Last month, my husband listed a bicycle for sale on our local Nextdoor website. A few people quickly came to check it out—young engineers who had just moved to the area. They were excited to be here, thrilled with their new jobs and career opportunities.
But they’re not likely to stay for long.
My husband and I chatted with one in particular for a while—he’d come from the Midwest to Stanford to complete a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He’s planning to work for a while at a local tech company after he gets that degree, then, eventually, go somewhere else to buy a house and start a family; the astronomical home prices made it clear, to him, that his long-term future isn’t here.
I thought this young engineer this week when I read an analysis of job-search data from Indeed.com. The company looked at engineers and other technology professionals based in the San Francisco Bay Area who used the site to search for jobs outside the region, considering 30-day averages and adjusting for the season. The share of searches for tech jobs outside the Bay Area has grown to 35 percent for February, up about 26 percent from a year ago. The big news, though, is that the growth in out-of-area searches for 31 to 40 year olds: 34 percent, up from 22 percent a year ago.
The online news site Quartz quoted Indeed senior vice president Paul D’Arcy as saying that the trend “speaks to the growth of technology opportunities around the U.S.”
But I don’t think it’s the pull of other regions as much as the push out of the Valley. I think the increase in 30-somethings looking outside the area demonstrates that the Silicon Valley demographic is splitting into startup bazillionaires vs. young tech professionals looking to both jumpstart careers with a starter job and ease the transition out of college to something very much like campus life, surrounded by people of the same age and similar interests.
And this split is oh so familiar. Like many many other young professionals who graduated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I migrated to New York City, lived in a neighborhood of tiny high-rise apartments packed with other young professionals (a few towers, I recalled, were even nicknamed the “dorms”), where doors tended to stay open and you made your best friends in the hallways. It was a great place to be, but few planned on staying forever, barring magically coming into possession of a pre-war four-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment, and eventually would sign on to a long commute or a distant relocation. I’m told the trend has eased somewhat in New York, as more neighborhoods become safer and family friendly; but the issue of affordability and the intense pace still drive a fair number of people away.
When I moved to the Bay Area, it was a place where lots of people had come to from far away, but the vast majority planned to sink roots fast and stay forever.
But that, apparently has changed. And the current generation of tech professionals have come for their 20s, but not their 30s.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.