“You are perfect for a role we are actively recruiting for! This is an upper management position with a highly reputable Bay Area company. If you are interested, please reply to this email to learn more.”
Does this sound familiar? The allure of a new opportunity from a recruiter who has recently found you? Some days, you may quickly erase this email to spare your ever-growing inbox but today you stop to think.
While you’ve enjoyed your current company, getting to a more senior level has been elusive. Lately, the role you’re in hasn’t felt as stimulating and you sense you may be ready for a change. This could be a good opportunity to take your career to the next level. But the Bay Area job market has its own set of challenges. Is this where you want to be to make that next leap?
There are nuances to senior management roles in the Bay Area. This article will help you understand what you can expect if you stay on this path as you contemplate the right next step in your career.
The Lure Of The Bay Area Job Market
The appeal of the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to professionals worldwide is undeniable. This region has a strong economy with double-digit job growth, high wages, and progressive attitudes that embrace innovation, diversity, and entrepreneurism. With its eagerness to adopt the latest technologies, cultural diversity, great weather year-round, and a vast array of recreational opportunities, it’s no wonder this area attracts professionals who are looking to fast-track their careers, skyrocket their wealth, and improve their quality of living.
In fact, the California Employment Development Department projects these to be the top 10 Bay Area industries for job growth through 2022.
A recent study found that jobs growth in the Bay Area was double the national average from 2011 to 2016, and median wages increased more than 160 times the national average.
Although the tech sector represents only a quarter of all jobs in this region, the San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the biggest names in technology – including Alphabet, Apple, Cisco Systems, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Facebook, and Twitter.
The Bay Area also employs almost one-third of biotechnology workers worldwide. Which is part of the reason this region is known as a major technology hub and THE place to be if you’re serious about a career in tech/biotech. (Sources: Silicon Valley Business Journal, City Data)
How Millennials Are Changing Bay Area Companies
Careers in, or related to, technology and biotechnology are attractive because today’s professionals are tech-savvy, early adopters who embrace the power and freedom that comes with 24/7 connectivity. Bay Area companies need to appeal to this younger demographic as well as attract younger workers (millennials) to keep up with the trends and are shifting their workplaces to do so.
On the flip side, you’ll see a number of companies in the Bay Area run by millennials. It’s not uncommon to see gray-haired professionals reporting to VPs and CEOs who haven’t yet hit their ten-year college reunion. This can be a difficult dynamic for more experienced workers. In general, this younger set of professionals are shifting the Bay Area workplace to appeal to their fellow millennials who want to:
- Do work that is relevant and makes a difference in the world at large.
In technology and biotechnology, professionals are solving real-world problems and changing the way society works and lives every day.
- Be compensated based on output rather than hours spent at work
Although base compensation is based on skills, there are often opportunities to earn bonuses and other perks based on output or completion of specific objectives in technology careers.
- Invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to grow personally and professionally.
Technology professionals are often encouraged and incentivized to maintain and increase their skills and knowledge with relevant education coaching, and industry certifications in new and emerging technologies.
- Be recognized for their innovations and contributions.
Most companies have some kind of employee recognition system in place to reward individual contributors and teams for their contributions.
The younger generation of professionals have also grown up in an era where instability and rapid change are the norm. As a result, they’re often willing to forego higher base compensation in exchange for more company equity in order to create the potential to exponentially increase their earning potential.
As you start to think about your job search, consider if you’d like to work in a company that caters to the younger generation or one that is more traditional, like the IBM’s and Hewlett Packard’s of the world. The work dynamics will be drastically different.
How The Bay Area Job Market Is Unique
While it’s true that the Bay Area has no shortage of high-paying jobs with the potential to fast-track one’s career and substantially increase wealth – there are additional factors to take into consideration as well.
High Volume Of Small- & Medium-Sized Businesses
Although there are a number of large corporations, the majority of Bay Area employers are small- to medium-sized businesses. Since opportunities with large corporations are highly coveted, competition is fierce and they don’t have to do a lot of recruiting for openings. So it’s more likely that applicants will be recruited by the small- to medium-sized businesses.
What That Means For Compensation
Smaller start-up companies often offer lower base pay than larger corporations in exchange for more equity in the company; they have to in order to keep their costs down and attract additional investors. So your base pay may be lower than expected but, if you happen to land with a company that becomes the next Facebook or Uber, you can become a millionaire overnight. This is rare but possible.
