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A job seeker’s guide to SXSW – prep tips, hacks, & shortcuts

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“You won’t find a job this year at SXSW,” said Sarim Q, better known as tech.romantic in NYC. “The jobs will find you – that’s just the nature of the festival turned beast, that engulfed half a million attendees last year from all over the globe.”

Sarim is a creative coach for those in the tech, art, and entrepreneurial spaces. In his lighthearted style, he shares strategy to ambitious individuals looking to get the most returns for their creativity, giving advice on the challenges of technology, marketing, networking, monetization, and productivity. Having run his own digital agency, and consulted with startups and global firms, he offers a professional approach to personal pursuits.

And today, he is offering insight into how to get a job while you’re at SXSW this year. He has experience and offers all of the shortcuts so you can avoid wasting your time like everyone else does. The following is in his words:

I’ve written this article and put together resources so that you can navigate the harmonic chaos, with knowledge of ALL the events, escaping with a plethora of business contacts and lining up your next awesome gig. Keep reading to find a list with 2000 contacts of the biggest companies & names attending SXSW, and a list of events that representatives of these companies will be attending and speaking at.

Why network at SXSW? What makes SXSW such a good place for networking?

Although SXSW was originally founded to spread Austin’s music scene across the world, it quickly evolved, bringing in a massive influx of entrepreneurs, technologists, and businesses. In fact, for the first time in 2010, SXSW Interactive (the business/tech side of the festival) surpassed the attendance of the music festival, and with continued growth has made itself a tech and entrepreneurship hub.

This means that if you’re looking for a job, you have a set of unlimited businesses to pitch to, creatives to learn from, and new friends to make.

Last year, the majority of conference registrants were split equally between large businesses and startups/small businesses. The main reason for coming was to find new business opportunities (60%) of respondents. Although only 10% came specifically to hire talented people, I’ve experienced that a large number of companies are open to hiring through this medium, especially if you play your cards right.

Sarim at the YouTube Story HQ at SXSW Interactive. All photos, courtesy of @j3sus_h.

What do I need to do to get hired?

Contrary to the common belief, you don’t need one of those fancy badges to speak with decision makers. However, you will need to work on your image (both digital and physical) to make an impression on the people you meet. And you’ll most likely be waiting in line from time to time.

Where to find your match:

To figure out where your new employers are, you must know your own talent.

This is important because SXSW is fragmented into three main tracks (Interactive, Film, and Media) which are broken down further into their specific fields. Each of these fields has its own keynotes, speakers, sessions, and PARTIES.

The companies you want to work at will be present at their related events. Now you can both plan to meet a specific company ahead of time, but also be in a position to discover new companies that are similar in nature.

For instance, if I’m an aspiring movie director, I might plan to visit one of the various Film & TV Industry Sessions. After a long day of shaking hands and swapping names, you might retire to one of the Film Vision Screening Sections or one of the Art Installations.

Or if I’m a Virtual Reality developer, you know I’m attending the VR/AR/MR sessions and going to the Interactive Opening Party.

Every innovative company under the sun will be attending SXSW. To make things easier for you, I’ve painstakingly created a spreadsheet with the events held by the top companies (a lot of Big Four), their representative, and even their social profiles.

So onto what was promised, the huge list of business contacts & events at SXSW.

Notice: By using this list you agree that some information may be dated or incorrect and not to abuse the privilege of having this information by contacting them repeatedly or without good reason. Now that you’ve promised not to spam anyone and only reach out one time to the individuals where you are qualified to work, here is the full list.

Also, because I love you all – here’s a list of all the companies that will be at the trade show. There are about 300 companies, take your pick and make sure to look at the advice below to stand out from the crowd.

Lastly, here’s a list of events/sessions by field:

How to stand out!

You may have guessed that you’re not the only one looking for a job this SXSW season. Companies, especially at the trade show booths, may speak with a 100 excited candidates a day. How on earth will they remember you? No worries, with my tips – you’ll stay on their minds all the times.

