Where The Jobs Are

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr)

So something strange has been happening to me and some friends in the job market. People are reaching out to us with great positions. In other states.

Now we’re in Silicon Valley, technical professionals. Sure Silicon Valley has its problems, but reaching out to us to see if, hey, y’now maybe you’d like to leave, seems weird. Like why do recruiters assume we might want to pick up and move cross country?

So I decided a little analysis is in order for you careerists as I’m betting you’re seeing this too.

The Valley Paradox

First up, there’s a bit of a paradox about Silicon Valley. It’s harder to get employed here if you live away, but much easier when you’re here. I know someone who looked for work for months in the Valley, but when they moved here they had a partial offer in two weeks, a contract in four weeks, and an offer at that same company two weeks later. When you’re in the Valley it’s a bit easier to stay in the valley job-wise.

So I’m not sure if anyone is up to leave because coming back would probably be a wee bit harder. Besides I get the impression if anyone is leaving, it’s permanent, and that means giving up a lot.

But people are certainly reaching the hell out to here, which makes sense. If you’ve got time at one of the big names, or experience in the right industries, you’re valuable. I mean who’s going to turn down hiring someone who was at Apple or Google – even as a contractor.

Which leads to one of my first realizations of these Valley Raiders:

A Silicon Valley Hire Is Valuable

For all those recruiters wondering if I’d like to swap Sunny California for, say, Colorado, what have they got to loose?

Getting someone from Silicon Valley is pure gold for a recruiter. Who’s going to turn them down? Who’s going to say no? Who’s not going to offer them a lot of money? Not only is it assumed such a hire is good, much like hiring someone with a useful certification, hiring someone from Silicon Valley insulates a recruiter from blame because everyone assumes that hire was probably a good idea.

(Or in short, if the Silicon Valley hire fails, no one blames the HR person).

So it’s probably worth spamming people with leads.

Next, are people trying to leave the Valley? Apparently, yes.

Yeah, Some Of Us Are Trying To Go

Silicon Valley has its problems. I won’t lie, I’ve written about the paradoxes before. Its crowded, its pricey, and if you’re not up to ply the career game here it’s not for you.  You have to have a plan to live here.

So it won’t surprise people that Silicon Valley is showing more “outbound” job searches lately.  More people here are at least exploring options, so if you’re a recruiter, why wouldn’t you take a few seconds to send a Valley candidate something else?  You might hit gold – and that gold is looking to mine itself.

OK, that metaphor sucked, so let’s distract from that by looking where recruiters are trying to send we Valley folk.

Where The Leads Are

Here’s the states I and my friend keep getting opportunities in – and why.

New Jersey

Yeah, I’m not exactly up for moving to New Jersey, but it’s a pretty decent place and it doesn’t deserve a lot of the jokes aimed at it. It has bad areas but also great ones, is conveniently located, and produced John Stewart. It’ll be better when they get rid of Chris CHristie, though he’s working hard to get rid of himself.

The unemployment rate is about 4.8%,kind of middling. (thanks BLS – http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm). I can see that putting a bit of pressure on recruiting, because . . .

It’s the 8th largest state economy in the US. Yes, little New Jersey has a GDP the size of Sweden. Suddenyl not a state to laugh at anymore is it? (Thanks Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP)

I also noticed that the pay rates I get offered are competitive with Silicon Valley.  Yeah people are willing to pay Silicon Valley rates in New Jersey.

So short form here, I think recruiters trying to staff in NJ are smart hitting up the Valley. There’s probably a need for talent, its got a big economy, and some smart people are willing to toss around a lot of cash to make it work.

(That also means that NJ might be a good target if, say, you want to move and find work but Silicon Valley and other spots aren’t your bag)


Colorado isn’t exactly a state I’ve considered moving to. I mean I’m sure it’s nice and all, but it’s not my thing. But I and friends keep hearing from them, and when you look at the numbers it makes sense.

First, Colorado has a 3.5 unemployment rate. That’s tight, they need people.

Second, it’s the 18th largest economy of the states. Not huge, but hey it’s Algeria.

Third, it’s a nice state in general. There’s cities like Denver, lovely areas, natural resources.  Colorado’s advantages remind me of some pitches I heard from Scottish recruiting companies – you get lovely land and great urban areas.  I can see the appeal.

Fourth, it sounds like it’s economy has gotten diversified and is expanding its footprint.  Colorado had its technical players once, and it sounds like they want to do it again.

When you analyze it Colorado is probably a pretty nice place to go if you want nature, a good economy, and tech and culture without the crowding.

I’m starting to notice.


Well when you get leads from Texas that’s pretty damned obvious. Texas is working to grow it’s tech sector, has decent employment, is the second largest economy after California, and you don’t get snow. Plenty of companies have offices or are starting them there, a few companies are moving there.

Now I’m not one that buys the Texas economic miracle – from infrastructure issues to dependency on fossil fuels, I’ll stick with California, thanks. I don’t trust the politics nor the long-term potential.  But I get why people think I may want to move there – growth, space, and of course a hell of a lot cheaper.

It’s also got medium-level unemployment, and the second largest economy in the US – roughly equal to one Canada.  I suspect Texas politicians may know the fossil fuel industry has problems and want to diversify.

So yeah, I think we have a picture of the recruiters bugging me and my friends.

Why People Are Targeting Silicon Valley Recruits

What did I find just traipsing through these offers? That some of these recruiters know what they’re doing. They’re figuring “why not” and targeting jobs with areas that have appeal – the pay and opportunities of NJ, the many options of Colorado, the growth in Texas. When I started this analysis I sort of wondered – now I don’t.

As you can see, some of these folks aren’t random – they know what they’re appealing to. It doesn’t hurt to wing off a few options to Silicon Valley people in case

But this also means something more for you, my geeky job seeker.

