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Recognizing Opportunities - 'Secrets' to succeeding in the Israeli Job Market

For most Olim (or potential Olim) the biggest contingency for success in Aliyah is finding a job that can support them and their loved ones. Many Olim that end up leaving Israel leave due to difficulties in this area. With that being said, let's dive right in and address the 'elephant in the room' of finding a job in Israel.

Dealing with the Israeli job market, just like dealing with anything else here, will require motivation and determination, flexibility and an open mind, humility and confidence and most of all, faith. I don't believe in standing in the middle of oncoming traffic hoping that God will save me but I do believe that if you are looking out for it, certain opportunities may be sent your way, sometimes from the most unexpected places. You have to be ready to recognize the opportunities and turn them into your reality.

To be completely transparent here, I am probably the least qualified person to tell you about finding a good job in Israel and dealing with the job market because, well, frankly I never had to deal with it. I am an Aliyah unicorn in that way.

My personal career story is a mixture of opportunities that were "sent my way" and my unwavering determination to turn the potential of those opportunities into my reality. So, get comfy because now I'll share a little story I like to call "How Rayla the Accountant Made Her Career Goals Come True" (Ya, ok the title needs a little work).

How Rayla the Accountant Made Her Career Goals Come True

From the age of 18, when I decided I wanted to move to Israel, my plan was as follows:

  1. Step 1: Get a job as an accountant in a large firm

  2. Step 2: Transfer said job to the same firm in Israel

  3. Step 3: Do not waiver from steps 1 and 2

The summer after my junior year in College I interned at a BIG 4 accounting firm in a general tax group. It just so happens that during that summer, there was not much general tax work for an intern but the International Tax Services Group or ITS was going through a big project and needed interns to put together binders for them (exciting stuff, right?). Usually, the ITS group hired lawyers but for the purposes of making binders, apparently, I was sufficiently qualified.

After my internship was over, I received a full time offer to work in the general tax group. Since I had made some solid connections in ITS, I requested to be transferred to ITS and they agreed. I did this because I recognized that this is an opportunity. I knew ITS is an area of tax that can be very relevant in Israel so I went for it. Step 1, complete!

The ITS group in the NY office is comprised of Americans and also employees from various foreign offices who come in on "secondment" or a rotation for a couple of years before returning to their countries of origin. After 2 months on the job, I get in email from this guy (for purposes of this story I will call him Guy since that is also an actual name in Israel, although, not his real name) saying "Hi, I'm Guy from the Israel office and I understand from HR that you are available to help me with some projects."

I read and reread this email about 6 times before I believed it. Then I literally called Yosef and said "God wants us to make Aliyah. It's decided." This was definitely an opportunity that was sent my way.

When I went to introduce myself to Guy, I told him I really wanted to make Aliyah one day. Guy looked at me with a very serious expression (or maybe this was just a regular expression for someone who spent many years in the Israeli equivalent of the Navy Seals) and said "just like Americans don’t like foreigners, Israelis don't like foreigners either." And that my friends, is why Israelis have a bad rep.

I was slightly terrified of him after that but once we worked together for a while he warmed up to me and really wanted to help us move to Israel.

This is why Israelis are called Sabras - sometimes, quite prickly on the outside but sweeter on the inside (or maybe its because they grow in a desert? Eh, no matter). After Guy returned to Israel, I kept in touch with him and when I called him and told him we were moving, he helped me get the job I have now. Step 2 complete!

I still work with Guy quite often and recently when I told him the story of what he said to me when we first met he responded "Really? I said that? Well, its true." So, thank G-d, I was able to make Aliyah with a full time job in place and I have been working in the same place for 6 years since that time.

The end.

Now, I will tell you another story called "How Yosef the PT ended up working in Hi-Tech." Considering Yosef's less straightforward path to his career, this story may resonate with more of you.

How Yosef the PT ended up working in Hi-Tech

Yosef has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and worked in a sports clinic in Brooklyn for the years before we moved to Israel. His plan was as follows:

  1. Step 1: Get solid experience as a PT in the U.S.

  2. Step 2: After Aliyah convert license

  3. Step 3: Work as a PT in Israel – first in a more public facility and maybe open a private practice

Step 1 was complete before we moved. When we first arrived, Yosef followed the plan and studied for his Israeli PT exam (I am not sure if this is still the case or if the requirements have changed) while going to an Ulpan every day. He passed the boards – Step 2 complete!

Yosef even started Step 3 and began working as a PT in Israel. Overall, he personally found that he did not enjoy the work very much in Israel and had difficulties in the beginning interacting with the very Israeli patients.

Long story short, an opportunity came his way to join a start-up as a content writer. He had 0 years of content writing experience but about 30 years of English speaking experience so they were willing to give him a shot and he seized the opportunity.

For his first job, the pay was not great but the hours were good and he figured it may be a chance to see if this is something he wants to pursue or if he wants to go back to PT.

He worked in that job for less than a year and eventually got a job working in a larger, more established hi-tech company as a content manager. After a couple of more years, he was promoted to team leader of the content team and is still working for this company.

Yosef's actual office space in Tel Aviv

His career took a complete 180 but it worked out so well for him because he was willing to step outside his comfort zone and work extremely hard to build up his experience and reputation (even if it meant taking a lower paying job initially).

The end.

General Job Seeking Tips for Olim in Israel

There are SO many similar stories of Olim who came and started their careers over. That DOES not mean that you have to start over but be open minded for new opportunities in the beginning.

