How Natalia Bajak Hacked Her Internship

Photo: Natalia Bajak and Assaf Luxembourg

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 and leverage your unique added value , through what is the secret opportunity of your internship and what is the most important thing to do when taking an internship, to how your internship is likely to behave, and many more…

But, nothing beats hearing it from others. This time, I am happy to have Natalia Bajak, who I was honored to mentor when she participated in a post-college 4-month long Masa program. 

Natalia, tell us a little bit about your story?

My name is Natalia, from Poland, I do online performance for a company called Talent Alpha. We developed a platform that helps enterprise clients access a larger talent pool and the best IT talent in Central and Eastern Europe. I studied economics in London and traveled, volunteered and lived in places such as New York, Mexico, Africa, and more. So yes, I love traveling. I first came to Israel in 2018 as a researcher in Tel Aviv University. I had an amazing time, and kind of fell in love with Israel. When my work in Israel was over, my Professor told me about Masa Israel Journey, as a way to come back and spend more time here, while still advancing my career. And so, in February 2019 I came back, this time with Destination Israel’s Masa program. I did business development for an Israeli start-up, and in June I came back to Poland, and joined Talent Alpha in July. 

What was your original motivation to sign up an internship program in Israel?

The experience I had at Tel Aviv University. I have met a lot of people that become my best friends. As someone who’s not Jewish, I learned a lot about Jewish culture, tradition and heritage. After that time, one of the professors at the university told me: “Natalia, I see you love Israel so much and Israel loves you. Let’s think about coming back here!” That’s how I heard about Masa.. I had super high motivation to come back, alongside finding the best solution for my career development. 

What was the hardest moment in your journey, with regards to your connection to Israel?

Israel is completely different than the rest of the world. As someone from Poland who lived in the US, Mexico and the UK – this land is much more demanding and challenging. But – also very friendly and informal. People I have met in Israel treat me like a family member and I realized that I feel here at home. As you know, life is unpredictable, and eventually, after my Masa experience, although I originally wanted to stay and was willing to sacrifice for that – I decided to move back to Poland. It was very difficult for me to say goodbye to people that I love and to the country that put such a huge impact on my life. 

What helped you the most to overcome this challenging moment?

I would even say that close to the end of my Masa program – I actually had a personal crisis. I thought that all of my plans were ruined and felt like destroying something beautiful. Eventually, I realized that with all my love for Israel, “not staying there right now” is not the end of the world, and my entire future is ahead of me. Not only that, maybe “forcing” Israel on my life and career path now, even if it does not come naturally, and just because “I want it now” – is not the right thing for me. Thanks to good mentoring I received, I focused into my long terms goals, and understood that I will have to find a way to incorporate Israel with them. That is perhaps the right way to do it. So, I guess what helped me the most was to have someone to talk to, share concerns with, and get perspective from.

Speaking of your long-term ambitions – where will we find you in 10 years?

Well, maybe in Israel… but more importantly, I deeply care about social impact. I am also a very creative person. So, I guess I will take my entrepreneurial free spirit and do something that involves empowering people, and advancing social change. Where ever it will be. But, Israel will always have a place in my heart. 

What is your best career advice for talented young professional who consider participating in a career and internship program in Israel?

First of all, you have to think about your career and future goals and also if the program is relevant to your expectations. Of course, you can easily come to Israel and have the time of your life playing volleyball on the beach and go out every night. But, if that is the case, be honest with yourself that this is what you are coming for, and don’t expect something else. I am saying this only because I’ve met so many international talents who participated in Masa programs, and after their programs ended, many of them realised that they just wasted precious time on a long vacation. And yes, they had so much fun, but their first goal was to learn a lot, gain new skills and get the job they wanted. And when it didn’t happen, since they did not do anything about it, they were blaming parents, their Jewish Federation, Masa, their boss…. In my opinion, taking part in the program is a great opportunity for your career path, but you need to set your priorities in order to get as much as you can from this opportunity. That is why it’s good to have someone that will be able to help you during this process, like a mentor who is involved from the beginning and who will be able to help you fully maximize the value out of this opportunity.

What is your best advice for career-minded young professionals who are currently doing an internship program in Israel?

Even if your are super career-minded, it is sometimes difficult to “know what to do” and discover opportunities by yourself. So, activate your friends, employer, program staff, your network, community, etc. I was also lucky to have someone who was devoted and committed to help he, which saved time, gave insights and ideas, and shortened processes. I was honored to meet professionals from the Israeli high-tech world simply by introductions and networking, and I learned from their experience. This really helped me refine for myself “who am I”, and “who I want to be”. What are my long-term goals and how can I act to achieve them.

What is your advice for any young professionals out there, who may struggle to find their career path?

Looking for your career path is not easy, let alone finding it. After finishing school, you need to think about higher education, and when you already graduated from university you want to find a job. It is so much work, isn’t it? One of the things I learned in Israel was what can I do to discover my “why”. “Why” I want to study, “why” I want to apply for this position, “what and why” I am going to do 15 years from now. If you discover what your “why” is, you will be able to define the long, mid and short-term goals and make a good decision regarding your future career.

About the Author
Assaf is passionate about promoting business in and with Israel, helping and mentoring entrepreneurs, advising young professionals with career planning and self-fulfillment, and more. Assaf acts as a brand ambassador of Israel as 'Start-Up Nation', speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. Assaf also works as a business development and marketing consultant to Israeli start-ups and others.
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