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For more than a decade, Big Tech companies were prime destinations for idealistic college graduates. Recruiters from Google, Facebook, and the like systematically snapped up top talent--from computer scientists to English majors--promising big paychecks, lavish perks, and a chance to change the world for good.
Small businesses trying to hire from the same pool didn't stand a chance--until recently. On Saturday, the New York Times published a detailed look at the "techlash," a growing movement on college campuses against working for large tech companies. According to the story, those companies were still seen as ideal employers just three years ago. Now? Things have changed thanks to data privacy concerns, sexual harassment issues, human rights protests, and more. Here's an excerpt:
"Working at Google or Facebook seemed like the coolest thing ever my freshman year, because you'd get paid a ton of money but it was socially responsible," said Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci, 21, a senior at the University of Michigan. "It was like a utopian workplace."
Now, he said, "there's more hesitation about the moral qualities of these jobs. It's like how people look at Wall Street."
To be clear, big tech companies aren't exactly struggling to fill open positions. LinkedIn data from 2019 shows that tech firms are still hiring entry-level employees at high rates. The same goes for financial firms, contrary to the above Wall Street comparison. Still, as the Times story notes, many students no longer view large tech businesses as a haven for social responsibility--and that opens up a golden opportunity for startups and small businesses.
After all, many entrepreneurs specifically branch out on their own with the goal of effecting positive change. If you can convey that message to prospective entry-level employees, you might be in luck--even if you can't pay as much as Google can. One recent Stanford graduate told the Times that some of her peers are actively pursuing jobs at startups in the health, education, and privacy industries--where "change the world" missions can feel particularly urgent.
Similarly: In my own reporting over the past few months, I've been repeatedly told that flashy job perks aren't nearly as important as they used to be. Rob Frohwein, co-founder and CEO of Atlanta-based alternative lender Kabbage (a two-time Inc. Best Workplaces honoree), told me in November that having ping-pong tables in your office doesn't mean anyone will actually use them. "First, you have to have people who genuinely want to drink a beer with one another, play a game with one another," he said.
This all adds up to some very good news: For the first time in years, you might have an edge in stealing top talent away from Big Tech. Get your culture, mission, and values in order. And then, go on your hiring spree.