Bitter fruit for American technology students

Ayara, a sophomore majoring in Computer Science, struggled to find an internship, even though a few years ago, this was an industry sought after by Silicon Valley.

One day in mid-May, Ayara held a CV that had not yet cooled down from the printer and rushed into the school's recruitment day. The room was filled with job seekers. A sophomore like her has almost no chance.

Years ago, a computer science student at the University of California, Berkeley could easily join an exciting summer internship at leading Silicon Valley tech companies like Meta, Apple, Amazon, Netflix or Google. But now things are much more difficult.

She didn't even apply for internships at less attractive companies like Spotify, Salesforce, Uber or Microsoft. Ayara said she was rejected by nearly 50 other tech companies.

According to analysts, this is not the ideal time to enter the technology market if you do not want to taste "bitter fruit". This industry has expanded too much in recent years, causing personnel inflation. During the pandemic, Big Tech has aggressively recruited new recruits, as Meta company has doubled the number of employees in a short time. But the "honeymoon" quickly passed. Technology companies face stiff competition, economic downturns, forcing them to freeze hiring.

The bicycle "carrying dreams" of technology students to big corporations like Google is like losing a wheel when difficulties surround the technology industry. Photo: Economist

Since a few months ago, most famous technology companies have rejected students' internship applications. At the same time, a wave of layoffs occurred, causing 120,000 technical employees to lose their jobs in the first trimester of the year alone. In particular, Alphabet, Google's parent company, accounted for 10% of this figure. In March, Meta laid off another 10,000 employees.

The door to Silicon Valley is getting narrower and narrower for Ayara. "Now, as long as I have a company to hire, I accept it," she said.

At Berkeley, interns lined up outside job fairs, even wearing suits and ties to show their curiosity. However, even if they successfully land an internship, their position is very precarious. Sue Harbor, executive director of a career center, said many lucky students received internship offers but were delayed or later cancelled.

One of the downsides of Silicon Valley is the aura of Big Tech that makes students think there's no better place to work than at these companies. "The name of the company you do your internship with is very important because it's a recognition of your skills, work, and people often appreciate if you've worked at a big tech corporation," Ayara said.

These aspirations also stem from the schools' sense of competition and superior skills right from the start. Berkeley students have gone through a rigorous selection process to enter Computer Science, so their desire for a workplace is also higher. Before that, the school's students were often guaranteed a stable job and a "terrible" profile when applying for a job.

Vicky Li, a student at Berkeley, said interns often spread information like "interns at Google are paid very well even if they only work a few hours a day". She didn't want to work in Big Tech and was relieved not to get caught up in it. Li hopes to become a product designer at a startup where he can gain "solid experience" instead of just chasing famous names to "decorate" his resume later.

According to a survey by the recruitment company Handshake, the highest criteria students give now is stability, rather than adventure - a big change in the mindset of computer science students.

Arthur Kang, a final year student, chose to work at a small startup because he thought it would give him the opportunity to create something new, instead of becoming a "cog in a big machine". Kang believes this is the right choice because he doesn't have to worry about being fired at any time like Google, Meta, and Twitter employees are facing.

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