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Aliyah career advice: ‘The hypocrite’s guide’

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In recent months, I have been very active in my support of Israel on Times of Israel blog, LinkedIn and other mediums and over the last few weeks I have noticed how many requests for discussions about potential career opportunities in Israel I am getting from people interested in Aliyah. The people I have spoken to come across the board but are often highly skilled in banks, consulting firms, law firms, real estate and tech and come from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, France and Brazil.

I suppose it is not a surprise to see given the events since 7th October but it has made me think carefully what my advice to people is.

In context I have to admit I made Aliyah at a very different time and enjoyed a relatively  smooth experience – thank G-d – in so many respects. I came with relevant skills (except for language which arguably many would say hasn’t changed and why I have called this “a hypocrite’s guide”) and a job lined up with an awesome team here in Israel, my kids were young (our twins were four) and the British Pound was at the 8 NIS level…it was a different world 17 years on. I will add that my starting salary was a !!very significant!! differential from my previous one so whilst I have no complaints it came with its sacrifices!!

It also came with a serious commitment that our kids would grow up here. Having had a son in an elite unit fighting first on 7th October in Beeri and other parts of the Gaza Envelope and having spent weeks in Gaza, there is no more terrifying and yet pride generating feeling than having your kids serve their nation in such a way. Aliyah is a privilege but also comes with consequences which you have to be aware of.

My advice below is not based on any specific expertise or training and is meant to promote discussion – people should always seek advice from professionals – but having worked in the eco-system for 17 years I have developed some thoughts which I felt it important to share. Of course these are my opinions only.

Should you make Aliyah?

This is something I can’t and won’t answer. It is something that needs to be thought through by every family taking into account the current situation in your home country, the ages of your kids, your family situation, your finances and 100 other factors. As a religious and Zionist person ,I of course believe it is the best place on earth and highly recommend it in general, but I recognize that for each and every family it is a unique set of circumstances and there are plenty of fulfilling ways to live as a Jew abroad. In short, I do not regret for a nano-second the decision to come here but this has to be your call. I have no magic potion on this topic.

 How do I think about my career options in Israel? Eight things to consider…

It is hard and at times dangerous to generalize but I am a consultant at heart and my job is advising companies through change so I like to put things into a framework. Here is my list of factors to consider and again it is for discussion and debate:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Think about mainstream, creative and hybrid options
  3. Steadily build your network
  4. Adapt your style to the local norms
  5. Invest in Hebrew at whatever level you are at
  6. Orient and build skills whilst abroad to be more relevant
  7. Self worth but not arrogance
  8. No magic bullet most of the time

1. Do your homework

There is so much knowledge available today out there depending on your career path – whether it is Nefesh B Nefesh, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and so much of it is in English. You really can learn a lot about the Israeli ecosystem and how you may fit in it from abroad and I encourage you to do so. It is also changing all the time as technology moves and as the market matures so stay current.

For some lucky people, there is a ready made market for your skills, for some it needs some retaining and for others who may have done work a little more obscure it may require some reskilling or more creative thinking about the options open to you.

Before you get lost in the weeds, refer to point four on networking and don’t turn it into a PhD but knowing the lay of the land is key and demonstrates at a basic level a degree of seriousness when you speak to people.

One other aspect you can educate yourself on is the basics of the economic geography and employment system. Choosing where to live is important but it may need to take into account your potential career. If the jobs in your sector are all in the Tel-Aviv area maybe considering living in the Galilee region is not the best idea unless of course your job is remote. The same is true regarding the basics of how the employment system works in Israel (what is provided in terms of pensions, what the sort of salary ranges are etc).

2. Think about mainstream, creative and hybrid options

Depending on your career situation, there are probably two columns to think about, as well as the hybrid topic I also refer to below:

  1. Mainstream options – opportunities that your CV and resume fits and that you would probably consider applying for in your native country. This should – depending on your preferences and specifics – be the highest chance list but probably with a small number of available options.
  2. Creative options – this is the list of things that are not clear and obvious but which there is a compelling logic – it could be for example insurtech if you have experience in aspects of the insurance world, customer success for those who want to leverage their native English and sales experience, consulting for those who have relevant industry or domain expertise. In my experience this list shouldn’t be ignored and is worth thinking through.

I have learned that for many people Aliyah has proven a unique time to get themselves out of a career rut and re-pivot – this could be a chance for people who are already making so much change.

The other thing to consider is the hybrid/remote working option. It is potentially a very different life with the focus being more on maintaining your standards of living versus integrating into the ecosystem but it is a valid option for many (especially if you have a much needed niche skill and/or find Hebrew difficult to master) and part of the equation to consider. This has become a far more possible option post-Covid due to the presence of the technology to support it but there are downsides which led me for example to focus on a job in the ecosystem.

