5 Things You Should Look for in Your First Job (Because It’s Not All About Salary!)

Aug 30, 2013 - Joe Matar

If you've just graduated college and are unemployed, you're probably dedicating every waking moment to one task: finding a job. In this economy, it can be difficult to find a job at all, let alone a full-time one in your field. With thousands of dollars in college loans, many new grads base their job search on how much money they'll make in a position.

But making decisions about the jobs you'll apply for and ultimately accept based on money alone is a bad idea. Here are five other important factors to consider when looking for your first job:

1. Experience you'll gain

Early in your career, the most important thing you can do is gain as much experience as possible. Even if you secure a job in your desired field, you won't be in the same position forever. To advance, it's important to have a variety of experiences under your belt.

Before you accept a position, consider what kinds of experience you'll gain. If you'll be working in publishing, for example, will you be working with the Adobe Creative Suite? Will you also be able to learn new skills such as website design or pagination? No matter what direction your career goes, it never hurts to have skills in multiple areas.

2. Potential for advancement

Look at the opportunities for advancement within a company: Is there a possibility of being promoted after you've been there a few years? Are there other positions you could apply for internally? For example, if you work in an editorial position, could you move to a higher position in sales?

It's much easier to move up within your company than to look for advancement somewhere else. Hiring managers will almost always give internal job seekers preference when reviewing applications. When companies promote from within, you can hit the ground running and learn how to be an awesome manager and work your way up the ladder.

3. Benefits

If you look at salary alone without taking the benefits package into consideration, you could end up taking home a lot less of your paycheck. Standard employee benefits include health insurance, 401K, paid time off and sick leave.

Taking a job with a higher salary that doesn’t include these benefits may cause you a lot of headaches. Out-of-pocket health insurance can cost several hundred dollars per month, while health insurance from your employer would be a fraction of the cost.

A lack of paid days off may mean you can't take a vacation or visit relatives over the holidays. If you’re offered paid time off, also consider how flexible the company is about personal days. Some businesses may prohibit you from taking off at peak business times.

4. Company history

This may strike you as an odd factor to think about, but a company's history could make the difference between having a job in a year and applying for jobs again. The US economy is still recovering from a recession, which means cutbacks and layoffs are common. Your company may decide to close your branch or, worse, go out of business.

Check out how the company has been doing for the last few years to see if you'll have to worry about keeping the job once you have it. If the business has recently acquired other branches or departments, that's a good sign.

If you're working for a startup, that can be either good or bad. The potential for advancement can be very high because you can grow with the company. But a lot of new businesses don’t do well at first, so a job at an established corporation may be more secure.

Another good sign is if the company has received awards in your area.

5. The environment

You're going to be in the office around eight hours a day, so you want to enjoy your time there. When you're in the office for your interview, consider what it would be like to work there. Do the people smile and say "hello," or are they less than friendly? Is there an open office plan? Do people work quietly alone at their desks or with each other?

Think realistically about the type of job it is. You can’t expect to work outside if you’re working at a Web design company—most of their work is on a computer. Consider how happy you'll be in the environment. Courtney Gordner is a blogger and journalist who loves getting and giving career advice.