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Fresh out of college in a few months, and I have three job offers to contemplate and decide which team I'll be joining.

One company pays a very high (close to 6 figures) salary but appears to be work-heavy (that is, 45-50 hours a week, little vacation and holiday). They expect the code to be written extremely well, but the atmosphere of the company is extremely relaxed otherwise.

Another company pays decently, and I'd enjoy working on those projects (probably more than the other two), but the work culture is very strict and secured (no electronics such as cellphones, smart-watches, fit-bits, etc). The location of this job (and surrounding city) is disappointing at best and dangerous at worst, but this place has the best work-life balance (flex-time, lots of vacation and holidays).

The final company pays decently as well, has great work-life balance, the location is great, but I don't think I'd enjoy the code that I'd be writing there. I know some people at this location and it is closer to family.

There's of course additional criteria that I'm looking at (like other benefits, future opportunities, etc), but what are some important criteria that you would consider if you were in my position? Which opportunity looks best to you?

I'm not looking for someone to make a choice for me, rather, help me see things that I might want to know in this situation.

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, Mawg, ChrisF, Fattie, BSMP Nov 29 '18 at 7:28

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Your question is your answer - "what are some important criteria that you would consider" - we cannot decide this for you – Mawg Nov 28 '18 at 11:22
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    @Mawg I think you're reading that a little too literally: the question is "what criteria should I consider" (as in, what's missing from what they already wrote). Of course the eventual decision is up to the OP. – jpatokal Nov 28 '18 at 11:35
  • A very valid point. Bolding ""what are some important criteria that you would consider" makes it a totally different question. I sit corrected (but will stand corrected interfrastically, as it is lunch time) – Mawg Nov 28 '18 at 11:50
  • Welcome new user – Fattie Nov 28 '18 at 12:06
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    @JoeStrazzere Yes most definitely, and I know exactly what I find important. However, if I was clueless that working at a VB job would put me at a pretty big disadvantage, I'd regret choosing that job. I'm more asking about some arguably objective things to look out for concerning first-jobs, something I might not know now but wish I would have known. – Zzzach... Nov 29 '18 at 0:26
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The most important thing about a first job is the career path it sets you on. If your first job involves writing backend software in Java for an insurance company, you will get labeled as an "enterprise backend Java developer", and you will find it easy to find another future job like it -- and much harder to find anything else.

So also consider these factors:

  • The tech stack: is it popular or hot, or old or very niche?
  • The nature of the work: are you building new software (great for learning), or maintaining a mess of legacy spaghetti (not so much)?
  • The industry: is your employer the only game in town, or can you choose to move to another company down the line?
  • The size of the company: large companies have options for internal transfers, and startups may let you try out many hats, but small/medium companies (or small IT departments in larger non-IT companies) will have limited options for career growth

Anecdote time: when I was graduating, I was lucky enough to be able to choose between a small startup in a then-fast-growing field (mobile telecoms) and a mid-sized company in a small, stable field (energy metering). The second would have been more reliable and likely better paid, but I would have missed out on many opportunities ("hey, want to become the first engineer at our new Asia office and learn everything from presales to deployment?") and it would have been much harder to repeatedly change roles and industries to advance my career.

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    "The most important thing about a first job is the career path it sets you on." Indeed, my expression of the same concept is "Which One Will Make You More Money (In The Medium Run)?" – Fattie Nov 28 '18 at 12:01
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    The four bullet points here are fantastic. Fantastic! – Fattie Nov 28 '18 at 12:02
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    +1 very important points, your first job(s) can be seen as an investment for your future since its very unlikely university taught you enough of actual production quality coding. Tech stacks, projects and not mentioned but also very important the mentor you get assigned are all very very important aspects. – Leon Nov 28 '18 at 12:22
  • I appreciate the work in this answer, and I can see where you are coming from. Would you say that there are certain jobs that might show your competency to future employers in alternate fields more? For example, I think (might be wrong) that working as a higher end Python developer has less weight than if I was a lower end C developer, and if I wanted to do something different (either focus or language), employers might consider the C experience more valuable even if I have no direct experience within that new opportunity. Do you see that at all? Or is that kind of thinking silly? – Zzzach... Nov 29 '18 at 0:20
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    hi @Zzzach... "Or is that kind of thinking silly?" ... yes, there seems to be some conceptual problems here. (Example: regarding "programming languages", you have to be expert at all programming languages, existing and the new ones that come along every year or two. It's a non-issue. Programming has nothing to do with programming languages. It would be like a guitarist asking "Should I specialize in Fender or Gibson??!?!" You can start using any language instantly, and totally master it in, say, a week or two. if this is not the case, you're not at square one.) – Fattie Nov 29 '18 at 3:54

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