Vocate Blog

Want to Work in the Bay Area? – City Survival Guide San Francisco

Silicon Valley, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream – the Bay Area is known for many things and there are a lot of reasons to move here (besides being where Vocate is headquartered, of course). But it’s not entirely easy to navigate.

One thing is certain: The Bay Area has a ton of job opportunities and you should consider moving here if you get a job offer.

Moving to the Bay Area for a job may seem daunting but we’re here to help! We’ve put together this guide to make it easier for you to open your career path to SF and the Bay Area and not miss out on some of the most valuable jobs and connections around.

5 Quick Must-Knows

1. It’s not always sunny and warm in SF! That’s southern California. It’s all about layering here – one block you’re freezing, next you’re sweating. Expect fog and a year-round early Fall/late Spring climate. October brings a wave of summer heat, and inland areas (Oakland, San Jose, etc) are generally warmer.
2. Become a master of Bay Area traffic. Finding a good commute will save your daily happiness. Test different routes and transportation types to find out what works for you.
3. Don’t miss all of the incredible nature. Yosemite, Tahoe, the Redwoods, Sierra Mountains. You’re surrounded by the most beautiful nature in the world – enjoy it!
4. Best food options ever. Food options (including cheap food trucks) are arguably one of the best reasons to live in the Bay. From organic, local markets, to gourmet restaurants, quality is not hard to find. You also have every type of food you want – great Indian, Mexican, Thai, or Sushi – it’s all here.
5. Be who you are. SF has historically been the center of diversity and acceptance. There’s no better place to be to express your individuality.

Work Culture

It is difficult to generalize an entire region’s work culture, especially a region that attracts people from all over the globe. We can outline a few unsurprising expectations or norms you may encounter, notably in the infamous tech scene.

  • Work Hard, Play Hard: SF is a city with a vibrant night life. Expect that people will play as hard as they work. Thursday is a common night to get the weekend started. But be warned – it is no excuse to show up late or underperform because of a hangover.
  • The Growth Mindset: As the center of innovation, the Bay Area prides itself on improvement, and that includes self-improvement. Learning from mistakes, pushing your limits, and working on your development are common values in the workplace and even a core value for many companies, especially startups.
  • Positivity: While the east coast is often known for its straight talk, west-coasters are known to paint a pretty picture. Positive outlooks are seen to be a way to manifest good things and generally keep the atmosphere nicer for everyone else. It may be fake at times, but it can also be a pleasant way to interact with the world.
  • Health & the Work/Life Balance: This is another trope on the west coast. Yoga, organic foods, meditation, and wellness are big industries here and the notion that we work better when we take care of ourselves is strong. It may be frustrating at times from the more fast-paced NYC perspective, but you might find that your run-down energy is seen as a sign that you are not balanced and due for a burnout.
  • “Intra-“preneurs: Much in line with the growth mindset, as the Bay Area has more entrepreneurs than bus lines, you may find yourself expected to bring your own entrepreneurial spirit into the workplace. This means finding new solutions, pushing new ideas, and looking at problems in new ways, even if your boss didn’t tell you to.
  • The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

    Now let’s give you an honest (ableit oversimplified) picture of Bay Area life. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    THE GOOD:

  • Job Opportunities: The Bay Area offers a lot of jobs and entrepreneurial ventures, as well as the opportunity to network with great minds and tech leaders. If you have the demanded skills (marketing, sales, project management, customer support, recruiting/HR, product & software development, engineering), you can develop in many directions.
  • Nature and Architecture: The european style townhouses of SF are famous and the bridges that connect the region are breathtaking. If you need a green escape inside the concrete jungle, a city park is not far. Outside or on the edges of the city, you’ll find the Pacific Ocean, the expansive Bay, and myriad regional parks.
  • Diversity: What would the Bay Area be without the arts, food, and its many cultural communities? From one block to the next, you’ll find yourself in the Chinatown then the Italian North Beach district. Regarding social and political movements, Black Lives Matter and the LGBT movement are also strongly rooted in the Bay Area, contributing to the values of equality and diversity. The art and food scene is also neverending and will keep your weekends and evenings booked with new experiences.
  • THE BAD:

  • High Cost of Living: Get ready for roommates! SF is one of the most expensive cities in the country. Your income should offset this, especially over time, so be sure to anticipate your new expenses as you negotiate salary.
  • Traffic: Try to avoid having a car because parking is sparse, expensive, and the roads are congested. Find your commute tricks and consider braving the bike lane.
  • Weather: Despite the talk of California sunshine, SF is usually foggy and windy. Rain and heat waves are sprinkled in throughout the year – and there’s certainly no harsh winter – but don’t expect the regular beachtime weather like you’ll find in LA.
  • THE UGLY:

