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  1. Learners will be able to explain and compare benefits packages
  2. Learners will be able to research competitive salaries
  3. Learners will be able to identify signs of positive workplace culture and employee satisfaction

Job hunting is a challenge, and it usually doesn’t end as soon as you get your first offer. Because you’re not looking for any job. You’re looking for a job that’s right for you, and when you find it, the time and hard work you put in pay off.

So, what is “the right job?” It’s important to know that a job doesn’t need to be perfect to be a good match for you; it just has to meet your priorities. You have to consider salary, benefits, coworkers, and what a position can offer you in the future. And there will always be trade-offs; great-paying jobs can come with extra stress, and jobs with great coworkers may not have the best promotion opportunities. On the other hand, learning about your options will help you decide what you want out of a job and help you make informed decisions. This lesson will help you find the “green flags” of job searching: the signs that you want to go ahead and take the opportunity in front of you.

Finding Competitive Salaries

Pay is probably one of your biggest priorities when job searching, and you’re not alone. A 2022 Gallup poll found that moving to a job with a higher salary and more benefits was the most important factor in job searching (64% of respondents ranked it “very important”). That means that the right salary may be the first green flag you’ll find. But figuring out what salary to aim for can be difficult. As you learned in the Red Flags lesson, an unusually high salary can be suspicious, but you also don’t want to accept less money than you could earn. Luckily, you can learn about the expected pay for many jobs online.

Many job seekers look up job listings on Indeed, but some overlook the site’s Salary Calculator tool. This tool is a fast way to get an idea of the pay range for a position, including the lowest, highest, and average pay for your area. A salary above the local average is competitive, which can be a green flag in your job search.  You can find even more information by scrolling down to the bottom of the Your personalized salary report page to the section titled Career recommendations for… and clicking Salaries and benefits. On this page, you’ll be able to see the statistics like average pay by years of experience, expected tips or bonuses, the difference in pay by city and state, and the percentage of workers satisfied with their salary. These numbers aren’t a perfect scale for fair payment, but they can help you learn whether a salary is competitive or not and how likely you are to find your target pay in the local area.

Another great resource for researching salaries is the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) database from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This page makes it easy to look at statistics on many different jobs throughout the country. Clicking on the numbered links at the top of the page will direct you to lists of jobs grouped by type, along with the rough number of Americans in that position, the average pay, and the median pay. This is useful because median pay is often a better measure of what to expect from a job than the average pay (because it isn’t as affected by unusually high or low salaries). An above-average wage can be a green flag, but an above-median wage is an even stronger sign of a competitive salary. Clicking on a job title in the database will pull up more information on pay and the number of employees in that position around the country. The maps on this page are handy if you’re viewing the page on a computer. Hovering your mouse over any area on the map will pull up specific, relevant numbers for that region.

Review the slideshow below for a visual guide of the OEWS database.

Understanding Benefits

Employers have more to offer workers than just a paycheck. Employee benefits packages should play a big part in deciding whether or not a job is right for you. Some packages will suit you better than others, so the green flags you should look for are benefits that meet your needs. Of course, that’s not always easy. There are a lot of terms and rules to learn, and sometimes it can feel like more trouble than it’s worth. But learning about the different kinds of benefits will help you compare your options and choose a job that fits your goals and lifestyle.

Health Insurance

If you’re working full-time for an organization with more than fifty employees, you’ll likely be offered health insurance through your company. There are a lot of complicated details involved in health insurance, but here are a few definitions, tips, and reminders to help you know what to expect. As you read through them, think about what coverage you most want, how you would like to pay for it, and what costs you’re hoping to keep low. These will help you decide what your green flag plan looks like. 

