Caroline Hauser Slapak
Try | Make Mistakes | Learn | Succeed

Challenges I faced and some paths I took that led to work in an Israeli firm

This post is a continuation of my previous blog post, where I transformed Virginia’s podcast with me, as a guest podcaster (listen to it here), into short blog posts. If you didn’t read the intro post, read here.

My main goal isn’t only to transcribe the whole podcast, but to add links that my readers can click on later and elaborate a bit more on some subjects I believe are important.

Some of the questions Virginia asked me and which I’ll write about in the next posts:

  1. Overview of my career history and why I chose to work for an Israeli company even though my Hebrew wasn’t yet perfect
  2. Steps that I took to land this job that were different from the first time
  3. Why I started to write a blog and how did I decide the subject of it
  4. How blogging opened new doors for me
  5. How I ended up blogging for “The Times of Israel”
  6. The biggest challenge during this process for me and how I overcame it
  7. What surprised me the most during this journey
  8. What is next on the horizon for me

In this post, I’ll give an overview of my career history and why I chose to work for an Israeli company even though my Hebrew wasn’t yet perfect.

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Summarizing the main topics you’ll read next:

  1. Social need should drive you to learn the language the country speaks. Learning the local language gives you great exposure to the culture, history, politic, economy etc. of the country you are living in. That knowledge is a big plus for your integration. Embrace it!
  2. When moving abroad to an unknown country, try to do micro changes. There are so many other things you have to learn. So, stick with what you know, it’s a bit more comfortable;
  3. Believe in yourself! Only practice makes perfect. This sentence is also connected with the practice and experience of looking for a job in a foreign country. I shared some paths I followed with you – these weren’t ALL my paths. It’s a learning curve;
  4. Applying for jobs online doesn’t work without networking. Your CV will probably get sucked in by the “Resumé Black Hole” without even a thank-you note in return. Check Virginia’s tips on how to do a successful career change;
  5. Researching is the most important tool to look for a job. Read local news, get to know the buzz. Here are some links I use for my own research about the Israeli market – go to the Media in English Websites tab;
  6. Don’t be afraid of asking for help. People are too busy taking care of their own lives.  You won’t get what you need unless you ask for it.

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Virginia:

Can you share with us a quick overview of your career history, what made you decide to go in the direction you did: to work for an Israeli company versus an international company, where you didn’t have to work on your language skills. Tell me a little about that.

Caroline:

As you mentioned before, my background was in business consulting firms, delivering projects that would go from Operational (mapping processes and improving efficiency of companies) to Strategic (roadmap to be top 10 in the medal table during Rio 2016 Olympics).

When I recently arrived in Israel, I landed my first role as a project manager and a business analyst for a global company where my multilingual and multicultural skills were prominent. Unfortunately, the position was eliminated within two years as a result of an acquisition.

At the beginning of my second job search in Israel, I started to look for positions in international companies. As I mentioned in several previous posts, I started to increase my network in Israel, since I didn’t have one.

People that I talked to and asked for advice, continually said to me: “you have an advantage. Use your language skills in Portuguese, Spanish and English and don’t fight for the same position as an Israeli. Fight for something that you have an advantage in”.

So, I tried this path. Some of the things I did trying to succeed at it:

1. Volunteered at the Israel Brazil Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Silvia Brand, trying to get some insights, new proposals or new ventures. She invited me to several events, I got to know a lot of people interested in making business with Brazil. In return, I helped her in organizing the CRM and created a new newsletter template. One good turn deserves another.

2. Looked for companies in Israel that already have some relationships with Brazil. As I wrote many times, researching is the best tool to look for a job. I got a list from Start-up Nation Central finder of companies that carry out business with Brazil. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it was a start. I checked for companies that I knew I could aggregate value based on my background, looked for open positions at their websites and contacted relevant people. See the step by step I wrote in a previous post.

This is how Start-up Nation Central’s report looks like. To see the full report, click here.

3. Created job boards alerts for relevant keywords, as most job seekers do (in LinkedIn job search tool, Glassdoor, Israemploy and many others – check a list I created and shared on Google Sheets, go to the Job Search Websites tab). Whenever I identified a match, I applied to open positions online at international companies. But we already know that the chances of applying online and getting a job are like winning the lottery.

On the other hand, my husband’s family encouraged me to look for work in an Israeli company. They always encouraged me to speak with them only in Hebrew.

After trying the ways as described above, I decided to change my direction. I thought: “I live in Israel, people speak Hebrew here. To advance my career it is important also to speak Hebrew”. This decision had 2 main goals:

  1. Keep my mind busy. While “in between jobs”, I was studying and learning the language that is spoken here. Plus, I was investing in myself;
  2. Be able to speak with my husband’s family and friends in Hebrew.

With time, I advanced with the practice in a “safe environment” (at home and at school). And by practicing, I got the confidence I needed to have a full interview in Hebrew.

This brings me to the reason why I decided to return to business consulting. This is me doing micro changes. I can do business consulting in any language. This is what I know how to do, it’s what I know best.

The funny thing is, I have difficulties doing any calculation in Hebrew. I need to understand the number, calculate it mentally and give the answer in Hebrew. Even to calculate 10% is difficult, because I’m not speaking my own language. I still need lots of practice, after all, it’s only been 4 years since I moved here. Not to mention all the new business words I had to learn.

Here are some tips on how I hacked the language barriers:

  1. Wrote every new word I learned (I used Anki Flashcards app) and trained it during my free time (commuting, for example)
  2. Didn’t close myself inside my own Brazilian community. Mainly because my husband is Israeli and he has family and friends that don’t speak English (or don’t want to). But it’s not difficult to get to know local people and become friends
  3. Watched local series on TV
  4. If I need to make a calculation, I would ask the person to talk a bit slower and I try to write down the numbers.

When I don’t understand, I always try to smile, be nice and ask for help. When moving abroad to an unknown country, you need to develop the art of asking for help.

Virginia:

Some things that interested me about what you shared with us:

  • Your decision to stick with consulting because you knew. There were so many other things you had to learn: new language, new country. So sticking with something that you knew, it was a bit more comfortable. I always recommend rather than make change in everything, start with micro changes. And this is exactly what you did;
  • Being more fluent in a foreign language, allows you to speak with friends – as you said, with your husband’s family and friends. This is the first step to networking.

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Stay tuned! The next post I’ll share the steps I took to land my current job that were different from the first time.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. – Eleanor Roosevelt

About the Author
Caroline made Aliyah from Brazil in 2015. She has a BA in Business and MBA in Finance. Most of her experience in Brazil was working for business consulting firms (locals and globals). After she made Aliyah, she was "lucky" to find her first job very quickly. The second time she was looking for a job, she had encountered some differences in the hiring process. In an attempt to expand her network, she was constantly meeting new people and exchanging experiences. From these discussions, she understood that the differences are not only specific to the Brazilian job market, but they are very peculiar to Israel. As everybody else, she had to make mistakes and learn with her own failures; some important information she had to dig deep to find them. As a business consultant, she have learned a lot about organization & methods and this is how she's able to summarize them as "lessons learned". In this blog, she'll share her knowledge and practical tools to help all the other job seekers. "Happy is that one who transfers what he knows and learns what he teaches." - Cora Coralina (Brazilian writer)
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