1. Prepare your digital identity to showcase your talent & creations.

This is an obvious one – potential employers and other creatives you meet are going to want to see what you’ve built. That’s what the whole festival is about, creation. It’s time to deploy your side apps, to upload that pet film project, and publish that latest blog post. Make sure to tie it to a central location like a website or a resume, or even a profile. I know we’re only a day away (darn procrastination) but this truly is important if you want to stand out. Get this done tonight before you go to any parties.

2. Update your social profiles, make resumes.

SXSW has played a part in the origination and development of many types of social media (Twitter, Foursquare, Meerkat) because of their powerful concentrated effects within the community. Almost everyone you meet will have a Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter account. It’s actually a huge opportunity for anyone looking to create an audience.

Make sure your profile is up to date, with posts showing what you’re up to, and throw on some pictures of your beautiful self.

Make sure to exchange social information with everyone you meet, not at the outset, but after establishing an in-person connection.

3. Pre-meditated and impromptu research.

Now I’ll give you a secret from the tech.romantic playbook. An interaction is made meaningful between two people when there’s a connection. From a company’s perspective, that might mean having knowledge about their latest innovations, projects – etc. They came to SXSW for these conversations. It’s up to you to research what they’re interested in, and then bring it up in conversation.

Earlier, I gave you a list of all the companies at the trade show and job market. That’s a great place to start. But in actuality, you’ll be attending all these events and seeing companies from all over who’s attendance you couldn’t have predicted. This is where impromptu research comes in.

Stand off to the side and look these companies up – have something to talk about. Tie your own experiences and knowledge to what they’re working on. It’s really that simple.

Bonus SXSW tips, just for you.

So you’ve read this far. I’m impressed with your ability to pay attention, young jobhopper. I hope I’ve helped you in your quest to find new work. Here are some last minute bonuses and tips that you should keep in mind.

1. You’re at SXSW to have fun. So have fun.

I know the topic of this article was to find a job at SXSW, but if you’re intent on doing that in every interaction, you might miss out on the serendipity and vibrancy that the festival brings. Take time in your day to learn about others and experience the culture as it is. Sometimes that ends up being more meaningful than any paycheck.

2. You’re not going to meet everyone.

Even if you were the Flash zipping from exhibit to exhibit, you wouldn’t be able to go to all the sessions and meet all the companies. You should try and prioritize based on your interests, and attend events to learn something you’ve always wanted to learn. Don’t bother going to the events that might be hit or miss (subjective to what you like). Most people only attend for a weekend (the film part of the festival is busiest opening weekend), so target based on your goals and desires.

3. There are just as many affiliated events and opportunities.

There are a huge amount of SXSW parties going on during the festival. Don’t just get caught up attending the sessions (without a pass you’ll be waiting hours for popular ones). If you want a more intimate setting, you can scope out parties, oftentimes these will be sponsored by a big company. More than that – everyone representing the company should be there. Talk about access.

As a prize for reading this far, here’s an official Austin vendor list for the parties that will serve food and drink, with addresses and times.

The events also have a ridiculous amount of free food and drink, and everyone for the most part has let their guard down. Have some fun, you deserve it.

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Ageism: How to combat discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Google recently settled an age discrimination lawsuit to the tune of $11 million. The lawsuit from 2015 alleged that Google favored people under 40 for hiring. The federal case involved more than 200 parties. Part of the settlement requires Google to train managers on age bias in recruiting and hiring. There’s hope that the settlement will raise awareness in the tech industry, where ageism is thought to be pervasive.

IBM is also facing an age discrimination lawsuit alleging the company “systematically removed older employees from its workforce.” This lawsuit was filed in March in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

Both IBM and Google deny that there is any discrimination in hiring in their respective companies. IBM is confident that the case will fail. Google settled the case rather than fight it in court. The IBM case is still working its way through the system. It is highlighting ageism in tech, but the tech industry certainly isn’t the only one that seemingly discriminates against older workers.

