Starting A New Job: 5 Things to Ask at Orientation

Congrats on the new position! Along with starting a new job – even if it’s at your same institution – comes with all those “adulting” things like retirement, health benefits, registering a vehicle, etc. and it can be an IYKYK situation sometimes. As a long-time recruiter and onboarder, here are some things I make sure to cover with my new staff members in our interview wrap up to prepare them for the HR orientation when they begin. 

  1. Paychecks: Something that many folks may not consider is the pay schedule for your new employer. Are you paid every other week? Monthly? And if monthly, is it on the last day or first day of the month? These questions are important to help plan your finances and budget things out, especially as you start a new job with new bills. 
  2. Healthcare Benefits: I often refer new recruits to our university’s HR Benefits website, or suggest they call the office there too, as healthcare is a personal thing. See if there is a one pager that compares some plans so you know what you may need. Look at the premiums and deductibles so you can estimate costs and what will be taken from your check for these benefits versus your actual net income. It’s also crucial to find out when these benefits actually kick in. A lot of places may have a 30-day delay depending on start date, and it’s helpful to know so you can plan your prescription refills accordingly.
  3. Retirement: Another thing you will want to explore is what the retirement options are at your new institution. You can call their representative to set up a meeting as well once you’ve started to see what plans may best suit your lifecycle plan. Does the institution match your contribution? And up to what maximum? It sounds boring now, but your future self will thank you for being so responsible. 
  4. Annual/Sick Leave: How much leave do you get each month? Does it accrue at the first of the month or the end of the month (i.e. when can you use your leave each month)? Another thing to find out is if there is a cap on how many hours you can have in your balance before you’re held until you spend it down. Can you contribute hours to a leave-pool for other employees with emergency needs? Is there a maximum on the number of hours you can be paid out for whenever you leave the university? Over break periods are there any times when you have an enforced mandatory leave?
  5. Employee Discounts: A lot of universities and their local communities may give discounts for faculty/staff – and sometimes anyone with a university ID card. What are those local discounts? Check on your school’s HR site as there is usually a webpage with these associated vendors – even phone carriers may be included!

Remember that benefits and other onboarding tasks can vary by institution. Use your peers for help and advice. Ask other employees who may have recently joined what they navigated.  They may give you opinions and insight into important considerations you may need to think through.

Congrats on your new job!

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