I always planned to put my career on hold for a few months after making aliyah, as I knew my focus would have to be on helping my family adjust to their new lives.
Needless to say, matters have not exactly gone as planned. Through three rounds of national lockdown and two bouts of home quarantine, I have found myself working as my daughter’s (unlicensed) physical and speech therapist and my son’s kita alef teacher for Hebrew, math, science, and traffic safety (yes, that’s a class in Israel), in addition to being a full-time ulpan student and a Jewish Press columnist.
But, baruch Hashem, we’ve settled into our new lives and I have finally turned my attention to the challenge of finding a job here in Israel. Unfortunately for me, Israel is known to have the greatest number of lawyers per capita in the world. Add to that that Israel is experiencing high rates of unemployment due to the novel coronavirus, and the challenge is daunting, indeed.
Thankfully, years of planning for aliyah prepared me for this task. As an experienced attorney, I am exempt from sitting for the Israeli Bar and will only have to take some subject-specific legal tests, called the Dinai Yisrael, and complete an internship in order to become a licensed Israeli attorney.
Tackling these tasks is certainly an end-goal of mine, but I have actually found that many of the available positions here in Israel are for internationally-licensed attorneys. As these positions best leverage my experience (and don’t involve passing any additional exams), they are currently the focus of my job search.
Like almost anything else aliyah-related, I began with the Nefesh B’Nefesh website. It has a wonderful employment section, which provides information on the array of professional positions available in Israel – everything from accountants to x-ray technicians. Each profession has its own page that features basic salary information, licensing and education requirements, as well as contacts of olim who work in the fields.
The website also provides information about the job search and interview process in Israel, which in certain respects is very different than what I experienced in America. For example, cover letters are generally not used here, so it’s especially important that you craft your resume to explicitly highlight your relevant work experience for a particular job.
Addresses are also not included on resumes, as most Israeli companies assume people won’t commute more than 30 minutes to work and may disregard your candidacy if they see that you live too far away. (Religious and political affiliations can also sometimes be discerned from where one lives and wrongfully affect employment possibilities.)
Interviews in Israel are run more casually, and an interviewer may ask some pretty personal questions. Questions about whether you’re married and have kids (or even plan on having kids) are not unheard of. Interviewers may also ask about your salary expectations rather than sharing what the salary for the position will be.
Best of all, Nefesh B’Nefesh has a job board (www.nbn.org.il/jobboard), which features job postings for positions in Israel, or postings by companies abroad that are willing to hire people in Israel. I have already thankfully had a few interviews arise from jobs posted on this board.
Interestingly, the other job board I commonly visit is the same one many use in New York: LinkedIn. One can easily search there for jobs located in Israel and find an extensive list of job postings in English. The added benefit of these postings is that LinkedIn shows you connections who work at these companies.
Which leads me to the most important part of looking for jobs here in Israel – “protexia” (personal connections). Sometimes it’s not only what you know, but whom you know, that can give you the “in” for a position.
While a candidate may look impressive on paper, nothing compares to a personal recommendation from someone already working for the company. Spending time finding connections on LinkedIn (or even playing good old-fashioned Jewish geography with friends) can prove to be the extra needed to help break into Israel’s competitive job market.
Being back in the job market for the first time in almost 10 years has been a bit unsettling. I have had to relearn how to network and how to market myself. But it’s also been a wonderful chance to reevaluate my own career goals and explore new professional possibilities.
I am hopeful that b’ezrat Hashem, someday soon I will have the opportunity to put my legal education to work. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy juggling my newly-adopted professions. While they may not pay, having so much time to spend “working” with my family is enough compensation for me.