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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Brutally honest list of reasons you didn’t get the job interview or job offer

(BUSINESS NEWS) Job hunting is stressful and getting a good job offer can be life-altering. But when it’s taking forever and you feel frustrated, remember that you can only control what you can control.

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The reasons are infinite

Job hunting is one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life, right up there with a death in the family, divorce, and illness. There’s so much at stake, and it can be frustrating. In Austin, where we’re headquartered, we operate a popular tech job group where the most universal question is “why didn’t I get the job??”

In almost all cases, you’ll never really know why.

Sorry. That’s disheartening, but it’s true. The positive side is that it isn’t always your fault. So, we’ve crafted a massive list of reasons you didn’t get the job interview or job offer that you can learn from if you read from top to bottom (we promise this isn’t the same old garbage you already know).

Don’t let this list get you nervous, the idea is that there are infinitely complex numbers of reasons humans reject each other, many of which can’t be helped. Remember, the hiring person has a lot at stake, so does the employer (it costs a lot to hire, onboard, and retain employees), not just you.

The hiring process can be inhuman and indignant and your resume goes into a black hole or you never get feedback after a phone or in-person interview, but arm yourself with as much knowledge about the process and avoid as many objections as possible. We’re pulling for you!

Job hunting or career refining?

It’s the robot’s fault

1. Did you know that if you apply online that your resume goes through an applicant tracking system (ATS)? And if your resume didn’t match the job description (meaning none of the keywords they were looking for were used), the robots didn’t even give your resume to their HR human? Pay attention to job descriptions and tailor your resume to each application accordingly.

2. Sometimes the applicant tracking system (ATS) where you sent your application online kicked out a rejection letter without the hiring manager knowing. It happens.

3. You put your resume on one generic job search site that promises to send it to hundreds of employers (but is really just there to sell your information to third parties). At no point did you apply directly, through a third party recruiter, across various platforms, and so forth. Applying on some of the junk job search sites is not always applying (we don’t mean Indeed or Dice or reputable brands, but the “apply once to a trillion random jobs” platforms – be cynical).

It’s the hiring manager’s fault

4. Sometimes it really isn’t your fault, the recruiter or hiring manager is imperfect. That’s harsh, but you can’t guarantee that person will be perceptive or even professional. The overwhelming majority are really insanely good at their job, but they’re humans too, thus they’re fallible.

5. The hiring manager is petty and/or shallow and didn’t like the school you went to or the purse you were carrying or the car you pulled up in. You’ll never know you received a secret demerit.

It’s the company’s fault

6. Sometimes the company changes the job specifications in the middle of the process.

7. The company might have changed in the middle of the process.

Maybe the CEO is on the way out. Or there’s a temporary hiring freeze, but they can’t say that in public. Or their funding status is changing. Or the business just took a big hit and everyone’s scrambling.

8. They were never hiring to begin with and were using candidates for marketing ideas or free labor. It’s a sick practice that some companies commit.

9. Someone that no longer works there told you to start as a contractor and they’d consider you FT after 90 days, but it was never in writing and no one knows what you’re talking about and your contract is up and it’s not going to be renewed. You didn’t really get the job, amigo.

10. Your interview with the Chief Hug Officer about how many stars you give yourself as a leader wasn’t the appropriate number of stars and they didn’t want to hug you after all. Or your phone interview with the 18 year old social media intern where you couldn’t name any Marvel characters rubbed them the wrong way. Companies have unique interviewing methods that involve humans, and some are just plain silly.

11. The company’s not willing to accept your type of Visa or citizenship status.

It’s timing’s fault

12. There was a candidate interviewed before you applied that they really like and are waiting for an offer acceptance from. And now they have said yes and you’re out and sad, and I’m sorry.

13. Someone else took precedent (an internal hire, an ex-colleague, or someone the CEO said they know and is the new hire no matter what).

