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Surviving Funemployment in San Francisco

So, you decided to quit your job and try your luck moving to the USA? CONGRATULATIONS!  Never lose sight of how bold you are. It’s a special streak of adventure that got you this far, so don’t forget to celebrate what you’ve already achieved!

If the next item on your life to-do list is to find a job in your new city, you can find plenty of tips for crafting the right resume, interview prep, offer negotiation, and visa processes online – take advantage of all these resources and do your research.

Here are 5 practical tips that helped me stay sane during my 5 months of funemployment in San Francisco:

1. Plan your days, and allow time for non-job hunting activities

It is true, job hunting is a full-time job in itself.  But if you spend every day focused on nothing but job searching, before long, the roller-coaster of it will get you down.

There are 2 potential outcomes to the job search in your new city:

  1. For whatever reason, it doesn’t work out, and you find yourself having to return home, or move on to a different city. If this happens, you will look back on the limited time spent in a new city, filled with regret that you passed the days on your laptop in your cheap AirBnB;
  2. You are successful and secure a job – GREAT! Congratulations, your hard work, and focus paid off. But this means you will be back to the doldrums of work before you know it, with limited free time.  As you try and fit all your life chores and socializing into your weekends, you will look back on your period of funemployment with angst that you wish you made the most of it.

So my advice – plan your days, and schedule time for both focused job hunting, and some fun in your new city.  Dedicate time where you do nothing but job hunt.  But when that time is over, get out and about.  During my time off, I joined a writing group (found via Meetup).  It unlocked my passion for writing and introduced me to a great community.

Try a new café.  Join a walking tour.  Volunteer at a charity.  Check out local events.  Start a hobby or take a class.  Meet new people.  Be a tourist in your new city and enjoy the flexibility of mid-week excursions available to the funemployed (while avoiding the weekend crowds).

2. Hustle (whatever that means?)

I know, it seems like just another catch-all verb, but my take on what it means to HUSTLE in the job hunt: go above and beyond.

Whatever worked for you in securing a job in your home town – double or triple the efforts for SF.  More applications, more strategy, more creativity.  More handshakes and smiles.

Put yourself out there, and realize that you need to invest some real energy in your job hunt, to help you stand out.

Recruiting in San Francisco is highly competitive and network-driven.  I have actually heard stories where generic “apply” inboxes go unmonitored. Many large organizations, despite advertising roles online, won’t even review resumes unless the candidate has come through an internal referral.  Automated resume screening tools mean many applications get knocked out of the process long before they reach a hiring manager.

You can’t hide behind your keyboard – you have to get out there, build a network, and be noticed!

3. Own the process, but understand you’re not alone

There is no denying it – San Francisco has a hot job market right now.  But while there are plenty of vacancies, there are also plenty of candidates looking for opportunities, so you’re not guaranteed an easy ride.  Understand what resources are available to you, but don’t forget, you are in control of this process.

Recruiters: I personally had very little traction with US recruiters.  In the current market, US recruiters face fierce competition, are spoiled for choice with candidates, and work on incentives to fill their existing roles.  For these reasons, if you are not a perfect fit for an open role with a US recruiter, don’t be surprised if they ghost you after your initial introductory meeting.  But if you want to increase your chance of being considered for a specific role, US recruiters could be a helpful foot in the door.

Aussie Recruit is a new recruiting service run by an Aussie in San Francisco.  They specifically focus on helping Aussie candidates find roles in the Bay Area and advocate for Aussies and the E3 visa process to prospective US employers.  They also offer monthly candidate coffee meetups, so you can connect with fellow Aussie job searchers in the city.  I found this to be a great network.

Job boards: I had the best traction through LinkedIn job posts, compared to traditional job boards like Indeed or Glassdoor.  HireClub is a Facebook page with lots of open jobs posted, and you can post and review questions around companies and interview tips.  There are also plenty of industry associations and sector-specific job boards, so make sure you know which ones are best suited to your industry and set up a profile.

Referrals: Many companies in the Bay Area offer staff incentives for candidate referrals.  So if you see an opportunity with a company, and you know someone there – don’t be shy in reaching out and requesting a referral into the process.  Make sure there is some real relationship between you and the referrer though – you want to make sure you can speak to how the referral came about if you get through to an interview.

4. Do your research

Before even submitting an application, I reviewed the company’s website as well as LinkedIn, Glassdoor, AngelList, and recent publications (blog posts, podcasts, news articles, and company announcements) to get a feel for what’s on their agenda.

I know it’s annoying, but it is important to tailor your resume and cover letter specifically for each role you apply for.  With so many applicants, hiring managers are looking for keyword matches to hasten their review.  Make their job as easy as possible by using their language in your application.  And don’t forget – in the USA an application should include a 1-2 page resume, not a 5-6 page CV (I had to learn the difference.)

To prepare for interviews, I would spend more time researching the company, competitors, and the local market.  For one role, I even read a 170-page prospectus before a first-round phone interview.  I didn’t get that job in the end, but I learned a lot about the industry and felt prepared.

You will need to be armed with intelligent questions and comments pertinent to the company and industry in your interview.  You don’t want an awkward silence when it comes to your chance to ask questions – this is your time to shine!

And even if you’re unsuccessful, or it feels like a waste of time, the new knowledge you gain through your research deepens your understanding of the market and strengthens your next application.

5. Learn, and persevere – it’s a numbers game

For a while, I kept a spreadsheet to track my job applications.  42 applications over 5 months.  And this isn’t even an exhaustive list of my efforts.

By the end of my process, I had recorded 15 interviews.  I received 2 job offers and 13 formal rejections.  27 no responses (at least…)

Instead of wallowing over the time wasted on personalized cover letters and company research, look for the lessons to be learned in the rejection.

I don’t know about you, but the second I wrap up an interview, I am kicking myself for all the things I didn’t say.  Perfect, succinct examples of my relevant experience would pop into my head the moment I walked out the door.

Use the time after each interview to reflect on the process and your answers.  Interviews expose you to lines of questioning, language, and insights into the company and role.  All of these things are useful for your job hunting toolbox and can help you refine future applications and interviews.

Practice and refine your “about me” introduction, and after each interview, make a note of interesting or tricky questions, insightful comments you made (or wish you made), and relevant examples of your previous experience.  These will surely come in handy next time.

Before long, you will be such a pro at responding to interview questions, that you won’t even get nervous.

These are some of the things that helped me stay positive through my job search, and ultimately helped me secure a great job in San Francisco!

Kirsten Bernhardt

Kirsten Bernhardt

I am a proud South Australian at heart, with a deep love of cheese, wine, my husband and family and travel (maybe in that order). In January 2019 I embarked on a new adventure with my husband, when we packed up our lives and relocated to San Francisco, spurred on by a love for the city, and some wise words from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails." I am constantly surprised by how much I have learned as a result of this decision. I encourage everyone to dive into their own adventures, no matter how scary. I am excited to share what I've learned along the way, in the hopes it makes your journey a little easier. PS. I don't have Instagram or an iPhone. I remain optimistic regarding my ability to assimilate in the USA. Wish me luck!View Author posts

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