5 Easy Steps to Get a Job in Silicon Valley

27 December 2023
7 min read
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What are the opportunities during Covid-19 and beyond? What industries and companies to approach? What positions are being advertised and some tips on how to secure an interview.

“If the mountain won’t go to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain,” goes the famous phrase. Sometimes the perfect job opportunity is not around the corner but somewhere far away.

If you are looking to grow your career in a non-traditional working environment and pondering a move to San Francisco, keep reading. 

Despite the ongoing pandemic that has caused what economists refer to as an economic contraction (recession), scouting the job market in Silicon Valley these days might be as good of a time as any.

“In the middle of difficulty, lies an opportunity” to quote Einstein. Here are a few things you should know before you embark on the journey. 

A Little History about Silicon Valley

It all started in the pre-WWII town of Palo Alto, home of the mega research facility at Stanford University.

As America was preparing to join the war and was switching its factories from civilian to military production, the U.S. Department of Defence funded most of the R&D at Stanford.

The relationship still continues to this day, albeit the foundation seems to be a bit rockier as “defending” democracy has taken on a different meaning. TikTok.

About a dozen different towns across the valley are home to some of the world’s largest technology companies. Capital markets are assigning astronomical values these days.

Apple Inc. was recently valued at over $2 trillion, and that’s during a recession folks! Adding Google, Facebook and Netflix to the equation and you’d get $3 trillion in market capitalization with an annual revenue of over $400 billion! That’s more than Denmark’s $350 billion GDP in 2019.

5 tips for finding a job in Silicon Valley

#1 Research SV’s industries

When I started my career, a distant dream now, if you worked for Morgan Stanley, you could only apply for a job at Goldman Sachs or another player in the banking industry. This is no longer the case.

Nowadays, Goldman is competing for some of the same talent as Apple. Is it because the former wants to be a tech company and the latter wants to become a bank? 

Identifying job opportunities in a different job market is not an easy task, especially if you have no network on the ground. You could, of course, work with a recruiting agency. You can find a full list of recruiters here.

Or if you prefer to do the scouting yourself, take time to figure out which industries are interesting and then narrow it down to a few companies. 

The Top Down

The IT sector, although not the largest in the valley, pays well and you get to work with very smart people. Moreover, the sector has held better than others in recessionary times by managing to serve its clients, remotely.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, employment in the IT sector declined only by 5.2% in Silicon Valley during May.

employment in silicon valley
Source: U.S. BLS

“Hot” trends in IT in 2024 and beyond

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) - the industry is expected to become a multi-trillion-dollar industry within the next decade as it monetizes on all things “big data.” Research firm Gartner sees 21% growth this year in the automotive and utilities endpoint.
  • Blockchain is back - not only has bitcoin jumped above $ 10,000 but it also seems that the pandemic is giving the blockchain technology a well-deserved second chance. Peer-to-peer payments using “crypto wallets,” e-commerce solutions and digital supply chain management are some of the few examples of how the technology is being applied.
  • Financial Technology (Fintech) - Half of the companies in this year’s Forbes Fintech 50 are based in the valley. The Bay Area is home to some traditional players like Wells Fargo and Visa as well as upcoming ones like Robinhood, Chime, Coinbase.
  • Edge computing, biotech, space exploration, cannabis and 5G network are among the other hot industries at the moment. The long-anticipated 5G network is going live this year. San Jose supposedly will be the centre of the largest 5G deployment in America. Much of the “system-on-chip” solutions for the technology is brought by the local semiconductor players: Broadcom, Skyworks, Xilinx to name a few. Ericsson D-15 research labs are also located in San Jose.

#2 Screen the Job Listings

A San Francisco-based HR recruiting software firm Lever just released its annual report on the state of recruiting. The report states that only 14% of companies of the 700 companies surveyed have a hiring freeze at the moment. 

Tech Jobs and More

Tech, not necessarily Big Tech, is still hiring in the valley, especially the ones enabling other businesses to transition digitally. A quick job search on LinkedIn uncovers 30,116 full-time job openings in the Bay Area.

All posted within the last week. 56% of the jobs are in IT (computer software and IT services), followed by hospital and health care (26%) and financial services (22%). 

If you really have your eyes set on Big Tech, however, Google is probably your best bet at the moment. Although the company’s revenue from advertising suffered some due to Covid-19, Google is still expanding its workforce.

