In light of the big “day of action” by Occupy Wall Street last Tuesday, I thought it was an appropriate time to talk about a common theme of the protests: jobs. Over and over again we hear the chants of “jobs for the 99%.”
However, the positions of the protesters stand in stark contrast to the reality that my company and many ad tech start-ups face in NYC every day – too many jobs and not enough great people to fill them.
Currently at eXelate we have over 10 positions that have been challenging to fill at various levels of experience. And in speaking with colleagues at other start-ups, they are experiencing the same issue. Meanwhile, recruiters are raking in the dough hand over fist to squeeze round pegs into square holes, while young, smart people are marching for more opportunity. Where is the disconnect?
I don’t profess to be an economist (though I did play one on TV), but in my opinion, the real factors that are making it hard to find folks to fill key tech roles in NYC boils down to:
Education. We aren’t training either undergrads or MBAs to be competitive in the new economy. Grades as opposed to practical application and theory as opposed to practice are still the focus of an educational system that continues to train our young people as though they will all work at GE.
The days of large multinationals driving domestic growth are over. Innovation is the key to our future. We need to educate our young people to take ownership, not orders; to think out of the box, not how to pack it better.
Expectations. Now I am going to sound like my Dad (I guess I am a Dad so it is OK), but the concepts of “10th-place-gets-a T-Ball trophy,” reality television as an easy path to riches and the glamorization of any job that isn’t in an office (“Mad Men” excluded) have created the unrealistic expectation of what “rewarding” employment means.
Interestingly enough however, I think that life in a star-up is one of the best ways to really experience the excitement of the highs and lows in life in an environment that tends to be much more inclusive (and yes, even coddling) than most large firms can offer. Sending this message loud and clear to our candidate pool can help slowly make an image change.
Risk-Taking. Startups fail… often. And startups in ad tech are no exception. Although there is uncertainty in any job, in any era, the recent recession seems to have created a generation fearful of taking risks when it comes to their future. This hurts the ability of an industry growing as quickly as ours to sustain that growth.
We need to do a better job communicating the benefits of creative destruction for prospective employees and not penalizing those who have been part of a “failed enterprise.” They most likely learned far more than those who have only seen success.
We have one of the best teams in ad tech at eXelate, and we are always looking for great people who are looking to break new ground. As one of our newest team members noted when asked why she joined: “I didn’t want to be a cog in the machine. I wanted to be a part of a team that could get things done from day one.”
Originally published on the eXelate company blog. Reprinted here with permission.
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