  • Gentrification: Many groups of people not benefiting from tech growth are being pushed out of their homes and neighborhoods. This is especially prevalent in areas of the East Bay, as middle-income people look for more affordable housing outside of San Francisco. Folks moving to the Bay Area should be cognizant of it’s history and strive to impact their surroundings mindfully/positively.
  • Homelessness: Due to rising costs and lack of social/health/medical resources, homelessness has grown throughout the Bay Area.
  • Natural Disasters: Earthquakes and wildfires are common in the Bay Area.
  • Where to live

    Stay organized during the search! Create a Maps layer with your new workplace and the various housing options you’re looking at.It’s hard to sign a lease without being in town, but there’s plenty of prep work you can do! Start by looking through the following:

  • Matching sites like Zillow, Apartments.com…get a sense of what’s available in your budget: start contacting realtors and setting up site visits. With this option, consider that they will often want your income to be 3x your rent, or require a co-signer
  • Long-term rentals on AirBnB – this process is a little more streamlined
  • Join and monitor posts on various Facebook groups like this one or this one. Reach out to posters who are sub-letting or have an extra room in their house, and chat to see if you get along. Your school might have an alumni group with postings like this as well! This option tends to be more approachable than realtors/third-party sites, and more trustworthy than Craigslist (which includes a lot of scams) because posts are attached to identifiable people.
  • Communal living options are also available in the city and East Bay, and tend to be more budget-friendly and community-building, but less privacy-oriented.
  • Plan to be in to be in town (stay with friends or family, rent an AirBnB…) for at least a week before you start work to do site visits, secure housing and settle in. It’s not impossible to find a place when not in SF, but it does make things harder.
  • How to get here

    SFO Airport: Although the airport is in South San Francisco and not super close to the city, the airport directly connects to the BART, which will take you to SF and most places in the East Bay. Take either the Red or Blue AirTrain line to the Garage G and BART stop in the International Terminal. You can then use the BART train going towards Pittsburg/Baypoint to get into the city. In my experience, SFO tickets also seem to be cheaper than Oakland tickets.

    Oakland Airport: If you are planning on using BART afterwards, there is a special BART train that will take you to the Coliseum BART stop, where you can then transfer busses and go into SF or elsewhere in the East Bay. If you are driving a car, this is a lot easier to get into/out of than SFO.

    AMTRAK: Drops you off in Emeryville, and then there is a free shuttle that takes you to the transbay terminal. This can be good for short rides, if you are only a couple hours away (I live in Sacramento and use Amtrak a lot to get to the Bay Area). However, if you are more than a couple hours away this is long and expensive.
    – From the North, take the Coast Starlight from Seattle and Portland, or the Capital Corridor from Sacramento
    – From the South, the Coast Starlight travels daily from Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin offers departures from Bakersfield and Fresno
    – From the East, the California Zephyr travels from Chicago and Denver daily

    *The transbay terminal is located right off the Bay Bridge in SOMA. This is the dropoff point for AC Transit Transbay Busses, AMTRAK, Greyhound, and Westcat transbay busses(Pinole bus system), and many Muni busses stop here

    How to get around

    BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, regional subway / train system):
    – Stops: Embarcadero is good for the Financial District. Montgomery and Powell are both close to SOMA.
    – Inbound to SF: All lines will take you to San Francisco, except the Richmond-Fremont line. If you are coming from the East Bay, use lines that are going to SFO, Daly city, or Millbrae to go through the city. If you are coming from the peninsula, all lines will go through the city.
    – Night hours: At night, only certain lines are open. BART closes after midnight
    – Prices: Each stop has different prices depending on what stop you are planning on getting off at. There is a chart of prices on both the website and next to the pay stations at each stop. I recommend getting a clipper card so that you can reload online and not have to deal with the pay stations. You can find clipper cards at a lot of convenience/drug stores, or you can order one online to be sent to you.

    CALTRAIN:
    CalTrain is good for commuting from the peninsula/Silicon Valley.. There is only one route, and it stops at every major city between SF and San Jose, including San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mtn View, Santa Clara, etc.
    The end of the line is right by AT&T Park, in the SOMA area of SF.
    Fares depend on how far you are traveling, day passes range from $7-20

    Muni (SF bus system)
    Muni is San Francisco’s bus and metro system that runs throughout the city, operating buses, trains, cable cars and the F-line heritage streetcar. Muni buses remain above ground and on streets while Muni Metro runs on rails and sometimes go underground.
    You can use Google Trip Planner or 511 Trip Planner to find the right bus for each route. Inbound is going towards Embarcadero, and outbound is going towards the ocean/Golden Gate Park.
    Clipper cards are accepted. One way fares are $2.75
    I strongly recommend using the NextBus app for arrival times!! It gives every stop for every line, and how long it will take the bus to get there.
    Bus stops come in many forms: small bus shelters, yellow paint on street poles, and white paint on streets. Metro stops can be found on an island in the middle of the street and in underground stations.

