Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why the U.S. has dominated the last 30 years and how it could decline

Great companies are great often because they attract great talent.  Google has amazing people.   Facebook attracts incredible people.  Goldman Sachs is dominant because it gets the best people.  At Rapleaf, we are striving, working, and fighting to get the best talent.  

Nations, also, ascend or decline on talent.  North Korea does not attract outside talent (and inside talent has no incentive to perform).  Japan's decline could be attributed to the inability to attract outside talent once its curret talent market reached maturity. 

Could one ascribe the dominance of the U.S. (and to some degree, other Western countries) over the last 30 years to attracting new talent?  Over that time the U.S. attracted a greater percentage of the world's talent than any other nation.  In fact, it probably has attracted over 30% of the world's mobile talent (highly talented people that move countries).  Much of that talent came from the Soviet Union which declined (and eventually fell), a newly educated China, and a newly educated India.  

But that incredible talent will likely not come to the U.S. in the future.  Chinese and Indian innovators should be able to find more opportunities in their homeland than in the U.S. (though they still may study in the States).  And much of the Russian talent has already left for the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Israel, and other places.

This means the U.S. will attract less talented people from around the world and will have to concentrate on growing its own talent internally.  But the U.S. is not very good at growing internal talent.  Our educational systems are sub-par and few naturally born U.S. citizens go into engineering and sciences.  (When I was an engineering student at UC Berkeley, almost everyone in my classes were immigrants or the children of immigrants).  

It is not all despair. The U.S. is still the shining hill that will beckon hard-working people from all over the world who want a better life for their kids.  And I don’t think the U.S. has to worry about turning into a North Korea.  But we can easily paint a path to prosperous but slowly declining country. 

Smaller countries like Canada or Singapore might suffer less because they can still take in lots of immigrants in greater percentages than the U.S. can support.  But the world 30 years from now will look very different from the world today depending on where the world talent flows.

Non-obvious guide to finding a great job

Last week I published an article in BusinessWeek entitled an Insider's Guide to Tech-Job Hunting.  Here I try to expand on this article to summarize all my advice for job seekers in one big post.   I look forward to your thoughts and comments…

Think like
an entrepreneur and be proactive in your job search

Like many
employers that are hiring in this market, Rapleaf receives a ton of
resumes.  Here are some observations and
advice for people looking for a job in the technology industry (but I warn you
that I’ve never actually looked for a job so my perspective might be a little
warped).

 

A jobseeker
is going to more successful finding a position that will be truly satisfying if
she is proactive rather than reactive. 
Reactive job seekers diligently scan job openings and send their resumes
to HR.  Proactive job seekers research
the companies (or teams) they want to work for and send a message directly to
the hiring manager looking to create a position for themselves.  More on this as we go further …

 

Below are
the ten non-obvious steps to finding a great job.

 

1. Look for companies you want to
work for … not jobs you want

When you
start your job search, don’t go first to job listings.   Instead, first figure out what you want to
do and where you want to work.  I’m often
surprised how few job seekers have any idea what they want to do next.

 

Maybe you
want to work in a certain industry, a certain location, or only places that
have a vegan cafeteria.  Whatever your
reason, you should narrow a list of actual companies you want to work for (ideally
to 10-100 companies).

 

2. Don’t apply to the job … apply
to the company

When you
find a company you want to work for, do your research on that company.  Understand the company and where it is going.  If you are a great candidate, they might
create a job for you.   Don’t worry that
they have or don’t have a job opening that fits your resume perfectly.  Companies often are looking for people that
kick-butt.

 

3. Send your resume directly to the
hiring manager (not HR)

When
introducing yourself to a company, you want to contact the hiring manager
directly (and not go through the careers web site for the company).  In a really small company, the hiring manager
might be a VP or the CEO.  At a bigger
company it could be a whole host of people. 
It might take some research to figure out who the best person to contact
is and what their email is.

 

One friend
of mine heard a CEO speak at an event and was really impressed with what he
heard.  So my friend sent the CEO an
email to every permutation (firstname.lastname@, firstname@,
firstinitial_lastame@, etc.) he could come up with.   The next day he got an email from the CEO:
“I got your five emails last night. 
Seems like you are very interested in working here …”   And three weeks later my friend had a job at
the new company.

 

4. Dumb down your resume

In today’s
market, companies are looking for perspiration, not inspiration.  In other words, most companies are looking
for doers that kick butt and get stuff done. 
They are going to pass on “strategic thinkers” (as they may have fired a
bunch of “strategic” people already). 
Big companies need to do more things with less people – so they are
looking for people that are super productive. 
Small companies looking to grow need doers.

