Facebook’s parent Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, is slashing its hiring plans after Mark Zuckerberg company warned that he was bracing for “one of the worst downturns in recent history”. Graduates will be wondering what they’ve signed up for. Twitter has pulled job offers, calling time on graduate careers before they’ve even begun. Zuckerberg wants bosses to call out those not pulling their weight, arguing that “realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here”.
Tesla, Netflix, Klarna and Coinbase are among the other tech giants to have made cuts in recent weeks. Tech start-ups are struggling to get fresh funding as investor interest in the sector cools. A career in tech is losing its fizz. Some are rushing back to the banking jobs they once found boring.
If tech is losing its shine, then there is space for something to replace it. Even before this global rush of mass layoffs, engineers in their forties were warning on social media that a life in big tech does not live up to the hype. Just as Don Draper had put it in Mad Men, people are ruined because they get the things they want then wish for what they had.
Whether it’s advertising in the Sixties, banking in the Nineties or tech in the Noughties, the circles of power shift and change as the disillusioned warn the next generation that the hedonistic party which made them rich has reached its peak.
Aware that the axis of power is moving on, the next generation of ambitious graduates is already pining for something entirely different. One ex-Amazon employee tells me that while she was initially starstruck at the thought of working for a “cool” company with lots of perks after recently her MBA, in reality she felt like a very small cog in a huge machine.
The brutal working culture and lack of control made her decide to quit the industry for good, instead joining a small charity where they “actually have to care for employees and manage workloads rather than paper over unhappiness with football tables, parties and free food”. She hasn’t looked back.
Today’s top graduates will still want all the things those before them wished for, but they might realise something which previous generations didn’t clock until it was too late. Chasing a job simply because it’s considered to be in its golden age won’t lead to satisfaction in itself.
Given that once glamorous degrees and career choices will one day be considered out of touch anyway, students are now realising that the secret is to just go for what they want. If that’s a degree in English Literature which you’ll still be paying for in your mid-thirties, then good for you.