It’s someone else’s fault

14. Someone unexpectedly gave you a bad reference and you may never know about it.

It’s your fault

15. Let’s start with the obvious repetitive junk you already know – you have a bad resume or cover letter. There are red flags, incomplete information, grammar errors, it is too long or to short, super generic, and/or never expressed how you impacted any company’s bottom line.

16. You couldn’t answer basic questions (“why did you leave your last job?” or “why were you only at X place for 3 months?”). Or you answered any number of interview questions poorly. Or you were asked to critique something about the company and you wailed on their shortcomings rather than offer a positive, followed by a meaningful critique with actionables, closed with a positive.

17. You made a mistake on your application (you worked at Google from 1904-2006?) or you straight up lied. Some companies do basic employment checks prior to requesting an interview, so you better get your story straight from minute one.

18. You applied for the wrong jobs – you read too quickly and you’re a Java developer who just applied to a JavaScript role. Oops. Or the ad says you must have three years of Salesforce experience and you missed that part and while you fit everything else, you have zero years with that platform. You wasted everyone’s time.

19. You’re not a culture fit. But wait, it’s not what you think – you’re not unlikable, they’re just looking for a puzzle piece. Their division might be in chaos or the there’s already an A-type on the small team. Hiring managers deal with truly complex situations and it isn’t personal if you’re not the right puzzle piece, despite your incredible pedigree.

20. You raised major legal red flags. Nothing says you plan to sue like vaguely saying “I have schizophrenia, is that going to be a problem?” or “I’m not sure working for a male boss is a good fit, do you have someone I can answer to that is female?” or “what is your policy on sex in the workplace?”

21. Speaking of legal red flags, you put your picture on your resume which tells sensitive employers “I’m doing this so later I can say I didn’t get the job because of my [gender, race, etc.]” Discrimination is no joke. It happens, and you don’t want to put an employer in an uncomfortable situation – your picture’s already on LinkedIn. That suffices.

22. To “where do you see yourself in five years?” You said “in your job” to be clever or “President of the company” without explanation. Come on, people. How you answer that demonstrates your intent on longevity in the company, your willingness to move up, your desire to be a leader, not supplant your interviewer.

23. You applied to basically every role in the company and now they take you seriously for none.

24. You applied for a Senior-level role when you’re barely entry-level.

25. You asked nothing about the company or role during the interview. This is sadly common and so easy to fix.

26. You knew nothing about the company during the interview. Do your research, people.

27. You failed a required technical test or psych profile and there really is no coming back from that. Objective requirements are just that – objective.

28. Your work history is unstable, too short to be applicable, and/or filled with holes you can’t (or didn’t) properly explain.

29. You’re missing a certification or education level the employer wants (either publicly or secretly).

30. You’re too educated – your PhD is scaring them into thinking your salary demands might rapidly increase even if you’re currently amenable to minimum wage. This is based on endless studies and experiences of people settling – they don’t stick around for long.

31. You forgot to include your continuing education (coding courses, professional leadership retreats) because you thought they were irrelevant. They’re not – they show that you take initiative and eager to always learn more.

32. You ghosted at some point or were slow to respond.

33. You arrived (or called) way too early or way too late.

34. You were rude to the receptionist.

35. You were overly familiar during the interview because you’ve done so much research and feel like you know the company so well. This trait says you’ll be an unruly team member and will likely disqualify you. Be a pro, even if you know the hiring manager personally – anything else is disrespectful.

36. Someone random in the company met you at a networking event 10 years ago and when politics came up you called them a moron. They didn’t forget, and you’ll never know it was even a factor. But it might have been.

37. You briefly dated the hiring manager’s dramatic best friend and over drinks, you come up and she tells horror stories about you – you’ll never learn this was the reason, but seriously, it’s possible.

