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Making the leap from school to work pay off


diego cervo

For some, bidding the scholarly world farewell is a joyous occasion: no more pencils, no more books – and perhaps most importantly – no more debilitating tuition payments.

But the work force comes with its own share of financial snags, and in their mad dash to get a job, it's likely these ex-students will encounter a few along the way.

Lisa Andreana is a financial planner and the author of No More Mac 'n' Cheese!: The Real-World Guide to Managing Your Money for 20-Somethings. Read an excerpt of the book here. In an interview, she offered three suggestions for those looking to make the transition into the working world as smooth as possible:

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1. Know your value and don't be afraid to negotiate.

The company you want to work for may be offering you wonderful (or lousy) compensation package, but unless you know what your skillset is worth, you won't know the difference. To understand more about salary, as well as responsibilities and fringe benefits of the position, Ms. Andreana suggests consulting research tools like Payscale or the Robert Half salary guide.

Arming yourself with this type of data will also empower you during the negotiating process. "As long as you're friendly during [the interview] the worst the company can do is say no," she says.

2. If you're comparing a few job offers, make a list.

Using a spreadsheet tool, jot down the pros and cons of the compensation package and assign a dollar figure to each component. The key elements to look for are:

i. Retirement plan: While twenty-somethings aren't necessarily thinking of this phase of their lives, it's important to understand what type of plan the company is offering – defined benefit, defined contribution or RRSP – and estimate how much added income this will provide in retirement, Ms. Andreana advises.

The Globe offers a helpful interactive explainer here breaking down the different kinds of pension plans and the payouts depending on income and age of retirement.

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ii. Health, dental, travel insurance and long-term disability: Call an insurance adviser to find out how much you would pay independently if you weren't covered by the company and compare.

iii. Perks of the job: Does the company offer employee stock options, flextime or unique like luxury cruises or subsidized on-site daycare? If so, be sure to include these in your list of job hits and misses.

3. Understand your income may change over time.

"I'd happily accept a position with lower income at the start if I knew my salary was going to go up," says Ms. Andreana. Ask the employer how often employees are evaluated and how quickly new hires are promoted. Big firms generally provide more opportunities for increasing pay scales. Smaller firms, on the other hand, tend to offer more flexibility and will allow you to bring your own talents and skills to the position.

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