Benefits are good, perks are better

DEAR JOYCE: A recruiter has been talking with me about joining a pharmaceutical company he represents when I finish my master's in biology this year. The salary's acceptable, but I had hoped the company would throw in a car as a benefit. Am I expecting too much? And also, what's the difference between an employee benefit and a perk? -- C. B.

A counselor in your university's career center deals with current salary offers and related benefits day in and day out and can answer your salary question better than I can. As for benefits and perks, here is the historical difference:

BENEFITS. Employee benefits are non-wage compensations on top of your wage or salary. Examples: group insurance (health, dental, life), disability income protection, retirement benefits, day care, tuition reimbursement, vacation (paid and non-paid), Social Security, stock options and profit sharing. Virtually all of a company's employees receive similar benefits, although upper tiers receive more of them.

PERKS. Items in the perk category are benefits of a discretionary nature -- extras that go with executive status. An exception would be made if the job calls for travel and a car would be included in your offer package. But if your workplace is at a single location, expect to wait until you earn promotion to senior-player status to be rewarded with a company car.

Perks are not a one-size-fits-all benefit. Former Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White ticks off the perks that may come your way when you're just starting out at a good job at a good company. They are: continuing education benefits/tuition reimbursement, the chance to telecommute, access to a mentoring program and training seminars, a health stipend and an often-automatic marketplace discount.

When you're on the fast track, White explains that you're likely to get all of these plus relocation reimbursement, stock options, performance bonuses, extra vacation time, a smartphone and service plan, a laptop, home Internet connection or portable Wi-Fi hotspot device, home office furniture and supplies (especially if you telecommute), professional society dues, conference attendance and parking fees.

Read more by searching for "31 Great Work Perks People Don't Tell You About" by Kate White at the Huffington Post.

DEAR JOYCE: I'll be graduating in several months and am about to look seriously for a job. What are your thoughts about Huntsy as a way to keep track of my interview appointments and follow-up? -- A.M.S.

Bull's eye! Huntsy.com is a free website that's designed to keep track of the jobs you find and when you submit resumes, and it can also help you manage deadlines and follow up after interviews. One of the website's features allows you to search for connections at the companies listing the jobs you like (referrals by current employees bump up your chances of being hired). Huntsy is like having a free assistant to keep your job search experience organized and humming.

DEAR JOYCE: My husband has been looking for new employment for five months. We would have moved to a hotter job market but we've been unable to sell our home. At this point, we're considering renting our home and moving this summer when the kids are out of school. How are others in our shoes solving the real estate problem? -- H.M.M.

While there are no magic answers, employment authority John A. Challenger predicts a surge in relocation by job-seeking homeowners this year, following a recent report on home prices that shows the biggest year-over-year gain in more than six years. Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement company, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, explains:

"One factor that has kept unemployment rates high has been the inability of underwater homeowners to relocate for employment opportunities. With home prices bouncing back, even those who may now simply break even on a home sale might consider moving to a region where jobs are more plentiful, sparking a more rapid decline in the unemployment rate over this year."

(Email career questions for possible use in this column to Joyce Lain Kennedy at jlk@sunfeatures.com; use "Reader Question" for subject line. Or mail her at Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.)

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