We made Aliyah almost four years ago fulfilling a lifelong dream. The experience can be divided into two parts. The first and maybe the most important was making sure that our four children’s absorption (k’lita) went as smoothly as possible. This was easier said than done, as we made aliyah when the ages of our oldest children were not ideal, and in fact, we were discouraged to make Aliyah with them. Ironically this has been the “easiest” part of the Aliyah experience. That’s not to say there haven’t been ups and downs and all has been rosy, but all four children are fully acclimated, consider themselves to be proud Israelis, and look forward to building their lives here with joy.
The second part of our Aliyah experience was supposed to have been the “easy” part, but in fact has become the most challenging aspect of the entire process – employment. Let me explain; we hit the jackpot when we made Aliyah. Both my wife and I came with jobs in hand, in Israel – this is virtually unheard of. In fact, the day after we landed I was in the office working, much to the surprise of my co-workers. Unfortunately, that employment did not last. I admit much of the issue was cultural in addition to the fact that I was coming from a relatively senior position in the States to one at a lower level where I had to prove myself all over again. I definitely underestimated the impact of this part of the equation. In the end, I left the position and quickly found employment with a start-up. While risky, I was doing something I loved and had a great experience. Did I mention risky? Well, when financing runs out layoffs happen and I was one of the casualties. So for the first time since college I found myself without work.
Like many, I assumed that this would be short lived. I had spent years building up my professional experiences and network both in Israel and in the States and felt that it would be only a short time until my skills were in demand. How wrong I was. Now a year and half later I still find myself without work. I have sent out hundreds of CV’s, gone to employment and professional networking events, networked through family and friends – who by the way have been absolutely great – and nothing. I‘ve had my CV reviewed by professionals, met with employment advisors on how to interview, fine-tuned my elevator pitch, and still nothing. And while I have done some consulting, as of yet there has been nothing consistent.
The experiences and people I have encountered over this time have provided me with some valuable lessons. And please take note; while I am sharing my own subjective experiences, one should do the due diligence in their specific job category.
- Over 40 – As hard as employment is to find in the States, here it is significantly worse. I think it’s a cultural thing. Based upon my own experiences, I think that in the States they value experience a bit more and view age as an indicator that someone is coming with a maturity and a set of skills that can’t be found in some twenty something-er. As an employee in the Israel Tax Authority said to me when I jokingly asked if he had a job for me he answered “you’re over 40, forget it”. In fact I have had one person who I interviewed with say that he liked my experience but that I was too old. Many of the senior jobs say they want 2+ or 3+ years of experience…really? I have seen job descriptions that would require about ten years’ experience minimum to acquire those skills and yet they are asking for someone out of college. It certainly has been my experience to hear the three words of death “you are overqualified.”
- Call Backs/Responses – One of the things that has frustrated me the most is the lack of professionalism that many companies show to the people who are searching. It’s interesting, if you’ve read Start-Up Nation, you read about all the heated meetings, how everything is left on the table, and how candid Israelis are in this environment (it’s true, and was definitely part of the reason my first job didn’t work out – I am a bit more seasoned and now get it, but at the time it was a culture shock). Ironically, when it comes to the interview process it is just the opposite. I think Israeli employers try to avoid uncomfortable or potentially confrontational situations. I have had scheduled phone interviews and screenings, and the people have not shown up for the call. When I have followed up to reschedule, no one was home. In fact the worst I’ve had is to be called back for four interviews with a company, then briefed to present to management, written the presentation, and then tried numerous times to schedule the meeting to present without ever receiving a reply! One last takeaway, if during the interview the interviewer ever uses the words “karma” or “bashert” it is likely that you will not get the job, that’s happened to me twice.
- Job Banks and Head Hunters – I’ve found these to be a mixed bag. In regards to electronic job postings (whether across LinkedIn or other companies), I think I have received one follow up and no interviews. I was paying a monthly fee for one, and then realized that it was a waste of money. In some cases I was able to match up my CV with every single job requirement and yet nothing. I wish I could explain that. I still can’t figure out how these work, and in fact I have never met anyone who has gotten a job through one of these electronic postings. In regards to head hunters, a number have been fine, even good as I have felt they have had my best interests in mind. But with others, I’ve had to wonder who they’re in business for, how they stay in business, or if there is an ulterior motive. I had one case where the head hunter wouldn’t pass my CV along for a particular position, even though my skills indicated that I was qualified, and tried to guide me towards a lower paying position at that same company while nothing in my CV indicated I was qualified for that role.
Making Aliyah is not easy under any circumstances and being without work has been a humbling experience, but Israel can humble even the best. That said, in hindsight would I do some things differently? Sure. Have I made some mistakes? You bet. Will I give up on this beautiful country of ours? Never. (In fact I have had two high paying job offers from companies in the States which I have turned down since the roles demanded me to move back). This is our homeland and we have made a life for our children here. What’s next? I’m not sure. For 26 years I have focused my energies on one profession, so it’s only natural to continue pounding the pavement in my particular line of work. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to explore other career paths (although I haven’t found what I would want to do yet).
Just to be clear, whether the challenges I have faced may be related to my specific profession, or even me, (although after speaking to several people I think it’s more widespread), the takeaway is clear, anyone looking to make Aliyah who is near or over forty should do the leg work in their specific profession and go in with realistic expectations and eyes wide open before taking the plunge.