Should I Accept a Job at Google?
Published: August 12, 2007
Author: David Rodnitzky
Just to set the record set – I do not have an offer from Google, nor have I applied for a job there since 2003 (and, for the record, I was rejected!).
But every day throughout the world, hundreds of people are given job offers from Google. To the man on the street in “Average Town, USA”, the title of this post must seem like a rhetorical question. With free food and other amazing perks, perhaps the best brand name you could ask for on your resume, and stock options that (at least historically) have brought incredible wealth to thousands, it would seem like a no-brainer to work for Google.
Of course, the man on the street isn’t getting an offer from Google anytime soon. The people getting offers tend to be in one of two camps: recent college grads from top-tier universities (read: Cal, Stanford, or an Ivy League), and seasoned Internet professionals with years of proven dot com moxie.
For both of these groups, the decision to work at Google is not always clear cut, simply because there will always be lots of other amazing opportunities to consider. I’ll look at each group separately.
The Recent College Grad
Someone once joked that when you graduate from Stanford, a black van pulls up outside the ceremony and whisks you off to a job at Google. I suspect that this isn’t too far from the truth. I’m sure that Google must have at least a couple of thousand Stanford students working at the Mountain View Googleplex, and many of these folks are but a few years out of college.
The pro’s of being a recent grad working at Google include:
- All the awesome perks.
- Google on your resume.
- A culture where you can definitely move from department to department and learn about many different areas of online marketing.
- A young, fun work environment with lots of smart people.
The con’s as I see it:
- It’s increasingly difficult to get much beyond glorified administrative work (unless you are an engineer). Just ask the many Stanford grads who spend their days doing keyword research for advertisers.
- The opportunity cost of not going to a smaller company where you could actually learn more.
I recently posted on a job listing for my company on Craigslist in which I wrote:
If you’re a recent graduate of a top-tier university (say, Berkeley, Stanford … but not Yale, and for the Lord’s sake not Penn), you’re probably very tempted to go and get a job at Google. After all, the food is great, they have a sand volleyball court, and you can put Google on your resume.
And if free food and resumes boosters is what you want out of your next job, please – DO NOT APPLY FOR THIS JOB.
Granted, our free food is pretty limited (granola bars, apples, delicious Pete’s Coffee), but ask yourself this: which looks better on your resume “Assisted assistant to the Campaign Optimizer at Google by uploading more than 200 Excel sheets daily” or “Grew Web site revenue by 200% year-over-year. Drove incremental profit dollars by 25%. Conducted five usability studies that increased conversion rate by 75%.” You be the judge.
For the record, the parts about Yale and Penn were inserted by a few Harvard grads at my company, but the rest of it was all me.
And though it’s written in a tongue and cheek style, I do believe that – for the right person – a job at a start-up is far and away more valuable than any job that a recent grad would be offered at Google. If you want to really understand online marketing or ecommerce, I guarantee that you can learn a lot more actually doing it at a small company than you could in assisting others at Google.
The key, of course, is to make sure that the small company job is really going to give you hands-on ownership. And not all small company jobs by definition fit this bill.
Thus, to conclude, a job at Google is great for recent grads, but some start-up jobs will give you more experience, which in the long term could be much more beneficial.
The Seasoned Professional
These days in Silicon Valley, someone with 5-10 years of experience – be it on the Web, or from a consulting company, or even from an offline company – can easily get 5 to 10 job offers in a matter of weeks. And unlike a young grad’s choices, where the salary and benefits will probably be in a pretty narrow range – the choices for a seasoned manager can be quite wide-ranging.
An offer from Google will have very clear advantages and disadvantages. These include:
- Google perks.
- The Google resume boost.
- Access to execs at any other company in the valley.
- The opportunity to carve out a niche inside Google (and then become a leader in this space outside of Google).
- Stock options/grants that could actually be worth something (I’m not exactly sure how this works, but as I understand it Google is giving some sort of subsidized stock option to employees so that they at least have a fighting chance to have their equity be worth something).
- Lower pay than what you could get elsewhere.
- That sinking feeling that you’re jumping on the bandwagon too late.
- That pissed off feeling when your Admin takes a long lunch break to get the oil changed in her Ferrari.
- A lesser title and less responsibility than what you could get at another company (think “manager” instead of “VP”).
- The opportunity cost of getting lots of options at a smaller company that might get acquired by Google someday anyway.
At the end of the day, I think it is safe to say that anyone who has a job offer from Google has done something right in their life and will probably be pretty successful one way or the other. I’d also say that it is only rarely an outright bad move to accept a job at Google.
More to the point, it may often be a better move to take a competing offer from another company, either due to the additional responsibility, title, salary, or a combination of all of these. The overall point is that, yes, working at Google is great, but, no, it’s not always a slam dunk.