38. You were sweaty (if that’s a problem, wear a sweat-wicking shirt under your top).

39. You had a smell – either body odor or too much perfume/cologne/axe deodorant.

40. You had a limp or overly aggressive handshake – some people are really sensitive to that and you may culturally offend someone.

41. You looked at (or stared at) your phone during an interview when it wasn’t ringing. Or your smartwatch.

42. You weren’t memorable – some people are just boring or try to be overly calm. Remember you’re connecting with another non-robot human, so try to be at least human.

43. Your desperation permeated the entire process. They could smell it on you and it wasn’t appealing. Why? Because they know you’re going to take the job so you can pay rent, but you’ll still be job hunting and they’ll lose you quickly, so why bother?

44. You live in the wrong place – they may be unwilling to pay for relocation and may screen accordingly.

45. Salary negotiations went awry. They demanded your previous salary and you refused or they didn’t like the number or you’d done too little or too much salary research, or maybe the job listing said a range and you demanded triple (or they offered less than the range).

46. You asked questions at the wrong time – don’t lead with “so what are the benefits and how much time do I get off?” Wait until you know that they like you already. Asking pay as the first question, although the most important, can disqualify you. This is a delicate dance.

47. You failed some simple (probably stupid) test like a sales role being offered half salary and being tricked into negotiating their way up, or somewhere on the job listing it asked you to “Like” their page on Facebook and you didn’t, who knows?

48. You dressed poorly at the interview or were way overdressed.

49. When asked if you’re a night person or morning person, you didn’t say you’re flexible, you said you’re terrible at mornings, and now this company that is really serious about productivity starting at 8:00am, is no longer interested in you.

50. You fidgeted or shook during the interview.

51. You were awkward during the interview, maybe you held your bag in your lap or kept your winter coat on.

52. Your nerves got the best of you – you spoke too quickly or quietly or couldn’t stop saying “like” or “umm.”

SIDENOTE: Being introverted or socially anxious is a challenge, so during an interview, gently express that so it’s not misinterpreted. “I do tend to be introverted, but I want you to know that I am enthusiastic about this opportunity even if I sound a little shaky and nervous.”

53. You didn’t thank the interviewer (or act interested) at any point.

54. You sent an extravagant thank you gift to the hiring manager that disqualified you as it appeared to be a bribe, not the kind gesture you meant for it to be.

55. You followed up too soon and too frequently.

56. You were too cocky or too insecure.

57. You were too eager and it came across as insincere.

58. Your body language was off (you used practiced/disingenuous hand steepling, or you slouched, or maybe you couldn’t make eye contact).

59. You were too scripted – you obviously regurgitated scripts you studied online (a good HR pro can see right through that – they’ve read them, too).

60. You sneezed into your hand and wiped it on your pants, then offered it to shake at adios time. Gross, bye.

61. You trash talked a former employer or coworker (or the interviewer’s favorite sports team, or their religion, or them).

62. You didn’t laugh at the CEO’s joke during a final interview.

63. You shared way too much personal info – not stories about vacay to humanize yourself, but like made sure they knew you have irritable bowel syndrome.

64. You were overly apologetic about your past rather than calmly explaining that you took five years off to be a stay at home parent, but you’ve kept your skills sharp by studying [X].

65. You kept talking about why their competitor is awesome.

66. You accidentally called them by their hated competitor’s name during an interview.

67. You kept calling the interviewer “Jacob,” but his name was always “Jason” and now he thinks you can’t tend to standard details (or is just butthurt).

68. You’re trying to pivot from one industry to another and you do a poor job of explaining that in any way, you just hoped you’d get an interview (but it doesn’t work that way).

69. You’re painfully ugly or overly hot. Sorry, it’s possible.

70. You’re overqualified and that means you might leave when a sexier offer comes along.

71. You’re underqualified which means they’ll have to pay for your learning curve (which they won’t).

72. Your credit is awful and you’re applying to a highly regulated industry like finance or law enforcement, which may hold you back.

