With unemployment hovering near or at record lows, even workers at the bottom rung of the workforce have choices. Many large retailers have a big demand for employees, and that gives options to people who need work.
Being able to pick from multiple employers is something entry-level workers have rarely enjoyed. It's a choice that can either set you up for a successful career or make you vulnerable should the demand for workers dissipate -- which could happen due to the adoption of robot workers.
The coming changes to the labor market through increased automation make it crucial for workers to choose wisely now. This means picking a job that helps them for their future, not just one that pays the most now. Here are three considerations when making that choice.
1. What training options are available?
Hourly wages should not be the only factor when you consider an entry-level job. Also think about what new skills you might gain in the position you take. That could mean anything from taking a job at a company that offers useful training to picking a position based on how much help you will get paying for college.
Remember that many lower-skilled jobs will ultimately be replaced by automation. That makes it especially important to take a position where you will learn skills that make you harder to replace or make you employable elsewhere if you find yourself back on the market.
2. Does this company promote from within?
It may be less common to work for one company your whole life than it was in years past, but that does not mean you have to job-hop. Some companies have a strong record of promoting from within; with hard work, it's possible over a long career to move from entry-level worker to management (or even upper management).
You may have to dig a little bit to figure out which companies have the best records in this area, but it's worth doing your homework. This is also a question you can ask during your interview, and it's a good sign if the people interviewing you have worked their way up from entry level to a job that involves hiring other people.
3. What will be your total compensation?
In addition to worrying about your overall career path, consider what you will be paid per hour. It might make sense to opt for making a little less at a company that offers a free or cheap college education, but it's important to understand your total compensation.
Hourly wage is not the only thing. Factor in perks like health insurance, 401(k) matches, tuition programs, paid time off, sick days, and any other benefits. You may end up taking something that pays a little less if the total package is better; just understand exactly what you're getting into.
Make a smart choice
When you take an entry-level job, remember that you're building a resume. Your choice will impact the rest of your career, so take a long-term view.
Join a company that shows that it values its workers. Find a place where you might be able to build toward higher wages while gaining skills that will transfer to other positions if your initial choice is not where you want to be long term.