The United States offers a world of opportunity for expats seeking a new career path, but navigating the complex world of employment can be challenging and there are a range of things that you might not be familiar with. As an expat, it's essential to understand the various aspects of the employer-employee relationship to make the most of your experience in the US job market.
So what are the top five things to look for when you're applying for a new job in the US?
Keep your eyes on the prize: Competitive Salary and Compensation
While salary is not the only factor to consider when job hunting, it's essential to ensure you can maintain a comfortable lifestyle in the US. You want to be planning to be sustainably living in the US for the long-term (to the extent of your visa) and you don't want to be assuming that your salary will rapidly increase after you start – because that's not always the case.
When evaluating job offers, consider factors such as the cost of living in the area (every state and city is very different), your experience, and the industry standards.
In addition to a competitive base salary, explore opportunities for bonuses, commissions, or other performance-based incentives that can increase your overall compensation. These other incentives won't be included as the base-salary for your visa requirements but they will be fantastic for your day-to-day living.
Comprehensive Health Insurance (for you and your loved ones)
Healthcare in the US can be expensive, making health insurance a crucial benefit for employees. What you might not know is that health insurance in the US, for the vast majority of people, is tied to their employer. The employer puts you on a plan that they have arranged with the insurance company, and you pay a contribution (on top of their contribution). You are normally presented with a number of options which have varying coverage and varying out-of-pocket costs to you.
We've written some good content on health insurance before, so be sure to use that as a guide!
Look for a job that offers comprehensive health insurance coverage, including medical, dental, and vision benefits (if you can find it).
Ensure that the plan covers a wide range of healthcare providers and services, and be sure to compare the premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses to get a clear understanding of your potential costs (all those terms can be found here).
401(k) Retirement Plans (or “superannuation”)
Saving for retirement is important even if you're not planning on being in the US forever, and 401(k) plans are one of the most popular ways for employees in the US to do so.
Look for employers that offer a 401(k) plan with a generous company match to maximize your savings potential. This means that your employer will pay into your retirement as much as you commit, up to a certain percentage or dollar amount. This is effectively free money on top of your income so is worthwhile if you do the research to discover how to connect with it down the track.
The more an employer contributes to your retirement savings, the faster you can grow your nest egg for a comfortable retirement.
Work-Life Balance and Flexible Schedules
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital for personal and professional success and when you've moved from another country this is especially important. You're going to need to time to do lots of life admin, but more importantly than that, you're going to want time to meet new friends, and soak in the surroundings!
Look for employers that promote a positive work-life balance by offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, or generous vacation and paid time off policies. The US is not known for its extensive time-off schedules, and PTO (paid time off) is limited normally by a number of days in addition to sick days (but not always).
These are negotiation items and you can ask for more and take a hit somewhere else, or use them in the back and forth. A supportive work environment that values your well-being can significantly impact your overall job satisfaction and your opinions of life abroad in general.
Opportunities for Professional Growth (long term)
A fulfilling career involves continuous learning and growth. Look for employers that invest in their employees' development through ongoing training, mentorship programs, or opportunities for advancement within the company. Your time in the US will be a great addition to your resumé or CV but you want to make sure you're getting every possible advantage at the same time.
Working for a company that values professional growth can help you stay engaged, motivated, and prepared for future career opportunities.
You also want to make absolutely sure that your employment is sustainable long term, as the market in the US can be more volatile than you are used to. Find a job that puts value in its employees and you'll find something you can really sink your teeth into!
By keeping these top five factors in mind when applying for a new job in the US, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your personal and professional goals.