Why You Should Not Focus On Money At Your First Job

Robin Schwartz

Why You Should Not Focus On Money At Your First Job

Securing a full time job after college is the goal of nearly every graduate with an upcoming student loan bill. The first job out of college can often shape your career path and future. Of course, you want to be paid what you think you are worth. Focusing only on the salary being offered to you might result in missing out on the right opportunity. Aside from your base salary, ask yourself what more the company can offer.


You might hear a company refer to a “total compensation package”. This typically includes the base salary, commissions and bonuses (if applicable) and benefits. Depending on the company, benefits can be a large piece to the offer. You want to be sure that basic medical/dental/prescription coverage is being offered to you. Make sure you understand how much of the cost you will be responsible for.

Medical coverage is one of the most expensive employee benefits an organization carries. Some companies cover a significant portion of the cost. Others offer it but expect the employee to pay a portion or all of it.

Your salary offer is the money that will be coming in, but understand how that will be impacted by the cost of medical benefits. You might find yourself in a situation where requesting a higher starting salary to offset the high cost of medical coverage.

Benefits are more than just medical coverage. Paid time off plans, retirement plans, pre-commuter tax plans, remote work plans, etc. are all benefits that should be weighed against (and with) the salary offer.

If you find yourself in a situation where two companies are providing job offers at the same starting salary, you will want to do a comparison of the offered benefits. This helps you make the best decision for your future.

Financial Opportunities

Understanding the future financial opportunities that exist with an organization will make a bigger impact than the initial starting salary. During the offer/negotiation process, ask questions about the company’s merit increase process and potential bonus opportunities. Learn how the company operates in terms of increasing the salary of its employees. For some organizations, annual cost of living allowances (COLAs) are automatic and not based on annual reviews. Other organizations don’t utilize COLA increases . They only rely on annual merit increases.

For both the public and private sector, the annual increase to your salary could vary greatly. You may decide that working for a company who doesn’t offer significant increase potential isn’t worthwhile to you.

Financial opportunities aren’t just inclusive of money you can earn, but also money you can save. Some companies invest in the education of their employees by providing student loan repayment benefits.

For many recent graduates, student loans are a serious financial burden. Knowing whether a company is able to assist with this financial load may be a significant deciding factor when accepting a job.


Whether or not a company is able to offer, provide or pay for ongoing career related trainings should be a consideration before taking a job. You will learn a great deal during the day-to-day of your new role. Possessing various certifications or attending specific conference related trainings may help you to stand out in your field.

The chance to take your career to the next step will often be reliant on the ability to continue learning more than just on the job. Trainings and additional education can be expensive. If you are being asked to pay for it out of pocket, your base salary offer might not seem as attractive.

Knowing your organization is willing to invest in their employees is also a good indicator of the culture you can expect to find at the company.

Career Trajectory

It might seem premature to think about your next position while you are considering the offer for one you don’t yet have, but it’s not. Before accepting a job with an organization, you need to understand where that job might lead.

  • Are there often promotional opportunities within the company?
  • Is there a preexisting career track that employees in this role follow?

Knowing the answers to those questions will help you make an informed decision before accepting an offer. If it doesn’t seem like there will be much opportunity for advancement at the company offering you a job, that might be okay for you right now. That will give you time to develop a timeline and plan for yourself when you have outgrown your potential in the position. The last thing you want to do is be surprised that you hit a ceiling at the company only a year or two into the role.

Your Boss

Who you will be working for should be a factor when accepting a job offer. You should have met the direct supervisor for the position during the interview process and had the opportunity to ask questions. If you haven’t met them, ask if that’s possible to do. This is the person you will be reporting to every day and expecting to train you in the position.

You will work with your supervisor so should be confident you don’t have any concerns about them. Before accepting the job, you should feel comfortable that your new boss will help you into the company culture and develop your skills.

While money is important, it’s not the only reason to accept a job. By factoring in benefits, additional financial incentives, training opportunities, potential career opportunities and the organizational structure in which you will work, you will be in the best situation to make an informed decision about a job offer.

Don’t just focus on dollar signs, focus on your future career goals. If this doesn’t seem like an opportunity that aligns with what you need or want at this stage, consider whether you should keep looking.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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