I sat across from my soon-to-be boss and asked all the correct interview questions for young professionals. What re my responsibilities? What’s the salary? What about sick days and vacation days? Who do I report to? There was a list, trust me. However, I forgot to do the most important thing before saying yes to the job:
Getting all of it in writing.
Yes, all of it.
Now, most employers will give you a written out (yet vague) job description with a list of responsibilities.
However, you would be surprised how many of them don’t have all their HR policies and guidelines written out. This is particularly true for smaller businesses with under 20 employees. (Oh yeah, these types of businesses make up over 80% of corporations and firms, so there’s a good chance you’re going to be working for a “small business” after graduation.)
All of this information can be written out in the form of a legal, signed contract; part of an employee handbook; or something more informal.
Either way, get this information before you say YES to the job. You never know what could actually be in fine print.
If you have a side hustle, you’re going to need to know their policy on conflict of interest and no compete. For example, if you’re joining a marketing agency, are you still allowed to freelance?
You may also want to ask about confidentiality. Are you allowed to brag that you work for an agency that marketed for Coca-Cola or you trained the golden retriever of [Insert Celebrity Name]?
What’s the office life like? What hours are you going to be expected to work? What’s the work-from-home policy? Do you get lunch breaks? What in the world is the dress code?
Most importantly, do you get to bring your pup to work? (Kidding, maybe don’t ask that…)
Salary + Overtime Information
Babe, you better know how much you’re getting paid. Are you getting paid based upon an annual salary or per hour you work?
If you’re getting an annual salary, how many hours are you expected to work per week? Do the math on that to figure out what your hourly rate is. Does that feel like a fair hourly rate? (Don’t forget to calculate how much tax is coming out.) If not, you may need to pass on the job. When you’re salaried, how is overtime handled? Does it become PTO (paid time off) or overtime pay? If so, what’s the overtime pay rate?
If you’re working an hourly wage, is that something you can live on? Are you guaranteed to get 35+ hours per week?
Something to remember is that if you are working inconsistent hours, even if you’re working part-time, you need to be making a livable salary or wage off this one job. Why? Because getting another job that will work around an inconsistent schedule to the full amount you need to live on is going to be difficult.
You’d be surprised how many employers don’t give you insurance. Ask about health insurance, life insurance, and workers’ compensation. I worked 30-35 hours per week at my corporate job. Even though it had the responsibilities of 2 full-time jobs, because the hours were “technically” not full-time hours, I didn’t get any sort of insurance.
Paid Time Off + Holidays
Woot! Woot! Besides the salary, this may be the best part!
Now, it’s easy to overlook this in all the excitement. After all, surely they’re going to give you holidays off and some vacation time, right?
Okay, stop right there.
Once upon a time, I accepted a part-time, 30-34 hour/week job for a non-Christian, religious employer.
At my interview, I was told I’d have American holidays off plus as much vacation time off as I wanted, “within reason.” (Okay, it may have been 2 weeks).
I made the mistake of not getting that in writing.
I joined the team a few weeks before Passover & Easter, and quickly accrued 20+ hours of overtime preparing for a Passover event.
However, I wasn’t able to get a full day off the week after to recover, even though nothing was going on at work and none of the management would be there.
On July 4th, I was hanging out at home with my pup and Netflix. The next day, when I checked my work email, my supervisor had sent me an email around 1 or 2 PM telling me I could “leave early.” Oh well…
When negotiating time off to go visit family for Christmas, I was told that “you don’t get paid vacation” and that I would need to make all the time I missed. I was finally told that I could have the 25th off as a “Christmas/Hannukah gift” but I would have to be at work by 12:30 PM on the 26th. This was despite the fact that I still had 25+ hours of overtime.
I turned in my resignation letter 10 days later.
Friends, get EVERYTHING written down (and signed!) in ink before saying yes.
Accepting a new job can be incredibly exciting. However, in all that excitement, make sure you have realistic expectations and know what you’re actually getting into.