For many, college acts as a precursor to a career. That's the reason why there are different schools and various majors within them -- to put you generally on a path towards the job you'd like to have in the future. Still, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a job besides the industry or field you want to be in, especially if you're deciding between multiple positions that each check-off that one fundamental box.
So, what's a job seeker to do?
There are a few ways you can evaluate what position would be best for you, but as much as I wish there were, there's no "perfect" guide to selecting a job. No one can decide that for you and there's no perfect formula to figuring it out. Uncertainty is part of the deal -- welcome to adulthood!
With that said, there are a few steps you should take in order to weigh the options against one another. This will help you honestly evaluate your choices without giving into the thoughts of, "Well I should take that one because [insert guilt or vaguely related reasoning here]". Put those thoughts to rest, and instead evaluate each job opportunity you have against the following questions. Then you'll be in the right position to decide which job to take.
1. What is your ultimate career goal?
This is by far the most important question you need to ask yourself when deciding which job to take after college. You probably have some idea of a dream job in your future, or at least a general thought about where or who you'd like to be in your career. Use that. Map your path backwards from that future idea of where you'd like to be to the present, then ask yourself (honestly), "Does this job align with that path?".
It's not to say that there's any perfect job path. Sometimes a position that seems unrelated to your ultimate goal can teach you things that will make you better in your career pursuits. Still, you shouldn't take a job that is outside of your ideal job path that is a hindrance to you achieving your ultimate goal. If it's between a job that'll help you along your way, or a job that isn't really that related but seems interesting, pick the one that will help you along your way. If you don't have an ultimate dream job, then the following questions will be more important to your decision.
2. What kind of job environment are you looking for?
People often underestimate the importance of a job's environment, but it can have a huge impact on your happiness. Within the same field or industry, there are big companies, small companies, tiny one-to-three person shops, totally remote companies, long-standing established companies, brand new start-ups, and probably many more. The point is, there's no one office environment you'll encounter. Instead, there are many that you'll come across throughout your career.
With that in mind, it's important to ask yourself what kind of office would make you happiest. A medium sized firm with a lot of similarly aged people who you can socialize with? A small company where you can really get to know the boss? A big company with well-established guidelines for roles and promotion paths? Think this over, then evaluate the options in front of you to see which is a better fit for you.
3. What does the trajectory for career growth look like?
In an ideal world every job would come with wonderful room for growth within the company. This is absolutely not the case. There are some companies with financial limitations or that have leadership that tries to keep their power centralized. Even if you're not the type of person who wants to run the show, it's still important to be able to grow in your responsibilities and in your career within the company you're at.
This can sometimes be difficult to evaluate as someone who doesn't yet work there, but do your best to get a sense of how things work internally. Look at data around how industries differ in this regard, or simply do your own research about the specific companies you're considering. Of those in management, have they been there for a long time (hint: check LinkedIn)? Or do you see others at the company who have moved up in a reasonable time frame? Look for clues like these to evaluate your potential workplaces for yourself.
As noted at the beginning of this article, there is no perfect guide to selecting a job, even when you're 20 years into your career. What you can do is approach the decision in an analytical way and not let "should's" get the best of you. Your career is your career, so start it off with something that will suit your needs.