Life Events

Life events pose a unique challenge because each is a new or infrequent occurrence for which many people have little or no prior experience.

When finding a job, a little dose of commonsense advice can help
tremendously.

Here is our advice on these topics.
/ Work / Finding a Job /

Assessing the Offer

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Once you are offered a job, you will have to assess the terms of the offer before deciding whether to accept it. The most obvious criterion is pay, but there are other aspects of a job that may influence your overall satisfaction with it and influence how long you are likely to stay at it. In some cases, you will need a follow up discussion with the company before you will have adequate information to make a decision.

Begin by looking at the amount of money you will get. Will you be paid by the hour, the piece, the job, or at a fixed salary? If you receive a salary, how are annual increases determined? Is your job subject to overtime pay? If so, what are the overtime rules? Can you exchange overtime for time off?

If a bonus or commission is involved, determine how it is calculated. Is it based on a formula? If so, what is that formula? Is it purely discretionary, even arbitrary? Understand who sets the formula and how often it changes. Asking these questions will help you determine how much bonus, if any, you can rely on from year to year. Ask whether your bonus depends on a pool that must be divided among a set number of employees. In this case, you will compete with others for your share. In some companies, the bonus pools may not rise even if the number of employees paid from them increases. Are there any guaranteed payments or minimum earnings?

An important element of your compensation is your benefits package. Understand your company's health insurance plan. Can you choose your own doctor, or are you forced into an HMO or PPO (Preferred Provider Network)? What premiums must you pay, and what are your co-payments and deductibles? What exclusions are there from coverage? What are the costs for adding a spouse or children to the plan?

Although it may be a long way off, think about the retirement plan. Does your benefits plan include a defined benefit pension plan? Or is there a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k)? If the latter, how much of your contributions will the company match? What are the investment options? When are you "vested" (that is, take ownership of) the money you and the company contribute? Can you borrow against the money you have saved?

Time off is valuable. You need it for attending to personal business, "recharging your batteries," and perhaps pursuing other interests or work. Understand what you are offered in terms of vacation time, personal days, and sick days. Can unused days be carried over to the following year? If not, does the company guarantee that you can use all your days or that you will be paid for unused days? If you are an experienced candidate and the company's offer of time off is inappropriate for someone of your experience, feel free to insist on negotiating a more appropriate allotment. If you succeed, be sure to get this in writing, so that a new boss will not renege on the special agreement that you have struck.

Assess the career potential by asking tough questions about the company's policies on promotions. Are they largely based on seniority? If not, ask for examples of people who have risen through the ranks relatively quickly and/or at relative young ages. Cultivate contacts in the company who can give you unbiased views of promotion policies. If you are ambitious, you do not want to waste time with a company whose culture precludes fast advancement.

If the company has an "up or out" policy (true for some aggressive partnerships), understand how they determine if you should be "turned out". With an "up or out" policy, employees either are determined worthy of promotion within a given time, or they are dismissed. If you are let go, what does the company offer to help you find a new job elsewhere? Can you keep a desk and phone number until you get a new job so as to maintain the façade of still being employed there (it's much easier to find a new job if you appear to be employed currently, rather than out of work)?

If lifestyle and family issues are important to you, understanding the expected working hours is crucial. However, this can be awkward question if you have been offered a management position in an aggressive firm. Asking it may mark you as lazy and may even prompt measures to try to withdraw the offer. If you have a contact inside the company, it is easier to understand this aspect of the corporate culture with less risk to your image.

Finally, consider the intangible aspects of the job. If you were will be working with others (either customers or co-workers), how comfortable do you feel about being with them? It's important that at a personal level, you respect -- if not enjoy -- interacting with them.
Similarly, do you believe in the company and what it does? If so, it will be far easier to work hard and more personally rewarding to advance within its ranks.
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