Tech & Work

7 things IT grads should know before accepting a job offer

IT grads are in demand. But before you jump on your first big-kid job, here are some things worth considering first.

IT graduates are in an enviable position. On a national level, unemployment is below 1%. That means that talent is dictating where they want to go, said Matt Brosseau, director of IT at Instant Technology. A new grad with a good portfolio might not have to jump at the first job offer that comes his or her way.

"They have a ton of opportunities, and not only that, but a ton of opportunity where they're going to make a ton of money right out of school. It's kind of unprecedented," said Todd Pritts, CPO of Indatus, a Louisville, Kentucky-based technology company that specializes in telecommunications.

While this is all great news, there are still a few reasons to temper the excitement before that first paycheck arrives. A good decision will lead to a job where the candidate and company can both benefit from the relationship, but a bad decision can stall out a candidate's career or leave him dissatisfied and miserable.

Here are seven things IT grads should think about before accepting a job offer.

1. Longevity

Recent grads might be faced with the prospect of working at a startup. While a startup can sound like an attractive option, Brosseau does advise to consider the longevity of the company. A startup, for example, might have a shorter lifespan than a longer established company. "You might be the person joining the next Google, or you might show up and the place is empty," he said. A candidate with responsibilities like kids and family might want to weigh the risks.

2. Reputation

There are many ways to research a company. Sites like Glassdoor or Careerbuilder can be good assets in learning if the company in question is the type of place the candidate wants to work. Brosseau also noted though, take online comments for what they're worth. "The least satisfied tend to be the most vocal," he said. Mingwei Li recently accepted a job offer with Spokeo. He said while it's always good resume fodder to have a big name on a resume, it's not necessary immediately. A solid first job can set a candidate up for bigger and better things later on.

3. Opportunities to learn

As fast-changing an industry as IT is, Indatus CTO Brian Webb said, "If I were going to talk to a graduating class I'd tell them, 'Hey, when you're looking at a company, a candidate should think about what he or she can learn from the company.'" Are there chances for mentorship? Or for growing skills? If the company already has a high level of talent in place, that can be beneficial in improving and staying relevant.

4. Perks, benefits, and culture

This is an area that's fairly applicable to different fields. Brosseau advises to consider the things that are personally important. While it's good to get a grasp on salary, for example, he also said it's essential to learn what compensation to expect from working at a company, aside from salary. Does the candidate really want to wear a suit everyday? The youthful culture of Spokeo influenced Li's decision, for example. He also saw it as having broader implications than just being a cool place to work. "Basically, it is the culture of that company that matters. It defines their rules and products," he said.In addition to being able to pay the bills, you want to find a place to work that you are excited to go to every morning.

5. Salary

Brosseau talked about candidates understanding their worth. He said the market right now is fairly transparent, and national standard of pay for these jobs is developing and becoming less regional. "Salary is important in where you'll go," he said. Along those lines, however, getting the most possible money shouldn't be the main goal. "What [candidates] don't see, is that with more salary and with more benefits, and with more everything comes more expectations, more responsibilities to the company," Pritts said. Don't forget, a big salary means more pressure to perform.

6. Passion

Part of that balance comes in the candidate finding a job that will let him do what he loves. While that sounds very idealistic, Webb couched the need to have passion in the need to stay relevant. "If you just do what you learn in school, you'll be obsolete in no time at all, so you have to be passionate about what you do so that you're constantly on the edge of new things that are coming out in that subfield," he said.

For Li, he knew the areas that he really cared about and sought to get a job that matched his interests. "I am a person who loves the internet and cutting edge technologies... I really hate those inflexible and stubborn rules in some medical/financing software companies when creating something is not about innovation, but requirement," he said.

7. Long-term Move

In taking an appraisal of whether or not the job will inspire that kind of passion in the candidate, comes the thought as to whether the job will be a good long-term move. Will it put the candidate on a solid track for the future? Brosseau warns against saying "I'll just do this for a few years," saying productivity and performance will suffer.

The IT job market being what it is, the process of being courted by a company can be a pretty good ego kick for a candidate. But thinking of the long-term, Pritts said there has to be something to hold the candidate when the newness of the job fades. "If you're not surrounded by people who keep you in check and are uplifting, when that honeymoon phase wears off, your sense of entitlement is ticked and now all of a sudden, you want that again. That's when kids start looking elsewhere," Pritts said.

Job hopping is not uncommon. It's also not smart. "Choosing a job is nothing like picking a [university] class," Brosseau said. The idea is to make a long play. "Maybe it's not a rockstar Google salary," Webb said, "but maybe it allows you to do what you love and to be comfortable. If you can coordinate that with the company, where you have found the ability to impact that business, and also potentially learn from the people who are there; after you've been there for a little while you will naturally create value for that company."

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Erin Carson is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the impact of social media in business and the ways technology is transforming the future of work.

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