We’ve been hearing good things about the job market and that has translated to Silicon Valley as well:
The Bay Area tech hotbed has not yet fully escaped the grips of the recession. Silicon Valley still has a 10.6% unemployment rate — higher than last month’s national average of 8.8%.
But the valley produced 1,200 jobs last month, and its biggest companies are on track to add thousands more in 2011.
SimplyHired.com, a search engine for job listings, says that nearly 40 percent of the 130,000 open positions in Silicon Valley are for software engineers. Innovations in social media, mobile and cloud computing are driving the growth, said Dion Lim, SimplyHired’s president.
But what that means for anyone else is, well, anyone’s guess.
Is Silicon Valley a bellwether?
At the ERE Expo a couple of weeks ago, I was able to talk to real recruiters with requisitions on their plate. In a shift from the 2010 event, recruiters were starting to see the first bit of movement. Whether that meant hiring 20 people at one smaller company to seeing some churn and transfers at other companies, there was no false sense of confidence: hiring was going to start, whether it be to bring on new people or replace those moving or leaving.
Now, I know that isn’t scientific but pointing to a hiring boom because Silicon Valley produced 1,200 jobs in a month and some “on the way” (as is always promised) isn’t terribly scientific either. Especially in a month where 216,000 jobs were added overall (and previous months were adjusted up), a hiring boom specifically for Silicon Valley seems unlikely. In fact, given its higher unemployment rate, it could even be a laggard.
What lessons can be learned
There is no doubt that Silicon Valley is a special place, though. Not only is there quite a bit of specialized expertise in a relatively small geographic area, but it also has its own culture, pressures and sensibilities. Entrepreneurial drive is high there because you are surrounded with other people who have done it. People assume that rock star products are made with a few 80-100 hour weeks and caffeine benders.
I know some engineers who have pulled down LinkedIn profiles and other online profiles because they were continually being recruited (even from 2008 through 2010). Still, they end up getting e-mails, texts and phone calls about new jobs.
How does that impact a farmer in Ohio or a factory worker in Tennessee? Really, not much. A certain pressure is constant. Employability is still mainly based on skills and demand. That’s the same for a broker in Boston as it is for an engineer in the bay area.
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But, there is something important
Where I think Silicon Valley can be a difference maker outside of their ecosystem is a little bit of FU money. You don’t need a lot of imagination to figure out what FU money is, but it is enough money to drop whatever you were doing and do something you want to do.
We often decry out of synch company valuations and overpaying in the course of mergers and acquisitions, but one thing it does do is give a group of 5-50 people a sizable chunk of change to do something with. As the Force of Good blog mentions, a little FU money could help a lot of people out:
Some of these folks will start new technology companies. Some will become angels. There are a few VC limited partner types in the bunch and perhaps a actual VC or two. Some will drive off into the sunset behind the wheel of a large self parking automobile. But you wait and see. FU money is the answer to jump starting the Atlanta startup scene. It’s as simple as that.
Some of those people getting money in Silicon Valley will move that money into other areas of the country and start the next big thing. Some of the people getting money from Silicon Valley are already established elsewhere and are ready to reinvest it into new ventures.
If Silicon Valley can help elsewhere, it is driving a sustainable amount of dollars out of its ecosystem and into other parts of the country. And even if it isn’t a bellwether for jobs, it can be a catalyst for driving innovation nationwide.