As I've mentioned before, in areas where I do not have the personal expertise, I will try to collaborate with those who do in order to provide you with more useful information. I spoke with Mandi Brandriss, a career coach here in Israel who specializes in helping Olim navigate the Israeli job market. Mandi kindly provided me with a couple of the key tips she wishes Olim knew before they made Aliyah or when dealing with the Israeli job market:

  • Treat the job search as a job – do it systematically and as a project

  • Gather as much information as possible – research industries and jobs that are currently in demand in Israel. This can be very different to your country of origin

  • Identify a few job titles that look interesting and suitable and research/speak to people to understand exactly what the jobs entail and what you can expect the day-to-day to look like

  • Find out if you will need to convert your license. If yes, start the process before you arrive

  • You may be eligible to study for a degree (in Israel) paid for by the government. If this is relevant, take advantage of it

  • Research expected salary ranges so you have an idea of what to expect and to target higher paid positions. For example, most positions at hi-tech companies will be better paid than the same positions at other companies

  • LinkedIn – increase your network of people in Israel. Connect with people at companies you are targeting preferably in your field and /or HR. Join relevant groups.

  • Networking – spend most of the time you’ve allotted to your job search networking. Brainstorm a list of people to network with and start reaching out to them. Be mindful of how you reach out to people and be clear about what you want to achieve in the networking meetings. It's better to meet with people (even if it’s on zoom and not in person) rather than just sending your resume.

  • Create a resume targeted to the Israeli market in terms of length and format (1-2 pages with a clear summary at the top). You may need more than 1 version if your skills can be relevant in different positions. Make sure your resume matches the job description.

  • If you don’t have relevant experience, figure out how to clearly articulate (in your resume and in the interview) how your education and experience are relevant to the job.

  • If you know you are overqualified for a job, you may need to omit positions or functions from your resume. You may choose not to include older job experience and / or to omit the dates of your education.

  • There is no need to include any personal details on your resume (age, marital status, etc.).

  • If possible, apply to jobs in multinational companies where a foreign language is an advantage.

  • If the job description is in Hebrew, chances are you are expected to be fluent in Hebrew and provide a resume in Hebrew.

  • Improve your Hebrew as much as possible.

  • Practice answering interview questions and being able to clearly articulate what you’re looking for and what you bring to the table. This is especially important if you haven’t interviewed for many years. Make sure you sound confident and sure of yourself and be ready to answer difficult questions.

  • Be mindful of what to wear at an interview. Business casual is a safe bet but try to find out the company’s dress code. You don’t want to be way overdressed! (Yes, you can actually be overdressed here).

  • Don’t compare the available jobs to your company in your country of origin.

  • Educate yourself on the benefits Israeli companies offer (pension, vacation and sick days, paid holidays, possibly Keren Hishtalmut) and make sure that an employment lawyer reviews the employment contract. Understand how overtime works in Israel.

  • Don’t discount working as a freelancer if you find an interesting opportunity but make sure you take into account the lack of benefits you will receive (usually you should earn ~35% more as a freelancer than if you were an employee).

  • Organizations such as Gvahim and some local municipalities have highly subsidized employment programs for new Olim.

In addition to Mandi's very helpful insights, I also posed the question to an amazing FB group for women called ImaKadima: Working & Career-Minded Moms in Israel regarding what advice they have for new Olim in terms of the job market here. Here are some of the great tips I got (not just for women):

  • When researching job opportunities, in addition to researching reasonable salary expectations also understand the glass ceilings for the jobs- i.e., what is the salary potential in the future (I second this one because if Yosef just considered his starting salary as a content writer and said no without seeing the potential, he would not have the career he has now).

  • As much as possible, try to set up a job before you come or at least have strong relevant, career connections.

  • Be prepared for the different business culture – things tend to be much more informal here in terms of attire (I wore a suit to my initial interview and felt extremely overdressed).

  • Know your value and don't be afraid to negotiate when appropriate.

  • Network, network, network - Israel is largely about proteksia (i.e., connections) and Olim who don't have those kind of connections from the army, etc. can be at a disadvantage.

  • Be as open-minded as possible.

  • There are jobs and careers that exist in Israel that can pay a decent salary despite the popular belief to the contrary (especially in certain large companies like Microsoft, Intel, Apple, etc. and hi-tech companies).

  • If you are just starting college and considering what to major in, computer engineering (specifically, machine learning / computer vision / AI) may be a good area to consider.

  • Reconsider your skills and how they can apply to different job opportunities.

  • Workplaces tend to be more family-centric in Israel.

  • If you want to transfer your professional qualification, look into the option of starting the conversion before making Aliyah. This will allow you to organize the necessary documentation before you arrive.

When looking for a job, search the Nefesh B'Nefesh job board as well as the following facebook groups (there are also a bunch more you can search for):

  • Anglo-Israel Job Network

  • Anglo-list Jobs for Olim & Internationals in Israel

  • Tel Aviv Secret jobs

  • Olim in tech for networking

  • Nefesh b'nefesh – jobs in Israel

You can also check out the following resources:

  • uwork, a career site for foreign language speakers (not exclusively English),

  • Gvahim, a non-profit organization providing Olim with a platform to find employment or build start-ups or companies in Israel, and

  • - an organization that helps Olim navigate the Israeli job market.

In addition, I found this great article that gives a breakdown of some potential jobs in hi-tech for Olim.

To recap, recognize your opportunities, network like your life depends on it (because your ability to pay for groceries actually may depend on it), swap your suits for some casual jeans and, most importantly, don't give up. The job market is tough to navigate but not impossible by any means and it's very possible to find great jobs here.

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