Premiums and Deductibles A premium is a fee to keep your insurance, usually paid monthly. A deductible is a set amount of money you are responsible for paying to cover your healthcare costs. A low deductible means that you won’t have to spend as much on your medical costs because the insurance company pays most or all of the costs beyond that deductible number. A high deductible means you will spend much of the cost yourself if you have medical bills. If you have a plan with a high deductible, your prices will probably be balanced with a lower premium, and a high-premium plan will usually be balanced with a lower deductible. To put this simply, if you expect a lot of medical expenses in the coming year, a lower deductible would likely save you money because even though your premiums are high, you’ll be responsible for only a small part of the costs of doctors appointments, medication, and procedures throughout the year.

Copay A copay (or copayment) is a fixed amount you pay for medical care, usually charged after you meet your deductible. For example, if your deductible for the year is $2000, and you have spent $2000, you would expect to be done paying for your medical expenses, but you may still need to pay fees for appointments or medication.

HSA/MSA Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) are available with insurance plans with high deductibles. They involve pre-tax dollars, which means that you can take a portion of your income that would be taxed and place it into an account specifically for medical costs. In a way, this is like the government helping you save for medical expenses; you get to keep money that you ordinarily pay in taxes on earnings, interest, and withdrawal. There are limits on the amount you can contribute to these accounts, but the money rolls over (remains available) year after year, even if you don’t spend it.

FSA/HRA A Flexible Savings Account (FSA) also allows you to save pre-tax dollars, but any money left in the account at the end of a coverage year isn’t rolled over, so you no longer have access to it. Like an HSA and MSA, there are limits on how much money you can put in an FSA. A Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) is a way that your employer can pay you back tax-free dollars after you’ve spent money on healthcare costs.

Vision and Dental Vision and dental insurance are separate from regular health insurance. Your employer may still offer these plans, but you will likely pay an additional premium on top of your health insurance premium, and these plans come with their own rules.

Retirement Savings

Retirement should be one of your most important long-term goals, and your employer can help you prepare. 401(k) and 403(b) accounts are used for retirement savings. In both, your employer sets up an account that allows you to put pre-tax dollars into an account to save money and earn interest for your retirement. Because the money you deposit is pre-tax, it allows you to save more than if you opened a separate account and deposited what was left of your paycheck after taxes. The main difference between these accounts is that 401(k) accounts are offered by for-profit companies, and 403(b) accounts are provided by government, education, and tax-exempt organizations. These accounts can be a great advantage in preparing for retirement, and they’re important green flags employers can offer. Still, an even better option is when an employer “matches” your 401(k)/403(b) account contributions, which means that the organization will pay as much into your account as you do, doubling your yearly retirement savings. This is one of the biggest green flags you can hope for from an employer, and it should definitely be considered when deciding which job you want to take.

Time Off

You want to find a job that gives you time to rest and recharge. Generous amounts of time off are green flags, but you also need to consider how that time is offered. Employers mostly use two main methods in setting time off for workers. The first system has a few different types of leave. They usually take the form of

  1. Sick Leave The time set aside for workers to stay home when sick. Employers may require proof from a doctor when taking several sick days in a row.
  2. Vacation Leave Scheduled time off, which is generally meant for trips but can be used for any needs. Often it must be requested well in advance.
  3. Personal Leave Time off for unusual or unexpected life needs like taking care of family members, DMV visits, or necessary appointments. Usually can be called in on short notice.

The second system puts all the types of leave together as Paid Time Off (PTO). Employees are given a certain amount of time off and can use it however they need to. Employers will likely still request advanced notice for vacations to make sure work is covered, but generally, this is a more flexible system. Of course, any system that gives a comfortable amount of days off is a green flag, but if you have a strong preference, that’s something to keep in mind.

Parental leave is also an important benefit to consider. There’s no federal law enforcing leave for parents having or adopting children, so the required amount of leave varies greatly by state. If your family may grow in the future, it’s a very good idea to ask about the amount of leave the company offers for parents and whether that leave is paid or unpaid. Even if new children aren’t in your plans, generous parental leave at a company is a green flag; it shows that the company values its employees and wants them to stay for years.

