We get it: Looking for an entry-level job can be discouraging and stressful—especially if you're finding that certain positions require three to five years of experience and a familiarity with software programs you've never even heard of.
So when you finally do get an offer, it's natural to feel like you should be jumping up and down, shouting, "Yes!" While it isn't your dream job, you need a paycheck, and the job doesn't seem like a total nightmare. So just say yes. Yes?
Before you blindly grab the opportunity, ask yourself the following three questions to help you determine whether the job will help you take a step forward in the future—or whether you're selling yourself short.
Does it match your goals and values?
If your goal is to become a researcher for a health care company that pioneers new treatment options for patients, you want to look for jobs that will lead you to that goal. When it comes to applying for jobs, think quality over quantity. "A targeted search will bring more possibilities that align with your career goals," says Denise Anne Taylor, founder of the Michigan-based career-coaching firm CareerMedic.
Instead of applying to hundreds of jobs, do your due diligence and research the job responsibilities and company culture to see if the particular position will ultimately get you closer to your dream job. This strategy will help you save time and increase the likelihood of job satisfaction.
Is there opportunity for career growth?
Nobody wants to be stuck doing the same duties for too long, so find out whether the position comes with opportunities to grow your skill set and advance within the company.
"Consider if the job will let you 'lean out' and eventually expand your responsibilities in a direction toward where you want to go next," says Denise Reibman, founder and career coach at Career Happiness Coaching based in Washington, D.C.
The odds of this being the case increase if the job is at a startup or smaller company that is growing, says Amy Hanlon-Rodemich, executive vice president of the people success team at the Freemont, Calif.-based IT strategy firm Milestone Powered.
"You get the chance to wear multiple hats and see what fits," she says. "A small company offers you the chance to gain broad experience before specializing, and it shows that you can help build something from the ground up."
Unfortunately, you can't jump from entry-level to the C-suite, but if the job will help you develop the skills you need to keep steadily moving up the ladder, it's probably worth taking on.
Will you be able to make more money?
Entry-level salaries in many industries aren't going to be big bucks, but that's to be expected. Don't automatically turn down the job because of the starting salary. While it can be tough to negotiate an entry-level job offer, but if you can make a solid case for why you deserve more money, it doesn't hurt to ask.
"If you get a really low salary offer for your first job, plant the seed for a future review by saying something along the lines of, 'I'm really excited to accept this offer, and while I understand your current budget limitations, could we figure out a way to readdress this conversation in three months?'" says Olivia Jaras, founder and CEO of the New Hampshire-based company Salary Coaching for Women.
You're going to be more successful if you enjoy where you work and what you do, so choose a job that will help you get where you want to be. "I believe that in your first job, you should expect the minimum, but then come in and knock it out of the park. The rewards will follow," says Hanlon-Rodemich. In the words of Drake, "Started from the bottom now we're here."
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