Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Open enrollment returns November 17, 2013

You would think I’d pay attention to deadlines.  But I’m not the best at that.  So that may explain why I finally picked my 2014 benefits at around 10pm before my midnight deadline a few Fridays ago.

I went through this whole ordeal last year.  I also reviewed a bunch of the jargon related to health insurance plans. The  available options changed this year, so I needed to take another look.

I still had a similar question: Would I rather pay more up front (in premiums) so that I get cheaper coverage immediately than pay less but then have to pay most out of pocket?

I had 3 options this year.  They eliminated the option I went with last year (the Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)), so I was left with the Point of Service (POS) plan and two “high deductible” options with HSAs.  Last year, I picked the option that allowed me to not think about things as much, i.e. the EPO.  Basically, if I was sick, or needed to see a specialist, I looked up a doctor in the network, and the price of the visit was just a copay.  No need to shop around for the doctor or facility that would be the cheapest.

With the High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP), or as they’re often called, Consumer Driven Health Plans, the idea is to put the spending decisions in the hands of the consumer.  The idea scared me last year, as I mentioned above, because I didn’t have a good way of knowing how much any doctor visit would cost.  For both of the plans, the coverage is a bit different.  Instead of paying a set amount per doctor visit/surgery/etc., the process can be a bit more involved.  You’re encouraged to shop around (which is often not possible if, say, there’s an emergency), and prices can be a bit confusing.  Many websites have started offering cost estimators, like the one at FairHealthConsumer.org, or through your insurer’s website.  There’s another collection of lookup options from this article in the LA Times or this article in the Wall Street Journal.  The insurance usually negotiates a discount, but then you are left responsible for some (if you’ve met the deductible) or all of the remaining cost (if you haven’t met the deductible yet).

The assumptions I’m making about my medical needs for next year:  hopefully don’t need many visits, and definitely not enough to meet the high deductible ($1500 for one, $2000 for the other).

All the plans have an out of pocket maximum, so the range between the “total expenses” for me (premium + out of pocket maximum) is $4-5k.  That’s the total amount of money that would be gone (granted much of it paid with pre-tax dollars).  Hopefully, it wont come to that, but it’s good to know that I wont go into debt forever if something bad were to happen to me (medically speaking).

I went with the plan with the lowest premium.  Then I set my HSA contribution to the difference between the lowest premium and the highest premium, so I wouldn’t feel so bad about having to spend the money on medical expenses.  This plan also includes a $750 contribution from my employer into my HSA.  So, I might use all this, or more of it, or less, but any money I don’t use can be kept in my HSA from year to year.

Another thing to consider:  Once my fiance and I get married, we can (and should) reevaluate our benefit elections.  It’s considered one of the many “qualifying life changes” that allows for us to modify our benefit elections.  It might be cheaper for one of us to join the other person’s plan.  We’ll see how the first half of the year goes, and see which of the plans works for us.  Knowing that I can change my health plan does help me feel a little less worried about my insurance choice.

So, which plans are you looking at?  A co-pay based system?  A high deductible plan with an HSA?  Has all this insurance stuff been confusing?  Are you one of the people in the individual market trying to navigate the options through the Affordable Care Act?  What questions did you ask yourself (or HR) to figure out what plan was best for you?  Let’s talk health insurance!

 

Graduated Learning’s Guide to Finding and Getting a Job December 21, 2008

Filed under: Careers,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t claim to be an expert on any topic, but since I finally read the Brazen Careerist book (which I recommend reading) and I have a few friends looking for new jobs asking for advice, I decided to gather up a bit of my words of wisdom and share them here.

As many of you may know, I got laid off back at the end of April.  There was plenty to figure out about my situation, even without thinking about finding a new job.  I had to figure out what I was going to do for health insurance, apply for unemployment, roll over my 401(k), and figure out what happened to my FSA (you’re allowed to use up to the amount that you originally enrolled for, but only for expenses on or before your last day of employment…according to the person I spoke with at my old company’s payroll service).  Looking at the trends of search terms leading people to my blog, as well as the financial news, I know that a lot of people out there are in that situation right now.  So, if you have any questions about all the steps you should take post-layoff, let me know, either with a comment or an email at graduatedlearning@gmail.com.