Even if your company doesn’t offer parental leave, you may be eligible for time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This isn’t exactly a “benefit”, but it can be an important factor in deciding if a job is right for you.
Symbols for employee benefits

Other Benefits

While insurance, retirement savings, and time off will probably be the benefits that matter most to you, other options can also improve your company experience. An employer doesn’t need to offer all of the following benefits to be a good fit, but consider your needs as you read through the list.

Life Insurance This insurance pays money to your family or a close companion when you pass away. Knowing that your loved ones will have financial support when you pass away can bring peace of mind.

Disability Insurance This insurance pays money if you are seriously injured, which can be a huge relief if you need time to recover.

Wellness Plan This usually takes the form of health resources paid for by your employer for you to use, like gym memberships, healthy food choices, and vaccines.

Flexible Schedule/Remote Work These options have the biggest impact on your daily life. They can make it easier for you to deal with commitments outside of work and find the schedule and workspace that fits you.

Earned Wage Access This system, sometimes called “instant pay,” allows you to collect the pay you’ve earned when you’re ready instead of waiting for a paycheck. This can be a big help if you have sudden, pressing expenses.

Childcare Reimbursement This is a payment from an employer to a worker who pays for childcare. These systems make it easier for parents to work by paying back the costs of nursery or afterschool care.

Professional Development/Education These benefits can include free courses to help workers grow and improve or money set aside for employees to continue their education through certificate programs, apprenticeships, or colleges.

Employee Discount This saving can be a good motivation for workers who also use their employer’s goods or services.

Once again, spotting a green flag in your job search means finding an employer who meets your needs. With so many benefits to think about, it can be hard to know where to start, but the activity below will give you some prompts to help you think about what you can hope to find in a job. As you work through the exercise, record your suggested benefit priorities to use in the future.

Workplace Culture

Some parts of your working experience don’t fit on a page, like a company's character or relationships between team members. That can make it challenging to feel confident that you’re choosing an employer that’s right for you. Learning about an organization’s workplace culture can help you spot green flags that signal you’ll fit in and feel secure at your new job. Watch the video below to learn about the factors that affect the workplace.

Now that you have a better idea of what workplace culture looks like, let’s review some things to explore when figuring out an organization’s workplace culture.

Team Dynamic This is another way of saying how team members interact. Like workplace culture, team dynamics vary from place to place, and what might work for some won’t work for others. Think about the teams you’ve enjoyed working with most. Were you friends outside of work? Did you prefer to have time to yourself? Whatever experience feels the best to you is usually the team dynamic you want to see in a workplace, so finding your kind of team is a green flag. During your interviews, ask how employees interact during (or even outside) work hours to get a sense of how close or independent they are and any other factors of teamwork that are important to you.

Work-Life Balance This is a key ingredient of workplace culture, and a healthy work-life balance benefits everyone. You’re more likely to be productive when you have time outside work to rest, connect with friends and family, and pursue your interests. Long, exhausting hours can harm your work-life balance, and so can the expectation to skip meals, work late, or stay on-call, even during your time off. One of the best ways to maintain a work-life balance is to have firm boundaries between work time and your time. Ask employers what work-life balance looks like in the workplace to find out how much they value your time and commitments off the clock. If you’re comfortable with their responses, that’s a green flag.

Accessibility For many, accessibility is an overlooked part of workplace culture, but it makes a huge difference. If you have a disability, you’ve probably already heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For those who might not be familiar with the ADA, it offers protections and rights for people with disabilities in schools and the working world. In addition to protecting people with disabilities from discrimination, the law also requires organizations to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities. Read the ADA Fact Sheet excerpt below for more information on these accommodations.

“Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. For example, reasonable accommodation may include:

  • acquiring or modifying equipment or devices,
  • job restructuring,
  • part-time or modified work schedules,
  • reassignment to a vacant position,
  • adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies,
  • providing readers and interpreters, and
  • making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.”

