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Laid off from your crypto job? Here’s what founders are looking for in new talent

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Layoffs continue to spread across the crypto job market amid macroeconomic volatility and bearish market sentiments, but there are still plenty of startups looking to hire fresh talent.

Crypto firms like Coinbase and Crypto.com have cut employees in recent weeks, which has increased the talent pool and been “instrumental” for startups looking to build talent war chests, Jeff Feng, co-founder of layer-1 blockchain Sei, said to TechCrunch.

The layoffs aren’t specific to crypto; Big Tech has also seen a number of cuts in recent months. But layoffs within crypto and adjacent industries present an opportunity for startups to bring in experienced talent across the sector, Nate Holiday, co-founder, president and CEO at Space and Time, shared with TechCrunch.

The pace of hiring slowed after the summer of 2022 and continued for the remainder of the year, Aleksi Loytynoja, co-founder and CEO of “proof-of-talent” hiring platform Kleoverse, said to TechCrunch. “The final weeks of 2022, after the FTX collapse, were very quiet. Now, after the New Year, it seems that there’s more hiring happening again.”

Yes, most companies are looking to conserve their burn rate and extend their runway as much as possible, but many are still hiring for “highly intentional and critical roles,” Nabin Banskota, co-founder of Niural.com, said to TechCrunch. “Layoffs are increasing the talent pool for startups to find really great talent with overall less competition.”

Founder advice

While recruiters and talent heads alike shared their advice on how to navigate the current hiring environment, we also spoke with a handful of founders about what they’re looking for in applicants.

The first piece of advice? “Be obsessed with web3,” Holiday said. “If you don’t eat, sleep and breathe web3, this is probably not the industry for you.”

It’s important for talent to connect with others in the space, leverage those connections and seek out companies that encourage them to exercise their “creative energy,” Holiday said.

Candidates can stand out by building a personal portfolio with open source projects, contributing to DAOs, taking on community ambassador roles or piping up in Discord conversations, Loytynoja said. Publishing work publicly and building a social media presence helps candidates find new opportunities, he added.

It’s also important for candidates to value resilience and grit, Omar Gull, founder and CEO of GameFi project Race Kingdom, said to TechCrunch. “That’s what every startup employee needs across industries. It is always a rocky ride.”

If your specialty is outside of the “very core of a typical web3 startup’s operations, it might be harder to find a job at the moment,” Loytynoja said. People with distinctive expertise, strong subject matter experience and knowledge of web3 will stand out, he added.

Learn about the industry as much as you can, Gull said. “Reach out to as many people in the space as possible through social media and networking at industry events. Other than that, follow the hygiene factors like a good profile, cover letter, CV, recommendations, etc.”

Whether it’s for candidates looking for a role in web3 or AI, Banskota suggests talent should “come for the technological innovation, learning and growth curve rather than near-term monetary incentives.”

“Lasting companies transcend both hype cycles and bear markets,” Banskota added. “So your focus should be on how you can grow overall with the company and the industry rather than just picking the flashiest companies.”

For Holiday, his company prioritizes hiring people that bring “leadership, initiative and drive to the table.”

“We invite talented, hard-working individuals that exercise creative energy in everything that they do,” Holiday added. “It’s important to us that we bring on team members who fit the innovative, future-driven culture of our organization.”

While candidates wait to hear back about jobs, now is also a great time to learn new skills, Banskota said. “Rather than going to college or university to get a new and expensive degree to change industries, gaining new skill sets through bootcamps, self learning, etc. will open up new opportunities that you had not been exposed to before.”

Those looking to reenter or enter the web3 industry should “work on your craft, expand your knowledge and get more plugged into the web3 community,” Holiday noted.

Hiring quickly, for less

If you’re looking for a new role in a time crunch, you’re in luck, because hiring will move quickly for the right candidate.

Most founders said they took at most a few weeks for their interview-to-offer process. But sometimes teams will move “very quickly, in the matter of days, for the right candidate,” Feng said. For such a candidate, the process can be as fast as 48 hours from start to finish, Gull said.

As for compensation, that was one of the “biggest barriers” until a few quarters ago, Banskota said. “The recessionary environment has softened that, and now we are seeing candidates open up to new opportunities. I think the perceived risk of working at startups versus larger companies has gotten smaller, given the uncertainty at larger companies, and the risk-to-reward ratio continues to be favorable for early employees at companies like ours.”

And it’s true — “a lot of people are taking cuts to accept a new job in this market,” Dan Eskow, founder of web3 talent agency Up Top, previously said to TechCrunch.

The “crazy salaries” of a few hundred thousand dollars or so seemed to have disappeared, Loytynoja said. But high-quality talent is “still paid appropriately,” he added.

For those looking to get into the space, perhaps now is the perfect time to show your allegiance to crypto, some founders think. Given that crypto is in a bear market, this filters out those looking for a cash grab and leads to “truly devoted people,” Feng said.

“The fact that web3 is still such a nascent space means the entire industry is malleable,” Feng said. “You can make a meaningful dent and what matters the most is the people you do that with. There is a reason why we care so much about relentless resourcefulness. We believe the people who will make a dent in web3 all share that quality.”

Even though the market might seem gloomy, there are encouraging sentiments.

“Now is the perfect time to hone your skills and build products to be ready for it,” Loytynoja said. “For laid-off individuals in particular, the beauty of web3 is that there are a lot of working and contribution opportunities available that help you build expertise and get exposure within the organizations you want to join.”

All in all, the cliché “this too shall pass” applies, both Loytynoja and Banskota said.

“[It’s] what we’d like to say to everyone that has been laid off,” Banskota added. “Generational companies are being founded and built at this time, so be open to your employment options; your golden career opportunity might be just around the corner.”

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