By: Jamie Birdwell-Branson
After weeks, or maybe months, of post-grad job hunting, you finally got hired! Now to make the most out of your new-found success, here are some tips to consider during your first year in the workforce.
1. Know that your original salary is something that you need to live with for a while. This is why negotiating is crucial. Don’t be scared to ask. This is your livelihood after all! Your first salary is something that your future bonuses and promotions will be based off of until you leave the company or switch to a different position. You definitely want it to be something you’re comfortable with and that can be used to pay for all your necessities. That being said, you do have to remember that you are entry-level, and unfortunately, most entry-level jobs are not a six-figure salary. Know your worth, but don’t insult your new company.
2. Know what your retirement plan is, if any. Though you may be thinking to yourself, “Retirement? I’m 22 and I don’t care,” this is a mistake. Retirement is a long way away, but it’s crucial to start planning as soon as humanly possible. The standard retirement plan is a 401(k), which is a retirement savings that is taken out of your paycheck before taxes are deducted. Often, companies will match your employee contributions up to a certain percentage, which means more money for your RV trip around America when you’re 80. If your company doesn’t offer a retirement savings plan, then it would be a good idea to put money back yourself. Many workers that are self-employed or aren’t provided a retirement plan through their work typically start saving in an IRA, which is an Individual Retirement Account. A traditional IRA lets you deduct contributions from your taxable income, which would be a good option for someone just starting out. Talk to a finance advisor or your dad, who will probably be thrilled to talk shop with you.
3. Know and understand your company’s healthcare plan. If you are still on your parents’ insurance, then you can go ahead and skip this step, but it’s still good to understand how healthcare works and what the best option is for you when you turn 26. If you are over 26 or your parents want you to go on your own, you’ll definitely need to understand the complex and convoluted healthcare world. Most companies that have over 50 employees should offer health care, which means you will have a range of options that your company has pre-selected for you. Some key words to learn are deductible, premium, copay and coinsurance. The main thing to know is that if you have a higher deductible (the portion of medical expenses you are responsible for), your monthly costs (or premiums) will be lower. If you have a lower deductible, your premiums will be higher. It just depends on what works for you personally. If your company does not offer health insurance, then you will need to select a healthcare plan from the healthcare marketplace. The best thing about the marketplace is that you can qualify for subsidies, which means less money out of your pocket each month. If everything you just read sounds like gibberish, call your HR representative or go to healthcare.gov for more information.
4. Know what you need to do to get promoted. This might sound simple, but you should know exactly what your responsibilities are at work and try to exceed them. As you grow older, your expenses will increase. Whether you get married and have children, or maybe you want to travel and have a huge loft apartment, you will want your salary to increase over time. You also want to continually be challenged at work. Talk to your supervisor about a long-term plan and know exactly what you need to accomplish in order to get promoted.
5. Know what a good, effective email is and write one every time. Hopefully you got some practice with this in college when you had to email your professors, but it’s time to get your email game up to speed. Use a salutation, be direct and clear and don’t use any emojis. Further down the line when you are more comfortable with your direct supervisor or your colleagues, emojis or more casual language might be acceptable, but this is a situation where you definitely need to “read the room.” You want people to see you as professional and not as an intern.
6. Know what kind of commute you can handle. Everyone has a different type of commute, and they all have their unique pros and cons. Some people drive an hour in heavy traffic to get to their job. Others ride a subway for ten minutes. Some may walk 15 minutes to get to work, or ride their bikes. And some may just walk to the living room and turn on their computers. If you are commuting over an hour to work, consider moving closer once your lease is up. If your company will allow it, you may consider remote work for a few days a week if it makes sense for your position. This will all make sense to you when you find yourself screaming at a minivan that cut you off in traffic six months in on the job.
7. Know that it will take some time to adjust to full-time work. Adjusting from a college schedule to a full-time job can be a little overwhelming. You could have a dream job and you still might find yourself a little sad at the end of the day. Know that it’s okay to feel anxious in this time of transition. You may miss your college friends or your routine of getting up at 9 and staying up until 3. Try to find a job that fulfills you, or maybe a hobby or a sport. Stay active. It’s easy to just go home and watch Netflix at the end of a long day (and sometimes it’s necessary), but keep focusing on a goal. Join a club or a Meetup group. Explore your new city, or reacquaint yourself with an old one. Also, know the difference between post-grad blues and a job that is not working for you. If you are severely unhappy in your first job, consider what options you may have or reach out to a mentor for advice.
Staring a new job should be exciting and with these tips, your on-the-job success can continue for as long as you want it to. Good luck and remember to have fun!
Image courtesy of stockphotos/freedigitalphotos.net
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jamie Birdwell-Branson is a copy editor and freelance writer who lives in Ft. Worth, Texas with her cat and her husband. She is interested in writing about anything and everything, but she mostly enjoys to write about women’s issues and politics. She is an avid reader and a collector of magazines.