5 important things to do before starting your first job

"I just got my first job. Now what?"

Congratulations on landing your first job! You’ve fought off the other applicants, dazzled in your job interview, and emerged victorious.

So now what? Well, there’s a few things you need to do before starting a new job:

1) Open a bank account

Well duh. You wanna get paid right? If for some reason you don’t have one yet, go to your local bank and get one sorted asap. Take your student card along and make sure you ask if there are special deals for students. Most banks will offer students fee-free accounts, and some may even offer additional benefits.

2) Get a Tax File Number

This is your personal and unique ID assigned to you by the Australian Government and is used to track your super and tax returns, among other things. Many of you may already have one set up for you during high school, but if you don't, you can register for one here. You don’t have to get one, but you’ll pay more tax if you don’t.

3) Check if you need an ABN

If you're doing any contracting or freelance work, you may need to get yourself an Australian Business Number. It's totally free, and you can apply for one here. If in doubt, ask your employer if they require you to get yourself an ABN.

4) Read your employment contract

Image source: Kate Beaton 

Ok, this can be a bit dry, but it’s really important you look through and understand what you’re in for. Each contract will be a little different, but in particular you want to look out for:

  1. How much you’re getting paid. Are you under 21? If so, you’ll be paid junior wage rates, which will be a lower % of the adult minimum wage of $18.29. You can use this Pay Calculator to figure out how much you should be getting paid.
  2. How many hours a week you’re supposed to be working. This is important if you find that you're consistently doing overtime.
  3. Your notice period for leaving the job. Some jobs are happy for you to give 1 week's notice, whilst others may require up to 4 weeks or more.
  4. Do you have a probation period. A probation is a period of time immediately after getting your job in which both your employer and you may choose to end the employment. The probation is designed to give both you and your employer an easy way to get out of the engagement, in case either of you find it isn't working out. During the probation period, not all rules may apply, such as penalty rates, leave, or other employee benefits. Be careful however, as some unscrupulous employers have been known to get rid of people before their probation period finishes to avoid paying them benefits!
  5. Under what conditions you may be terminated. Knowing what rules your employer has for ending your contract can help you understand if you've been unfairly terminated or not. Most employers are honourable and trustworthy, but it's still useful to know what your rights are.
  6. Any leave entitlements that you may be eligible for, such as sick leave. Not everyone has the same leave entitlements, so be aware what is available to you!

5) Last but not least, choose your superannuation

If you earn more than $450 a month before tax, your employer must contribute to your superannuation savings, which is basically the start of your retirement savings. Your employer must contribute at least 9.5% in addition to your salary to your super (so if you were being paid $450, your payslip should show at least $42.75 going to your super fund). 

Important! This is your money! Most employers will do the right thing and correctly pay your super, but there are some less honest ones who try to avoid paying your super, so it's important to check!

When you start your job, you will be asked which super fund you would like your employer to send this money to. However, if it's your first job and you don't have a super fund, this is what will happen:

  1. Most employers will already have a default super fund that they will put you in
  2. Once you’re in, that super fund will have a default super product / investment option to invest your money
  3. Your task at the start of every job you join is to decide if you want to stay with the default super fund provided by your employer, or if you would like them to send the money to a different fund.

Your superannuation is a really important part of your eventual retirement savings, and it becomes more important over time. To learn more about it, check out this video that explains how super works, and why you need to care about it.

If you want to learn more, you can watch the next video here, or download our free app below to get access to all our videos.

Legal stuff

We’re not financial advisers and that’s not what we’re here to do. All information provided on this site and through our app is purely to help you better understand the basic concepts of superannuation. For financial advice that is tailored to your specific personal situation, please see your Certified Practising Accountant (CPA) or licensed financial adviser.