According to the earnings report, Operating Expenses grew by 7%, mostly due to increased headcount. CEO Sundar Pichai also stressed the need to grow other business segments such as Google Cloud, YouTube and Google Play. 

What Skills Are in Demand?

The short answer is both technical and non-technical skills are in demand. Insiders from Apple state that the company is looking to grow more of their services segment (Apple Store, Apple Pay, Apple TV), and is not only looking for software engineers but also for QA, Marketing and Sales Associates. 

most in demand jobs silicon valley

True, skills in machine learning, AI, IoT, L&D are certainly sought after and could help you secure positions in high growth areas but don’t fret if these skills are not part of your resume. There are plenty of opportunities for skilful graphic designers, marketing content managers or sales representatives. 

#3 Prep a Stellar Resume

Writing a great resume is not an easy task. You have to use the right format and font, have a catchy resume headline, make sure you capture the right keywords from the job description. Some do’s and don’ts:

  • Use professional language
  • Distinguish between what’s required/desired
  • State what your values and beliefs are. Go beyond the skills
  • Don’t’ reply to a bad job description and do write a resume for EVERY job you apply for!

Most mid-size and all large enterprises use an applicant tracking system (ATS) these days, so your resume needs to be sharp. If you are really struggling with all this, there are plenty of resources and tools online these days. I have found Novorésumé’s clean format and attractive design to do miracles. Get some help!

Due to Covid-19, some companies are going away from the traditional hiring method. So, be ready to expect more of a gamification application process, and of course be prepped for video interviews.

#4 Network...online

“Your network is your net-worth” as someone said. Not always, but who you know plays a big role in one’s career. Yes, it is possible to get a job without someone referring you but it’s really tough. Especially in Silicon Valley.

People like hiring people they know and trust. For an outsider without a college buddy in the area, you should do more online.

Meetup, Eventbrite and InterNations are great venues for learning and networking. When I first arrived in Silicon Valley I attended a number of conferences (Dreamforce, Google Cloud Next, FB Developers Conference, SF Blockchain Week and even went to Comic-Con :). 

But where I saw the biggest bang for the buck was the smaller venues. I was thrilled to join Product School’s weekly presentations out in Santa Clara’s campus and hear from the established Product Managers in the valley. I soaked in any insights relating to “hot” industries.

Of course, I was also interested in learning about the day-to-day activities of a PM, the work culture and the hiring process. Join these events online and check out the vibe.

#5 Choose Whether to Work for a Large or Small Firm

If your goal is to join a large firm then you should really take time and do your due diligence. Working for a large firm has its benefits. A large organization will have many departments, and hopefully opportunities for career growth, stability and almost guaranteed benefits.

And a word of caution, if your aspiration is to join one of the Big Tech companies be prepared to work for a global institution with a multi-ethnic workforce that reports to Wall Street these days.

The days of collaboration, social drinking and playing seem to be over and the flat organization is giving way to a more vertical management style. 

A small firm, on the other side, could be like a blind date as you never know what to expect beyond the first meeting. If there’s a sequel then it could potentially turn into something amazing, happily ever after. And if it didn’t, you move on. 

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

The job is only one piece of the puzzle. Consider all aspects of your life before you move to Silicon Valley or another place. Ask yourself questions such as “What do I want to become?” “What would this job opportunity bring me and my family?” “Am i a big city person or a small town?” Consider creating a spreadsheet with the pros/cons. 

If you are over 40 years old (there’s a problem with ageism in SV), married with children and coming from any other place but NYC or London, Silicon Valley may not be the right move for you.

It’s super expensive to enjoy a decent lifestyle. The valley also lacks adequate public transportation and public education and it has a horrendous traffic problem (not as bad as L.A., however) that it could steal 2-3 hours of your day.

There’s also the great divide between posh and poverty and at times it feels like you are in the developing world. 

But If you are looking to take your career to the next level, enjoy a phenomenal weather all-year-round, join a revolutionary tech scene, ride Lyft and Uber instead of public transportation, share living quarters with someone else (1 bedroom apartment could run $3,500 in the Bay Area) and you are a single (under 40), then San Francisco and to an extent the Bay Area could be a good place for you. And don’t let Covid-19 discourage you from pursuing this.

For those in the U.S., many employers in the valley are offering remote work, at least in the interim. Good luck and be patient with your job search!

Georgio Stoev is a product manager and business consultant who splits his time between Copenhagen, Denmark and the Bay Area. 

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