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Illustration by Jeremy Russell

It's Job Season!

Deluge forces tough choices

By Annalee Newitz

FOR THE PAST MONTH, everybody in my group house has been looking for a job. OK, everybody except Andrew, who is a child-care worker in the noncom world. But the rest of the household lives in Geekville.

Just at the moment when all of us realized we needed new jobs for various reasons, something tremendous happened to the economy in the Bay Area. All that VC money that gushed out of some unknown place in 1999 suddenly swept over us in a deluge. Every day, there were hundreds of jobs being announced. I was getting emails forwarded to me by friends of friends that said things like this:

"Business 2.0, an award-winning magazine, is hiring editors, staff writers, freelance writers, assistant editors, section editors, software engineers, production designers, marketers, network administrators, managers, and interns. Visit our website and find out more!"

Every phone line in our house was ringing off the hook; people were leaving messages that said, "Hi, this is Dick Dickson from Dick and Dick Associates here in Santa Clara, and we have a great job opportunity for you at a pre-IPO company!!!!!!!" Recruiters have mastered the art of actually making it sound like there are seven exclamation points after any sentence they utter.

When Nancy posted her very juicy tech manager's résumé on dice.com, she was inundated with requests for her presence all around the bay. She gobbled up an extremely tasty, six-figure job at the company of her dreams within 48 hours.

Jason had five software engineer interviews in two days. Most of the interviews resulted in offers the next day, for $15,000 to $20,000 more than he made at his last job. Now he's in "major life decision hell." The solution? Play a lot of that NBA Championship game for Sega Dreamcast, download some porn and watch tapes of The Simpsons. I like the porn part.

Ed, a backend web Java supermonkey, decided to take leave of his current job--which promises 100,000 when he vests in a few months--to work at a startup in Tokyo. He's there now, calling us at weird hours from a hotel that has no street name (apparently only large streets have names in Tokyo; the rest are organized by districts). His undergraduate courses in Japanese are paying off, but he's annoyed that he's coding in Perl instead of Java. A couple of nights ago, he went to a big techno rave outside Tokyo, and now he feels at home.

While Ed hangs out with the Japanese salarymen and U.S. expatriates in Tokyo, Melissa is subletting his room and looking for a job. Fresh out of Olympia, Wash., she's an overeducated publicist with lots of experience in the record business. (Yes, she's met Sleater-Kinney.) Before she arrived on the streets of San Francisco, she had already lined up two interviews at dotcoms. The first thing she did, after putting some pictures up on Ed's old bookcase, was buy a cellphone. Yeah, she's ready for the VC-instigated job frenzy.

Cash is everywhere. As I write this, I'm checking my email in random bursts of multi-tasking. Just now, I got a poorly worded email from someone I've never met, who got my name from a colleague--he's a producer at fillintheblank.com, and he wonders if I'm interested in doing online documentaries about culture or something. OK, whatever. So I could be doing a million fun things right now, but I have to choose.

And I did choose. I took a new job too, but one that is shockingly, non-conformingly noncom. No new computer awaits me on my desk (although there is an old one, soon to be running Linux). I don't have a million dollars in my department budget, and I don't get free snacks and drinks. A homeless writer lives in the archive room at my office. When I ride the bus to work, I'll be watching the slick buildings of San Francisco's financial district recede into shiny, science-fictional spikes on the horizon.

Hearing about this new job, an editor at one of the lovely, cash-engorged tech publications that I freelance for wrote me and said, "You know, if you worked full time for us, we'd pay a lot more than that other place."

Yeah, I know. And I'm still a nerd. But sometimes the best way to understand a golden money bubble is to watch it carefully from the outside for a while.

Annalee Newitz ([email protected]) is a surly media nerd who, in a pinch, always chooses freedom over money.

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From the February 24-March 1, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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