ENGLISH |עברית


Choosing a Career in Israel

Judy Feierstein, CEO


Many newcomers to Israel discover that moving to Israel provides them with an opportunity to explore a career change. Some choose to do so, others have no choice since their language abilities limit them, or they find they do not have the ability to be licensed here. Still others discover that they either can't compete in Israel's job market, that their skills are outdated or that they are overqualified. Finally, young immigrants often lack enough work experience to know which direction to go into or are unsure to begin with.

For any of the reasons above, you may find that your relocation to Israel involves great uncertainty about your future work prospects. You may be unsure about how to proceed, whether you should retrain or complete a course of study, whether  it would be useful to finish ulpan first and then work or to get a job right away, or any of a number of other confusing options.

Rather than getting stuck or derailed in your pursuit of meaningful employment, there are a myriad of ways to obtain assistance in order to resolve your career dilemma.

Since making a major life change and choosing to move to a new country can derail one's career path, one should learn to recognize the symptoms of a vocational impasse. These may include: dissatisfaction at work, serious problems while  carrying out assignments or lack of advancement over time, difficulty making  career decisions, inability to sustain work assignments leading to job termination, holding dead end jobs, inability to commit to a career path and invest in yourself and more.

Numerous variables may influence an individual to become stuck in a career impasse, including:

  1. Inability to initiate change, having already made a major life change.
  2. Fear of setting new goals, since no one wants to fail.
  3. Difficulty making a decision since that involves limiting oneself.
  4. Difficulty facing another major upheaval while still adjusting to a new culture, identity, country, language, and even a new climate.
  5. Overwhelming commitments to family and other personal responsibilities.
  6. Desire to start over and begin anew.
  7. Fear of success or of competing with others.
  8. Lack of support from family members to pursue a  satisfying work life.
  9. Early life experiences that interfere with one's ability to make full use of skills, interests or talents.
  10. Conflicting goals such as wanting to study while also wanting to earn an income.

While it may be possible for you to figure out your goals and best options on your own, most adults can jump start their impasse by talking with a career counselor or coach, who is trained to do just that. In Israel, vocational psychologists hold an MA in psychology and are qualified to provide you with tests that indicate what career directions are best suited to you. One can take advantage of this free service during the first 10 years in Israel (see details of the 6 Centers.) An alternative is to seek out a vocational counselor or career coach privately, which costs several hundred sheqels per meeting. Several olim associations provide this service in other languages for free, such as in French and English. In any case, do inquire as to the credentials of your prospective counselor so that you are being served by a professional with proper certification, proven experience and a good reputation.

Once you are clear about your career goals and know your strengths, skills, areas of interest, possible positions that you are suited for and what additional training you need, if any, you will need to make a plan that will enable you to move forward and obtain suitable employment, or training and then employment. If you simply find yourself without a plan, consider hiring a career coach  to facilitate the process of identifying and pursuing these various steps.

Networking in Israel
Many jobs in Israel never get advertised because many employers prefer to hire candidates who are a known entity, so they prefer  candidates whom they know or who are known by current employees or colleagues in their field. This means that to get hired for such plum jobs, it is important for you to be well networked within the specialty area in which you are competent. How can you penetrate the "good old boys' network" in Israel as a newcomer? By asking around and by mining data on the web, you can come up with a list of leaders in your field. Try to make contact with persons like yourself who work for them. In addition, use your olim association, chat groups, on-line bulletin boards, professional memberships associations, Israeli friends and relatives to locate such persons. You will then want to initiate contact with them to see if they can supply you with off the record insider information about their employer's needs, standards, forecast for hiring, etc. Try to learn as much as you can about the hiring process and how one gets one's foot in the door without being a nuisance. Networking in Israel takes time.

Sometimes you may find that you are a perceived threat to the very persons you hoped to network with, so take care not to overwhelm them with questions and with the feeling that you want to take their job away from them.

Should you succeed in this endeavor, they will agree to pass your CV on to their employer, or they will let you know when a job opening occurs, or will give you advice and will identify potential employers who might value you as a worker. Do prepare yourself for such meeting by creating a list of non-threatening questions to ask in such  "information interviews".

