Preparing to graduate and take the next step in your career is an exciting time, marking many milestones and accomplishments. It’s also an important transition period that marks a segue from student life to the “real world.”
As you prepare to transition out of school, there are many important things to consider. The OGE has prepared this guide to help you navigate preparing to leave school, find and start a new job or graduate program, and take the next step in your career.
Thinking about your next step
For some of you, the next step in your career may be an obvious one. For others, the path may not be as clear. Know that both of these situations are perfectly normal and okay. MIT seeks to provide advising and support resources for all students as they chart their course after school.
MIT’s Career Advising & Professional Development (CAPD) office provides a number of resources for students:
- Career exploration: Talk with a career advisor, set long-term goals, and explore different career paths
- Job search: Find internship and job opportunities that match your interests
- Graduate or professional school and health or health profession school: Explore options to further your education and prepare for a program that makes sense for you
- Selling your value: Build a strong resume / CV, craft cover letters, and utilize professional networks to land interviews
- Interviews: Prepare to ace your interviews
Navigating job offers
Getting a job offer is, of course, the first step and a huge accomplishment. But once you have a job offer, there’s a number of factors to consider. Here are two of the largest considerations that relate to the Financial Literacy Initiative’s mission:
One of the biggest mistakes many students make is not being willing to negotiate their job offer. Many employers are willing to negotiate terms of an offer and, although it may seem daunting, students shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate terms. If done tactfully, negotiating a job offer can be very beneficial to you and help you start off on the right foot with your new employer.
We encourage students to check out the MIT Career Advising & Professional Development (CAPD) guide to job offer negotiation.
Understanding benefits packages
Another key mistake that students make when evaluating a job offer (or comparing multiple offers) is focusing exclusively on salary. Many job offers also contain extensive and varied benefits packages that are important to understand.
Two of the most significant benefits that many employers offer are insurance coverage and retirement savings packages:
- Insurance. There are many types of insurance that companies may offer — medical, dental, vision, life, disability, etc. It’s important to consider the financial and other implications of different insurance benefits. Here’s a few resources to better understand health insurance offerings:
- Understanding health care costs from HealthCare.gov
- Understanding health insurance coverage from The Balance
- Retirement benefits. Many employers offer some sort of retirement benefits or other financial incentives, which can include 401(k) or 403(b) plans, pension plans, stock options, and others. These benefits can have significant financial value, especially if an offer includes an employer match or other direct financial incentive for retirement savings. Here’s a few resources to better understand different retirement savings plan options:
- Employee retirement benefits explained from Kiplinger Personal Finance
- Retirement Planning 101 Guide from The Balance
- Retirement Planning Guide from NerdWallet
- The 3 A’s of Successful Retirement Saving from Fidelity
Employers often offer these additional benefits, among others:
- Bonus. Many jobs include an opportunity to earn an annual bonus, which can sometimes comprise a significant portion of one’s total annual compensation. It’s important to understand expectations around bonuses as well as how they are determined.
- Higher education benefits. Student loan repayment assistance and tuition reimbursement for ongoing education are two types of benefits that are growing in popularity.
- Other financial benefits. Many employers offer discounted gym memberships, public transportation or parking reimbursements, overtime pay, and other financial benefits.
- Additional considerations. These can include job location, the ability to work remotely, flexible work hours, vacation and family leave, job growth opportunities, and others.
As you can see, there are many possible components of a job offer and benefits package, and they can vary widely. It’s important to spend time understanding your specific job offer(s) and make sure you are comparing the totality of different offers and not just salaries.
In addition to the information here, there are many resources available to help individuals understand benefits packages. Some of these include the following:
- Job offers from MIT Career Advising & Professional Development (CAPD), including state-based information on reviewing your job offer
- Understanding your employee benefits from The Balance
The cost of living off-campus
As you prepare to graduate and start a career, it’s important to prepare for the different costs associated with living in the “real world.” Many students may not have experience finding an apartment and moving in, paying rent to a landlord, filing taxes, paying utilities, buying groceries regularly, or having to make student loan payments.
Finding an apartment
Finding an apartment can be an exciting, but stressful, experience. We recommend starting early and taking the time to prepare a plan, gather the necessary documents, and evaluate your options. Below we link to a few resources which may help you navigate the apartment search process:
- MIT Housing and Residential Services: Helpful housing search tips and resources, as well as links to some off-campus apartment listings in the Boston area.
- Apartment hunting 101: A checklist of everything you will need to navigate the housing search process.
- How to get your first apartment: A guide to finding your first apartment.
Preparing a financial plan
It’s critical to spend some time cataloging the full costs of living on your own and preparing a financial plan, so you can begin your career with confidence. We encourage students to review the content available on the Financial Literacy Initiative site and then spend some time developing a financial plan for post-graduation, including:
- Developing a budget
- Developing a plan for saving and investing
- Developing a plan to build credit and manage debt
Remember, there are many more resources available on iGrad, the financial literacy portal that is free to the MIT community.