Why should I work for you again?

Literally, for months now, I have been discussing with other developers, “Why is our one sector booming when there is 10% unemployment?” Where is all of the money coming from? What makes us special?

Apparently, others are asking similar questions.

Today, Jon Steinberg posted to Hacker News that there is 10% unemployment yet every startup in NYC [is] struggling to hire.

One respondent posited that there may be too many startups. Another questioned whether the startups are limiting their search to people who can work co-lo’d. Yet another wondered if startups are being too picky. And still another complained of the lack of apprenticeship occurring in our industry.

Jon is certainly on to something. The past several years have witnessed downturns in graduates with computer science degrees. This probably correlates with the tech bubble that burst in ‘00[1]. No matter how you feel about the validity of a college education, this statistic is still telling.

While all of the aforementioned answers are likely partially responsible, the largest culprit is that the IT startup industry as a whole is not marketing itself well.

Two rounds of boom and bust in ten years? That doesn’t spell “career choice” for a lot of people.

Most people are risk averse. They want predictability and safety. They’re not entrepreneurs. But not every startup worker is an entrepreneur! The risks of working at a startup are largely (1) that your equity will be worthless and (2) the startup will fold losing causing you to once again ask, ”Who moved my cheese?

So what’s missing?

In a word: marketing.

To the layity, the typical “reward” for working in the startup industry are long hours for lower pay than you’d get in a more stable job (right… where are those again?) followed by the periodic need to search for a new job because, oh shit, my latest employer is laying people off again because they ran out of funding.

It’s worse than that.

There are job boards everywhere. But most job listings that I see on job boards (and receive via email) all read like form letters:

Hi, my name is Foo and I work for Bar, Inc.  
We're looking for developers who are skill in Froboz!

You should also be skilled in:
  * Baz
  * Blech
  * Bla
  * 42

We provide competitive pay and offer a, get this, 
whopping *2* whole weeks where you get to come up for air and not work.

Sincerely,
YASR*

This is supposed to appeal to the currently overemployed individual how exactly?

For crying out loud, people, be passionate! Tell candidates why what you’re doing is awesome. Make them want to come work for you.

If you’re not mentoring entry level people you’d better be!

If you can’t do that, well, you can always put another exciting job listing on 37Signals for $400/mo.

But Don’t panicTM! Computer Science enrollments are going up again[2] so, pretty soon, there will be parity or another bubble to ruin it all for us.

* = Yet Another Stupid Recruiter

[1] IT workers’ scarcity and skills

[2] Computer Science Major Counts Up Second Year in a Row

Posted by evan on Sunday, December 12, 2010

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