Want to Relocate to the Bay Area? 3 Tips for Long-Distance Accounting Job Searches

The Bay Area is white-hot right now, especially for young finance and accounting professionals. Specifically, demand for candidates with public accounting experience has skyrocketed during the past five years, making San Francisco an attractive market for these young professionals. To put this in context, BVOH Finance & Accounting Search is a boutique firm with a select group of loyal clients. Yet we typically have 30-40 jobs available for CPAs from the public accounting firms ready to transition to industry at any given time. There aren’t enough people locally to fill these positions, so companies are looking outside of the Bay Area for talent. Accountants who have several years of experience with one of the big public accounting firms can write their own tickets in the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s great news for people who have their eyes on the Bay Area but aren’t sure whether they can afford the transition. Expenses are higher here than in other parts of the country, but so are the salaries. More importantly, San Francisco offers unparalleled opportunities to connect with like-minded people and be part of the exciting energy that permeates the entire area.

Why San Francisco?

We often hear from candidates outside the Bay Area who are drawn to its intellectual firepower. Most people you meet are ambitious and motivated, which makes for a lively networking scene. Many people appreciate being in proximity to the tech giants they see in the news every day — Google, Facebook, Uber, and Apple, to name but a few. Most of our BVOH team relocated to the Bay Area many years ago, and still find this exposure thrilling. Accounting and finance professionals often get a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on at some of the most high-profile companies in the world, and that excitement never gets old. San Francisco promises unique life experiences in addition to career opportunities. Being in the Bay Area means you’re three hours away from great skiing and summertime activities at Lake Tahoe and even closer to the Napa and Sonoma wine regions. The weather is temperate, the geography is beautiful, and it’s a fantastic place to build a career.

Tips for Relocating to the Bay Area

Bay Area is ripe with opportunities, but you have to do some legwork to access them. Before applying for Bay Area based positions, ask yourself why you want those jobs. Getting here takes some effort and risk on your part, so make sure your passion is in the right place before you start your search. If you’re serious about making the move, here’s how to do it:

1. Manage your expectations.

Make yourself available like a local candidate. This means being prepared to cover your travel and relocation costs in most cases, and creating a financial buffer in case the job search takes longer than expected. The demand for accountants and finance professionals exists, but don’t expect companies to woo you. Some will cover your expenses if the position warrants it, but it’s not guaranteed, especially if you’re at a junior level.

2. Make yourself available for local interviews.

We get really excited when we hear from qualified candidates because we know there’s plenty of opportunities for them here. The approach with the best results is to proactively plan a week long trip to visit the area and be available for in-person interviews. Timing is everything, so there’s no guarantee that prospective interviews will be available for you during this time, but the chances are good if your background is in high demand. Keep in mind that most decision-makers aren’t in their offices during the holidays, so book your travel strategically. Also, plan to visit friends or explore neighborhoods to maximize your investment in case you are unable to land interviews. Once we know your dates, we can schedule interviews with clients who have appropriate positions. Having a set time that you will be in the area can speed up the interview process as clients will be anxious to optimize your proximity for as many meetings as possible. We’ve seen interview processes that are typically 4+ weeks be condensed into one due to this leverage many times. Companies see proactive candidates as rare gifts, so they’re quick to prioritize those meetings. Many people come away from their “vacations” with job offers because they were willing to take the initial risk of self-funding their trips. In some cases, we’re able to work with clients to create positions for people who are exceptional fits for their organization — that’s how hot the market is for people with particular backgrounds in accounting. However, when candidates tell us they expect the company to bear 100 percent of the travel or relocation burden, this becomes problematic. If you’re unwilling to invest financially in the search, you will have a difficult, if not impossible time, securing opportunities. The same goes for not being accommodating when opportunities come up. Hiring managers will want to meet you within a week or two, not in two to three months when the flight is more affordable.

3. Be realistic about cost of living and compensation.

Often times when people are considering a move they will research the cost of living adjustment by using one of the “cost of living calculators” available online. Then they expect to see that same cost of living increase reflected in a dollar for dollar compensation increase. But it doesn’t work that way. Compensation is higher in San Francisco than in other cities, but it’s not a dollar-for-dollar conversion. Housing presents the biggest cost increase for people who relocate to San Francisco, though many don’t realize how big it is until they arrive. Even if you get a 30% bump in salary, your rent could double. Check out housing and rental prices on Craigslist, Zillow, and Apartment List ahead of time to get a sense of how much you’ll pay in the Bay Area compared to your present situation. Avoid unpleasant surprises by connecting with a seasoned recruiter early in your search. Let them know how much you currently make and ask what you can realistically expect to earn in San Francisco. If the numbers don’t work, even with the adjusted compensation, you may need to re-evaluate your plan. Most young professionals find that moving to the Bay Area is achievable if they’re willing to compromise. For instance, they may downsize their living spaces or get roommates. San Francisco is a roommate-friendly city, and most people are able to find quality people with whom to live. Selling your car and relying on public transportation is another way to reduce your expenses. If you’re serious about living in San Francisco, these sacrifices seem minimal compared with the benefits of being in the city. The Bay Area is a fantastic place to build your career, especially when you’re young and have minimal obligations outside your work life. Taking advantage of the opportunities San Francisco offers will help you develop a strong professional presence in a thriving, intellectually stimulating city.

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