Getting started in SF is very hard. I was lucky that I came here with an impressive resume, strong business relationships and a network of contacts. Twitter was huge in my transition to SF. I was already following most of the people I was going to meet and taking on side projects was a great way to get started in expanding my resume and knowledge.
This quick tip sheet on getting a job in SF is unproven. Since the economic downturn, California unemployment rates skyrocket and more people are out of work. Companies are still being funded in SF but money is dwindling so I can’t vouch for 2009 being the year you sell your life and move across country.
Networking and referrals from friends is the best way to get a job in SF. Spend 1-2 years building up your name in whatever it is you want to do in SF. Say you live in Chicago. Start blogging about what you are interested in doing right this second, strengthen your online brand, be yourself, clean up any skeletons and work very very hard to become a guest blogger on a website that specializes in what you’re interested in. Connect with people that might one day hire you through Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter (in that order) and start conversations. Get to know these individuals well enough that you have regular AIM conversations, and one day, get invited to a party in SF. The person inviting you may have no idea you live in Chicago. This is what happened to me on a weekly basis and many people were convinced I lived in SF. This was when I knew I had made my mark.
Make your resume as impressive as possible and hopefully have real world experience with what you’re trying to get a job in. Send that resume to your network of friends and ask them to put out their feelers. Put your resume on your blog and ask people to tweet it out or hold a contest, giving a MacBook Air to the person that helps you land your dream job. Use social media to get the job done and don’t waste your time coming to SF before you have leads on the job you want.
Line up 10 interviews and come to SF for 3 days to interview and apartment hunt. Stay at a hostel for $30 a night and live as cheap as possible those few days so you can save your money. If you’re offered your dream job, take it but know the interview processes take a very long time. Google and Cisco positions can take months so I advise not to move to SF until you get that final offer. It’s easier financially. You can snag last minute plane tickets to SF for pretty cheap, so instead of paying $2,000 a month in rent while waiting to get a job, keep your old job and apartment, save your money and fly out for job interviews or do them via Skype.
There are old-fashioned ways of finding that great job. Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder and Craiglist are great websites but that referral from a friend is much more valuable. You have a 10% chance of getting that job your friend referred you to, opposed to a 1% or less chance of getting the job posted on Craigslist.
Once you’re hired, work your ass off and make your mark. Love your job, work long hours and continue your education by going to day conferences and tech events. Always try to convince your boss to pay for the events because they’re investing in your professional future but also investing in skills you can use on the job. There are excellent day conferences for less than $100 and a flight from SFO to LA for a barcamp is more affordable than you think.
You Found a Job. Now What?
Congratulations. You’re probably making less than you thought. Rent isn’t cheap and suddenly you’re spending $300 a month on groceries, $400 a month on just a few dinners and daily lunches and $1.50 per bus ride (which adds up). As I said before, always work your ass off at your day job. The job that pays your bills gets the highest priority but always be involved with more than 2 projects at once. It will pay off in the end. Having a small part in your friends weekend side project can pay off big time one day because that company might get funding and now your friend is asking you to be his co-founder. You might pickup a few advertisers, by writing a blog in your spare time and your work at your day job might lead to speaking gigs, a book or consulting work on the side.
By the way, this is my story and exactly how I have been able to stay ahead since moving here. Expenses in SF are insane. 65% of my paycheck goes to rent and the rest is spent on groceries, a cell phone and miscellaneous travel expenses. It’s the side jobs that actually help me save money. I’m writing a book, I get some advertising via Twitter and my blog and I speak at conferences. I’ve done a few consultant gigs and I plan parties for startups. My side jobs only take about 10 hours a week which means working every Saturday for that extra 20% every month.
You can’t become stagnant in the startup world. I had a friend who was laid off from her job. For a few days prior to being let go, she was telling me how concerned she was that she might be laid off. I told her to update her resume, update her blog and start feeling around for other jobs but she didn’t. Five days later, she was laid off and after 14 days of searching for another job, she left SF and moved back home. If she had kept her ties at other companies and maintained her authority on what she was good at, she’d have no problem picking up some consultant work or a part time job to make ends meet while she found her next job.
I’m not saying to not be committed to your job and love your job but always be aware in the startup world, companies die, reduce spending or change direction month to month and at any time you can find yourself jobless without a warning so it’s always best to be prepared for that. Have a month’s worth of rent in the bank and always remain an authority in your profession. Remember that blog you started in preparation for moving to SF? Keep it up. Keep blogging, networking, making connections and update your resume every single month with places you spoke, projects you worked on and conferences you attended. This is the most important thing you can do to ensure you don’t end up like the 14 thousand other homeless men & women in SF.