3. Steadily build your network

Network is important everywhere but in Israel it is really important, again depending on the specific sector. It is something everyone struggles with but reaching out to people to gradually build a network and to interact with people is key.

For many people it is important to come and do a pilot visit to meet people and to get the lay of the land. It is worth considering but don’t start applying for jobs 18 months before coming as it will only lead to misaligned expectations.

Most Israelis I work with are happy to spend time speaking to potential Olim as long as it is reasonable and managed in an appropriate way, but that is true with all relationships.

I would also recommend that you don’t cast your net so broad that you lose focus – try to connect to people who are genuinely able to help and guide you and build trusting relationships with them. It may be better than sending out tens/hundreds of linkedin requests and expecting a broad group to work their magic for you.

4. Adapt your style to the local norms

Israel is a mature and developed job market with some of the most creative and brilliant people on the planet so it is not completely alien but if you are coming from the US, UK, Canada etc you will see some major differences. A couple of examples you may not have considered from a personal perspective.

  • Tachlis – it is a word you need to learn – Israelis are much more action and “get to the point” focused – this is true in the job application space as well. As a generalization they want to see CVs which spell out in clear non-management speak the relevant experience which shows you are qualified for the position e.g. In applying for a CFO position which required SEC experience they want to hear less about your “brilliant communication and presentation skills and broader sensitivity to xyz” and more about how you have done two VP Finance roles with US listed entities.
  • More direct – by DNA Israelis are more direct than English speaking natives (not necessarily much more than New Yorkers) so be prepared to be asked very direct questions and respond very directly.

I am not going to lecture on cultural differences. My point is that you need to make it easy for potential employees by playing back to them your experience in a format and style that will engage them – you should fit into their way of thinking and not expect them to change for you.

5. Invest in Hebrew at whatever level you are at

I am in danger of sounding like the biggest hypocrite in the world but it is because I didn’t focus on this that I consider it so important.

Unless you go the hybrid route – which for many is valid, each job in Israel requires a differing level of Hebrew from basic in some tech jobs to mother tongue. In many places the key skill is “understanding” so that you can follow a conversation in Hebrew but you can speak in English. In the overwhelming majority of workplaces in Israel, Hebrew plays a key role and is a crucial skill not just for work but to fit into society. Not everyone agrees with me on this but that is ok.

My personal view having spoken to literally hundreds of Olim and having recruited significant numbers is, unless you are truly 100% fluent/native, there is room for everyone to improve on Hebrew and my personal advice is that this is the most valuable task/hobby you can take on abroad to prepare for Aliyah. Even if it just gets you one class at Ulpan higher it hugely accelerates your time to be fluent. So find the way to spend time on language, whether a course, listening to the radio, reading the paper – find the method that fits your level and style.

6. Orient and build skills whilst abroad to be more relevant

Unless you are coming immediately, there will be some time where you will continue to work in your current country. Depending on the length, there are always things you can consider doing (on top of my point about Hebrew) to make your CV stronger in Israel.

An example is if you work in professional services you may want to try to pivot to an industry segment or a specialism (e.g. US Financial Reporting, Fintech, IP law etc) which has relevance in Israel.

If your journey is a longer term one, you may want to think of the right qualifications to get.

The point is to use your time to adjust in situ if possible – on top of course of all the other things you have to do – to make yourself more relevant.

7. Self worth but not arrogance

In general, Olim are respected for the skills they have brought and bring to the country. You should be confident that Israel is a growing developed economy (war aside) with a place for your skills – it will take a little time to make it work and fit and doesn’t happen for everyone first time (and some do struggle).

Arrogance however doesn’t work in my experience – just because you have gone worked or studied at xyz doesn’t entitle you to a place at the top of the pecking order – so be humble where possible.

8. No magic bullet most of the time

There is for most people, no magic answer. Moving countries is not easy and there is usually not a plug and play answer so you will need to know it may take time but the vast majority of people make a successful transition – you may need to be a little flexible, patient and set realistic expectations regarding pay levels.

Alongside this aspect of Aliyah you will have many other topics to consider but this is one aspect people grapple with and are often very successful in navigating.

I don’t have even a fraction of the answers, but with these ideas you may be a little better placed to think about how to approach the Aliyah question.

These are just my thoughts and I am happy for them to promote discussion or debate.

It has been an amazing journey for me and I wish you all the best of success

About the Author
I live in Yad Binyamin having made Aliyah 17 years ago from London. I have an amazing wife and kids including a son in Special Forces and two daughters, one soon to start uni and one in high school. A partner of a global consulting firm and a Parkinson's patient and advocate.
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