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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ready to work: finding your first job in Israel.

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What’s stopping you from making aliyah?

Maybe it’s the thought of having to find a job here in Israel.  If so, I don’t blame you.  It’s very, very scary having to start over again in another country.

Close your eyes and think about work.  What do you picture yourself doing?  Maybe it’s more of the same – exactly what you’re doing now – or maybe it’s something completely different.

I haven’t written much about looking for work here so far.  Why?  I’ll be honest:  I feel unqualified.  Maybe because I don’t have a job myself, but also because so much depends on what kind of work you do.  (If you’re a writer, specializing in articles and blog posts in English, or in children’s books, then let’s talk.)

Your experience will depend on whether you’re a doctor, English teacher, hairdresser, yoga teacher, graphic artist, or… well, you get the picture.

But I’ve certainly talked to enough olim and potential olim to have a sense of what things are like.  So I’ve put together five questions you can ask yourself that will definitely make finding a job easier once you’ve landed in Israel.

What about finding a job first?

This has got to be the biggest question for many olim – their dream of hitting the ground running. 

How can you have a job lined up the minute you arrive? 

Ask yourself first if that’s what you really want. 

Lining up your job first, from afar, isn’t necessarily the best thing for you and your family.  You may not like the job environment, or the community where you have to live to work there.  If things don’t work out, you may be stuck.  At least meet the people you’ll be working with in person and see the place where you’ll be working before you accept any job.

Unless you’ve lived here before, you may also need some time (at least a week) for bureaucratic and administrative tasks before you can actually start working.  We spent two weeks tracking down our missing teudot zehut (identity cards) so we could open bank accounts, something you’ll definitely want in place before you start to work.

Also, if starting working right away means you won’t get a chance to do ulpan and get yourself off on the right foot in Hebrew, that may be a choice you don’t want to make. 

In the end, though, it’s up to you.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to maximize your chances of landing your dream job as soon as possible once you’re actually here.

1.  Can you keep your current job?

I’ve noticed more and more olim saying they’ve done this – at least in part.  Telecommuting seems like the ideal to many olim.  If you work in an office and they love you, and you don’t need to meet with customers, clients or anyone else, you might be able to keep working on a freelance basis. 

Be prepared to negotiate:  your current employers might want to cut back your hours but keep you doing some functions of your current job.  This is especially true if it’s a Jewish-owned business or organization that supports your aliyah 100%. 

I’ve also known people who commuted to North America for their old jobs, perhaps once a month or every other month.  Some families have put up with this kind of arrangement for the first little while until they could find something local.

2.  How could you specialize?

Take what you’re doing now and figure out what aspect(s) of it you’re best at.  Or look at what unique skillset you might have to offer.  Being a native English speaker is a huge advantage, though it might take some “selling” to convince Israelis of this, since they all think their English is perfect

If you have some French, plus Hebrew, there may be big demand for your language skills in the near future as more olim arrive from France.   If you’ve done a lot of writing but have a special knack for courseware or product documentation, than hone in on that rather than just saying you’re “a writer.”

(This may seem to not make sense at first.  It may seem like narrowing down the skills you’re offering is counterintuitive, especially if you’re good at a whole lot of things.  But prospective employers are looking for one specific person – not a whole bunch of positive general attributes.)

3.  Have you told people you’re coming?

Even if you think you don’t know many people in Israel… tell them all you’re coming, and exactly what you hope to do.  You might think of Israel as a high-tech country, but the truth when it comes to finding work is almost the opposite:  it usually comes down to knowing somebody. 

Remember:  when you tell them what work you’re looking for, read #2 again.  Don’t tell them, “I’m a graphic artist,” because there are already a thousand unemployed olim here who are graphic artists… instead, tell them “I’m a graphic artist specializing in cartoon portraits, comics and humorous business graphics.”

cartoon business card by Akiva Teddy MacLeod cartoon business card by Akiva Teddy MacLeod

(Did I mention that my husband is a graphic artist specializing in cartoons for all occasions…?  Let me know if you need one!)

An obvious way to network, by the way, is through any alumni organizations you may belong to. 

I know a radiologist in Haifa who started working right away, right off the plane, because somebody from his old class back in the U.S. told him they needed experienced people right away.

4.  Maybe you should start ahead of time?

It may be possible to find Israeli connections and start working before you come here.  This one’s tough, because there’s a tendency not to believe you until you actually land.  That’s no reflection on you – just that people’s aliyah plans get stymied and just because you say you’re coming in August is no guarantee that you will actually walk off the plane and into their office in August. 

Nevertheless, an international “marketplace” like elance might be a good way to start looking for Israeli connections and getting your foot in the door – perhaps for a lower rate than you usuall make – as someone with a serious interest in working here.

5.  Are you willing to reinvent yourself?

Be prepared to make compromises.  Whether on your salary, or the actual work you’re doing, or the level you start at in a company here, you may not be doing exactly what you were doing before you came. 

You may find yourself in a “lesser” job and may actually never be able to work your way back up to where you were.  You might find yourself doing something that was tangential or even mainly unrelated to what you were doing before. 

Or… like my husband and I, you may find yourself looking, not for a job, per se, but for freelance opportunities that let you live more independently and control your own time.

Be flexible.  Everybody says that over and over, but only because it’s true. 

Be open to suggestions, keep your ears to the ground for opportunities even if they’re not exactly right.  Find as many ways as possible to say YES to the opportunities that Israel will offer you if you let it.

You may find yourself enriched – if not in a pocketbook / bank account way, then in a quality-of-life kind of way.

One last part of reinventing yourself – and being flexible! – is learning as much Hebrew as you can, as quickly as you can.  The only people I’ve met who’ve insisted that they “really don’t need Hebrew at all” are older retired people and those living in mainly-Anglo communities like Beit Shemesh.

If you want to work here, you WILL need to speak Hebrew.  On what level will depend in what area you’re planning to work.  There are specialized ulpans for certain fields – such as medicine and high-tech, that you should look into even if your Hebrew is already pretty good.

B’hatzlacha – good luck!!!

If you’ve found work in Israel, or know someone who has, please share your ideas in the Comments below.  What works, what doesn’t, and what do new olim NEED to know?

More links for job searching:

(briefcase image © Molivolo via Wikimedia)

 

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


2 comments:

  1. This post is among the many that have been included in Shiloh Musings: Havel Havelim, וָאֵרָא Va'era, And I Appeared.... this week's edition of the international Jewish bloggers carnival, a weekly round-up of interesting and varied posts.

    Please look at the other posts, too, comment and share. Also, you're invited to get more involved in our blogging community.

    Shavua Tov, Have a Wonderful Week!

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    1. Thanks (belatedly), Batya! Really must stay on top of these comments better... :-)

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