When I come home to you San Francisco, your golden sun will shine for me
February 25, 2014 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I've visited San Francisco several times over the last year, and I think the Bay Area is where I'm supposed to be. Every time I go there, I feel like I'm home. Every time I come back to Boston, I feel miserable. So it's time to start planning a move. Soon.

I changed jobs six months ago. I'd like to stick it out for at least a full year before I head west. I've been working a great contract gig on top of my day job, so I expect to hit my financial target for moving costs, travel costs and 3 months of rent, bills, etc by November 2014.

My question: When should I start job hunting in the Bay Area? HOW do I start job hunting remotely? I've never done that before and logistics of it make me a bit dizzy. I'm very particular about the kind of place I want to work, so my search will be tougher, I think (I'm a sysadmin who prefers a non-profit that does GoodThings™ or a for-profit dedicated to GoodThings™, not one of these "look, a stupid app which made a bazillion dollars" places).

When should I start apartment hunting (this is a maybe. There's a strong possibility that I will have accommodations waiting for me, but it's not set in stone).

I am also in school and will need to figure out transfer stuff as well.

I haven't made a big move like this in 17 years, and it's nervewracking and scary, but also terribly exciting. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't bother job hunting until about a month before the time you are going to move, unless you want to work at Google. They have a notoriously long interview cycle. I would apply there now if you want to work there in November. Same with apartment hunting, there is no point to looking more than about 3 weeks in advance. In the mean time, you could figure out what area you think you want to live in and look at Craig's List to get a general idea of how many thousands of dollars you will be spending on rent per month.

Also, there's a good chance the job you describe will be in the South or East Bay.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:02 AM on February 25, 2014

Bring Money.

That's the first part.

Okay, I like LinkedIn for jobs, but since you're picky, here's a list of non-profits HQ in San Francisco.

Start networking now. Do you belong to a specific user groups? If not, join some. Participate in on-line communities.

If your Sysadmin has a certification route, even if you're a self-taught guru, get that certification.

I'd recommend a Craigslist sublet while apartment hunting, only because the city is horrible for finding rentals.

If you can manage to do professional development and/or conferences in SF, do that, and take the opportunity to network up a storm!

As for transferring, you're going to pay a fortune in out of state tuition if you don't wait a year, but I transferred credits from 5 different colleges/universities to San Francisco State University, although I hear the Cal State schools have gotten pretty competative lately. They took every single credit I did anywhere, so I'm pretty bullish on them.

The feeling you get is from being in the city proper. Yes, you may find other places to live in Oakland or Berkeley, or more jobs there, but these places, while quite nice, aren't San Francisco, so don't settle if it's not your bag.

I've lived all over the Bay Area, from Pinole to San Jose. It all has a different vibe. So perhaps take some trips there over the next year and see what appeals to you and what doesn't (Palo Alto is great, Fremont, not so much.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:10 AM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

indeed.org is a place to look for nonprofit jobs, though plenty of local nonprofits just use craigslist.

(And Fremont is great if you love a wide variety of Asian food, multilingualism everywhere, easy access to the South Bay, excellent farmer's markets, and hiking. Not so much if you like a city buzz or European food. I just moved out of Fremont and I miss it SO much. I agree that you need to see a place, and also make sure people you're asking about an area have lived there in the last 2 or 3 years. Things change rapidly around here -- I know Bay Area natives who still think that Fremont is mostly conservative white blue-collar workers, for example. SF neighborhoods probably change even faster.)

Good luck.
posted by wintersweet at 11:38 AM on February 25, 2014

Be aware that there is very little chance that you'll find an apartment in the city of San Francisco without being there in person. Last I heard, apartments were still extremely competitive (and expensive) in the city.

I really don't think Bay Area cities have a different vibe than other Bay Area cities. There is San Francisco, which is mostly big city living, but that can vary by neighborhood. Definitely has its own personality. Parts of Oakland and Berkeley are kind of city living and they also have their own personality.

Almost everywhere else you'd likely want to live in the Bay Area is a suburb and more or less the same. Differences are economic, not cultural or geographic. There are rich suburbs like Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Burlingame, which are all pretty similar. There are upper middle class suburbs like Dublin, Walnut Creek, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Pleasant Hill. Basically, if you're not living in San Francisco, (parts of) Oakland or Berkeley, choose a decent spot based on commute, not because you think the cities will actually be different.

Chances are pretty good that you'll work in San Francisco if you're looking for a non-profit big enough for IT staff. I'd start by planning my living accommodations around that assumption.
posted by cnc at 12:28 PM on February 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do not wait one month before you want to move. I just went through a lengthy job search. Now I am a hiring manager and hiring other people. In my experience, job hunting and hiring takes time.

You apply, they take a couple weeks or more to narrow it down and call people for interviews. Your schedules don't line up so it takes a week or two for a phone interview. Then, they want another phone interview. Or maybe they want to bring you into the office. Again, schedules, approvals for flights, etc. Whatever it is, after they've picked you, it can take more than a month to get an offer. But I searched for MONTHS before I found a job I liked where they liked me back. Granted, I was extremely picky and it took me a year to get a new job. I got a couple offers that I turned down, yes, but the job I went with was one where I was recommended by a contact.

