Monday, January 4, 2010

Changing Careers

In the last article, related to immigrants and employment, one of the subjects that I touched upon was related to changing careers. I received a few comments/questions on this point, so I think it is worthwhile to clarify this issue.

As a brief reminder, my previous message was:

Immigrating introduces such a large number of life changes, so a good initial objective can simply be to keep things as simple as possible. A job candidate is always more attractive to a potential employer if they can show relevant work experience/education. So, you might decide to postpone making that career change until you have put some of the more major aliyah issues behind you, and gained some Israeli work experience.
My point above was that a candidate has the best opportunity to be attractive to an employer if they are applying for a job in which they have experience/knowledge. Therefore, if all things are equal, focusing on jobs that can use your previous work experience to your benefit is a positive.

Of course, in the real world (especially concerning immigration), complications can arise. If a person has job experience in a particular sector/role before aliyah, there can be the case that in Israel they still don’t meet the local requirements for a similar position. There can be a variety of reasons for this:

Language – For many jobs in Israel, a minimum of conversational Hebrew is required. Many new immigrants do not meet this requirement, not immediately upon arrival and oftentimes not even after ulpan. Clearly the best course of action is to do everything possible to improve your level of Hebrew, continuing with ulpan, taking private lessons, or simply thrusting yourself into situations in which you are forced to speak. In any case, for the person that finds themselves in the situation of seeking employment and not having sufficient languages skills, being creative helps. The objective is to use the skills that you do have to find the correct position in Israel. As an example, I heard once of an operations/manufacturing manager that arrived in Israel and couldn’t find work because his level of Hebrew was not high enough to manage staff. Ultimately he considered the various aspects of his job, and discovered that buyers/purchasers (one part of operations) in Israel that were experienced could get a job without a high level of Hebrew, since the work is mainly interfacing with foreign suppliers and dealing with managers in Israel that spoke English. Thus, he was able to find a place for himself.
Certification – A number of professions in Israel require licensing: Sometimes the process is a short, and in other cases it can take weeks/months. During this interim period, if you want to find a job, your creativity can again be an asset. You can start by considering what types of jobs are available in a similar profession that doesn’t require licensing. For instance, an accountant might consider working in a corporate setting where their financial/accounting skills are valued but a CPA certification is not necessary; a nurse might work as a medical care giver. The other alternative is to temporarily seek a position that utilizes your skills and interests that is not directly related to your profession, although this can be more difficult and time consuming to fulfull.
Job doesn’t exist in Israel – As an example, neither a physician’s assistant nor a nurse practitioner licensing exists in Israel – the positions simply don’t exist current in Israel.

To summarize, if you meet the requirements in Israel to continue in your pre-aliyah profession, in my opinion it is a good idea to initially focus on getting your first job in Israel by not straying from your expertise. However, for those of you that arrive in Israel not qualified/capable of doing the same job, either temporarily or for the long term, clearly you must do whatever is necessary to find suitable employment opportunities, including completely changing careers.

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