5 Things To Know Before Starting Your Career
We all hear the same advice before entering the career field, but some of the most import tips fall through the cracks.
As more of my friends enter the career field, I find myself giving the same pieces of advice that I had to learn on the job or heard myself from more experienced professionals.
When you transition from school to the professional field, you get a wave of salaried workers clamoring to give their thoughts on how much you have to learn. It’s a big learning curve!
When I made the transition, I got the comprehensive, high-level advice you would vaguely remember hearing from TV. When I truly started my career, I learned a few more things I hadn’t be told.
So here are my top 5 tips for those all you first-time professionals, so you don’t have to learn the hard way.
#5. It’s Not All About the Salary
I was certainly guilty of chasing the number when I first started the job search and it’s hard not to. It’s the eye-catching, head-turning part of the job that we frame our understanding of careers around from childhood.
Truth is, there is so much more to compensation than the wage. Health insurance plans, paid time off, the hours you are expected to work, and employment benefits — like discounts at various stores, employee appreciation days, complimentary services, free food — all roll into the benefits of working with a company.
Entry-level salary can be higher compared to peers in the same position, but salaries are rarely above the market rate because of employer kindness. There are usually factors that make a higher salary worth it for the employer and may not work for you. Conversely, a lower compared salary may make up for itself with the perks of the job.
Be mindful of the details your job offers include, and choose the combination that works best for you. Higher wages don’t automatically mean better offer.
#4. Health Benefits Matter
We don’t think of it much when we’re young, but the right health insurance plan makes a huge difference. I was satisfied hearing the company offering full benefits and rarely asked a follow-up. But the benefits of a company’s health plan are in the details. I lucked up and got great coverage through my employer, but some of my friends were not so lucky.
Make sure, at minimum, the routine checkups you know you need are sufficiently covered. Vision, dental, life, and disability are considered optional coverages but that doesn’t mean the office visits are cheap. And some jobs will not offer these plans.
Before my insurance coverage kicked in, I called around for routine check-ups I was used to paying no more than $30 per visit for. Needless to say, I was unpleasantly surprised to learn the true costs of healthcare.
Ask a few more follow up questions after asking if health plans are offered. You may need to get supplemental coverage or consider getting coverage outside of the employer.
#3. Be Mindful of Deductions
Not everyone’s favorite topic, and not my favorite section of the pay stub, but the amount of taxes getting taken out is essential to any budget. Luckily, we have some control over the how much.
Everyone has a unique situation, so get to know yours before filling out your W-4. Elect to have as few or as many exemptions as works best. You can always elect to take no exemptions as well.
I understand wanting all of your check at pay time. The thing is, you’ll have to pay one way or the other.
As my mom says, “You can pay it now, or you can pay it later.” Personally, I would rather overpay and get a refund check than have to write a check at the end of tax season.
#2. Being Early is Being on Time (not so cliche)
I know this is standard first day on the job advice. Still, it’s worth repeating, especially when first entering the professional world. It helps to get in the habit early.
And honestly, most people are not 100% efficient from the time they step in the building to the time they clock out — it’s just not realistic to expect an entire workday with no breaks and wholly diligent work, as I discuss later. Unfortunately for me, coffee isn’t apart of my morning routine, so I need all the help I can get in the morning.
Getting to work early allows you to get a jump on your day. I like to use the time to schedule out my day, prepare for any meetings or presentations, or grab some breakfast.
I work in a client service industry, so to make sure I give the clients the full 8 hours they are due, I start about 10 to 15 minutes early and leave about 30 minutes later to offset any inefficiency.
#1. Self-Care. Self-Care. Self-Care.
We all want to be as efficient — getting as much of our best work done as possible — at the office, but that’s not likely unless our bodies are healthy and our minds stay engaged. Don’t be afraid to step away occasionally when you hit a wall, the law insists you get at least one a day.
Take some time to mentally reset. A bathroom break, trip to the water cooler, or walking to a coworker’s desk instead of shooting that email. Some quick aways, even switching focus to another work project, helps to prevent lagging and ensure you stay fully engaged.
Make sure to take your allotted lunch break outside the office as much as possible — and switch things up. If you work inside, try to eat outdoors. The fresh air and change of scenery does wonders for the second half of the day. Some professionals feel the need to work through lunch — which is fine as the workload demands — but it wouldn’t hurt to grab a quick, 10-minute bite away from your desk then get back to it.
Always remember to follow the rules of your office. If you are unsure of the break policy, read the policies and procedures or ask what’s considered appropriate. Be responsible with your breaks, and they can be a great advantage to staying productive throughout the day.
My biggest reminder to recent grads or anyone actively searching for your next adventure is patience. We all learn through experience that a job search takes time and a lot of no’s before finding that perfect fit. It doesn’t mean you’re failing; it’s all a part of the process.
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have multiple offers by the time you walk across the stage. You will still have plenty of opportunities in your future to make your mark on the world. As old as they may feel, your early 20’s are just the beginning of a long journey ahead of us. Take a deep breath, and enjoy the present. It can pass you in a snap.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Is there any advice I may have missed? I hope this will help the young professional’s anxious excitement for their new careers.