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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Price

On Becoming a Benefits Geek....

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Early in 2021, I had an idea for a blog. I wrote outlines/drafts for two posts, but never finished them. A few weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself #opentowork. As I look for my next role (during benefits Open Enrollment season), I decided to get back up on my benefits soapbox.

I have worked in Human Resources my entire career. I’m sometimes surprised when an HR colleague says, “No one ever intends to work in HR”. I slowly give a little wave and say, “Except for me.” I have an MA in Organizational Psychology. My first job after graduate school was in employee benefits at a large investment bank which has merged, "un-merged", re-merged. Lots of last names strung together in different configurations. At the time, I knew very little about benefits, but I quickly dug in, and reviewed the company's Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs), benefits summaries, and plan invoices to prepare for my role.

I held that position for a little over a year before moving into "generalist" and staffing roles. I took a six-year employment hiatus to be a stay-at-home-mom. When my son started kindergarten, I resumed my HR career. After a couple of job changes, I landed back in employee benefits. In 2011, I was in a corporate recruiting position and the Director, Benefits came to me to post an open benefits position. My response, "After I post the position. Can we assign someone else to recruit for it so I can apply for it?" After a couple of rounds of interviews, I was offered the position and moved into the role and have focused on benefits (and compensation) ever since.

Along the way, I earned my Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) designation. I will reference this more in future blogs. Two key points to share for now:

· When saying CEBS, you say each letter rather than read it as a word

· I learned a tremendous amount from earning the designation. As important as it is to know what I know/learned, it’s equally important to know what I don’t know or when there are more questions to ask.

I found my niche, my sweet spot, my wheelhouse. It's my "There's a lid for every pot."

It's an Open Enrollment is the happiest time of the year sort of thing. About three years ago, I struck gold. I held open enrollment for one employer for a January 1 effective date, switched jobs mid-January to a company with an April 1 plan year. Two open enrollments in four months! Jackpot!

I’ll share this occupational hazard: I made a reference to a co-worker via same time about the Karate Kid reboot and typed as "COBRA Kai", using all capital letters as in the acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act, rather than Cobra Kai, the name of the TV show. COBRA, among other provisions, allows an individual who loses health insurance to continue that insurance for a specified period. It's a great provision to ensure continuity of health coverage.

Perhaps this vignette is the best way to explain it. Several years ago, I was at a benefits conference. One of the organizers was collecting quotes from attendees about the conference. My response:

“Now I understand how Trekkies feel at Star Trek conventions”.

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