Categorized | Job Hunting

Best Jobs for Perks

Posted on 18 November 2009

Jobs That Come With
A Little Something Extra

Perks just keep getting harder to find. However, there are jobs for which perks are a part of the compensation package.

In healthy, happy mid-20th century America, when the executive level was the career ideal to strive for, the key to the senior washroom stood as the symbol of success — the magical instrument that unlocked a secret door, behind which a select, beknighted few undertook decisions that moved and shook America. Gaining entrance to that chamber was a rite of passage signifying one’s advancement to elite status.

By the go-go 1980s, perks had become more diverse, more expansive and a little more fun. Condos in Vail, membership in exclusive country clubs, catered lunches, chauffeured limos, fully stocked bars, helicopters to the Hamptons, villas in Mexico — these were the goodies at the top of the corporate heap, the trickle-up blessings of Reaganomics. In time, those perks took on a life of their own. What began as symbols of success and as motivation on the climb up the corporate ladder, became benefits to be expected of the potential employer. What, no luxury box for the local professional football team? No corporate health club? No personal assistant? Sorry, I’ll take my career elsewhere.

Jobs With Perks

Advertising-account executive
Agency director
Anthropologist and archaeologist
Antique dealer
Bank officer
Baseball player (Major League)
Baseball umpire
Basketball coach (NCAA)
Basketball player (NBA)
Corporate executive (senior)
Executive-search consultant
Financial planner
Hotel manager
Insurance agent
Nuclear-plant decontamination technician
President (U.S.)
Public-relations executive
Sales representative (wholesale)
Software engineer
Travel agent

But a funny thing happened on the way to the top — the recession of the early 1990s. Now the economy is once again prompting another wave of corporate belt-tightening. And, there are other factors that come into play, such as the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS is increasingly looking at perks and taxing the recipients, not to mention putting pressure on the companies to treat them as part of a taxable-income package.

Even freebies, the access to which employees see as normal and necessary to the work environment, can be recast as a perk by scrupulous financial officers. Writing implements may not seem like an amenity to an office worker, but one well-known company that places temporary computer operators charges its employees for extra pens if they lose the one they’re given. Similarly, most professionals view a telephone as an indispensable piece of business equipment — but does that mean employees must, or should, have unlimited access to it? Indeed, for many cost-conscious companies, access codes for each employee to the company’s long-distance service are becoming increasingly popular as a means of preventing abuse of phone privileges. Just print up a list of who called where, and a boss can track whether a call was made for business or personal purposes.

The perk isn’t dead, but it is being viewed in a new light — the light of reason in the cost-conscious, post-New Economy era. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman pointed out years ago, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The money going toward perks has to come from somewhere. Might that money be better spent on something that more directly influences the bottom line?

Even the beneficiaries of presumed perks may start to see them differently. It’s common for sports teams to provide journalists with complimentary food and beverages at games, but most often the bounty isn’t of the healthiest variety — hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza. To someone watching his or her weight, the complimentary buffet isn’t a perk any longer. Employees of a company or nonprofit organization that seems to spend an inordinate amount of its funds on baubles to keep the workers happy may begin to question the direction of the company or the mission of the organization. And in the new hands-on corporate environment, some top executives are moving out of their plush, wood-paneled corner offices and back into cubicles out on the floor to become more involved in the everyday workings of the business and its employees.

As people re-evaluate their place in the world — both in their careers and in life outside the job — they may also begin to re-evaluate the worth and necessity of the freebies that have become part and parcel of the commercial environment. Whereas once it may have been common to accept gifts from potential clients or customers, the new business climate has begun to call some of that palm-greasing into question. We hold our elected representatives to high standards in terms of receiving gifts as a way to influence decisions. Should the decision-makers in the business world be held similarly accountable? You may be trying to decide between two companies with similar products or services. Is the value of those products or services truly reflected in the size of a company’s vacation retreat or corporate jet? Maybe the young, hungry company that hasn’t yet established itself enough to indulge in such perquisites is the one you’d rather work at.

Still, perks, amenities and benefits will continue to be a drawing card for professionals deciding on new careers or evaluating job offers. Our advice? Don’t let the glitter of those attractive baubles sway you from your prime concern, which should be: Is the job right for you? Will you enjoy doing this job day in and day out? Will you be personally rewarded — not just financially, not just with advancement, and not just with certain amenities and privileges, but with a feeling of self-fulfillment? That, ultimately, is the best perk of all.

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