The Best Employee Benefits for New Grads (And What to Ask For if Your Job Doesn't Offer Them)

Ann Lloyd on 12 June 2019

The Best Employee Benefits for New Grads (And What to Ask For if Your Job Doesn't Offer Them) cover

With unemployment at a mega-low, the lowest since 1969, employers are finding they have more empty positions than candidates to fill them. As a new grad, this is great news for you because it means two things:

1. You have expanded employment options as many employers seek soft skills over hard skills, which means you might have just as good a shot as another candidate with experience and qualifications — but not the personal skills you do.

2. You have more room to negotiate benefits and other great perks. Most employers offer the standard benefits, such as healthcare and paid time off (PTO), but there are dozens of other cool perks that many people don’t know about.

Here are some of those additional perks you can keep an eye out for once you reach the negotiation and job offer phase of your employment search. If you don’t see them offered, you might want to consider asking if they are a possibility.

Standard benefits to begin with

As a new grad, it might take you a while to transition from the “student” to the “adult” mindset, so you might not be thinking about the types of benefits you’ve either taken for granted, not needed, or not had to think about when your parents previously managed these items. Consider the quality and implications of these basic benefits offered by most employers.

  • Health/dental/vision insurance. These plans come in all shapes and sizes. The cheapest is not always best, nor is the most expensive. You’ll want to choose the plan that makes the most sense for you (and this will be different for everyone). Read, research, and compare benefit packages very carefully.
  • 401(k)/ retirement plan. For a millennial or even a Gen Z member, it’s definitely not too early to be thinking about retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better you’ll secure your financial future. Definitely take full advantage of any retirement perks or contribution matches your employer offers.
  • Life/disability insurance. If something catastrophic were to happen, you’d want to make sure you and your family are taken care of. Carefully look at the insurance options employers offer.
  • Miscellaneous insurance. Some employers also offer other optional types of insurance as needed, such as pet, renter’s, or ID theft insurance.

Insurance and retirement plans are often complicated and ever-changing. Be sure to always ask for clarification from your company’s human resources representative to explain anything that you don’t understand.

Flexible work schedule

Today’s employees overwhelmingly prefer flexible work schedules. According to statistics, 73% of employees say these agreements boost their on-the-job satisfaction, and 67% of small businesses offer some form of flexible work to their employees. Here are some possible work arrangements employers can offer as a part of their policy or might be willing to negotiate individually.

  • Flex hours. This flexibility lets you work any hours you want, as long as you finish your daily task list and meet all the job specifications designated by the boss.
  • Remote options. An increasing number of companies allow staff to work from home — or even remotely from another city (which is an extra money-saver if, for example, your firm is in Miami but you can work from much cheaper Tampa). Also, if you work from home, you can write off some pretty great tax deductions. Use online tax tools to calculate how much you could save.
  • Half-day Fridays. Many employers are willing to lengthen hours slightly for the rest of the week to allow half-day Fridays; others offer this perk freely with no adjustments, purely for the sake of boosting morale.
  • Unlimited time off. Some employers subscribe to the mindset of giving employees complete freedom to take days off. Many corporate decision makers find this policy results in surprising business benefits. 
  • Paid sick days. It’s common for employers to lump in sick time with PTO, shaving off employees’ valuable vacation time whenever an illness or injury strikes. Ask whether an employer offers traditional sick days that can be designated for illness, family members’ illnesses, or doctor appointments.

A flexible work schedule in any shape or form is a major perk to seek – when you’re young and want to travel, and later when you might have a family to consider..

Educational assistance

Think you might want to go back to school or gain some additional credentials? A good benefit many employers are offering is a subsidy for continuing education. See if your potential employer offers to pay for or sponsor any of the following:

  • Tuition reimbursement. You pay for classes pertinent to your job or industry requirements, then the employer reimburses you for the cost. The result is a more well-informed and capable workforce.
  • Non-credit continuing education. Less intensive than traditional college curriculum, continuing ed classes can still offer great benefits for career and personal development.  
  • Certifications. Many employers tie raises or bonuses to an employee’s earning of greater certifications within their industry or job description — or at the very least, help pay for certification classes.
  • Student debt assistance. Numerous companies recognize that younger employees are starting out far behind because of student loan debt, and choose to offer a helping hand.

Even if you’ve already finished college, learning doesn’t have to stop — there’s always room for more growth. Many companies invest in augmenting employees’ education because it benefits them, too. (Keep in mind, employers may stipulate employee commitment requirements for a period of time once you’ve received this benefit).

Memberships and lifestyle perks

One type of benefit many applicants don’t realize they can receive is related to quality of life, and often includes consumer products, services, or on-site perks. Check to see if your potential employer offers free or discounted access to one or more of the following:

  • Spotify, Netflix, or Audible subscriptions
  • Cell phone plan or computer discounts
  • Gym memberships (free or discounted)
  • Catered meals or cafeterias
  • Free coffee and snacks
  • On-site daycare service

Often employers offer these kinds of benefits to help promote happiness and/or work-life balance. They are definitely something to consider when weighing out your job offers.

Paid travel and professional opportunities

If you’re looking to spread your wings and gain new professional experiences, ask your employer if they encourage or allow employees to participate in special events. For instance, a lot of companies will fly staff out to represent them at trade shows, industry conferences, or business expositions. These types of events can allow you to learn new skills, acquire broader professional learning and exposure, and gain terrific networking opportunities for yourself and your company.

In today’s candidate-driven job market, most employers are amping up their game to attract top talent. It costs money to recruit and onboard employees, so employers are aiming to keep their employees happy by offering benefits and perks — some more unusual than others. If there’s a perk you really want, and it's not burdensome or too cost-prohibitive, go ahead and ask a potential or new employer about it: You just never know!