April showers, May flowers, and summer is just around the corner. Graduations are in the air and job searching is in full swing. In all the workshops, panels, and mock interview sessions that we graduate students and new professionals attend, the one topic that is rarely mentioned is benefits. Both in the realm of higher education and society in general, discussion and knowledge of benefits remains rather elusive.
While I do not claim to be a benefits expert by all means, I do believe that it is important to look over the benefits offered when considering a position. Even for us new professionals navigating the working world, we can take the time to learn more about our benefits package. Together let us take the first baby steps into the world of understanding benefits.
Go and look at the HR website. Universities will have their employee benefits listed online either under the ‘Human Resources’ or ‘Employment’ section. This is a good place to review the health insurance, retirement plans, wellness programs, vacation and sick days, and any potential discounts.
Review the benefits package with a trusted friend, family member, or mentor. We ask for advice on our resumes, cover letters, and interview questions; why would we not ask advice about our benefits package? As you are considering a position or looking at your benefits for the first time, reach out to someone you trust to go over the benefits package and talk through what is included.
Talk with the HR Specialist. Once you're hired, a HR Specialist may reach out to discuss your health insurance, retirement plans, and other aspects of your benefits package. Go over the health insurance and ask questions on anything you do not understand. If a HR Specialist never reached out or if you are still unsure, reach out and ask for a time to discuss your benefits. And ask questions during the benefits portion of New Employee Orientation. Remember, there are no dumb questions when it comes to understanding your benefits.
Take advantage of your benefits package. Those vacation and sick days are there for a reason; use them! We give so much of ourselves to our students that we need to take our vacation days and recharge. Also, it is okay to be sick; we are human; sickness is part of the human experience. Look and see what else is a part of your benefits package. Employee Wellness Program: have a Wellness Release Program and take that time for your physical and/or mental health. Talk with the Financial Advisor about your money and retirement goals. Use those employee discounts at the bookstore, grocery store, or wherever else that has an employee discount.
Whether you are job searching or new professional, take the time to review and learn about your benefits package. Ask questions; questions are always welcomed. And use those vacation days; they are there to be used and you have earned them. We can be the generation of student affairs graduate and new professionals that make the benefits discussion less elusive and mysterious. Let us be that generation.
Author: Alexandra (Alex) Harrel works as a Financial Aid Advisor at Texas A&M University-Commerce and is a member of NASPA. She loves reading, Harry Potter, and Sonic Happy Hours. Alex can be found on Instagram at @harrelalexandra.