Why are you working for anyone else but Google?

In November, unnoticed I think by most of us this side of the Atlantic, Google gave its US employees a pretty damn nice early Xmas present: next year, all 20,300 of them will get a 10% pay rise.

I know.

I mean – yes.

I had a 10% pay rise once in my career, I think, by switching jobs at an opportune time, but I’ve never had a 2 figure, non-decimal, salary increment off an employer.

Three questions: why are any of us bothering to work for anyone else but the slightly sinister but suddenly deeply appealing search giant, why is it being so generous and what does this mean for the rest of the ICT market?

Well, the first is easy – Google doesn’t think we’re good enough and tends to only employ full Sicilians… sorry, I’ll read that again. Google prides itself as an elite organisation and feels it can be highly selective. (At least, that’s what the nice lady I think said when I just rang up to beg for a job, but the sound of my piteous weeping may have distorted the second half of the call after she had politely but firmly declined.)

The second? That’s more interesting, frankly. Google doesn’t want any of the talent to walk out the door and is making the move to stop any poaching by rivals. Silicon Valley, it seems, is hotting up once again, a phenomenon we’ve seen on a cyclical basis as the good people jump from Old Next Big Thing to New Next Big Thing with gay abandon and an eye firmly on the stocks and hiring bonus prizes. So – if you’re a company with $33bn in cash and a stock market cap of close to six times that ($180bn), you can afford to take such moves.

Third question should actually be split into two parts – what this means for the overall economy and then the ICT part of it. Patently, we are in a jobless recovery. Our and the US’ GDP are inching back up, sure… but as we had to liquidise the ways we’d both been creating ‘prosperity’ in the recent past, like property booms, easy credit and dodgy financial engineering, and as we don’t make anything to sell any more, we have some challenges finding new jobs.

Yes, some of those that are coming through are in high-tech. US figures show that in the twelve months October 2009-October 2010, computer systems design and related service jobs jumped nearly 8%. But even so, that’s a very patchy picture; data processing, hosting and related services only went up by half a percent and there are only 0.7% more jobs in the communications equipment field, which one would have thought a solid area in the age of the Internet, surely.

What’s happening: IT is no longer a rising tide that floats all boats. IT is a mixed economy all of its own now, with its decaying smokestack industries, agrarian backwaters and dynamic hot spots.

Look around and decide which bit you work in – and then work out how to get to your own Silicon Valley.

That, or apply to Google, though you may not be alone.

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