San Francisco – the home of the self-proclaimed HUSTLER. I must admit, I got a little tired of hearing success in my new city attributed to this non-descript verb. Whether it is achieving product-market fit, raising money, or securing the right job – the secret to success seemed to inevitably involve a bit of hustle.
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So… instead of rolling my eyes at just another buzz word, I started to unpack what hustle means in the context of job hunting in San Francisco. I was looking for roles in business and finance, so some of my experience is uniquely applicable to those industries, but hopefully, you get the gist and can find ways to apply these tips to your industry too.
It turns out (I think) – to “hustle” is just a catch-all verb embodying focus, hard work, and putting yourself out there.
San Francisco is a heavily network-driven, relationship-focused city. It is all about who you know. And if you’re like me, when you first arrive – you know just about nobody. So a lot of “hustling” for me related to getting in front of new people and building my profile. Often, I was way out of my comfort zone, asking favors of complete strangers, or having awkward coffees with people I connected with via social media.
But remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Here are some examples of how hustling in San Francisco helped me build confidence and ultimately land a great role with an exciting company.
1. Attend different networking events
I didn’t personally find networking events useful to generate job leads in San Francisco. But they get you out of the house and help you meet people in your city, many of whom are in exactly the same boat as you. What I did find through attending networking events in SF is a number of new friends – so I can say for sure it was worth it!
I can’t emphasize enough how many different networking opportunities there are in San Francisco. I actually found it overwhelming to choose what to attend.
Some good events I went to were mixers hosted by Australians in San Francisco Bay Area, Femigrants, Internations and the Aussie Founders Network (all specifically for immigrants in the city); and YPOSF, which hosts cool events for young professionals.
I also strongly recommend checking out Meetups and Eventbrite for events that might be of interest (both personally and professionally). A lot of them are free, and offer nibbles and drinks too! Not to mention the various professional networking opportunities available through specific industry associations.
Worst case scenario, you engage in some friendly conversation over a couple of drinks. Best case scenario, you meet a potential employer or close friend. You won’t know unless you get out there.
2. Use LinkedIn to your advantage
I found LinkedIn to be the most useful tool for job hunting (however this may not be the case for all industries).
I upgraded to LinkedIn Premium to improve my access for searching, messaging and profile visibility during my job search (you can try Premium for free for one month).
If I saw an interesting role advertised, before I even applied, I would search extensively to find someone at the company – either in the same role or in the recruiting/HR team. I would then reach out with an introductory InMail via LinkedIn, expressing my interest in the role. In some cases, I had mutual connections which were a great conversation starter. For others, it was just the equivalent of a cold call. But in most cases – I got a response at least.
This approach usually resulted in a referral, or phone interview, and circumvented the generic online application process where you go in a lengthy pile of fellow applicants.
The worst that can come from a LinkedIn InMail, is either no reply or a “No”… so don’t be afraid to reach out to new connections.
And if you see a great role with a LinkedIn Easy Apply button, my advice is don’t waste your time. It takes a little more effort than a quick Easy Apply to make your application stand out from the crowd.
3. Connect with anyone and everyone you know in the city
I cannot even count the number of phone calls and coffee dates I have had with complete strangers, in the hopes of leading me closer to the right role. I was surprised by how many people I knew who knew someone in San Francisco…. And I was very open to exploring all introductions, no matter how tenuous the link, or likelihood of them having a suitable role for me.
Rarely, after an initial introduction, did I have a sense that these new networks could lead me closer to a role. But I did get some great advice about the city and the local job market from these meetings. You will be surprised by people’s willingness to help you.
And low and behold, I ultimately found my new role through one such introduction: A friend of a friend from my home city introduced me to someone he knew in SF. I followed up with that person via email, a phone call, and then a beer on arrival in the city. After months of radio silence, he ended up introducing me to someone in his network in the city. That person recently started with an exciting company who was hiring for a number of roles. I bought this guy (a lukewarm connection at best) a herbal tea. The conversation was great, and after some further correspondence, he ended up referring me into the process for the job I ultimately accepted.
Leave no stone unturned. Sure, it will result in awkward phone calls where you don’t really know what you’re asking for, and the purchase of a few fruitless coffees…but you never know… The right opportunity could be just one latte away.
4. Ask for help, in all kinds of places
I touch on the power of referrals above, and also in my piece Surviving Funemployment in San Francisco.
Don’t underestimate the power of a warm introduction to help get your foot in the door.
In addition to my LinkedIn stalking, I posted on my personal social media and several Facebook groups that I was looking for an opportunity in San Francisco. I felt so vulnerable, putting this out in the internet universe, but it actually resulted in a couple of interviews, and some helpful contacts.
It’s ok to be open about the fact you are looking for work if that is really what you’re hoping for. So say it loud and proud to anyone listening, and see what happens.
A quick word of caution to keep in mind while you fearlessly put yourself out there seeking help – don’t be put off by the “empty gesture”.
Any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans might be familiar with Larry David’s skit on the empty gesture. Empty gestures are a real thing, and may initially take you by surprise or even hurt your feelings when you follow up and realize the offer was insincere and you end up ghosted.
“Let’s catch up for a coffee”, “let me give you an intro to someone at that company”, or “let me know if you need anything” are a few examples of the empty gestures I received in my job search. But don’t despair, amid the empty gestures, you will also find genuine offers to help, so focus on these instead.
5. Send that follow up email
After every phone call, coffee meeting, or formal interview, I always followed up with a thank-you note, reiterating one or two key points from our previous discussion. Not only is this polite, but it also makes sure the other person has your details and emphasizes your interest in the relationship/position/discussion.
I quickly realized I wasn’t a top priority for many US-based external recruiters I had spoken with, so I made sure I was constantly emailing them to check-in regarding new opportunities I might be suitable for. This brought me back up to the top of their pile.
I was persistent, to the point just before being annoying. People are busy, and if you are job hunting, you probably want more out of a relationship than you are putting in. So acknowledge this, and don’t be afraid to send gentle reminders if you are waiting for someone’s feedback or action. It’s probable that you just got put in the “not now” pile of priorities.
For the role I ultimately accepted, I was constantly thinking “outside the box”, for ways to stand out to the prospective company. After one of my interviews, I sent a follow-up email with some ideas regarding opportunities I had identified to help grow the team and service line I was interviewing for. I honestly think this little extra went a long way in me ultimately being chosen as the preferred candidate for the role.
With high competition and the market moving so quickly, the onus is on you if you want to stay on someone’s radar.
Get out of your comfort zone, and try a few of these little “extras” to support your job search. Before you know it, you too will be a hustler!