Looking for a Job? Here’s How to Get Started

Part 1: Getting a Job

Just starting the job search process? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Whether you’re a recent graduate, newly unemployed, or re-entering the workforce, this article will explore some of the important things to keep in mind as you search for your next job.

Step 1: Identify Potential Jobs

When searching for a job, the state of the economy will influence your options. If the economy is in a bad place, there will be fewer job openings and the available jobs will likely offer a lower income. On the other hand, if the economy is in a good place, you will have a better chance of getting a job with higher pay.

Typically, the more education and training you have, the more desirable you are to a potential employer and the more you can expect to be paid. The returns from education are very high, meaning people with advanced degrees typically make significantly more over their lifetime than people with a high school degree.

There are several non-income factors that will affect your career choice. If you have children or plan to have children in the future, you may need to find a job with more flexibility. Paying for child-care during the day can get expensive, and you’ll need a backup plan in case your child gets ill. Some employers offer child-care and others do not, which is an important thing to consider when choosing a job.

Another factor that will affect your career choice is location. Some places have a higher cost of living than others, meaning everyday expenses will be higher. For example, it is more expensive to rent an apartment and buy groceries in New York City than it is in Gaffney, South Carolina. Jobs in expensive cities usually offer higher salaries. However, once you factor in the cost of living, the higher salary may not necessarily mean you are better off.

Lastly, work conditions will also influence your job choice. If a job expects you to work in dangerous conditions or to work a lot of overtime hours, it might not be wise to accept it without considering your other options.

Step 2: Start Applying

Once you have identified potential jobs, fill out the application! Applications often require basic contact information, as well as a resume and cover letter.

A résumé is a formal document that summarizes a person’s experience, education, and skills. Résumés should only be one or two pages long and are used when applying to jobs or internships. Hiring managers and recruiters look at résumés to determine which applicants are best suited to fill the position.

Your résumé should include your name and contact information, your education, a list of your past jobs in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest), any community service or relevant experience you have, and a list of your skills.

Résumés are usually accompanied by a cover letter. A cover letter is a document that is sent with an application that explains a person’s credentials and why they are interested in the job.

A good cover letter complements a résumé by explaining some of the experiences listed on the résumé that are relevant to the job. Think of it as a sales pitch for why the company should hire you. Cover letters should be personalized for each job to which you are applying. A cover letter should not be more than a page in length.

ALWAYS proofread before submitting anything! Spelling and grammar mistakes on a résumé or cover letter can seriously hurt your chances of being hired. Take the time to proofread, because a lack of attention to detail is frowned upon in any field.

Part 2: Job Offers

You’ve applied, gone through the interview process, and received a job offer (or a few)! Now it’s time to take a closer look at the benefits offered by each company and compare them.

Step 3: Compare and Negotiate Pay

The first benefit of a job that most people think about is, of course, income! Income is money that an individual or business receives in exchange for providing a good or service or through investing. Income, also referred to as "earnings," is most often received in the form of wages or salary.

Wages commonly refer to an employee’s pay that is based on the number of hours worked multiplied by an hourly rate of pay. For example, a grocer works 40 hours during the work week. If the employee’s hourly rate of pay is $15, after the first week she will receive $600 (40*$15). If the employee had only worked 20 hours, she would have received $300 (20*$15).

A salary is employee pay that is calculated on an annual basis, for example, $60,000 per year. These employees are usually paid once or twice a month. For example, that $60,000 salary would be $5,000 per month or $2,500 for half a month. Oftentimes, salaries are negotiated when you first accept your job offer. By doing some research into the typical salary for someone with your experience, you can receive a better salary offer and make sure you are not being underpaid.

The U.S. Government protects employees from having to work more than 40 hours per week. That is, when an employee does work over 40 hours in a week, they must be paid for overtime work. Sometimes, overtime hours are paid at a greater rate, such as 1.5x the hourly wage. In the example of the grocer above, she would receive $22.50/hour for any hours worked above 40 hours that week. Be sure to ask about your company’s policy on overtime before you accept your job offer!

Step 4: Compare and Negotiate Benefits

Employee benefits are a form of non-monetary compensation provided to an employee in addition to their salary. Some examples of employee benefits include paid time off, health insurance, retirement benefits, child-care, gym memberships, dental or vision insurance, and tuition reimbursement.

Employers provide benefits because they help attract and retain employees, while boosting morale and confidence in the company. There is also a financial incentive to offer benefits. If the employer can buy something for a lower price than the employees can on their own, such as a group discount for a gym membership, then the employees will be better off.

Some benefits are mandatory. Any business that has at least 50 employees is legally required to provide health insurance, family leave, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, and Social Security and Medicare.

Benefits are usually worth about 30% of your total compensation. For example, if you are paid $50,000, your benefits package could be worth about $15,000. Therefore, your total compensation and benefits is actually worth $65,000. Nice!

On the other hand, if your company doesn’t offer many benefits, you can use this to negotiate a better salary. For example, if your company doesn’t offer retirement benefits, you can ask for a higher salary since you will have to spend a portion of your salary on saving for retirement.

Be sure to understand the full extent of your compensation and benefits package when comparing job offers. One job might offer a better salary but fewer benefits and vice versa. By comparing the entire package, you will get an idea of which company is truly offering the better deal.

Part 3: You’re Hired!

You’ve compared your benefits packages, negotiated your salary, and accepted a job offer. Now what?

First of all, congratulations! Getting a job is no easy feat. But there are still a few steps you need to take to make sure you start off on the right foot.

Step 5: Read the Employee Handbook (no matter how dry it is)

An employee handbook is a collection of a company’s policies and rules of conduct. It focuses on policies employees must follow and lists what they cannot do. Employee handbooks serve to protect the rights and responsibilities of the company and its employees.

The federal government requires several policies to be included in employee handbooks. These include family medical leave policies, equal employment policies, and worker’s compensation policies.

  • Family medical leave provides at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave if an employee’s family member needs medical care, like a newborn baby or a sick parent.
  • Equal Employment forbids companies from discriminating based on age, race/color, religion, pregnancy, or disability during the hiring or promotion process.
  • Workers’ Compensation (aka "Workers’ Comp") involves accommodation for disabilities, military leave, breastfeeding, and crime victim’s leave.

Employee responsibilities and behavior are also covered in employee handbooks. For example, an employee handbook can include policies on attendance, meal breaks, rest breaks, harassment, smoking, dress code, grooming standards, Internet and email use, and overall expectations.

Employees have the right for their workplace to be a discrimination- and bullying-free environment. If you have a dispute with your employer, you can file a complaint with the Department of Human Resources (aka, HR) in your company.

Human Resources (HR) is in charge of recruiting and training new employees, employee benefits, organization development, and employee relations. HR will document and help to resolve any workplace disputes. Additionally, if you ever have any questions about your salary, benefits, or proper conduct as an employee, HR can provide you with the information you need.

Step 6: Take a Breath!

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the programs available to you and the behavior and conduct your company expects, you’re ready to start working! Be sure to take a moment to congratulate yourself for all of your hard work. The job search process can be stressful and taxing, but it’s definitely worth it in the end!