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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.

Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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Business News

RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.

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An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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Business News

2020 Black Friday shopping may break the mold

(BUSINESS NEWS) Home Depot states their new plan for deals and discounts over two months, in place of a 1-day Black Friday event.

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Men shopping in an empty aisle, Black Friday to come?

Humans change and adapt – that’s just in our nature. Retail stores have struggled to maintain their sales goals for years as more and more people move to ordering online. Online prices still seem to be within customer expectations and often come with free shipping. Additionally, people that may have preferred to shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store have changed their shopping habits dramatically in 2020; it’s hard to social distance and be safe in crowded stores or in small aisles. Black Friday may be next to change.

Amazon and other big box store’s online ordering platforms have simplified getting what you need delivered right to your front door. According to Statista, “Amazon was responsible for 45% of US e-commerce spending in 2019 – a figure which is expected to rise to 47% in 2020.”

Retailers count on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday deals (the day after Thanksgiving), to bring in up to 20% of their annual revenue. It’s hard to just remove that option completely. But considering the times of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and especially avoiding large crowds, the tradition of Black Friday will need to look different this year.

It will also be interesting to see what supply chain disruptions from early 2020 will have the most effect this shopping season. We saw predictions in March that said the United States would see the biggest disruptions in about six months. Black Friday falls right on that timeline.

Home Depot has announced their plans to go ahead and give the deals over a two month span, starting in early November through December (both online and in stores with the possibility of adding some special deals around the actual Black Friday date) to help encourage a more steady stream of shoppers versus so many packing in on the same day.

The home improvement chain has actually seen a great sales year. This is likely due to people working from home and being interested in doing more home projects (and possibly having a bit more time to do them as well). As of May 2020, “The Home Depot®, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $28.3 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, a 7.1 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Comparable sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 were positive 6.4 percent, and comparable sales in the U.S. were positive 7.5 percent.”

Home Depot, along with many other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have confirmed that they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which may not be new for all of them but has always signaled the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

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