Job Search Process
While this process is similar to that of the US, there are several differences:

  1. Being a smaller country, there are not as many job openings as abroad.
  2. Even very large companies here are smaller than their counterparts overseas.
  3. Regional differences are significant. Not all geographical areas of the country afford  work in one's field, depending on the local job market.
  4. Unemployment in Israel is relatively high. As of 8-06, unemployment skyrocketed in the North to over 15%. Prior to the war in Lebanon, the national average was c. 9%. Therefore, competition for jobs is very keen.
  5. The average time it takes to secure a position in Israel is c. 5 months. However, many positions are filled within a much shorter time frame than in the US (within a matter of weeks at the most). In part, this is due to shorter time frame view of planning in Israel which holds that  future needs are unknown, so one should not plan too far in advance. Get to know your industry and what is considered a reasonable length of time to search for work in it.
  6. Availability: You will not be seriously considered as a candidate unless you live in Israel and have an Israeli identity number or a work visa (which is very hard to obtain), or are known to the employer. You will need to live here or have a firm, decisive arrival date and prearranged housing reasonably near the place of work in order to be taken seriously as a job candidate.
  7. Contacts: In Israel, many employers prefer to hire an employee who is a known quantity, referred to them by someone who can attest to their personality and professional  competency. Getting a foot in the door or even a chance to be interviewed can often be a function of who you know. In this regard, newcomers are at a disadvantage and networking is the key.
  8. Not all employers work a 6 day workweek. Interviews are usually not conducted on Fridays, which is a shortened work day, if at all.
  9. Sending your CV by email or fax is no guarantee that it has been read. It may have been filed or not opened at all. To ensure that your resume gets read, follow up with a phone call where possible and try to get to talk to the person responsible for setting up interviews. You may even find yourself promoting yourself by phone, requesting that a mutual contact intervene in order to grant you an interview or calling at odd hours until you manage to reach the person you seek to convince. This strategy may not work every time but it is much more common in Israel than abroad.

The Interview Process
Israeli interviewers feel comfortable asking personal questions such as: Why did you move here? How many more children do you plan to have? What did you earn in your last job? Such personal questions are legal and considered appropriate, so that the employer knows what you are really like to work with. The assumption is that you will be putting in long hours together and therefore it is a good idea to get to know you as a way of seeing whether they want to work with you.  Though such invasive questions may put you off, be prepared to encounter them. Answer honestly since evasion doesn't go over well here.
Expect to be asked provocative questions such as: Why should I hire you? What are your top 3 pluses and minuses? Who do you know in this profession (or company) that can give me a recommendation about your talents? Interviews are an opportunity to sell yourself and a modest, understated approach is not what Israeli interviews typically seek. You may feel uncomfortable bragging about yourself in an interview here, but be advised that many of your competitors will be doing just that.

One company told me that they hire individuals who demonstrate a "spark in their eyes" while being interviewed. If you can demonstrate this only in your native tongue, ask to be interviewed in the language you are comfortable with.

Hiring Process
Many large employers often utilize evaluation services such as testing centers, outsourced psychologists or graphologists in making a hiring decision. Most employers do not produce a letter of hire, though required to by law, and will offer you a job verbally. Do try to get the terms of employment clarified in advance, even if it requires you writing them down prior to your start date. In high-tech, the final negotiations over terms of employment are usually conducted by fax or email. In many other hiring situations, there is no negotiation conducted at all. Since not all employers are aware of worker's rights (such as the obligation to pay minimum travel costs, overtime payment rights and so on), and others allegedly seem contend that they do not know the law in detail, it is advisable to read up on this on your own. Numerous Israeli web sites provide information in Hebrew about the hiring process.

Good luck in your search. It will require persistence, self-confidence and clarity of goals. When in doubt or if you feel stuck and unable to move forward, consult professionals who can help you proceed to your career goal. Without one, you may end up somewhere else.

Written by Career Consultant Judy Feierstein, CEO, Transitions and Resources, Jerusalem


For workshop fees, please contact our office at 08-9266102 or via our U.S. phone line in Israel: 516-216-4457 or info@maavarim.biz.

Maavarim Logo
 Mindfit55 Logo

"This was the most amazing opportunity at a ridiculously low cost. I accomplished so much in the 9 weeks that I opened a bank account, found an accountant, opened my doors and generated income!" Small Business Course Participant