How This Affects Workload
The smaller companies also tend to keep overhead costs low and rely on highly-skilled, versatile, small teams to accomplish business objectives. This means middle- and upper-level managers are often functional managers – meaning they’re actually doing the work right along with members of their teams and they may not have the option of delegating certain tasks.
In addition, if there’s a looming deadline or something unexpected arises, it’s “all hands on deck” as everyone pitches in to ensure successful project completion within the deadline. And, because there’s no way of predicting when a need might arise, these companies often encourage employees to remain on-site during traditional non-business hours. To do so, they provide catered meals and concierge services that bring needed services to you (such as dry cleaning, car wash, oil change, groceries, gym classes, and even masseuses). This also means that you are expected to check-in, even when on vacation. Usually, there’s no back-up who can step in while you’re out, like you would expect at a larger company.
Managers also often “burn the candle at both ends” trying to keep pace with the accelerated and unpredictable demands of a start-up culture. There’s no playbook and history to rely upon, like at a large company. You’re making up the rules as you go, which adds additional complexity and sometimes, organized chaos (or just plain chaos).
You also must keep an eye on your funding to ensure it doesn’t run out. Almost every small company runs into the situation where they don’t know how long and from what source future funding will come from. So it’s important to be comfortable embracing uncertainty when working for small- and sometimes, medium-sized venture and angel-backed companies. When interviewing, be sure to ask questions such as:
- What series of funding is the company in?
- How quickly are they burning through cash?
- What do future funding prospects look like?
- Who is on the board? (This can influence how attractive the company will be to investors.)
A Diverse Workforce
The Bay Area is rich in cultural diversity. It is a port region that has been a hub for global business, trade, and tourism since its early days. As a result, the region has come to value people for their contribution to the workforce, regardless of differences, and this diversity is mirrored in the local workforce.
Diversity brings a vast array of knowledge, experience and different perspectives that can be extremely useful for innovation, problem solving, insight and creativity… and produce 19% higher revenue due to innovation, confirmed by a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group. (Source: Forbes)
But working in and managing diverse teams is not without its challenges including:
- Language barriers – when English is not the first language for individual team members but English is the predominant language in the workplace, there is a potential for communication mishaps which can lead to frustration and resentment.
- Perceptual differences – the same message can be interpreted differently by each individual based on how they process, interpret, and organize the information. When people interpret a message differently, there is the potential that someone may inadvertently be offended, hurt, or arrive at a different conclusion than was intended.
- Cultural differences – the values and norms for acceptable behavior can vary significantly from one culture to the next, and innocent gestures or comments for one culture may be perceived as significant offenses in another.
- Cultural Biases- Every culture has their different views on equality. While many Bay Area companies are actively trying to change this, the mixing of different cultures can result in racist and/or sexist behavior.
How Technology Changes Expectations
Pretty much everyone in the Bay Area relies heavily on technology in their daily lives. From smartphones and GPS to digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, virtual reality to smart homes, if it leads to greater control over one’s environment, more convenience, or a better experience, Bay Area residents are on board.
And, because residents are hyper-connected, there’s literally an app for just about everything in the Bay Area. Need to find deluxe transportation? There’s an app for that. Need groceries delivered? There’s an app for that. Need a date for an upcoming event? There’s an app for that. Want a massage in your office? There’s an app for that. Want puppies to visit your office? You guessed it- there’s an app for that.
Unexpected Consequences of Hyper-Connectivity
While technology certainly has its benefits, there are also some less than desirable consequences like:
- Superficial Conversations – People are often so absorbed with their technology that they neglect to have meaningful conversations with others who are actually in close proximity to them. And when they do interact with others, the focus of their conversation tends to be on entrepreneurship and technology.
- Technology Overload – Because Bay Area workers and employers know they CAN respond to emails, texts, and phone calls whenever and wherever they happen to be… and very often DO respond immediately, it has created the expectation that everyone SHOULD be available and respond instantaneously. A recent study found that most people find it difficult to not check their mobile devices for just one hour. (Source: Association for Psychological Science) This can result in always being on alert, unable to relax, rest, or sleep.
