It just may not be where you thought it would be.
We’re coming up on graduation season (congratulations, everyone!), and that means that a bunch of bright-eyed folks are joining the millions of people who are already on the quest for the perfect job.
But what if I told you that there’s more to the tech hiring industry than the Valley, New York, and Austin? Don’t get me wrong, those places are great, and there are fantastic opportunities there right now, but what about the rest of the world?
And what if I told you that you might have been missing entire sectors in your hunt? There’s more opportunities than the big name companies, and you may even find the work to be more rewarding, challenging, and impactful.
Let’s talk about why you should consider widening your job search horizons.
Living can be expensive
While salaries in the tech sector are some of the highest, the tech hubs of San Francisco, New York, and Austin, also have some of the highest cost of living, taking a sizeable bite out of what would be an otherwise generous salary.
Living in say, Pittsburgh, Bentonville, or Indianapolis will give you much more bang for your salary dollar. You may sacrifice some of the “Big City Wow” factor to go work there, but it may also present you with opportunities to make an impact by starting a Meetup, a chance to slow down, or to be closer to loved ones or outdoors experiences.
Commuting can be expensive
“No worries,” you say. “I’ll just rent outside the city and commute.”
To state the obvious, commuting is expensive in cash terms, even in places with good public transport. However, it is also time expensive.
Think of it this way: Break down your salary into an hourly rate, or use your hourly rate. Then consider the time factor for your commute. If it’s variable, say 45 minutes on a good day, 1 1/2 hours on a bad day, land somewhere in the middle. How much does that commute cost you each way in time? Then add in how much it costs for gas if you drive, fares if you use public transport, or yearly bicycle maintenance costs if you’re a fan of two wheels.
Adds up, doesn’t it?
It also adds up mentally and emotionally. A 2014 study by the Office of National Statistics in the UK found that commuting increases anxiety and negatively impacts overall well-being.
Opting to live in a city where you have a shorter commute has benefits, even if you take a pay cut.
Alternatively, looking at a tech career in a different type of industry for employment may lead you to a workplace that is within easy commuting range, or the best commute reduction-remote work.
Which brings me to my next point.
Tech jobs. Tech jobs EVERYWHERE.
The great thing about having a career in tech, whether you’re a developer, a data scientist, a social media strategist, a UX designer, or any one of the myriad of roles, is that your skills are highly sought after by companies that aren’t “tech” companies.
Your expertise is highly portable, and the principals of your practice can apply almost anywhere. So why not consider a role as a UX designer for a healthcare product? Or data science for a local government? Or software engineering for a museum? Web development for a school district or university?
Think about products, industries, and causes that you care about. Who are the players in those arenas? Start scouting them for networking opportunities and job openings.
Give it a chance
Taking your tech skills into a new industry may be a challenge. You may have to lead your new coworkers in some learning sessions on current practices, tools, and methods.
Think of that as an opportunity. You’re gaining experience in being part of a team, being agile (small “a” agile) to achieve a goal, and solving problems in not-perfect conditions. I can guarantee you that those skills, and the empathy you gain from them, will serve you well throughout your professional life.
Additionally, your contribution may have a larger impact in a non-tech sector. You won’t spend months toiling over the perfect curve of a button (ok, you might. We see you, designers.) but you may fundamentally change the way a company does business. You’ll also likely have more agency and ownership over your product and work than you may have had in a large tech company, and that’s something to add to your portfolio.
So I implore you to think outside the box by evaluating your skills against your desires for location, and work. Consider life in a new area, or even your hometown, on a holistic basis. Find employers that are doing interesting work on problems and products you care about.
Go forth and do good things!