You just got a job offer! Condragulations! Now it’s time to negotiate… for your life.
But before you start throwing numbers around, there’s something you should understand. Salary—the thing most think of when they are considering the terms of a new job—is but one item on a long list of negotiable items. And while it’s wicked important, your potential employer might not have as much room to adjust there as they do in other areas.
So aside from salary, you need to think about what you need to be happy and comfortable in a new job.
What is going to improve both your financial situation and your overall life? Because if an employer can’t budge on the salary, that doesn’t mean they don’t have something more to offer you in other areas.
So let’s talk benefits, shall we?
Workplace benefits, a partial list
Depending on the industry, your benefits package may vary wildly. Here are some things that might be included in an employee benefits package:
- Vacation time. Sometimes they break it down into sick days and vacation days, but these are basically your Get Out of Jail Free cards. Skip a day of work and still get paid. And while we can’t stress enough the importance of taking a break once in a while, you can also use your vacation time to work on other income streams. So use wisely.
- Disability leave. If you’re injured or ill, this allows you to take time off work to recover while still being paid, and without losing your job. Especially important for people who work physically risky jobs where they might have an accident.
- Bereavement leave. If a family member passes away, this allows you to take paid time off to attend their memorial service without cutting into your regular vacation time. This benefit was particularly important for me at my last job, as I had to fly across the country with only twelve hours notice to lay my grandfather to rest.
- Family leave. If you (or your partner) are pregnant and give birth, this allows you time off to recover from the physical toll of the pregnancy and bond with the baby. Sometimes paid, sometimes not, so pay attention to the fine print because fun fact: the United States is the only “industrialized” country in the world without mandated family leave so… #vote.
- Childcare. Some employers offer on-site daycare for the children of their employees. It’s a sadly rare practice, but these kinds of benefits go a long way toward advancing gender equality in the workplace and making life easier for working parents. I spent my toddler years in Army daycare, and look how I turned out! (Ok that’s… maybe not a ringing endorsement for daycare… but still!)
- Nursing suite. Along the same lines, some companies have a private room stocked with refrigerators for the purpose of giving nursing mothers a private space where they can pump and store breast milk during the work day. Again, this is a great way to increase retention of women and treat your employees like human beings.
- Retirement account. Usually a 401(k) or a 403(b), both you and your employer contribute money to this account for your retirement. Before taxes. So if you don’t contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement account in some way, you’re losing money in three different ways.
- Stock options. This can be a double-edged sword. Stock options can pay out very nicely if you get into a company before it’s publicly traded. But accepting stock options in lieu of a higher salary can be very, very risky. So do your research.
- Flexible schedule. In this grand age of telecommuting, flexible scheduling is becoming more common. To avoid rush hour traffic at my last job, I asked to work a 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule instead of standard work hours. Another of my coworkers worked Tuesday through Saturday so she could attend classes at the state university on Monday. As long as you’re getting the job done and putting in the hours, flexibility is a perfectly reasonable benefit to negotiate.
- Working remotely. Along the same lines, it’s easier than ever to work from home (or a library or coffee shop, for that matter) rather than going into an office every day. Even if it’s just for one day a week, it fucking helps. I work remotely full time now, and I can’t express just how much it has improved my life.
- Company car. A friend of mine works a job that requires him to travel throughout the region. This would take a toll on his personal vehicle, so his company has provided him with a fleet vehicle. He can use it for anything he likes in addition to work-related travel, and he’ll have to give it up if he ever switches jobs, but for now he’s saving enormous sums not owning or maintaining his own car.
- Health insurance. The big one. The best plans will have a low co-pay and include dental and vision insurance as well. If you work a full forty-hour week for your employer, you have to be offered health insurance. But this is ‘Murica, and not all health insurance plans are created equal. So read the fine print before deciding if your employer’s insurance plan will suit your needs.
- Life insurance. You are a valuable asset to your company. And your family relies on your income. Employer-sponsored life insurance will ensure that your death doesn’t become a financial burden to your family in the event of your untimely demise.
- Memberships and discounts. Some employers have deals with museums, theaters, and other local organizations for discounted tickets. Others offer free gym memberships. You’d be a fool not to take advantage of these sweet perks!
- Tuition reimbursement. Some employers will pay for you to get a degree, or help with the tuition. This is especially applicable if you work for a university, though some private companies will pay for their employees to get graduate degrees. The trick here is that if your employer is investing in your education, they expect you to stick around and use that education to benefit the company. So they might require you to stick around for a few years after getting your degree.
I know I’ve missed a few. I’m counting on you, citizens of Bitch Nation, to fill in the gaps in a comment below!
Why negotiate your benefits?
At my previous company, I reached the top of the ladder much faster than I expected. And while this had at least as much to do with the company’s needs as it did with my own inherent talents and swagger, it still left me with nowhere left to rise.
As we’ve discussed before though, career stagnation can have major consequences on your lifetime financial well being. So I had to find other ways to get ahead that didn’t involve a promotion or a title change.
Aside from asking for a raise every six months, I asked to work from home one day a week. Since I was commuting forty miles a day, cutting out my commute for even one day would increase the amount of time I had to work within a single work day and save me money on gas and car costs. As a result, I had more time and flexibility to spend on freelance projects that would bring in more money.
In effect, I’d found a way to increase my income without getting a significant raise at my day job. Score!
For more on negotiating and asking for a raise, feast your eyes on these classic BGR posts:
- You Need to Ask for a Fucking Raise
- The First Time I Asked for a Raise
- Santa Isn’t Coming and Neither Is Your Promotion
So determine what benefits would make your life easier, richer, better, and get out there and ask for them. As we’ve said before, the worst they can say is no, but they can’t say no unless you give them the chance to say yes.