5 Things You Should Know Before Taking a New Job

Have you been offered a new job? Congratulations! Starting a new job can be one of the most exciting times in your life. It's an opportunity to take on new, challenging responsibilities with a clean slate. But your job is so much more than just a title and a salary. As an employee, you want to know a few key things before you accept any position. After all, it's where you'll spend the majority of your time -- you want to make sure it's a good fit in more ways than one.

Here are five things you should know before you accept a new job.


1. Work Culture
Before accepting a new job you want to understand the kind of work culture you are stepping into. Will you be working in a conservative corporate environment or a relaxed nonprofit or startup? Are there "dress-down" days or should you be dusting off your suits? Understanding the work culture can help you get a handle on the company's ethos and how employees are expected to act. You probably got a sense of this during the interview process, but now would be a good time to make contact with potential co-workers (and even ask your potential boss!).

2. After-Tax Hourly Rate
You're probably excited about your future salary, but make sure you calculate your after-tax hourly rate to understand what you'll really be making at the end of the day. You may think you'll be making one thing as a salaried or hourly employee, but after taxes and deductions you may be making much less than you thought.

Use this calculator to help you calculate your gross (before taxes) and net (after taxes) income. Compare the two so you truly understand what you'll be bringing home. You'll want to use your after-tax income to help inform your household budget.

3. Retirement
Deciding to work for a company 40 hours a week is a big commitment, and your employer will probably offer various perks for your time. One of those things can be a 401(k) employer match. Before you accept any position ask your employer if they have a 401(k) match as well as their various retirement options. If your company does provide a retirement match, contribute to your account so you qualify for the match. It's like free money and is one of the perks of being an employee. If your employer does not have a retirement match, consider how much of your salary you will have to contribute to retirement. That may take up a large chunk of your take-home pay and you'll want to know the impact it will have on your budget.

4. Insurance
Most employers offer health insurance, but it's crucial to understand exactly what your plan will cover and what it means for you out-of-pocket. Will you have big co-pays? A higher monthly premium? And how does your lifestyle and family impact the type of insurance you should have? If you've got children or are planning on becoming pregnant in the next several years, for example, you'll probably be visiting the doctor a lot.

In addition, ask about other types of insurance your employer may offer. Some employers offer life or disability insurance to help protect their employees.

5. Vacation Policy
One of the most important things to know before starting a new job is your employer's vacation policy. How many vacation days do you have available to you? What is the procedure? Do you need to give a certain amount of notice and get approval to take a vacation? Are you offered a set amount of days upfront or does your vacation time accrue?

At my last job (at a nonprofit), I was given five vacation days in my first year on an accrual basis. Essentially, I couldn't collect more than five days in the first year. I was disappointed because I ended up taking those days to go home for the holidays to see my family, and then was out of vacation for the year. My lack of vacation days also really made me evaluate my pay differently -- I felt like I wasn't making enough given the amount of time I had off.

If you've covered this all and it sounds good, it's probably time to seriously consider signing that contract. Now on to finding that perfect work wardrobe (budget-friendly, of course).

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Melanie Lockert, the author of this piece for GoGirl Finance, blogs about breaking up with debt at DearDebt.com.

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