Samantha Stauf contacted me on Twitter and wanted to share her experience finding a job with her English degree and making sure that you get the employee benefits you deserve. Here is her advice.
When I graduated a couple years ago, I got a job at a pawn shop. I’m sure I could’ve done better if I actually tried to market myself, but I couldn’t be convinced that my English degree could garner anything better.
During my interview, my interviewer’s eyes lit up as she read my CV. “You’ve got an English degree! That means you can use words well, right?” A part of me died as I nodded and forced a smile. “You bet!” I said. So I spent the next 6 months telling people their priceless family heirlooms were actually phony costume jewelry and not worth anything and I watched the light in their eyes fade. But the employee benefits were outta sight! … Literally. I did not see any.
These unorthodox jobs should be embraced for what they are: A step toward something better and a surefire way that you’ll appreciate what you have when you do make it to where you want to be.
In the interim between graduation and Poet Laureate/Supreme Cultural Ambassador, it IS possible to find a good job that doesn’t require you to make people cry, and that offers employee benefits. You just can’t sell yourself short like I did. However, you must be patient and diligent.
It will be tempting to take the first job you’re offered where the word “benefits” doesn’t seem as if it were an unattainable unicorn, galloping through a meadow of 401k contributions. However, some companies offer benefits that sound better than they are.
For instance, tuition reimbursement sounds amazing, right? But make sure you read the fine print on this one. If you accept the reimbursement, you may be locked into that company for a number of years after you graduate, with the consequence of quitting early being you must pay that money back.
Another example is paid time off that combines sick days with vacation days. You’re allowed to use your PTO for either one, but this means sick employees end up coming to work anyway because they want that eventual vacation to be as long as possible. This often just translates to more sick employees.
Companies that offer good benefits are communicating to their employees that they want them to stick around for a while because retention is imperative to their success. So be wary of employers that try to dress up phony benefits. Additionally, if they present benefits such as family medical leave or worker’s compensation as potential deciding factors. These are federally-mandated employee benefits and are therefore provided by any employer.
Conversely, It is rare to find a small business offering great benefits because rates are considerably more expensive for them, as opposed to those of a large business or corporation. So, even if their benefits aren’t ideal, give a company credit for trying.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of benefits an employer can offer and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Here is a short list of good employee benefits to look for:
Ideally, this is provided with low or no cost to the employee, outside of regular co-pays and deductibles.
Some companies will match a small but significant portion of contributions to your retirement fund.
Companies who offer this benefit give a certain number of paid time off hours for every 40 hour work week or 80 hour pay period. The more time you work with a company, the more time you can spend getting paid on the Jersey Shore.
Company initiatives to counsel any interested employee on issues such as physical fitness, addiction, and healthy dieting.
The best example of this is when a company offers a free or reduced gym membership to its employees. Usually the more employees interested, the cheaper these programs are.
When evaluating a benefits package, keep realistic expectations. A fledgling start up isn’t going to be able to give you the world, but it’s possible they will get there with time. Also, some benefits are dynamic, they’ll improve if you stick with a company for a pre-determined amount of time.
With patience and a little light research, understanding the world of employee benefits isn’t so overwhelming. Now, go forth and be valued.