7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Accepting A Job Offer

It seems like just yesterday we were all freaking out about choosing what college to attend, and now, once again, we’re faced with big decisions: what job to take. Whether you’re starting to hear back from summer job offers or you’re looking into longer-term career options, choosing a job can certainly be stressful. If you’ve received a job offer and can’t decide whether you should accept it, here are seven questions you should ask yourself first.

1. Do I know what I’ll be doing?

Did your potential employer give you a comprehensive job description, or just vaguely mention that you’ll “have a lot to do”? Sometimes, your job title doesn’t even come close to covering everything you’ll be doing on a daily basis.

If you don’t know what you’ll be doing, search your potential job title on LinkedIn to see who held the position in the past. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people and ask what daily life was like in this position! Mariana Naddaf, a coach at University of Michigan’s LSA Opportunity Hub, suggests that you specifically contact alumni of your university, because it gives you a common bond of attending the same university.

“Contacting alumni in similar roles, even if they didn't work for the same company is a great way to gauge what a position might be like,” Naddaf shares. “Alumni are often excited to share insight and advice with students.”

Another way to learn more about the company is to sit in on a staff meeting or volunteer/intern with the company before taking a full-time position. “If you have the chance to volunteer or obtain an internship position at company, this is a great way to get a feel of what a full-time job might be like there. Some of the best job offers come from developing a relationship and networking with a company/organization,” Naddaf explains.

It’s important to know your priorities when it comes to your daily tasks at a job. Erica Galluscio, a junior at Hunter College, says that she always asks herself whether the job really needs her, or whether they just need another set of hands. “I don’t want to be grabbing coffee or making copies. I want to be hired because of who I am, what I can do, and how I can fit the position,” she says. “My boss has to need me, not just another employee.”

However, in some cases, you need to take the job grabbing coffee or making copies, because you have to do your time before you can move up in the field. If you believe you’ve already done your time, then you’re probably due for some more challenging tasks. If not, it’s probably best to take a simple job and learn from those around you. But you can’t make this decision at all if you don’t even know what you’ll be doing!

2. Is the money sufficient?

Jobs, at their core, exist to earn money, so this might be the single most important question. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should take a job just for the money! You should, however, write out a quick budget before taking the job. If your potential job is so low-paying that it won’t cover your basic living expenses for the summer, then you should figure out how you’re going to do that before you take the job. There may be financial aid opportunities through your university, but you may have to look into a higher-paying job.

Obviously, everyone wants to make bank, but if you know your basic living expenses are covered, then the highest-paying job isn’t always the best option. It may be better to take an unpaid internship with the knowledge that the experience will allow you to take a higher-paying job in the future.

When it comes to a full-time job, it’s important to calculate the job’s benefits into your financial analysis. Naddaf says, “Most full-time jobs will include health and retirement benefits, and sometimes companies will offer a stipend or reimbursement for relocation and moving expenses. Full-time positions also typically offer leave time benefits including vacation, sick, and maternity/paternity time.”

These are tangible monetary benefits that will vastly affect your bank account, so if you’re comparing your salary across multiple different career opportunities, make sure you take these benefits into consideration.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll become a millionaire thanks to a job you take in college or your early post-grad years, it still is important that you’re able to afford rent and groceries.

Related: 7 Ways To Make Networking Less Intimidating

3. What benefits are there outside of money and how much do I value them?

If you know that your income will suffice, then look at your values and priorities and do a little economic analysis based on that.

First, ask yourself what your biggest goals are with your job. Are you taking a job so that you can earn money? Or are you taking a job to gain experience in your field, or build connections? Will your employer write you a bomb letter of rec? Is course credit worth anything to you? Assign each benefit a monetary value. For example, maybe the employer at this potential workplace is so highly regarded that a letter of rec from her is worth $500 to you. Maybe the job offers you course credit, but you’ve already fulfilled your credit requirements in the department it offers it in, so course credit is only worth around $20 to you. Maybe you need real money so badly that nothing can come close to being as valuable to you as a $1,000 check.

This kind of analysis uses the economic principle of opportunity cost, and it’s particularly useful if you’re choosing between multiple job offers. Say one job offer pays a lot, but another job offer will look better on your resume, but yet another job offer is part-time so it will let you take a summer class in addition to it. Assign each of these benefits a monetary value based on your preferences, and go from there.

4. What opportunities are there for moving up within the company? How much do I value that?

It would be pretty nice to take a job knowing that if you work hard, you’ll be able to move up in the company. Or would it? It all depends on what you’re looking for in a job.

If you’re still in college and are just looking for a way to pay the bills this summer, then move-up opportunities may be irrelevant. But if you’re looking for a job in the field you ultimately want to go into, and you know you want to live in this area for a long time, then opportunities for move-up are a huge plus.

Even if you don’t know for sure whether you’ll want to stay at this company, if you think there’s even a chance that you will, you should look into opportunities for move-up. It would be a real bummer to put in so much time and energy to one job, only to find out that if you had taken the job across the street, you would have had an automatic “in” to a higher-level position in that company.

A great way to assess the move-up opportunities (besides simply asking at your interview) is to look at the high-level employees of the company on LinkedIn. What experience did they have prior to taking this job? Was it within the company, or was it elsewhere?

Naddaf adds that when interviewing for a full-time position, you should ask about “professional development opportunities such as conferences, certifications, and continuing learning. Ask how often reviews will be done, in what ways, and with what people. This will position you well to learn about their expectations and when you will be reviewed.” She also notes that Glassdoor.com can be a helpful resource when looking into information from current and past employees.

5. What connections will I be building?

Building your network is one of the best ways to move up in your field. If you take this job, who will you be impressing with your fantastic work ethic? Will you be working closely with a boss who can introduce you to all the top people in the industry? Or will you only get to know the other entry-level employees and one stressed-out supervisor?

There are arguments for jobs at both small and big companies when it comes to making connections. At a small company, you’re more likely to build deep relationships with everyone, even the top person at the company. But at a big company, there might be more highly-regarded people to network with, assuming you ever even encounter them. Ask yourself honestly: Who will I really get to know from this job?

Related: 7 Ways To Beef Up Your LinkedIn Game Before You Start Networking

6. What are former employees doing now?

We already looked at the current employees at this company and discovered where they got their previous experience. But what about the former entry-level employees who no longer work at the company?

Once again, LinkedIn is a great tool for this. Search up your potential job title. You might be thrilled to see that those who took this job before you are now working your all-time dream job. Maybe they all worked at this company for a year, and then got offered a job that pays super well and is in an awesome location! Or you might find out that most of them are doing something that you wouldn’t want to do in a million years, and haven’t really moved up much in the field at all. All of this can tell you a lot about the job.

If you’re feeling brave, reach out to these former employees. Ask them how this job impacted their future job offers, and what they would recommend to someone with the goals that you have.

7. Without thinking too much, what is my gut instinct?

It’s easy to get in the habit of over-analyzing things and taking way too long to make a decision. But when it comes down to it, a job is a job. If you had five seconds to decide, what would you do?

A job is a big decision, but, in reality, no job is perfect. You’re always going to have to make the best of the job you have. So listen to your gut instinct, and if you want to take the job, take the job.