A lot of us love the Valley. A lot of us are’t leaving – though that’s not a mindset everyone shares. But if any of these places appeal to you, if some of the other geek areas aren’t your bag, go take a look.

Ask your friends what recruiters are approaching them, draw up a picture – like the one above – and see if anything comes out. You might just find your next job and a great new place to live.

And you can always sell the recruiter on the fact that hey, you’re willing to move.

Oh, but you still want that insane pay rate.

  • Steve


Urban Sprawl Is Bad For . . . Income Mobility?

So short form is a University of Utah study found Urban sprawl is bad for income mobility.  There’s one I didn’t see coming.

Basically, it seems sprawl reduces access to jobs and plays some role in segregation by various factors  None of this is actually shocking (especially when you consider lousy transport in some sprawl), but is a really interesting reminder of how location seriously affects life and job prospects.

I can definitely say in Silicon Valley I see the advantage of density – more job prospects for people, better contacts, more chances to learn, etc.  It’s paid off for a lot of people I know.

It’s also a great reminder to take a look at where you live, work, and may want to move to.  Sprawl was always a warning to me – I was worried about commuting and about an overheated home economy in the past.  Now it looks like there’s much more to be concerned about.

  • Steve

Career Advice For 2016: Watching for 2017

So here we are at the end of 2015, a year of massive . . . well massive everything, both good and bad . . . and 2016 is coming.  So what does the Geek Job Guru think about 2016 and your careers (in the US)?

The strange thing is most of it is about 2017.

Economy In General

So first of all the economy in the US seems to be doing OK overall right now but remember we came out of the worst recession since the depression, and not everyone caught up.    This Salon article is worth reading, and though it focuses on the worst and ignores subtleties (for instance, some people may not have liquid cash but do have assets, it does help paint a picture that the US middle class on down isn’t doing too hot.  A good economy doesn’t mean good for all.

This is also on top of student loan debt, etc.

I also share some of the concerns about the world economy as detailed by Larry Elliott in The Guardian – China’s probably-contracting economy, the Eurozone ups and downs, and Brazil (which I hadn’t paid attention to).

So my short form take on the US Economy is meandering and a lot of people aren’t doing too hot – good for some, OK for others, but a lot of people are being hosed.  In turn we’ve got some bumps in the world economy.

I don’t see the world economy hitting a big bump in 2016 – but I see it as a distinct possibility in 2017 as there’s too many things that can go wrong.  Unless it’s minor, its impact will be extended as so much of the US has not recovered.  Collapse or some kind of dystopian nightmare?  No. But it’ll depend on other issues . .


Politically, let’s face it the Republican party is in a meltdown with Trump.  I give him odds to win the nomination, but I don’t see him winning.  However the party will likely take an obstructionist route in politics – well, continue it.  Trump on the other hand will stick around to make trouble.

The Democrats will probably unify behind Clinton, and if she’s smart (and she is) she’ll outreach to the Sanders constituency.  Trump’s antics allow her to move to the left (which, to show my biases, we need), by driving moderates into her area.  A big issue for government functioning is if Clinton has coattails so she brings in enough change to keep the Republicans from being obstructionist.

Your politics aside – my politics aside – the gridlock as of late has been terrible.  One look at our poor infrastructure and erratic politics will tell you that.  To be blunt I think the Democrats will allow us to better navigate upcoming economic bumps.

If on the other hand Trump wins, against all odds, he will be massively disruptive to put it mildly.  But I don’t expect it.

The US political situation will affect how bad a likely bump is.  If the Republicans win or win enough to be obstructionist, we’re going to grind on and the 2017 bump will hurt a lot of people.

Jobs In General

Don’t see a lot of change on the job front per se, which is actually not good for everyone.  you can get a gander at the top paying jobs in the US according to Business Insider – which you’ll note require degrees and training.  For people without degrees, you can check out BI’s non-degree job guide – but training and speciality work is also required.

In a lot of cases you see the same patterns time and again – be involved in health care, engineering, building/maintenance, mechanicals, technology, and transport.  And yes, IT is good but I’ve previously covered that getting in on the ground level is hard.

If you’re senior at a job there’s always reasons to be concerned, but I think you’re probably safer, at least in IT – and if you’re skilled you’re also hard to replace, especially if you’re hands-on.  No one outsources their Dentist or HVAC construction.

The problem is if you’re starting out, you need to start out fast, have a plan, measure progress, and get the hell trained.

Also you’ll notice a lot of jobs aren’t particularly “geeky.”  Work with things that fit you and be willing to evolve.

Where This All Goes

So my basic take on jobs for 2016 is:

Prepare for things to “go bump” in 2017.  Be ready with savings, plans, etc.  I’m not guaranteeing it’ll happen, but I’m suspicious.

  • If you’re Senior in your job, it’s more a case of holding on – saving money, keeping up a rep, getting some extra training.  This is especially true if your job is hard to outsource or replace.
  • If you’re entry-level, you should work to get yourself to some senior level experience before 2017.  Actually doing it at reasonable speed is a good idea anyway.  Work to make sure you’ve got options and are established.
  • If you’re just starting out – pick careers carefully, watch your finances, and have backup plans.  Be ready to live with your parents, friends, etc.  Be willing to work on a more stable, less interesting career – you can always change later.
  • If you can’t do your perfect job, do what you can but also be willing to “careerize” a hobby to explore options.  I recommend that anyway, but it may be nice to have options anyway.


This will be amplified – or decreased – by our political situation in the US.

Now past 2017?  I’m not sure.  Too far out for me.  But I think 2016 means we have time to prepare for 2017.

And we should

– Steve