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Understanding Your Job Offer

So your resume, cover letter and application blew their socks off and now you've got your first job offer. Congratulations! You'll receive information about your compensation and benefits. You may hear things such as insurance, wages, or vacation benefits and you may not understand what these terms mean. In this article, we will explain your compensation and benefit packages in detail and highlight any additional information you need to know about them.  

Salaries and Wages

When you first apply for a job, the ad sometimes states how much money you will be making hourly or annually. You may even see this pay listed under "salary" or "wages." It's important to know that salary and wages are not interchangeable; they are in fact two separate things. A salary is a set pay and a wage is paid by the hour. If an ad states that a full-time position pays weekly, and the salary is $52,000 annually, this means you'll receive $1000 per week. Even if you work 50 hours instead of 35, you'll still only receive $1000 weekly. If a job states that you'll be paid a wage of $20 per hour for a full-time position, you'll make $800 a week for 40 hours of work. However, if you work 50 hours, you will receive overtime pay.  

Your Starting Pay

Some jobs have a built-in trial period. Your starting pay normally runs from the time you're hired until you're through the probationary period (generally anywhere from 30 to 90 days). During this time the supervisors or managers in your department will be working with you and monitoring you closely to see whether you learn quickly, are able to work well with others and whether you follow instructions properly to help the business continue on successfully. If they feel that you meet these requirements, you will pass your probationary period. At this time, you may be offered a different position or higher pay. In many salaried positions, your pay will remain the same until your annual review.  

Negotiating Your Salary

If you are unhappy with the salary or wages you were offered in the beginning, please review our article on negotiating your pay successfully. You'd be surprised that most businesses actually expect you to negotiate, especially if you have high credentials in the area you applied for! If you're just entering the workforce, don't be surprised If you're offered a lower than expected annual salary. This just means that the business wants to take the time out to make sure you have what it takes to fit in there. If they find that you do, when you come up for your annual review you may receive a raise.  

The Benefits Package

Most jobs offer a benefits package along with your salary. These benefits include medical coverage (health insurance, vision, dental, etc.), 401K, sick leave, vacation benefits, bonus schedules, short-term disability and more. We'll go over the ones that you're more likely to have offered to you.  

Health Insurance

Most large businesses offer their employees health insurance. If your employer offers you health insurance, you will likely have to choose a specific plan, after which you will receive a health insurance card as well as a benefits package in the mail. The benefit package will explain to you what your health benefits are, how to use your insurance, what doctors you can see, and how much you have to pay up front to see a doctor.  

Vacation Time

In your employee contract, you may see a section outlining vacation days. Paid vacation days are the number of days off that you've earned through working. In most cases, businesses want you to work with them for the least 60 days before taking any of your vacation time. Vacation time is usually paid at your regular daily salary rate. Most jobs give their employees 10-15 days of vacation time per calendar year. However, some businesses offer a bit more depending on the position you've been hired into.  

Sick Time

Sick days are the amount of days you're allowed to take off without getting in trouble with your boss. Some businesses allow their employees to take up to 11 days of sick days per calendar year. Any more than this would leave you in the HR office explaining why you still want to keep your job.Sick days should only be used when you absolutely can't make it to work. Many businesses offer these days as non-paid, since there are no federal regulations mandating that they pay you. There you have it! Everything you need to know about your company should be included in your company's employee manual or your contract. If it's not there, you can always ask your manager or HR person for additional information.