Anyway, most of this advice will sound pretty similar to many other guides.  But I’ll let you know what helped and what didn’t in my search for a new job.

I started out by casting a pretty wide net. I posted my resume and did some searches on sites like monster.com.  But I also made sure my profiles were updated and informative on monster as well as on LinkedIn, and even made sure my Facebook profile looked good (I don’t have any weird things posted, I just went ahead and updated my work and interests…but those of you with scandal on their profiles pages, I recommend removing it!)

I wouldn’t stop with job posting sites, though.  I mostly got emails from insurance companies trying to hire me through monster.com.  Though a few messages did come through about jobs in my field.  And I did apply to a bunch of jobs on there.  But I think most of the time the science job postings were for biotech jobs.  Lifehacker actual had a post about the top job search engines.  But I have to say that it’s pretty tricky to actually get a job through those sites.

I think it’s key to spread the word that you’re looking for a job.  Of course, if you’re still employed but looking for a new job, you’ll want to be a bit more discreet about who you tell.  But making it known via Facebook status (Stephanie is…looking for a new job!) or LinkedIn’s “what are you working on” (Stephanie is looking for new and exciting opportunities) is a simple way to start.  I believe that there is no need to be ashamed of your unemployment status.  I’ll admit, I was a bit embarrassed that I had lost my job at first.  But I think that the more people that know of your plight, the better your chances are that someone might be able to help you with advice, referrals, or even job offers!  Of course, you also don’t want to seem too desperate, or look like you’re complaining.  Just be clever with your online messages, and equally clever with your person to person interactions!

I also encourage you to get back in touch with people.  Contact old bosses or supervisors from past jobs or internships, or perhaps others that have given you job offers or contacted you regarding a job in the past.  That’s actually how I came across my job.  Right after I started my last job after college, I got an email from someone who had seen my resume (presumably since I applied to the company in general, and they must have been looking to fill some positions).  I respectfully responded that I had already started a job, and that I would contact him if my job situation changed.  Well, you can bet I looked up that email and sent him a message to catch up!

I also took advantage of my alumni network.  Granted, MIT does a pretty good job of keeping track of their alums (possibly so they can beg you for donations when you hit it big), so I might have had an easier time looking up alums compared to people at other schools (as I have no idea how well your Alma Maters keep track of alumni).  Some schools have a list of alumni who are interested in helping other alums with their careers.  Or they at least encourage others to get in touch with them.  I looked on there for people interested in talking about careers that interested me as well.  I usually emailed them, introducing myself and asking if they’d like to meet with me or chat over email.

Recent graduates should also consider contacting past professors, TAs, or colleagues.  I wrote to a few of my old professors asking for advice, or if they had any ideas for good companies to work for in my field.  One professor responded by asking for my resume and sending it to a few people he knew at other companies.  So that definitely helps as well.

Overall, don’t expect a job to fall in your lap.  That being said, don’t be discouraged if you don’t initially get invited for an interview or offered a job.  This will take time.  As many career books and articles say, “looking for a job is a full-time job”.  And, either fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your view of things), it’s really about networking.  Even if you’re shy and you don’t really know people, just talk to the people you already do know.  Go to a local social event.  Meet new people.  Even if they never help you with your job search, you’ve practiced talking to people!   Think of interviews for jobs you don’t get to be practice as well.

I still encourage you to apply directly to companies or organizations you’re interested in working for, even if you don’t know anyone at the company.  Just make sure you construct a very clear cover letter!

A few other thoughts:

Update and review your resume.  Send it to friends so they can read it from a different perspective (they’re more likely to see the typos or notice if something doesn’t make sense).  Also, if you haven’t read over your own resume, you might forget what is on there.  That actually happened at one of the first interviews I went to this time around.  They asked me about one of my past internships, and I completely blanked on the name of a piece of equipment I had experience using.  So know your resume!

I know this isn’t a full set of everything you need to know about getting a job.  There’s plenty more to think about: resume and cover letter writing, efficient job searching, interview techniques, etc.  But this is just to get your started.  I encourage you all to comment with your favorite job hunting/searching/getting tip.  And perhaps I might follow up some other time with more advice/thoughts/insight.

Happy searching!