Considering a New IT Job? Cool Perks Aren't Everything

For many technology professionals, perks like fresh food around the clock, sessions with a personal trainer and dry-cleaning delivery come with the job.

Sounds nice, right? Many employers today, especially technology firms, are offering creative incentives along with generous compensation packages to attract and retain skilled IT talent. (Find starting compensation for 70 IT jobs in our 2014 Salary Guide.) While the thought of on-demand cars or unlimited vacation time can be exciting, there actually may be some significant downsides to working for the company that provides them — long hours and high stress, for example. And the value of these job benefits can be fleeting compared to less glamorous benefits such as a solid retirement plan.

Consider Perk Pros and Cons

So, how do you weigh the importance of perks in an overall compensation package? You need to consider not only whether the compensation package itself is worth it, but also how it will impact your work/life balance. The following three tips can help:

1. Assess the corporate culture

While it’s certainly convenient to have a state-of-the-art fitness center on-site, or round-the-clock access to a fully stocked game room, perks like these can make it all too easy for employees to spend a lot more time at the office than they might otherwise. On the surface, these benefits seem like they’re meant to improve work/life balance, but in many cases, they simply tip the scale in favor of work.

If you believe you’ll thrive in this type of environment, great — though don’t be surprised if sometimes you’ll need to bring a toothbrush and change of clothes to the office. But if a fuzzy line between work and personal time isn’t for you, don’t feel like a misfit. You’re not alone in wanting a clear escape hatch from the office.

Fifty-one percent of workers polled for a recent Careerbuilder survey said flexible schedules are the key to employee retention. Further, the number-one perk they pointed to when asked what would make their jobs more satisfying is the freedom to take half-day Fridays.

2. Look beyond the bright shiny things

Your heart may skip a beat when a potential employer says you’ll never have to pay for breakfast, lunch or dinner in the employee cafeteria — or that you can bring your dog to work every Friday. But as the hiring manager runs through the list of all the great job benefits the company provides, are you also hearing mention of things like “professional development opportunities,” “tuition reimbursement” or “performance-based bonuses?”

In the long term, these rewards can have a far greater impact not only on your overall job satisfaction, but also on your career as a technology professional. Also, don’t be dismissive of offerings like medical and life insurance plans, family leave policies, disability coverage and sick time. When the need arises, these types of benefits likely will mean far more to you than a free car cleaning or made-to-order sushi.

3. Evaluate the rewards of the job itself

Past the promise of generous perks and pay, also consider whether you’d thrive in the firm’s workplace culture and whether the position would be professionally rewarding. Would the role challenge or inspire you? Would it provide a platform for growth, and allow you to learn new skills or deepen your expertise?

Trust your gut if you sense the job will leave you wanting — and remember that no incentive can truly compensate for an unfulfilling employment situation. None of this is to say you should be turned off by a firm offering creative perks. Some companies include both nice-to-have amenities and solid career-building and work/life-balance elements in their job offers. Just go in with your eyes open and concentrate on fairly evaluating what an employer puts on the table.

What's the best job benefit you've ever been offered? Let us know in the comments.

Tags: Career RX