73. You didn’t know that your criminal or credit history might not be a disqualifier so you didn’t even try. Sometimes companies are open to certain types of offenses, or you can explain the illness in the family that destroyed your credit.

74. You failed a drug test – this is one of the few instances where you’ll know what happened.

75. You pressured them on social media (you started “IBMShouldHireMichael.com” or started #IBMHireMike and had friends use it on Twitter endlessly, which is clever and has a slight chance of working if applying to a digital media role, but almost always just comes off as annoying and overly aggressive – not worth the risk). Plus, if you depended on that being your hook and they didn’t even notice, it was a hugely wasted effort.

76. You’re so addicted to internet jargon and slang that you used it on your resume or during an interview (“btw, your shoes are on fleek”). Save it for your tumblr, folks.

77. Being cute with videos, online resumes in infographic format, and so forth, forces an employer to investigate you outside of their normal parameters and could land you in the trash bin. Do those things in addition to the traditional resume requested.

78. Your social media accounts are offensive, filled with garbage, or overly sexualized – lock it down while on the job market.

79. You bitched about the company on social media “phone interviewer at X company was straight up retarded” — uh what!? This actually happened recently.

80. You didn’t express interest after the interview. In fact, you may have closed with “well I have several more interviews to complete, so I’ll have to get back to you,” hoping to prove value but really pissing off the employer.

The takeaway

If you’ve read this far, you know that sometimes it’s you, sometimes the stars just didn’t align properly. Sometimes you’ll get feedback, but most of the time, your secret demerits will remain locked in someone’s brain.

But now you know some of the pitfalls that you can fix, so you will. You can only control what you can control, the rest you simply have to let go of.

Let this information empower you, not discourage you.

Good luck during your job search, and don’t let the robots hold you back!

This story first published in April of 2017.

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Ageism is alive and well; diversity is more than race and gender

(BUSINESS NEWS) In regards to diversity in the tech industry, gender and race seem to be making positive strides while ageism has yet to be addressed.

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The tech industry has been scrutinized lately for its lack of diversity. After being majorly called out and even facing discrimination lawsuits, many Silicon Valley companies have been forced to make a concerted effort towards increasing diversity when it comes to race and gender.

But what about age? The stereotype of a grandfatherly type who doesn’t know how to operate his grandkid’s newfangled device is definitely creating a hiring and salary bias in the tech industry.

There have already been a number of age discrimination lawsuits to prevent ageism, as well as reports of the older set seeing their salaries reduced after a certain age. There are even reports of 30-somethings getting cosmetic surgery to appear younger, and thus, stay competitive, in the tech industry.

Job site Indeed recently surveyed over 1,000 workers in the tech industry to find out how age bias is affecting their companies. Almost half of the respondents said that the average worker at their firm is between the ages of 20 and 35.

About a quarter said that the average age at their firm is between 36 and 40, with workers 40 and over comprising the last 26 percent.

Although older workers are underrepresented, tech workers generally seemed to value the contributions of their elders, with 78 percent saying that workers over 40 years old are highly qualified, and 83 percent claiming that they think older workers have gained wisdom through their years of experience.

Nonetheless, the older generation is still a minority amongst tech firms, and 43 percent of respondents were worried that they would age out of their job, with another 18 percent worrying about it “all the time.”

Another 36 percent say that, at least once, they’ve had an interaction at work where it was clear that they were not being taken seriously because of ageism.

In order to increase age diversity, Indeed recommends that tech firms review the language they are using to recruit talent, making sure that it is age-inclusive. They also recommend making sure that the benefits your company provides are appealing to not only young Millennials, but to older workers with families as well.

A Millennial may be willing to work long hours, and be excited by a ping pong table in the company game room, but older workers will care more about having paid leave to spend time with their families, and benefits like health insurance for their spouses.

The good news is that the tech industry seems optimistic. While they agreed that ageism is still an issue, 85 percent of survey respondents believe that their employer truly cares about improving diversity.

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