Beyond Salary: Career Considerations
by Taylor Slattery | May 12, 2022
Whether transitioning into the next phase of a career or taking those first initial steps, one of the first things we look at when considering a role is how much it pays. Salaries are undoubtedly one of the most important factors to consider when searching for employment. Beyond just the peace of mind that a well-paying job can provide, having more resources at your disposal means more personal agency and room for creative growth.
However, it’s probably also true that if money were all you cared about, you would have chosen a different profession. After all, few get into creative work with expectations of making a fortune. For that reason, it’s important to take an honest look at what matters to you and consider some of the things beyond just salary that might make a job a better fit.
Before we dive into some of the areas I think are important to consider, I want to first acknowledge that finding a role that checks all of your boxes can be a long, arduous process. There will be times when you find the job of your dreams, and spend hours crafting the perfect resume and cover letter only to be met with radio silence. There are a number of different factors out of your control that may contribute to this sort of thing, so don’t let this discourage you. They may have already been deep into the interview process by the time you found the job listing, or maybe you just needed a little bit more experience under your belt. Whatever the reason, these things will happen.
Many of the people currently working at FAANG companies had to apply multiple times over the course of years before finally landing the role, so keep your head up and focus on the things that are within your control. In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a job to pay the bills and put food on the table. Your career will be long and there’s plenty of time to find your dream job. Just keep doing what you can each day to bring yourself closer to that reality.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the different value considerations you can use to help guide your job hunt.
First up is benefits. Next to salary, benefits are the second most obvious factor to consider when looking at a role. Benefits have changed a lot in recent years, with the “Great Reshuffle” playing a major role in the current state of things. While the lockdown brought many industries to a screeching halt by making normal business impossible to conduct, for others, the change was more gradual.
Many realized that they quite liked working from home and weren’t willing to return to the office once in-person work was resumed. This time spent in close proximity with family also led many to realize how much of their time that could be spent with family was lost to commuting or spent doing work that made them unhappy. This forced period of collective self-reflection caused many to take a hard look at their lives and reconsider their decisions. As a result, many have chosen to leave their jobs in pursuit of something more closely aligned with their values.
In response to this mass exodus, many companies have bolstered their benefits packages to both reflect this shift in values and entice a new wave of job-seekers whose list of wants extend beyond just health insurance and retirement accounts. Benefits can vary largely between different industries and the size of the company, but the most noticeable change is the increased availability of jobs that offer fully-remote work and flexible hours. Because work-life balance was another major factor in many deciding to leave previous roles, many employers are now offering unlimited paid time off and stipends for things like mental health, wellness, fitness, and food.
Another great addition, albeit long overdue, is longer, paid parental leave. While the US still lags far behind in comparison with other developed countries, many companies have taken a step in the right direction by offering fully-paid parental leave, with many in the tech space enjoying anywhere from 12-18 weeks.
Another common incentive, particularly for companies in the tech space, is stock or equity. If you can get in early at the next Uber or Airbnb, these could yield some serious returns making them a worthwhile consideration.
Quality of life isn’t limited to a free headspace subscription and having your cell phone bill paid, though. One of the major reasons for many choosing to leave their jobs was a mismatch in culture. Spending the majority of your time on work that you don’t care about can do more damage to your quality of life than any amount of headspace can fix. Chances are, as a creative, fulfillment is high on your list of things you’re looking for in a job.
Fulfillment is highly-subjective and for that reason, hard to define. To give you a better idea of whether or not you’ll find a job fulfilling, it helps to ask yourself some questions about the role. Do you have an interest in the industry, product, or service the job supports? Will the work you’ll be doing scratch your creative itch or will it just pay the bills? Will you continue to grow creatively in the role or will you stagnate? Does the role have room for growth? Will the company support your career development through continued education and training? What does the company’s future look like—where are they headed?
Once you’ve verified the duties of the job itself, the next component of fulfillment to consider is the community surrounding it, both coworkers and customers. Company size and culture are also important factors in determining whether or not a role is a good fit. Are you the type of person that excels in fast-paced environments managing multiple projects simultaneously, or would you prefer a more predictable workload? What size team do you want to work with—a smaller team where you’ll get to wear different hats and face a more diverse set of challenges, or a larger team where your focus can be more specialized? How much responsibility can you handle—do you want to be the person people come to when they have problems or would you rather just do your thing and blend into the background?
As you can see, there are many factors beyond just salary that are worth taking into consideration before diving into your job hunt. While some roles may not be able to offer you a FAANG-level salary, they may have some compelling benefits in the form of health and wellness, development, or vacation that make them a viable option. In other cases, the deciding factor might be the opportunity to be part of a growing company with an exciting product where getting in early could put you in a great position for the future.
How exactly you go about deciding what makes a job a great fit for you will depend on your personality, your goals, and where you are in your career. In any case, by establishing your values upfront, it will be much easier to make a decision later on when offers eventually start coming your way.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.