      Common lines:

    • 38-Geary: Goes from the Richmond District to the Financial District, goes in a straight line down Geary
    • E: Goes from Fisherman’s Wharf to SOMA via Embarcadero, ends at the CalTrain station
    • F: Goes from Fisherman’s Wharf to The Castro via Embarcadero and Market
    • KT: This is both the K and the T line, it switches names midway through the route. Goes down Market and Embarcadero, good for getting to the Financial District or SOMA
    • 14-Mission: Goes from Daly City to downtown, goes right through the mission district and travels down Market
    • 10-Townsend: Goes between Pacific Heights and Potrero Hill, great for going between FiDi and SOMA – it travels right through both

    AC Transit (East Bay bus system):
    I recommend using this if you have no car- it’s fast, reliable, and safe. The easiest way to find the right bus route is through google maps. Value on clipper cards can be used to pay the fare, it’s normally $1-3 (you can also use change, but that’s a hassle)
    AC Transit also has transbay busses that take you between SF and cities in the East Bay. The time it takes to get to SF varies depending on the lines, but they are cheaper than bart and are good if you aren’t close to a bart stop. They drop you off at the Transbay Terminal in SF, which is right off the Bay Bridge and super close to the financial district

    Ferry: The ferry can take you from multiple locations around San Francisco (AT&T Park, Ferry Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, South SF) to different locations in the Bay Area, including Marin, Vallejo, Alameda, and Oakland. Fares depend on the route, but typically range from $5-10 one way. This can be used for commutes. There’s also a cafe in the morning and a bar in the evening on-board; throw in the wifi, space for bikes and as well as a seat for everyone, it’s arguably the best commute option out there.

    Chariot: A commuter app. Kind of similar to Uber, but specifically for commuters and for women only. Worth looking into if you are living in SF but are too far away to walk to work

    Lyft Line/Shuttle: Carpool options, tend to be $3-4 rather than general, $6-10. Comparable to public transport in a pinch.

    East Bay vs. SF

    Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, and El Cerritos all have a lot of younger people, and aren’t overwhelmingly suburban. Apartments will be cheaper than SF, usually around $800/month. You can easily find apartments being subleased for a semester around UC Berkeley if you join student housing facebook groups.

    If you are relocating for over the summer only, Berkeley usually has discounted summer sublets, as students go home for the summer and are more eager to sublet.
    Commute: BART and the AC Transit transbay busses are both faster than driving during rush hour. Depends on where you are coming from, but it typically takes 30 mins-1 hr to get into the city. If using the transbay busses, always choose the option with the fewest stops (ex. FS or E instead of F if coming from Berkeley).

    Fun stuff to do with time off

      Sports

    • AT&T Park (SF Giants)
    • Levi’s Stadium ( SF 49ers)
    • SAP Center (San Jose Sharks)
    • Avaya Stadium (San Jose Earthquakes)
    • The Oakland Coliseum (Oakland Raiders and A’s)
    • Dollar Days at Golden Gate Park
      Live Entertainment Venues

    • The Fillmore
    • Bill Graham Auditorium
    • Greek Theatre
    • The Fox
    • The Parish
    • SF Broadway
      Museums

    • Cal Academy of Sciences
    • Palace of Fine Arts
    • MOMA
    • The Exploratorium
    • Musee Mechanique
      Special Yearly Events

    • Bay To Breakers
    • PRIDE parade
    • Simply Bluegrass Festival
    • Outside Lands
    • Chinese New Year (SF Chinatown)
      Landmarks/Sightseeing

    • The Ferry Building
    • The Golden Gate Bridge
    • Alcatraz
    • Pier 39
    • Ghirardelli Square
    • Dolores Park and Painted Ladies (Full House Victorian Houses)
    • Coit Tower

      Outdoors

    • Ocean Beach / Baker Beach (local)
    • Stinson beach + amazing surrounding hikes (1.5 hr drive)
    • Redwood Forests in Marin
    • Land’s End
    • Twin Peaks
    • Golden Gate Park
    • Wine tasting in Napa

    Vocate Editor

    Students and employers are not connecting in a meaningful way; the job highway works but the on-ramps are broken. We work every day to fix that so employers can find good employees and students can find their dream job.

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