Searching for Your First Job? 3 Benefits to Look For

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  • These days, companies are having a hard time hiring staff.
  • Some are offering better benefits to attract talent.
  • Look for good health insurance, an employer-matched retirement plan, and paid time off at the jobs you're considering.

You don't want to pass any of these up.

If you're a recent college graduate in search of your first job, you're in luck. Now is actually a great time to be entering the labor market, with job openings being plentiful and many companies having a hard time finding workers.

Not only are some companies raising wages to attract talent, but they're also upping the ante on workplace benefits. And to be clear, the right set of employer benefits could translate into major savings for you in different areas. As such, if you're seeking a full-time role, it pays to aim to snag the following benefits.

1. Subsidized health insurance

Health insurance can be a large expense, so the less you have to pay for coverage, the better. It's common practice for employers to subsidize health insurance to some degree, but in the course of seeking out a job, you may want to focus on companies that subsidize insurance generously.

You might even find a job where your employer covers your health insurance premiums in full. In that case, you'll still have to cover your own copays and deductibles, but you won't have money deducted from your paychecks to cover the cost of the coverage itself.

2. A retirement plan with an employer match

It's common for companies to offer not only a 401(k) plan for retirement savings purposes, but also some sort of matching program in conjunction with that 401(k). Different companies have different matching policies. But in a nutshell, you may be entitled to some amount of free money for your retirement plan if you contribute out of your own paychecks as well.

If you end up working for a smaller business, you may not end up with access to a 401(k). That's because these plans can be costly to administer. In that case, you can still open an IRA on your own and save for retirement that way. But you may want to inquire about a SEP IRA. That's a special IRA for small businesses where employers contribute to savings on employees' behalf.

3. Paid time off

Everyone needs a break from the office from time to time. It's important to make sure that whatever job you take offers some degree of paid time off -- especially for sick days, but also, for vacation days.

Some companies now even offer unlimited time off. These policies generally work on a "just don't abuse it" basis, so if you keep your days off to a reasonable number, you won't run into an issue.

Of course, it's a good idea to ask about your company's COVID-related time off policies, too. If your company offers the option to work remotely and you test positive for COVID-19, you may not have to miss much or any work if your symptoms are mild. But since there are isolation requirements associated with a positive test, it's a good idea to ask any prospective employer how they handle COVID-related issues.

While searching for a job for the first time can be daunting, the benefit is that you're doing it at a time when workers have a clear advantage. But as you assess different salary offers, make sure to dig into each company's benefits as well to ensure that you're really signing up for the right package.

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