Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

Geographic Cultural Influences on the Job/Employment Market

2012-06-07 14:03:08

Last night I was talking to a friend of mine that is hoping to move to the Bay area for work in the next few weeks/months. She has a place to live down there and is willing to move her own belongings so she doesn’t even need (although would welcome) employer-provided assistance with relocating. She’s also looking at jobs in Seattle as well, and is open to whatever comes her way. She left her last job at one of the leading area tech companies as a vendor, and has been looking for jobs in both areas for the last few weeks. She has been finding an odd trend in her phone screens and responses to her networking: either she is too generalized in her skill sets, or too specialized. I told her that this says to me her resume isn’t doing the job for her. She has some really good experience, but she needs to re-format it to speak to the sorts of jobs she is applying for.

Here is the other thing: recruiting and working norms in the Bay area are much different than they are in Seattle (or Boston, or NYC, or Atlanta or any other city.) What do I mean by that? Well, San Francisco, San Jose, Sunnyvale and environs have two very distinct types of technology companies but a unified culture: established, global companies and startupville. And the reason I say there is a hybrid is because there are technical behemoths in the area like Google and Facebook that are “established” and “global” but very culturally startup environments. Then you have companies like eBay, Symantec, and Yahoo that have been around for a very long time and are more “traditional”. There are also the gazillion startups that are succeeding and failing every day. As a recruiter, I can tell you that the candidate pool and profile is influenced by the whole startup culture. This means that candidates tend to jump jobs fairly regularly, and expect to be working on really interesting and cool stuff and stay engaged or they go elsewhere. A stable job history is *less important* there than it is elsewhere. Hiring managers don’t WANT stable job histories; it isn’t the norm, and it makes candidates less attractive, more boring, less agile.

Seattle, on the other hand, is an area of stability. Hiring managers want candidates that don’t job hop, with the exception of contractors. And that is largely because of Microsoft and Boeing, both companies that rely heavily on contract and contingent workforce augmentation and have created an acceptance of contracting as an acceptable career profile. But they prefer your contracts to be at least a year or more long. And when I’m working with my hiring managers looking for candidates and we are identifying where the top talent comes from, we have a list of the “usual suspects”: Microsoft, Starbuck’s, Amazon, Expedia, T-Mobile, AT&T and a handful of smaller companies occupying similar spaces that we do. That is one side of the tech market (software and internet/e-commerce) in Seattle; the other sides are biotech and aerospace. There are other industries in Seattle such as education, medicine, PR/Advertising, hospitality/travel, and fashion. But tech is what has been fueling a majority of the local economy the last 20 years, so much of the local economy and cultural workplace is wrapped endemic to the *workforce*. Here’s another truism: there are very few companies in Seattle that don’t use Microsoft Office as their default email/word processing/spreadsheet software. Why? Because so much of the local workforce has worked AT Microsoft that it’s what we know professionally.

In the DC Metro area, if you are in IT, it is almost assumed that you will have some sort of secret clearance, and that it commands more money across the board. This very simply has to do with the government being the biggest employer or subcontract client in the area. It’s a commodity. Here in Seattle, it means very little in the tech market, because we are mostly consumer-focused.

My point is, when you are looking for a new position, it’s just as important to learn the how the local employer culture works. And if you are coming out of a long time at one company, learn about what the local culture is like and why it has evolved (the why is important because it helps structure your resume appropriately and you prepare for interviews.)

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