You're a senior in college. Over the last couple years, you worked diligently to learn, earned great grades and extended your classroom learning with internship experience. A few months ago, you polished your resume. You did practice interviews and talked with a lot of companies at career fairs. Then you interviewed with a bunch of those companies, and crushed it. You've done everything right, and as a result you've received several job offers, but now what?

First, congratulations. You are in a wonderful position that many would envy. However, that doesn't mean this is going to be easy. Everything you have done up to this point has led you to this major decision, and it's difficult to choose. The stakes are high, and the choice you make could greatly impact the next 5 to 10 years of your life. No pressure!

Sound like a big deal? It is - but you can figure this out!

Assess yourself

Before you can decide on the best company for you, you should be crystal clear about who you are, what you want in a job, and what you want the next five years of your life to look like. That alone can be extremely difficult, but by this point you hopefully at least have a general idea.

  • What industry do you want to work in?
  • What type of work do you want to do? What work excites you?
  • What type of working environment do you thrive in?
  • What type of work/life balance do you want?

Assess the company culture

If you want to build a career within a company, you have to find a company culture that suits you. While reviews on websites like Glassdoor.com can provide some insight, I would encourage you to focus on your own experiences and intuition.

  • How did the company treat you during the recruiting process? Did you feel that personal, friendly touch, or did you feel like just another number in a database?
  • Did you get the opportunity to talk to employees outside of the interview setting, and if so, how did that go? Did you enjoy the discussions you had with everyone you met?
  • Could you see yourself working with these people every day, for years?
  • What proof does the company have that they are a great place to work?
  • Does the company value training and push its employees to continuously improve?

Assess the products or services that the company provides

Another very important aspect is what the company actually does, and what your role in that company would be. You need to understand the type of work that you want to do, and ensure the company values that type of work. Finding a company that aligns people with the work they are passionate about will be absolutely critical to your happiness.

  • During your interactions with the company, did you get that vibe?
  • Are people happy in their roles, do they enjoy the work that they do?
  • Are they passionate about their work?
  • Are they innovative? Are they on the cutting edge of the industry?
  • Does the company's vision inspire you?

Assess opportunities for advancement

The final area that I recommend assessing deeply is career growth potential. If you want to grow a career with a company, it's important to understand how that company values and promotes its employees. Being able to take on leadership roles early in your career will greatly help you advance in the future.

  • Is the organization flat, or do you have to climb a ladder to do anything important?
  • In what ways have newer employees helped the company grow?
  • Did you get a sense that everyone could contribute to important projects?
  • Will you have access to leadership and mentors that will help guide your career growth?

Compensation

I intentionally saved this one for the end. While compensation is the easiest number to compare between job offers, there are several less transparent aspects that you need to consider. To put it bluntly, don't be blinded by compensation or lucrative signing bonuses, only to overlook the important issues mentioned above. Ignoring those issues while overvaluing compensation could lead to unhappiness with your job.

  • First, you need to balance the offer amount versus the cost of living in the area. Some offers may sound lucrative, but once you find out what you'd be paying for rent, it might not be quite so ideal.
  • Don't forget to include other benefits or perks, such as low cost healthcare options, time off, training opportunities, meals, etc.
  • Consider the longer term. If you see a company where you can grow, what might your compensation look like a few years down the road?

If you've done your homework and thought through all the above, you'll probably see that one or two companies really stand apart from the rest. That's because these companies all match exactly what you are looking for. They aren't just a great place for anyone to start their career, they are a great place for you to start your career. Good luck!