself — but it’s not for everyone. Before you accept your dream job, look carefully at the pros and cons and determine whether the opportunity fits into your personal philosophy.
Make sure to ask probing questions during your interview that determine how corporate the company is. What is the structure like on a daily basis? What learning opportunities will you have (e.g., conferences to boost your skills or promote your ideas)?
Be an advocate for yourself — don’t be afraid to ask about vacation time, strictness of hours or meeting requirements. These are all answers you likely need before signing that paperwork.
- Will I Feel Appreciated?
Chances are you’ve interviewed with not just your potential supervisor, but a variety of your potential peers. The position may be one of your dreams, but you won’t survive the daily trials and tribulations unless you get along with your peers.
Remember, the world is your oyster. You don’t need to spend eight hours a day bantering with cubicle neighbors you don’t even relate to.
If you don’t feel the “vibe” with your future coworkers, don’t sign up. You’ll have other opportunities to work with people who truly appreciate your work — and your sense of humor when you make an off-the-cuff joke.
- Does My Personality Fit This Job?
Sure, you were a smooth talker during your interview — and you wooed the whole crowd of executives. Could you do this type of thing on a daily basis, or does the thought of regular public speaking give you anxiety?
Before you launch into a profession that may take up the rest of your life, make sure it matches your personality. Sales professional? Having an extroverted personality will help you. Computer systems programmer? As an introvert, that might be just your cup of tea.
Determining your personality type — whether you are comfortable or uncomfortable working with other people — can steer you towards the type of career you should pursue. You can take the Extroversion/Introversion Test at Psychology Today.
- Am I Even Good at This?
Maybe you are getting your degree in electrical engineering. Is this just a passion, or do you have demonstrable skills that you can perform on the job?
Take a look at your passions and determine where your key talents lie. After all, you’ve been evaluated by professors for at least four years. You don’t have to let go of your hobbies, but professionally, you want to focus on the skills and knowledge you know are your strengths.
- Will I Be Challenged?
Part of the lifelong learning process — which is essential to your physical, emotional and spiritual health — is consistently challenging yourself.
Make sure your new job gives you the opportunity to constantly learn new skills. Even if the salary is enough to sway you, you won’t advance high on the career ladder in the long run without the opportunity to improve yourself on a regular basis.
- Can I Still Attend Family Gatherings?
Choose a profession that appreciates a healthy work-life balance and that includes flexibility for family issues such as weddings and funerals.
As married as you are to your work, you do need to consider the consequences. You can only sustain this work-fueled lifestyle for so long before you burn out. Studies have shown that the lack of a work-life balance can lead to both mental and physical stress and their matching physical and mental health implications. Say no to an employer who grimaces when you say you have a family to balance.
- Why Jump Into a Job at All?
Let’s face it — you haven’t even graduated yet. Why rush in finding a job when there are so many other opportunities that will let you continue your education and lead to the career of your dreams? Your peers may be jumping into the industry fields, but continuing your education may be the best way to get ahead.
If you’re still unsure of your trajectory, you don’t need to land that dream career just yet. Give yourself a few years to plan your dream career while you further your education.
You don’t need to commit yourself to a traditional “brick-and-mortar” institution — you can even further your degree online. For example, health science professionals can earn credits — and certificates — by registering for continuing-education (CE) credits online. You don’t have to attend a university every day to help people at the hospital, though you may need to practice a few needle sticks in the lab.
The Key Takeaway
Graduation can be both exciting and intimidating for all college seniors. An impulse to seize the career of the lifetime — or what looks like it — seems to be a dream. Before you accept an offer, make sure you do a cost-benefit analysis (even an informal one) to make sure you’re landing the job you want.
After all, choosing the right job is important. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”