Maybe you're a rock star in your field or maybe you have a really great network of contacts, but if you want to move in November 2014, I'd start looking in August. I just think it's optimistic to expect you can get a job in one month, unless you're an entry level person or in the service industry. I am assuming you are professional-level in a career track. If you luck out and find something right away, if they really want you, they will be willing to wait a bit. I had to put off my hiring a month because it was a cross country move -- they understood the logistics.

Now, if you are OK with moving later than November, then you can play it safe and wait until you're closer to your current contract gig running out before you start the job search. I am imagining you moving to San Francisco without a job yet, which would be a bad situation. You should definitely have the job before you move.

Not sure about apartment-hunting in the Bay Area, but for my cross-country move I did a short-term lease to buy me some time before making a final decision.

Good luck on the move - it's exciting!
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:37 PM on February 25, 2014

Now is a very challenging time to move to San Francisco. The economy and culture is going through some big changes right now and (to me) the city's losing a lot of what's made it so great. That said, there are certainly sysadmin jobs. I use Idealist to hire for my non-profit here. Networking will help you sort out workplace culture. If you don't already have housing here, that will be harder than finding a job, but finding housing without a job is even harder. I would start reading idealist and craigslist and other job boards now and starting the job prospecting, and get more serious about housing once you've got the work part more sorted.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2014

I've lived in London and DC, and thought "how bad could it be?" when I moved here one month ago. Honestly, the housing market is so bad that:

1.) Do not come if you make under 50k a year. Please just... don't. Unless you must. Or you will be living with a partner in a 1BR who makes 50k/year as well.

2.) Do not come if you make under 70k a year. I don't. I did come anyway because the job experience is out of this world, for this stage of my career... But otherwise it's really not fun living so poor and saving no money.

3.) The housing market here is uniquely bad. Plus... I don't know. I guess some people love it. I am not the type of person who enjoys life without base comforts, and I can just barely afford the bare minimum as is.

4.) If this is something you are willing to sacrifice for, come anyway.
posted by jjmoney at 12:40 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

1.) Do not come if you make under 50k a year. Please just... don't. Unless you must. Or you will be living with a partner in a 1BR who makes 50k/year as well.

That depends on where you live in the bay area and what kind of living arrangements you're looking for. If you plan to live in San Francisco, then, yeah, you're not going to find much to fit a <>
While I wasn't saving much money, I was young and single and living pretty comfortably at around $50k/year (including wine country trips, eating at nice restaurants and enjoying the arts and entertainment scene the bay area has to offer). And even when I was making only $30k, there were lots of things to do in the bay area that required little money at all (if you like the outdoors at all then there is TONS to do that will only cost you transportation (whether it's gas, BART or bike tune-ups).
posted by adamp88 at 1:16 PM on February 25, 2014

Unless you're fabulously wealthy, you're probably going to need to sublet (either an apartment or just a room) until you are both physically here and employed.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:21 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Probably start job hunting 3-4 months before you want to start.

Look on Craigslist to get a sense of apartment prices. But don't start apartment hunting until a month out.

Nonprofits are probably 80% in downtown SF, 15% in downtown Oakland, and 5% other. Plan around BART or bus access to both places, and you'll be fine.
posted by salvia at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2014

San Francisco is a gorgeous city. Maybe think about looking at Berkeley or Oakland, where you can plan around BART and Muni?

You can make it work if you're determined.

But have a look at this news story from 22 years ago.

It was like that then, it's like that now Maybe worse, by all accounts.

Like others I would say start job hunting once you get a little closer to being ready to move, but if your accommodations don't work out, know that you will probably have to apartment hunt after you get to the city, and you may have to sublet quite a while before getting a lease of your own. This is a place where people will line up to apply to attend a viewing for an apartment so they can apply to live in it. I wish I were joking.

Even if you have a place ready for you to live in, be ready for a major challenge. Every friend I have that lives in the Bay Area absolutely loves it, especially those who live in the thick of it in the City. What a city, what a metro area. But every friend also can't understate the challenge it can be sometimes, especially with how things have changed over the past 2-3 years.

One final alternative to consider if all of this seems too intimidating... maybe think about looking at moving out to a nearby city, like, say, Sacramento, the state capital with plenty of non-profits you could work with... where you could live a much cheaper and easier life, but visit San Francisco every weekend if you wanted.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:04 PM on February 25, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the answers. It's a bit discouraging. While I love visiting San Francisco proper, I'm not particularly interested in living there (though I do like Outer Sunset a lot). I dream about living in Berkeley, I like Oakland (I spent a fair amount of time in Rockridge, which I liked), Fremont is pretty nice. I don't want to go any further south than San Leandro (even that's a stretch) and not much farther north than Berkeley.

In all of my visits over the last year, I've been staying in Alameda. Alameda is nice and all, but I don't know if it's where I want to live longterm.

I've been hearing a lot about the culture in San Francisco changing. What does this mean exactly? My visits to the city made it feel like a pretty down to earth city, which I really like (even moreso in Oakland and Berkeley. Sausalito and Mill Valley, while pretty, are way too not down to earth for me)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:39 AM on February 26, 2014

What does this mean exactly?

I live in the East Bay, but the last time I was in the city, the coffee place I walked into, you couldn't just order a large coffee. You had to pick a flavor, and they poured it over the grounds fresh for you while you waited. I think it cost $3.50? That sort of thing.
posted by salvia at 5:58 PM on February 26, 2014

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