How to Get an Entry-Level Tech Job in San Francisco

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How to Get Entry-Level Tech Jobs in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the hottest cities for new grads who want to work in tech, and for good reason. The number of employees in San Francisco who work in computer and mathematical occupations is more than twice the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — plus, they earn an average salary of $103,780 a year.

There are plenty of jobs in San Francisco that will give you the chance to explore the tech scene, whether or not you studied computer science. The trick is breaking in. So what are your options? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular entry-level jobs in tech.

If you’re looking for a software engineering job: Try developer, engineer or programmer roles with “Level I” or “Entry-Level” in the title. If you’ve done internships or taken courses on programs such as C++ or Ruby on Rails, focus your search on position descriptions that mention those specific skill sets.

Economics or statistics majors might enjoy analyst roles, says Jaimie Lynn Craig, senior recruiter at Premier Staffing in San Francisco. Employers are especially interested in candidates with advanced data analysis and Excel experience. “They love to see on your resume that you know how to use pivot tables,” she says.

If you’re looking for a non-tech role: “Anything with the title ‘coordinator’ or ‘associate’ that requires one to two years [of experience], that’s your way in,” Craig says. Start out as a marketing coordinator or assistant to a product manager to learn the ropes.

“Go and assist that person and be their apprentice, just like they did in old-school Italy.” — Jaimie Lynn Craig, recruiter

Landing an entry-level tech job in San Francisco is all about getting your name out there and meeting as many people as possible, says Wendy Saccuzzo, director of career development at San Francisco-based nonprofit Women Who Code and a tech recruiter at Riviera Partners. Follow these steps to get your foot in the door at a company you’ll love.

Step 1: Set goals

“Maybe you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, but set a goal for what you want to be in your first year,” Saccuzzo says.

Decide what you want to accomplish at your first job and create a list of three to five companies that will help you meet that goal, Saccuzzo says. Perhaps you studied communications or marketing in undergrad and you’re interested in helping tech companies build their brands. If you were an art major, maybe you’re thinking about a career in user experience (UX) design. Once you have a few target companies in mind, start making connections one by one.

“Create a game plan for how you would network your way into the company.” — Wendy Saccuzzo, tech recruiter

Step 2: Network

LinkedIn is the best place to up your networking game. Fill out your profile with your job, internship and campus leadership experience. Join alumni groups or search for industry groups that align with the tech job you’re looking for. Go to Interests > Groups at the top of the LinkedIn homepage and click “Find a group” on the next page.

Then start messaging. Contact people in your network who have jobs similar to the ones you want. Reply privately to someone who has published a blog post you like on one of your LinkedIn groups; in that case, you don’t have to be connected to that person directly to reach out, Saccuzzo says.

Pro tip: Search for fellow alumni in the Connections > Find Alumni drop-down menu at the top of your profile. You can message people who also graduated from your college even if they’re not in your first-degree LinkedIn network.

Step 3: Know what you’re getting into

You’ve met for coffee with connections you’ve made, you’ve gotten referrals for a few jobs in San Francisco and you’re ready to interview. But before you commit to working for a tech company, research the CEO and the organization’s track record.

Especially if you’re interested in working for an early-stage startup, get a sense for who the founders are and whether they’ve had experience building successful companies. Search databases such as CrunchBase to see how the company is funded. Every job seeker is comfortable with a different level of risk, says Saccuzzo, but it’s always a good idea to ensure you trust the leader’s decision-making before you sign on the dotted line.

“It’s really important to make sure the executive knows what they’re doing and that they’re heading in the right direction,” she says.

What’s next?

Both Saccuzzo and Craig suggest taking stock of what companies and career paths are out there by going to San Francisco-area meetups. “We’re a hotbed for meetups here in the Bay Area,” Saccuzzo says.

Search for San Francisco groups on Meetup.com by typing in the tech track or position you’re interested in — “product management,” for instance, or “Web developer.” Go to relevant meetups and plan to have at least one meaningful conversation with a fellow attendee. Connect with him or her on LinkedIn the next day and start building your network of contacts in the area. And most importantly, stay positive and be willing to work hard. “Attitude trumps experience,” Craig says. “When you don’t have experience, your attitude is going to win.”

Brianna McGurran is a staff writer covering education and life after college for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter.