Desiree Rogers leading an amazing team. 

I have several close friends who recently started new positions and of course I’m always thinking about my 20 something little sisters who are graduating from college every Spring. No matter what stage you are in, there are certain things that you must consider before signing on the dotted line…

1. Location, location, location! – A long commute can either be a welcomed joy or a serious burden. If it requires a long commute consider how much it will cost to get back & forth. Will you drive (calculate gas!) or take public transportation (calculate how long it will take). One of my good friends recently got a job that is 20 minutes from her house, as opposed to an hour commute and it has made all the difference.

2. Work-life balance – What are your benefits? Will health care be included for you (and your will-be-born baby or future spouse)? Can you work from home? Will you be able to leave work at work, or will you need to be accessible via Blackberry long after you clock out. Is the culture receptive to mothers – or will you be the only woman (and mom) working in your department? It is hard to think about this when you are single, but think about your life in the long term and how flexible your job would be as you go through major life changes.

3. Benefits – While salary is important, benefits are just as important. Find out EXACTLY what will be offered. When I first started teaching, I didn’t really use my health insurance. In fact, I grumbled under my breath everytime I saw the deduction from my pay stub. Now my husband has recently been diagnosed with diabetes and health insurance has saved our family over $7,000 and it’s only been a few months! Consider life insurance and other benefits – a company car? A corporate account? Tax benefits? Will they pay for you to obtain an advanced degree

4. Living Wage/Lifestyle – Salary is super important. Create a rough estimate of how much money you need to make per month to determine the ideal salary for yourself. Think about rent, food, etc. and make sure you’re not “low balling” your worth – ESPECIALLY if your salary is negotiable. This is where industry research will come into play.

5. Off the Clock Hours – Make sure you have a clear commitment of official off the clock hours and unofficial off the clock hours. On the clock, I work 35 hours a week – but I easily put in an additional 5 – 10 hours of work beyond those hours – grading papers, creating lessons and communicating with parents. This is where having an “industry” mentor or researching your industry will help. You do not want to necessarily get into this in your interview. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you’re a “strictly by the book” employee but make sure you know both the spoken (and unspoken) expectations before signing a contract.

6. Opportunity for growth/promotion – How often do they have performance reviews? How high realistically can you go in the company and how long will that take? If you’re one of the fortunate people who has options – sometimes this can be the deal breaker. Perhaps you’re in an industry that may require you to relocate out of the city or state for your promotion. Are you ready for that? Be sure to consider it all.

7. Diversity – This may or may not be a concern for you. I’m highly sensitive to race & ethnicity so racial and ethnic sensitivity is important to me. Is there a culture of respect? Is there a Human Resources department (off site) to handle any issues that may arise. Do they recognize the Dr. King holiday? Recognition of the Dr. King Holiday is one example of racial sensitivity.  Even if your job is not as sensitive to cultural issues – you can always join professional organizations. If you’re in Journalism there is the National Association of Black Journalists. Similar organizations exist for engineers and other fields.

8. Job Security – If you can sign a 3 – 5 year contract that is the optimal situation – at least that way if you’re laid off, you can receive some kind of severance. In our economy, job security is something that is hard to come by, but you want to make sure that you’re in a stable industry and at a company that has a long/rich history with national or international recognition. Also consider becoming a consultant or starting another side hustle to keep yourself sharp.

9. Day-to-day expectations (make sure they are realistic!) – What EXACTLY will you be doing in your day to day operations? When starting in a new industry, we can sometimes have unrealistic expectations about this. As a young girl I wanted to be a lawyer, but when I actually interned for a lawyer I immediately discovered that the day-to-day life would bore the heck out of me. I quickly crossed that off my list and found myself on the road to my true passion – teaching.

10. Size of company/organization and it’s “rank” in your industry – Search by location and industry standards. There are multiple publications that list the “Top 100 Places to Work for People of Color” or the “Top 50 Places to Work for Women.” These can be incredibly valuable in giving you a “snapshot” of a potential employer. It is also good to consult this list if you’re looking to head to the top of the corporate ladder. If you’re going to be graduating soon, consult these lists to create a “Career Wish List” to target your job search.

I’m blessed to be working at the best location in the city (and arguably state) in my field and it took less than five years for me to get there, so I won’t be changing jobs anytime soon and my career satisfies most of the requirements that I listed above.

Did I miss anything? What made you decide on your current job? What is your “dream job?” 

Co-Founder & Executive Director of Donda's House, Inc. Wife to Che "Rhymefest" Smith. Believer. Writer. Scrapbooker. ΣΓΡ.

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