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 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 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…
And nothing makes me happier than contributing to the success of those young professionals.
Such is the story of Shira Sneg, who I was honored to mentor when she participated in a post-college 5-month long Masa program. So, I asked her to share more about her story, how she “hacked” her Israel internship experience, her thoughts about “being a business unit,” best tips for future young professionals in Israel, and more.
Shira, tell us a little bit about your story?
I was born in Israel and moved to Vancouver, Canada at 10 years old. The transition to living in Canada, the loss of language and cultural understanding was tough, and during the first years I was lost. My personal growth catalyzed when I started volunteering in leadership programs, first as a youth in high school and then throughout my psychology degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC). I blossomed there, met my best friends, served for 4 years at the University Senate, made a significant impact on the university’s operations with my teams, spoke at TEDx, and took part in hiring several VP positions. Before I crossed the graduation stage, I had already received and accepted an offer to work with students at UBC. But I had a big question I’ve been pondering…
What was your original motivation to sign up an internship program in Israel?
My job at UBC was meaningful to me, but knew I wanted to keep growing. I had always wondered what it’d be like to be “back in Israel as an adult” and thought that this was the best time to give it a shot. It was my time to answer the “What if” I had all those years, and so I decided that Israel was my destination. Now, the decision was really between making aliyah right away (all of my family is here, so I knew I had support regardless) or doing an internship program. Assessing the two paths, an internship was the right choice. The program structure, job placement, being with people who are going through similar experiences, and support with sorting insurance, housing, etc. were taken care of by the program which made it a perfect first step.
What was the hardest moment in your journey, so far?
Realizing that although I have fluent Hebrew, came from a very Israeli home, and was quite familiar with Israel – securing a job after my internship program was quite a challenge. Throughout the internship, I got many signals that they want to keep me on. Half way through, it looked like a definite “yes” but it did not work out in the end. When I came here, I wanted to do something awesome – not just “find a job” – and this felt like I was going backwards. But I believed in myself, and started taking action to create the future I wanted for myself in Israel. Further, it was April – Passover was around the corner, which means almost a month of no real business activity in Israel – so it felt like even being proactive was futile.
What helped you the most to overcome this challenging moment?
Recognizing that there is only so much I can do, but remaining intentional and persevering along with my support network were most significant. Throughout my internship experience, I put in the leg work to advance myself. I had great mentoring, connected with many Israeli professionals, spoke with my support network, and mapped out my goals for the short to long-term. I consistently reflected on whether I was heading toward my goals and whether my game-plan was shifting which brought clarity to whether I aligned my actions with my aims. This all helped when things got critical, and had I not invested in my professional development in Israel before that moment, I would have been starting from zero when I already needed results.
What is your best career advice for new Olim, especially young professionals who made Aliyah to Israel?
I think everyone will say networking is important, so besides that… One of the things is to get to know that the Israeli year gets interrupted a lot by holidays, which are tied to people taking vacations, affecting most office operations including recruitment. Note the holidays and understand how they might impact the flow of securing a job. Use slow times to productively enrich yourself and your network. Some of the coolest opportunities can come from places you least suspect (during your hunt as well as on the job) so grab a hold of them when you can. And self-care. Especially if you’re doing it quite alone: self-care.
What is your best advice for career-minded young professionals who are currently doing an internship program in Israel?
If you’ve already had a talk with yourself about what you’d like to get out of the internship, then awesome – review those goals and see if anything changed and whether you’re still heading in the right direction. Speak with your supervisors and people you trust. If you haven’t yet done something like the above, go for it. The internship starts and finishes in a snap, similarly to a month, a quarter, or a year in a job, so don’t be idle and work intentionally. A purpose-filled life is so much more fun to live, even during the tough times.
What is your best career advice for talented young professionals who consider participating in a career and internship program in Israel?
Know what you want to get out of the overall experience. Jot it all down, then divide into your “main goals” and “nice-to-haves.” From your main goals, determine your few non-negotiables – those must happen. And they don’t have to be professional-development related! And, be realistic – some things won’t be known to you until you’ve already started packing, like commute to work, so focus on elements that are within your control.
What is your advice for any young professionals out there, who may struggle to find their career path?
I strongly advise that people pursue informational interviews, which are typically quick coffee chats, and allow young professionals to get an insider perspective on a role or an industry they’re interested in without test driving it themselves. They also help build one’s network and give a potential foot in the door into an industry or company in which they are interested after assessing different potential paths.
Last words of wisdom?
To succeed, you need to identify what you want, want it badly, and believe in it fiercely. When you have those, nothing will stop you. Not that it makes it any easier. Whether doing an internship, staying here on a visa or making Aliyah… it’s an immigrant experience. You need to re-establish yourself in so many ways: finding your tribe, orienting yourself toward your calling in a new market, navigating bureaucracy, cultural differences, and language barriers while managing your day to day life – it gets tough! But like you say, if it’s worth the win… it’s worth fighting for it. And that’s what successful immigration is: it’s fighting against a bunch of obstacles, big and small, and despite the odds making space for who you authentically are in this new place that you hope to call home.