Dig Into Your Benefits

Making the most of the benefits your company offers is a great way to earn what some human resources professionals call a "hidden paycheck." By taking advantage of benefits such as tuition reimbursement, employee discount programs and flexible spending accounts, you can boost your total compensation package.

In fact, with bonuses and pay raises diminishing, some people are putting more stock in benefits. In a recent survey by Capital One Financial Corp., recent college graduates ranked benefits slightly ahead of pay when it comes to job-hunting priorities. Sixty-six percent said that comprehensive benefits packages are the most important factor in their search for employment, while 60% named salary as the top priority. According to the survey, valued benefits include health care, 401(k) plans, child care and domestic partnership benefits.

Some benefits are more valuable than others, says Michael Marcus, an advanced capacity/performance analyst at Atos Origin Inc., an IT consultancy in Arlington, Texas. He recently cashed in on a benefit that enables Atos employees to buy computers and software at a discount, which amounted to about $200 in savings.

There's real gold in tuition reimbursement benefits, according to Michael Godin, a professional services consultant at Ecora Software Corp. in Portsmouth, N.H. Godin took advantage of a former employer's tuition reimbursement benefit to get a master's in computer science. The employer paid for half the cost of the degree, and with his resulting salary increase, Godin was able to earn back his investment in his education in just one year. "If you can get the employer to pay for your education, that's a real cost-benefit win," he says.

In Computerworld's 2008 Salary Survey, 18% of respondents said they wish their employers offered tuition reimbursement.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

This version of this article originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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