- Fixation On Work – Although your body may have left the office, knowing that you may be called, texted, or emailed about something work-related keeps your brain focused on work and can make you oblivious to what’s happening around you. As a result of being unable to actually take a break from work… escape… relax… and focus on something else, work may begin to consume you and your personal relationships and health may suffer.
- Loss Of Boundaries And Balance – Another result of hyperconnectivity is tremendous pressure to conform with the unspoken expectation to be available at all times. Yielding to this pressure means that the lines between work and life outside of work become blurred to the point that work/life boundaries are lost and work begins to consume life.
Rapid Economic Growth
From 2014 to 2017, the Bay Area’s economic growth was double the rate of the U.S. And, although its annual population growth rate was lower than other similar metropolitan areas at only 0.8%, it outpaced the growth rate of any other California region.
What That Means For Housing
Surprisingly, the Bay Area builds the fewest homes compared to other similar metropolitan areas, building only 312 new homes per 1,000 new residents. This creates a housing shortage and, no doubt, contributes to the cost of housing more than doubling from 2005 to 2018.
How It Affects Commute Time
With Bay Area workers forced to find housing in more affordable areas, distant from where their businesses are located, there are increasingly more cars on the road for greater distances. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimated that there were 169,073 individuals from surrounding regions commuting into the Bay Area each day in 2017, in addition to the more than 7 million residents of the area. Bay Area commuters spent an estimated 79 hours in traffic in 2017, making it the third worst city in the U.S. (Los Angeles was #1, and New York was #2) for commute time.
Employment Cycles That Aren’t Tied To The Economy
Most people anticipate that employment rates fluctuate with the economy. When the economy is doing well and businesses are flourishing, job opportunities increase. During an economic downturn, when businesses may struggle to survive, job opportunities decrease. That’s to be expected.
However, few people anticipate layoffs when the economy is strong and a company is flourishing and making or exceeding its financial goals.
You might wonder why a company that is flourishing would choose to downsize its workforce.
In the Bay Area, there are several reasons this occurs including:
- Actual or anticipated loss of grants or funding for a particular project or program
- A decision to divert funds from an existing line of business to research and development
- An unexpected technological advancement that makes a product or process obsolete
- The opportunity to increase efficiency and reduce costs by implementing new automation or outsourcing work to countries where labor costs are cheaper (Because technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, these changes often come quickly and without warning, leaving entire sectors of workers displaced.)
- Local, state, or national budget changes (these changes typically affect government workers, state-funded educational institutions, research facilities that rely on government funding, and defense contractors and industries that support defense programs)
The Priorities of a Bay Area Executive
As a mid-senior level professional, it’s important to ensure the inevitable challenges of this career don’t derail success.
In order to do this, executives should actively:
- Manage stress
- Make effective decisions when they matter most
- Be efficient and resourceful
- Be comfortable building strong relationships
- Think quickly and act decisively
- Respond in a professional manner regardless of the circumstance
- Exhibit strong leadership skills
- Motivate and inspire the team
Does this sound manageable? Does it sound overwhelming? It’s likely no surprise to hear that executives and companies are increasing employment of coaches and consultants who can help.
The reality in the Bay Area is that work is fast-paced, there are long commutes, the expectations are high and the patience for failure is low. Because of this, employees tend to push their body and brain to the limit. This is exhausting over time and it’s not unusual to have the urge to quit and retire early. However, financial responsibilities and demands often prevent us from doing so.
Instead, it’s important to develop a strategy and plan of action that will help manage stress while achieving goals. Sometimes that means seeking external help from a coach, mentor, or other trusted advisor who can offer a different perspective and help identify options that may not appear readily available.
If you can relate to any of the above, consider hiring a coach so you don’t have to shoulder the weight of the world on your own. I partner with mid-senior level professionals who are ready to identify the next steps that will empower them to make a significant impact in the next chapter of their career.
If you would like help to develop your strategy and plan of action that will take your career to the next level OR a transition point in your career and need help identifying the right path forward, I invite you to click here to apply for a discovery session.
Making the right decision about the next step in your career will be important for your future trajectory. But there are lots of factors to consider in this equation as you think about the type of life that you want to live. If you want tangible tools and a skilled, unbiased partner to help you think through this next step so you can build the life you want, I’m here for you.
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