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Attention, rockstar developers: Get a talent agent

Paul Heltzel | Feb. 24, 2015
You've heard the timeworn advice: Leverage LinkedIn, post code to GitHub, bone up on the latest buzzy tech. But a little-known career trick is giving some of today's top developers an edge: Hire an agent to find work for you.

"It's not a one-time transaction; you're going to continue to have those transactions," Solomon says. "So we modeled the company very much after a Hollywood or music talent agency. We believe these people are incredibly talented and undervalued and being exploited."

Often outside recruiters — as opposed to recruiters who work for the firm doing the hiring — will find both contract and permanent work. Solomon says 10x appeals to coders who prefer contract jobs and want to solve a new problem every two to six months — then get a new gig to work on.

"One guy lives in Thailand and scuba dives a lot, so a lot of people have chosen us for lifestyle purposes," Solomon says. "Some of them do a number of hours a week for us, then work on their own startup. Some people freelance because they want to snowboard for two months or three months in the winter ... or so they can spend more time with their kids."

But with such high demand for developer talent, enabling many to write their own ticket, why cut anybody else into the profit? After all, beyond the hassle of negotiation, agents and recruiters need to be able to provide you, even after their fee, a better bottom line than you would on your own.

Solomon offers this example: "My co-founder was originally our client. He was a perfect example of somebody who was highly capable, highly skilled: a neuroscience degree from Harvard, professional musician, record deals, toured, taught himself how to code, and had more coding work than he knew what to do with. He knew what a music manager was and knew exactly what we were experimenting with. In a very short amount of time we increased his rate by 50 percent and took all of the stuff he hated doing off his plate."

It's not only the agents who see opportunities in this area. Jessica Neal, VP of talent and human resources at education tech firm Coursera, argues that the traditional hiring process, with top job candidates representing themselves, needs disruption. Her dealings with an agency called the Designer Fund have been largely positive.

"They help build your employment brand because they are extremely well-known in the design community and they are designers themselves," Neal says. "By partnering with them there's an inherent value; they're not only bringing a network, the value is much deeper than that."

Solomon argues that most successful executives and talent don't have the time or inclination to manage day-to-day business — and rather than being a drawback, their careers benefit from representation.

"If you think about people who are in demand and in positions of power, they almost never represent themselves in a transaction," he says. "If you look at CEOs that are doing deals ... they may be involved, but there's usually an attorney at the table who's being the bad guy. Athletes, movie stars, rock stars, they have multiple people to represent them in multiple directions."

 

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