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New Immigrants' Employment Issues

 

In my job at Israemploy, I am in touch with many new immigrants and potential immigrants to Israel. While certainly each individual has questions/concerns/problems that are specific to their unique situation, there are issues that are common to many people relocating to a new country. These do not impact new immigrants only, but most new immigrants do consider some of these questions:

Can I get a job before moving to Israel?

Are there realistic opportunities to continue to work at my current company (before immigration), either by telecommuting or making regular trips?
My level of Hebrew is poor, will this be a problem?
What types of jobs are suitable for English speakers?
I want to change careers, should I do so immediately upon making aliyah?
I know the value of networking, but I don’t know anyone (in my profession) in Israel
What are the differences between an US resume and an Israeli CV?
What should I be prepared for in Israeli interviews?
What are cultural differences between Israel and North America/Europe?
I want to open a company upon arrival in Israel, how should I go about it?
Can I get a job before moving to Israel?

It is the dream of most potential immigrants to have a job waiting for them before arrival in Israel. However, in most cases Israeli companies will not even begin the recruitment process with a candidate before they are living in the country. From the employer’s perspective, there is plenty of logic in such a decision: why begin a discussion with someone from long distance that may or may not actually relocate when there are usually plenty of other qualified candidates already living in Israel. From my viewpoint, the most important thing to convey here to potential new immigrants is that associating your decision to make aliyah upon having a job waiting for you is an almost sure recipe for indefinite postponement. Unfortunately, except in very rare cases, people make aliyah without a job.

Are there realistic opportunities to continue to work at my current company (before immigration), either by telecommuting or making regular trips?

More and more people are able to keep some or all of their pre-aliyah incomes by continuing at the same company after relocating. There are two typical ways this is done:

1. Telecommuting, simply from across the ocean rather than the neighborhood. If you think about the job that you are doing before aliyah, it may be that a good portion of the tasks you perform can be carried out from the comfort of a telephone/PC/internet equipped home office, with occasional trips to meet with the rest of the staff and/or customers. Unfortunately, I have found that there seems to be a large gap between the number of people that are comfortable with telecommuting from Israel, and the number of companies that are progressive enough to implement such an arrangement. Not all companies/managers are open to such a working arrangement, but if you do have the ability to convince your pre-aliyah employer that it is in their interest to keep you on, this can turn into the perfect win-win situation.

2. Long Distance Commuting – If you have a high enough salary that can justify paying regular travel costs, then you can join the growing club of Europeans and North Americans that meet at Ben Gurion airport on Saturday nights or Sundays for their weekly/bi-weekly/monthly flights to work outside of Israel. I don’t want to come across as a proverbial Jewish mother here, but I do think it is important to raise the non-financial consideration in this arrangement, and that is the cost on the family. Long term regular separation of one spouse (usually the husband) from the family for an extended period of time is difficult in the best of circumstances and combined with aliyah can make it even harder.

My level of Hebrew is poor, will this be a problem?

Some people move to Israel with a fluent level of spoken Hebrew. Others have a solid basis, either from school/yeshiva and/or hearing Hebrew, and are able to get to the conversational level in a relatively short period of time. Then there are the rest of us, with a Hebrew school level of Hebrew or less, recognizing the letters but not having much vocabulary/grammar, essentially starting from the beginning. So, the good news is that anyone reading this article is presumably fluent in English, which is a valued asset in the Israeli employment market. The average salary in Israel for someone that has a mother-tongue level of English is higher than the overall average salary. However, English is best when used as a supplement for Hebrew as opposed to a substitute. There is a small niche of jobs for people that speak English (or some other foreign language) only, and while this can be a short-term solution until your Hebrew becomes conversational, it is not the ideal long-term situation, as such a person is severely limited in terms of types of jobs available and associated salary. Putting a focus on getting your Hebrew to at least a conversational spoken level is for many immigrants the best thing they can do to increase their employment horizon.

What types of jobs are suitable for English speakers?

So, you’ve read the blurb above, and you still want to know what jobs are suitable in Israel for people that are not yet conversational in Hebrew.

For bilingual people, there is no shortage of positions that can be suitable. Here are some examples:

· Administrative
· International Sales/Marketing/Business Development
· Technical/Marketing Writing
· English Teachers
· Accountants
· Lawyers
· Purchasing
· Translator

Essentially any job that requires interactions with organizations outside of Israel, either customers, suppliers, partners… will require someone that speaks a high level of a foreign language, usually English, although to a lesser extent also Spanish, French, Russian and other languages. Most of these positions also require a conversational level of Hebrew, so that the employees can interact with the rest of the staff and participate in meetings.

For non-Hebrew speakers, the list gets much smaller and specialized for those jobs where you can use a foreign language, including:

· Customer Service/Support
· English Teacher – for people that are not beginners
· English language writers – not so much the technical/marketing writers that have to integrate in companies, but content writers/editors for websites

Another type of job that can be done by people that are not conversational in Hebrew is one that doesn’t have a particularly high language skills requirement for any language. Examples of such positions are gardeners, cooks, working with babies…

I want to change careers, should I do so immediately upon making aliyah?

Immigrating introduces such a large number of life changes, so a good initial objective can simply be to keep things as simple as possible. A job candidate is always more attractive to a potential employer if they can show relevant work experience/education. So, you might decide to postpone making that career change until you have put some of the more major aliyah issues behind you, and gained some Israeli work experience.

I know the value of networking, but I don’t know anyone (in my profession) in Israel

See the networking article: http://jobsearchinisrael.blogspot.com/2009/11/employment-networking-getting-to-other.html.

What are the differences between an US resume and an Israeli CV?

Two main differences:

· an Israeli CV is very short: one page is good, two pages is maximum (except in the case of academic CVs, which generally run longer)
· Israeli CVs are very focused on the targeted job, as opposed to often more general US style resumes.

For more details about Israeli CVs, see: http://jobsearchinisrael.blogspot.com/2009/10/cvresume-chronological-or-skills-based.html.

What should I be prepared for in Israeli interviews?

At the high level, the interviews should be quite similar, as the employer objective is consistent: to try to identify which candidate is the best to fill the open position. However, although the goals may be identical, Israeli interviewers sometimes have a different way of trying to achieve this result than what you are used to in your pre-Israel working career. In general, questions in Israel may be more “sensitive” than interviews in other countries, including:

· Are you married?
· Do you have children &/or will you have more children?
· How old are you?
· Are you religions?

When unexpected questions are thrown at you, take a deep breath, try not to show shock in your facial expression, and then answer calmly.

One other question relates to language, generally for people that are less than comfortable in Hebrew. Interviews in Israel are conducted in Hebrew, unless the environment of the job doesn’t require Hebrew at all. If you get invited to an interview, obviously the level of your Hebrew will be one potential point of discussion. However, you always have the right to ask the interviewer if it is okay to have the interview in English. There are pluses and minuses to such an approach, so weigh this decision carefully.

What are cultural differences between Israel and North America/Europe?

A good article written on this subject: http://www.israemploy.net/Work_Culture.

I want to open a company upon arrival in Israel, how should I go about it?

The two main profiles of people that speak to me about this option are those that ran businesses before they had aliyah, and those that are in an “advanced” age category where they face a difficult time entering the workforce. You can find horror stories of immigrants that invested their life savings in a business shortly after making aliyah, and for a variety of reasons lost large sums of money. Even experienced business people will find that the culture of doing business in Israel is different then what they are used to, so my words of caution are to make such a decision very carefully, and do what you can to learn about running a business in Israel before making the financial investment.

Contributed by Ron Machol - Dec 2009

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