How Helena Baker hacked her Aliyah story
Since starting this blog, I shared many of my thoughts about careers in the new world of work, why an entrepreneurial approach is key to survive and thrive, and how thinking like a business unit is the best way I know to operate in today’s work and business environment.
Working with many international talents in Israel, and especially with “Olim” (those who made “Aliyah” – new immigrants) and participants of programs such as Masa Israel Journey, Onward Israel and others, I directed many of my tips for this community – from how to better look for a job to leverage your unique added value, and more.
But, nothing beats hearing it from others. This time, I am happy to have Helena Baker, web content writer and founder of English Speaking Networking (ESN) who scaled from her own Aliyah experience to help others succeed with theirs.
Helena, tell us a little bit about your story?
Originally from Manchester, I moved to London and graduated from University with a degree in French and History. A rather vague degree, I first worked for a charity before realizing my true passion lies in writing. After a short stint at an e-commerce as an in-house copywriter, for the past five years I was a freelance copywriter. I made Aliyah to Israel in 2019, and hoped to keep my English customers and gain more Israeli ones through networking and LinkedIn. In October 2019 I launched ESN – a group that aims to help English speaking business owners and professionals who are looking to grow their business and build their network. This offers also a way to help both Olim and Israelis who are looking to enter the Olim market. We already have two groups in Tel Aviv and Ramat Beit Shemesh, with a third group opening in Jerusalem in April.
What was your original motivation to make Aliyah to Israel?
Having lived in London for six years I really felt I wanted to try something new. I was, essentially, ready for a fresh start as well as a new challenge. Of course, naturally, as any good British Jew I always felt myself connected to Israel in an inexplicable, deep-rooted way and didn’t relish being a tourist in the Jewish homeland.
What was the hardest moment in your professional journey in Israel, so far?
Given the nature of my work as a freelance copywriter, I felt it would be a fairly easy move professionally. But honestly, my entire professional journey has been extremely difficult in Israel. The transition was far from easy with Israeli clients having far different expectations, working cultures and budgets. The hardest part for me was the shock of just how different Israeli clients were, and the eventual realization that I had been spending months pursuing a line of sales which really wasn’t right for me. This was also exacerbated by the incredibly high tax bill I received, it took me a long time to accept that working in Israel is immensely different. Alongside that, I was really struggling with the lack of English speaking networking groups, which was the main way I built my sales pipeline in England. I ended up attending many tech marketing events which aren’t my audience, and honestly, were incredibly awkward. There just weren’t many networking groups like the ones that I relied on so much in England.
What helped you the most to overcome this challenging moment?
So the first one was simply not to pursue Israeli clients and rather focus on my base in England. Then, I simply made my own English speaking networking group, and that’s how ESN was founded.
But not every Oleh will start a community organization around his or her own cause. What is your general advice for any talented young professionals who consider Aliyah, or are already here?
In Israel, you can get a cup of coffee with pretty much anyone – so reach out to influencers in your industry or those companies you really want to work with. Also, find others who were where you are now a few years ago – and perhaps reach out to them as well. This is the way real connections are made in this country so set yourself a target of three or four coffees a week with relevant people in your industry.
So, “don’t look for a job, biz-dev?”
Exactly. In my opinion, this is a far more useful way to spend your time than sending CVs into the “black void”.
What is your advice for any young professionals out there, who may struggle advancing their career path?
For me, the Aliyah and my move to Israel was quite probably the biggest professional and personal move in my life so far. However, I am not alone and many young professionals may plan on making significant changes in their lives whether that be a relocation or a career change. I think that whatever you decide, it’s important to remember that however much you plan, most of what will happen is down to a heady mix of luck and graft. So don’t get disheartened if it’s not how you imagined it, allow yourself to be flexible and success will come – even if it looks utterly different from the way you thought it would be.
So, understand that the focus is getting to the “Promised Land”, but it’s not the “Garden of Eden?”