Tuesday, November 23, 2010 myBiz Blog
Ask the Expert: Show Me the Money! by Kelly Cuene


I hope I’m not so old that I’m the only one who has seen Jerry McGuire… but age and my non-existent gray hairs aside, let’s chat about how most students view offers in terms of four simple words: show me the money!

Money is critical – but all offers are not created equal.  We often argue – yes, argue – with candidates over getting them to understand that their offer for a position in Seattle pales in comparison to what their lifestyle would be here.  Rather than focusing solely on the fact that you can brag you’re now making over 100k (which would be an amazing offer, by the way) there are certain things you need to keep in mind when evaluating an offer of employment:


Location: making $50k here in Madison is vastly different than making $50k on either of the coasts.  For example, in order to maintain the same type of lifestyle in NYC that $50k would get you here your offer needs to be $88,008.  Thinking about Chicago?  Don’t settle for less than $67,650.  Don’t let them sucker you in with big numbers when that might actually afford you a small lifestyle.  My personal favorite: www.bestplaces.net – navigate to Cost of Living and go from there.


Work/Life Balance:  I know… what a buzzword right?  But really, it’s important to not make work your entire life.  Let’s say one company offers you $50k but you’d be working like a dog – another company offers you $40k for a 40hr work week.  Calculate out your hourly wage – it’s not uncommon to actually pull in below minimum wage at a high-paying, but high-stress/high-workload environment.


Benefits: most students don’t give these a second-thought… but you’re smarter than most students right?  The majority of employers provide health insurance – but how much do you have to contribute per month?  What is your copay?  And don’t tell me you don’t need insurance because you never get sick – those are famous last words.


Overall Happiness: I kid you not: money can’t buy happiness.  Weigh all your offers and think about what would make you happiest – it’s typically not a snap decision.  How far away from family & friends will you be?  If you’re far away, will the work/life balance afford you enough time to come home?  There aren’t any winter/spring/summer breaks and the Friday after Thanksgiving isn’t actually a holiday… Have two eyes wide open – see what you’re signing up for.


Everyone’s different.  Everyone’s special (to quote a large purple dinosaur named Barney).  Think about what your priorities are – what do you value most?  Does this company sit well with your Jiminy Cricket?  And if I pulled an age card again – I was referencing your conscience. J


Michelle is an experienced human resources professional and a UW-Madison alum. In her “Ask an Expert” articles she tackles students’ toughest career and recruiting questions, providing an employer’s perspective so students can learn what campus recruiters REALLY think. To learn more about Michelle, view her intro post.