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When you are looking for a job, it can sometimes be difficult to look at an offer objectively, especially if you have the pressure of bills to pay. This lack of objectivity often leads us to consider only the salary offer and not the overall benefits package.

Once you get started with a company and get those bills paid, you might realize how important some of these other benefits are to you. Unfortunately, it can be hard to negotiate for some benefits after the fact.

Before you even start looking, decide what benefits are important to you and then look for companies that have them. Some benefits you can negotiate for after a job offer is made, but there might be some the company cannot or will not offer. Knowing what is important to you before the process will make the final decision of applying or accepting an offer easy.

To help you get started thinking about what benefits are important to you, consider these five common ones:

1. Flextime/Remote Work

Once a rarity, this benefit is becoming more common but is not a given. Some positions are just not suited (it’s hard to be a receptionist from home), but for others it just makes sense. If this is an important benefit for you, make sure it is a possibility before taking a job. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that you can convince your management team to let you work remotely.

If you work for a start-up, remote work might be the norm for everybody. If this is the case, make sure you understand the parameters before signing on. While you might be working remotely, you might not have flexible hours. How upsetting to find out you need to be available at 5 a.m. every day for a staff meeting conducted by your manager located across the country.

Also, make sure you understand their payroll system. If they are just starting, they may not be aware of all the rules and pitfalls of paperless payrolls and individual state tax rules.

2) Family Leave

Family leave can be important to anyone, whether you are a younger employee needing time off for the birth of a child or an older worker who needs time while caring for an aging parent. America trails behind other industrialized nations in this area. Paid leave is not legally mandated, and the only legislation guaranteeing unpaid leave –the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993–only applies to companies with more than 50 workers.

If you think there is a possibility of needing family-leave time while employed with this company, it would be wise to negotiate for it before taking the job.

3) Retirement Options

No matter where you are in your career, retirement planning should be a consideration. Gone are the days of working for one company your whole life and then getting a pension when you retire. Now, we have 401(k) plans,  IRAs, and stock options.

When you have to plan for your own retirement, starting early allows things like compound interest to do the heavy lifting. While you are responsible for your own retirement account, you should look for a company that will help you with either stock options, matching contributions to a 401(k), or both.

If your company offers stock options, it is a good way to get started with investing. Companies will often offer their shares to employees at a discounted rate. If the stock price goes up, your profit will be even higher because you purchased at a lower price.

If your company offers to match your contributions to a 401(k), you should always take advantage. You are basically doubling your money for free.

If the company looking to hire you does not offer either of these options, you might want to reconsider. You can try to negotiate for them but usually this is a benefit that must be instituted company-wide and not something management will offer just one person. If they don’t offer these benefits but otherwise you like the job, possibly ask for an increase in salary to compensate.

4) Equipment Upgrades

One of the fun things about a new job is the possibility of new technology. One the other hand, there is the possibility of having to work with old, outdated equipment or software. If your position is one that is reliant upon technology, make sure you get a guarantee before taking the job that you will have the correct tools.

Another consideration is the smartphone. If you are expected to be out of the office on a regular basis, but staying in touch or making regular calls to clients, negotiate for either a company phone or an allowance towards your personal phone. If you have to work on the road regularly, you might also ask for a mobile hotspot for your phone, making working on the road easier.

5) Professional Development

It is important to stay current with the developments and changes in your industry. The best way to do this is through membership in professional organizations and attending seminars or yearly conferences. Many employers will have a policy in place for professional development stipends.

Before saying yes to the job, make sure that you and your position are eligible for this stipend. If there is nothing in place, negotiate now to get it included in your benefits package. Every field will be a little different, so research what is the average stipends for your field.

This is not a comprehensive list. Benefits will vary among positions and industries. Use this as a starting point to discover what is important to you and move forward.

Benefits should either help you live a better life or help you excel at your job. Knowing what is available upfront is better than learning after you have already started the job that they will never let you flex, or pay for professional development.

Written By
Valerie Jocums loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her husband. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned. Follow her on twitter: @vkjocums

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