Nov 8, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Launching yourself from studenthood into adulthood with your first career job is a daunting endeavor. The job search itself feels like a full-time job: crafting the perfect cover letter, updating your resume, checking in with references, and then hoping to find the right match.

Once you do find the right match, though, the work only just begins. Before you sign a contract -- full-time, part-time, freelance or otherwise -- consider the employee benefits you could get, how important they are to you, and if and how you should negotiate for them.

Looking for some advice on how to do that? Here are seven things you might want to ask for, with advice on how to ask for them:

1. Student loan repayment

One of the biggest employee benefits of 2018 according to Forbes, student loan repayment is a key recruitment tool at some of the biggest companies such as finance firm Fidelity. If you do not know whether your prospective new employer has a student loan repayment program, ask politely.

According to personal finance site Make Lemonade, there are over 44 million graduates who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loans, the largest consumer debt category after mortgages.

Many companies find that helping out with student loan repayment not only attracts but keeps great employees.

If your new job does not offer student loan repayment, try to lower your interest rates through student loan refinancing.

2. Health insurance coverage

You need to know whether or not your employer offers health insurance, but that's not enough. You need to know how much you will have to put into it -- and if you have a family, how much your family is covered.

Check those premiums and make sure your deductibles are not through the roof.

Ask your employer to review the health insurance plan options with you and understand the restrictions and limitations, especially when it comes to pre-existing conditions. 

Make sure you completely understand the health insurance options from your employer and that the plan meets your needs. If not, ask questions. 

3. Pension payments

No, you are probably not thinking about your pension just yet, but it should show up on your radar screen. 

Do not overlook a full pension or matching programs on 401(k) and 403(b) accounts.

Matching programs are pretty valuable, especially when employers match your saving dollar-for-dollar or a certain percentage of your income. 

Here's how it works. If you make $70,000 but your employee matches 100 percent of your contribution up to 6 percent, over 30 years, you will have quite a bit of cash.

Think on it -- and do the math.

4. Access to wellness programs

Sometimes employers lump these together with health plans and sometimes they are stand-alone.

Some companies offer to pitch in on your health insurance premium if you agree to take health-risk assessments, or they may even offer financial perks for wellness activities like flu shots, joining a gym, and meeting biometric targets for cholesterol and high blood pressure. That's right: some employers pay you to stay healthy! After all, a healthy employee is usually a happy -- and productive -- employee. So it's a win-win.

Ask a benefits counselor in human resources for more information about your employer's wellness program and go ahead and get that discounted gym membership!

5. Professional development perks

While your experience and credentials got you this great gig in the first place, you will need to stay current with the latest in your field. How? Training, conferences, workshops, seminars, and a host of other activities.

Does your new employer foot the bill for classes, conferences, seminars, or tuition reimbursement? Find out.

Larger companies often offer some type of undergraduate or graduate educational assistance. This means more money in your pocket.

6. More paid holidays

There should be paid time off in your contract. It is not always easy, but try to ascertain if the work-life balance is acceptable to you. 

If you are coming from an employer who offered more time off, politely negotiate with your new employer to match that number. 

If you are worth it to your new company, they will be willing to listen. Make yourself worth it to them. Companies often offer good benefits so people will be happy in their jobs and they will benefit from both lower attrition (as recruitment can be costly and time-consuming) and more motivated employees.

7. The possibility of working from home

Working from home at least part of the time has become more popular and it is entirely reasonable to ask if the option exists.

Negotiate this ahead of time -- don't ask your boss if it is ok if you work from home every Friday once you are in the job. Even if you do not settle on an agreement in the negotiations, ask the human resources office about their remote work policies and their expectations of your presence in the office.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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