If you are a worker with a disability, it’s important to know that your employer is willing to meet your needs. You may need help with the application process, extra time to complete some work tasks, or a more accessible breakroom. Many workers aren’t even aware of the support they have a legal right to receive at work, so talking to an employer about their accommodations can make your working experience much easier.

Even if you don’t qualify for ADA rights and protection, it’s still a good idea to ask about how the employer supports disabled workers. At some point, you may find yourself with a temporary disability, like an injury that makes it hard to move around or a concussion that makes it difficult to perform certain tasks. When your employer has accommodations in place, you’ll be able to adjust to those challenges more easily. And even if you never experience a disability, you want to work for an organization that cares enough about its employees to give more than the minimum assistance for workers with disabilities. Good accessibility is a green flag because employers who support disabled staff tend to respect all of their employees, which makes for better places to work.

Employee Satisfaction

Employee on daily commute

The most important green flag is knowing that you want to work with an employer. That may seem simple, but it can be hard to feel confident before making a decision. An excellent place to start is by seeing whether other employees think it’s a good place to work. There are many measures of employee satisfaction, and it may surprise you that salary and benefits aren’t the most important measures. In a 2019 study of employee reviews and satisfaction by Glassdoor, the top three factors for employee satisfaction were

  1. Values and Culture
  2. Leadership
  3. Career Opportunities

Since we’ve already covered workplace culture, let’s dig deeper into leadership and career opportunities. While green flags in these areas aren’t always easy to recognize, these guidelines can help you identify signs of a workplace you want to join. 


Supervisors and managers have huge influence on their employees’ day-to-day lives, so it’s no wonder that employees really value positive leadership. While it’s tricky to define what exactly makes a manager or supervisor “good,” the Gallup organization identified five ways managers can support their employees and prevent burnout, so you can take the examples below as signs of a job with solid leadership. Managers can…

Listen to work-related problems It’s incredibly frustrating to feel dismissed when bringing an issue to a superior. When supervisors listen and take concerns seriously, workers can feel confident that problems won’t escalate.

Encourage teamwork Good leaders bring teams together so that no employee feels overwhelmed or unsupported.

Make everyone’s opinion count Building off the previous two points, successful managers bring people together and make sure they are all heard.

Make work purposeful When employees are working on tasks that feel valuable, it’s easier to take pride in their work.

Focus on strengths-focused feedback and development Focusing on strengths is a great way to encourage workers. Instead of shaming workers for the things they are struggling with, superiors can point out successes and build on them.

Think about these examples of leadership as you continue your job search and ask questions about how supervisors interact with employees. If you like what you hear, that’s a green flag.

Career Opportunities

Even when you find a job that’s right for you, you may not want to stay in that exact position forever. You may wish to apply for other positions in the organization or find a job elsewhere. Career opportunities like training programs, mentorships, and promotions can help you achieve those goals and increase your future career options. Look into how potential employers offer workers chances to learn new skills or advance in their careers. It’s a very good sign if the organization’s programs and promotions excite you.

Employer Reviews

Employees have a lot to think about when they decide how much they like their jobs. Employer reviews can help you weigh many of those factors while job searching. Sites like Indeed and Glassdoor (and many others) allow employees to write reviews about their work experiences and rate how likely they are to recommend working at an organization. You should absolutely read through these reviews when applying and interviewing. Employers research you to see if you’re right for them, and you should do the same to figure out if they’re the best fit for you. Finding that job is all about knowing what you want and what your organization can offer. Reading reviews lets you learn from others’ experiences and imagine yourself in a new position before taking an offer.

Remember, the “right” job doesn’t have to mean a perfect job or the job you’ll stay in for years. Sometimes a job is missing something you value but meets a lot of your other needs. Other times, a job is right for where you are now, but you’re already thinking about the next step. “Right” can mean different things, but seeking out green flags can help you find a job that you’ll want to celebrate taking. And you should. Green may mean “go,” but you should also pause and take pride in your accomplishment.

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