Hebrew Hear-Say: Nice work if you can get it

Toward the end of the summer, procrastination is almost de rigueur with everything on hold until the day after the last day of the religious festivities.

October 15, 2006 12:40
3 minute read.


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A recent column noted the phrase Lekhol Shabbat yesh Motzash, that makes rookie life miserable and can basically be summed up as "you'll pay for it later," as in, "You can rest on the Sabbath, but wait till it goes out..." The civilian equivalent is probably "Aharei hahaggim" ("After the religious holidays"). Toward the end of the summer, procrastination is almost de rigueur with everything on hold until the day after the last day of the religious festivities. (This includes that peculiarity known as "Isruhag," one extra day when everybody is back at work except for teachers and kindergarten staff and others paid to look after your kids while you're out bringing home the bacon, if you'll pardon the unkosher expression.) This year the country had a dress rehearsal for aharei hahaggim with "aharei hamilhama" - after the war - a perfect excuse for putting things off for a while when the summer was hotter than expected in more than one sense. One of the most obvious endeavors to postpone until the religious celebrations are over is jobhunting. Even if you are really stuck in the dole-drums and desperate to find an alternative to daytime TV, jobseeking in Israel cannot take place during the holiday season. The first stage when chasing a job is to send in a CV (korot hayim, in Hebrew). This can be done before the holidays but don't expect a reply until afterwards. As in English, the titles of the recruitment departments are varied, from mash'abei enosh (human resources) to koah adam (manpower). Jobhunting can easily turn into a labor of love. A follow-up phone call can be in order, but like any form of courtship you need to find the balance between seeming too eager and missing your chance. Either way, the aim is to get to the stage of a job interview. Many a new immigrant has confounded Hebrew-speaking acquaintances with their joy at an unexpected event: Mixing the word "re'ayon" with "herayon" is a classic mistake. Both hopefully end in labor but the former means interview and the latter pregnancy. Newcomers often complain that it's hard to find a job in Israel without "protektsiya," also known as "Vitamin P": connections. (Native Israelis, by the way, complain equally that native English-speakers have a built-in advantage in an era in which English is the international lingua franca as it were.) Having good connections certainly can't hurt but, this being Israel, it is also much easier to develop them: I know of people who were offered job interviews by well-placed virtual strangers they met walking their dogs or waiting in line at the supermarket. In any case, as they say: You might get a job through connections but you have to work to keep it. Nowadays tenure is rare and tenuous. The successful interview is an artform - websites exist offering valuable advice on how to dress, sit, speak etc. Be aware, however, that cultural differences exist. A study of Russian immigrants years ago showed that part of their jobhunting problems were compounded by an approach completely, well, foreign, to Israeli potential employers: The average Russian oleh would enter the room and immediately thrust all his relevant certificates and documents at the Israeli interviewer who was expecting to have a getting-to-know-you-type conversation first and photocopies of degrees only on the way out. Different jobs require different characteristics: The most in demand by "headhunters" are a rosh tov (literally a "good head," it means a quick thinker) and a rosh gadol (lit: a "big head," which in Hebrew is something to boast about, referring to someone with initiative). The opposite of rosh gadol is rosh katan, a small head, a term lately being replaced by the expression popular in the army: rosh natznatz, which is used roughly in the same way as "pinhead." Employers everywhere are prone to a hidden language. Beware the boss boasting a staff "like a family": How many families do you know that never bicker and are utter strangers to sibling rivalry? "Job satisfaction" (sipuk ba'avoda) can also turn out to be codewords for "low pay," with the satisfaction in lieu of material benefits. Jobs may be full-time (misra mele'a) or part-time (misra helkit): Check that "flexible hours" (sha'ot gmishot) doesn't mean they stretch like elastic from morning to night (a concept summed up in the Hebrew rhyme "Mitzet hahama ad tzet haneshama": "from the sun's appearance till the soul's departure.") Be warned also of bonuses and promises unlikely to be kept. A common Hebrew phrase is "Ovdim aleinu" or "ovdim aleinu ba'einayim" - literally: "they're working on us," it means someone is "pulling one over on you." Don't despair, however: Job hunting might be hard work but it usually pays off. liat@jpost.com

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