First off, congratulations! What an accomplishment! Take a moment to celebrate and give yourself a pat on the back!
Now, back to that job offer (or offers). How do you figure out if it is a good match for you? I recommend making a list of pros and cons for the potential job. This is especially helpful if you have more than one job offer in hand, because it helps you compare the offers.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the best job for you.
- Does it match what you are looking for in a job? If after interviewing, you discover that the job is not what you expected, it's okay to turn down the offer. I've done this, and while I felt a little stressed out at the time that I still didn't have a job, in the long run it was definitely the right decision for me. With that said, your first job does not need to be the best and only job you ever work. Maybe there are not any jobs currently available in your desired practice area. It's better to have experience working as an OT, than no experience at all. You can always work your way up to that dream job!
- Is there mentoring available? This is extremely important for new graduates or those changing practice areas. While you don't necessarily need to have a formal mentor or mentoring program, it's good to know if you will have more experienced colleagues that you can reach out to with questions.
- Does the pay meet your expectations? You probably didn't go into occupational therapy to become rich, but you should certainly be able to pay your bills with your salary as an OT or OTA. Don't forget to take into account other benefits, such as insurance, time off, and retirement plans.
- What does your gut say? I'm an instinctual decision maker. I can list out the pros and cons of a potential job, but for me, it almost always comes down to that intuitive feeling in my gut. If it feels like a perfect fit, but something (pay, benefits, schedule, etc) is not as good as another job, take that gut feeling into consideration. There must be a reason why you are drawn to (or not drawn to) a particular job. When I accepted my first job out of college, it was actually the lowest paying of the three offers I had, but everything else about the job felt right to me (schedule, setting, location, priorities of the hospital), so I went for it and I loved it!
- Negotiate. In hindsight, when I accepted that first job out of college, I should have negotiated for a higher salary that matched the other offers. I think I was just so excited and inexperienced that I didn't know I could do that. The worst that would have happened is that they would have said no. They would not have taken the job offer away. Reflect on your offer and experience to determine if negotiating is appropriate. (FYI - since that time I have negotiated higher salaries both successfully and unsuccessfully. In one unsuccessful instance, I took the job anyway, and it was not awkward at all. Employers understand and will not hold it against you).
- Ask questions. If something was not clear about the offer, or benefits, or schedule, or anything at all, reach out and ask for clarification. This will help you make an informed decision.
- Respond in a timely manner. Employers are interviewing because they have a position to fill and usually they need to fill it quickly! It's okay to take a day or two to think over the offer, but try to give your response as soon as possible, so the employer can either get the hiring process started (yay!) or find a different person for the position.
Do you have any advice to add to this list? Please share in the comments below!