Finding a job you love is a process and, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may find yourself in a position you don’t love. Avoid this common job-hunting pitfall and consider more than just salary when you’re evaluating an opportunity.
Salary prospects are often limited when you’re just starting out, looking to switch technical specialties, leaving an organization after a short period of time or even just because the organization has a set salary limit for each position that they can’t negotiate. You probably have a number in your head that you’d like to be at but, if it’s unrealistic, you’re setting yourself up for a long, arduous job search. Instead consider the following elements of an opportunity on the same tier as salary and be prepared to compromise on one or more.
> Location: How short will your commute be? Can you walk to work or will you have to drive? Will you have to pay for parking, tolls, or other additional expenses on top of your regular car maintenance? If you’re the kind of person who loves a good audiobook on a long drive home, a location farther away from where you live may be fine. On the other hand, if you’re unable to move from your current residence and the commute sounds like a nightmare, the location issue may cause some serious damage on your opinion of your job as a whole. It’s incredibly important that you consider your location needs when applying for new positions.
> Insurance: Yes, insurance is getting extremely costly. Does the company you’re applying to have insurance options that could potentially lessen the amount you pay? The cost and quality are difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate when you’re applying for a role but when you get a job offer, make sure to ask those questions. In the meantime if insurance availability is an absolute must for you, make sure you’re applying to positions at companies that offer it.
> Retirement plans, profit sharing and stock options: Having a higher salary will certainly grow your wealth but so will retirement plans, profit sharing and stock options. If you’re looking at the long term and wanting to plan ahead financially, don’t be discouraged by a salary that is lower than your ideal. If an organization has regular bonuses or profit sharing, the salary won’t reflect the amount of money you’re getting accurately. And, if the company offers retirement plans or stock options, you’ll have the chance to invest some of your money for future pay offs.
> Paid time off and holidays: Ah, the joys of a nice paid day off are truly a luxury experience. If paid time off (PTO) or holidays are important to you, keep that in mind when you’re evaluating which positions to apply for. Some organizations offer very little PTO while other organizations offer unlimited PTO. What amount of PTO, if any, is essential to your happiness in a certain position? Is it worth taking a salary cut to have that PTO? These are important questions to ask yourself throughout your job search journey so that you eventually find yourself in a job you love.
> Company culture: There are large companies and small companies. There are collaborative companies and independent companies. There are red companies and blue companies. That last one may not be true but the point is that organizations come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Do you prefer working at a large open table with collaborative coworkers and innovative technologies? Do you prefer a quiet space to work and solve technical problems? Factoring in company culture is arguably the most important factor in your job search because it will determine whether or not you’re happy at an organization in the long term. Your salary can change. Location can change. Coworkers, insurance policies, and paid time off can all change. What doesn’t change as easily is a company’s culture. It’s established by founders, carried out by managers and employees, and is the threat that weaves together an organization on the whole. It’s essential that you know what kind of company culture you’re looking for if you want to have a successful job search journey.
> Training or education opportunities: Your current skillset is probably great, but there’s always room for improvement. Of course you can make the efforts on your own time to learn new technologies and grow as an employee, but wouldn’t it be great if your company contributed to that learning process? Through benefits like paid training or tuition reimbursement, an organization can facilitate your learning process and help your skillset remain competitive. If that’s something that is important enough to you, accepting a salary that’s lower than your ideal won’t be detrimental to your career happiness.
> Growth opportunities: Does this company regularly promote their Jr. Developers to Senior and even Management roles? That could potentially skyrocket your career and, eventually, your salary if you’re willing to take a small salary cut now. Think about it, this job search process can be lengthy and tiresome. But, if you’ve ever gotten help from a friend or a boss whose connections snagged you a job, you know how much easier that process can be. If you’re already working within an organization and they’re known from promoting from within, you could be putting your career on the fast track to success!
> Other flexibility and fun benefits: Wellness programs, flextime, free breakfast and free car washes, it seems everywhere you look in the IT industry these days there are more and more innovative benefits being offered at a variety of organizations. Are any of these benefits going to make your life easier, better or less expensive? If the answer is yes, don’t be put off by a smaller salary offer because, in the long run, the value this organization’s benefits package is adding to your life may be worth a little less money in your check.
Salary is often treated by like the most important factor of a position by IT job seekers. While it is, of course, an element of interest during your job search you should not let it dictate your career prospects entirely. Instead, figure out which of the elements you value in the list above, or ones that were not listed, and use that information to decide where you can compromise and where you cannot. This will help streamline your job search and place you in a position you’ll love for many years to come.