The questions you should really be asking when starting your career

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Choice is always a good thing, it’s never a bad thing, especially when starting out in your career. What you’re aiming for is to understand your goals, your values and the job market so you can make informed decisions. Don’t simply accept the first opportunity that comes your way; assess your options wisely, because these decisions can affect your entire career.

But a key problem I see every day is candidates asking themselves, and their future employers, the wrong questions!?

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Gareth Cowan
Trace Recruitment

I run a specialist recruitment business in London, focussing on finding jobs for accountants. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years and as a result, I’ve seen it all. We operate at all levels of the market and see the same mistakes from candidates consistently, but more often we see candidates starting out in their career focusing on the wrong things when it comes to selecting which roles to take.

The top 3 ‘wrong’ questions candidates often ask:

  1. How much is it paying?
  2. How much time can I spend working from home?
  3. What’s the job title?

If these are the first things on your mind when accepting a job – you are asking the wrong questions. Not only that, but the impression you leave on people by asking these things first is not good. Of course, you can ask these questions – but they should be down at the bottom of the priorities list when you’re starting out.

Salary and benefits are important but there is a time and a place to ask; job title is irrelevant in the beginning – it’s the role and the experience you will gain that really counts. You want to work from home – why? The more you’re in the office, this is particularly true for junior professionals, the more you’ll learn, it’s as simple as that. You’ll miss out on all the great things that come from being part of a team, exploring a new town/city and generally being part of something. Working from home is a good perk, but do not undervalue what time in the office will give you.

The top 8 questions you should be asking

1. What training do you offer?

If you’re new to a job, you’ll want to benefit from as much training as you can possibly get. Ask for more, ask how much time your boss has to train you, ask how thorough the training is.

2. What are the long-term career opportunities you offer?

Employers want to hire you for the future, not just ‘the now’, so be sure of what opportunities lie ahead. If you work hard, will you progress? Where can you get to in two years’ time?

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3. Will you support my studies?

Qualifying is a big commitment on both sides, so make sure you’ll be getting the right levels of support both financially but also in exam preparation time. Do they value your studies?

4. Can I work in the office more?

This is a big one when you’re starting out. If you spend more time at home than you do in the office, your learning will be limited. You will not be visible and your chances of promotion will slow. Be willing to make the effort to spend more time in the office – you progress faster this way.

5. Who will I be learning from?

Having good people around you will really accelerate your growth. Having a mentor or good colleagues who are willing to spend time supporting you is essential and you are very much entitled to ask about this.

6. What is the work culture like?

You will not last long in a business or a team where you either don’t fit them or they don’t fit you. Make sure the office environment and business culture suit you before accepting a job.

7. If I work hard, what will the rewards be?

Employers want people who are willing to work hard and who want to stay within the organisation for a long time. If a company does not value or reward you for your efforts, you will probably want to find a company that does

8. Can I take on more responsibility?

The more responsibility you have, the more likely you are to be noticed and therefore rewarded for your work. Take on more responsibility and show willingness – employers will love you for it.

Author: Gareth Cowan is the founder of Trace Recruitment, a London-based specialist in finance and accountancy recruitment. A big music fan, if Gareth could only take one thing to a dessert island it would be Spotify.

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