 

So retool
your resume to show off that you are a work horse who gets stuff done.  And reference this in your cover letter.  Get rid of the “strategy” sounding verbs like
“empower” and “process.”  Let employers
know that you don’t just make PowerPoint slides all day but that you actually
can either create products or drive revenue. 

 

5. Send a very targeted email to
each employer

Send a
short and targeted email introducing yourself to each hiring manager.  A good email would be just a 4-6
sentences.  Include a very brief blurb
about yourself (1-2 sentences) that quickly tells them why you are
special.  Also include one really
interesting idea for the company – if you are an engineer you can maybe give
some scaling ideas or if you are a salesperson give a better idea on how to
acquire customers.   Really understand
the company so you can give them a relevant idea.   And, of course, attach your resume (in PDF
form).

 

One company
I know got an unsolicited email from an engineer detailing the scaling problems
the company was likely experiencing and giving two ideas for a solution.  The engineer’s resume was one where the
company would normally not interview the person.  But the targeted email eventually lead to the
company giving an offer to this candidate.

 

6. Follow-up at least twice with
everyone you do not hear from

Send
follow-up emails to the person after one week and after two weeks.   Don’t call (calls are just annoying … most
tech companies have an email culture).  
And if you don’t hear back from one hiring manager, contact additional
people in the company until they clear say they are interested or not
interested.

 

7. Don’t be discouraged if they
don’t respond

Many
companies are not right for you.  Often
they are doing you a big favor by not getting back to you.  

 

8. Do something nutty and unorthodox

Scott Bonds
really wanted to get into the gaming industry in 2003 (when jobs were really
sparse).  After doing a bunch of research
on the industry, he decided that Electronic Arts would be a great place for
him.  But there were no jobs at EA at the
time.  Scott started a lobbying campaign
to work at EA.  He started a blog called
I-Want-To-Work-at-EA.com (now defunct) and blogged about his quest to find a job
at the company.  The blog became so
popular that tons of hiring managers at EA invited Scott to interview with them
just so that they could meet him.  And he
eventually got a great job at EA and worked there for five years.

 

Vivek
Sodera became one of my colleagues at Rapleaf by showing up to his job
interview in a gorilla suit.  That’s
right, a gorilla suit.  And he had made a
“Rapleaf” t-shirt that he wore over the suit as he commuted via BART to the
interview.  It was classic.   He was applying for a marketing job and he
was relaying to us that he would do anything to promote the company.   It worked and he got the job.  

 

Vivek_and_manish_job

(Rapleaf cofounder Manish Shah with
Vivek Sodera (in gorilla suit) on Vivek’s interview.)

 

Today you
can start a Twitter campaign praising the company, do something on a social
networking site, or even bake the team cookies.   

 

9. Get in the door for a company you
want to work for

If you want
to work in a company or an industry, get yourself in the door. If you have to,
take an unpaid internship.  Regardless,
don’t focus on compensation.  If you
prove you are a rock star and valuable to the company, they will take care of
you as great talent is really hard to find. 
And if you don’t end up a good fit, better to use an internship to get
into the door quickly and fail fast.  

 

10. Interview the company

I’m always
surprised at the number of job seekers that don’t have questions for the
interviewers.  As a job seeker, you want
to make sure you are picking the right company. 
Come to the interview armed with questions (write them down so you do
not forget) and learn everything you can about the company, the employees, the
environment, and more.  Good things to
understand is the detailed company financial situation, its customer relationships,
the corporate culture, how you are expected to work, and more.

 

 

A proactive
job seeker will not only be more likely to get a good offer, but she will also
be happier with the company she ends up working for.


who cheats more: Democrats or Republicans? — econometric solution to determine the answer

The thing I hear often from Republicans is that "Democrats don't play fair.  They cheat."  And the thing I hear often from Democrats is that "Republicans don't play fair.  They cheat."

Who's right? 
(I have no idea)

However, we can devise a simple research project to see which side cheats more.  Just look at recounts of federal and state races.  

Recounts are conducted when the race is too close to call.  In the midst of a recount, many votes can be tampered with, found, manufactured, and challenged.  I propose that some researcher look at the last 500 federal and state recounts of races between Democrats and Republicans.  If Democrats and Republicans cheat equally, then you'd expect them to win recounts 50/50.  If one party wins over 60% of the recounts, they are more likely to be the greater cheater.  If one party wins over two-thirds of the recounts, they are most surely the cheating party.

There have been many famous recounts in recent memory.  Minnesota just had a grueling recount of its U.S. Senate seat.  And who could forget the famous 2000 Presidential recount in Florida.

Unfortunately I don’t have time myself to do this exhaustive study, but it might be really interesting if a researcher took it on — I guarantee whoever did the study would get their 15 minutes of fame.