Interview with Nefesh B'Nefesh employment expert Kim Ephrat


This week we''ve invited Kim Ephrat, Associate Director of Employment at Nefesh B''Nefesh to answer our questions on employment opportunities for new Olim.  Kim has been helping olim integrate into the Israeli job market since 2004.


For many potential olim, the prospect of finding both fulfilling and suffient work in Israel is quite daunting and often accounts for the biggest obstacle in the way of their decision to make aliya. What words of caution, hope, or both can you give to these prospective olim?
Concern about finding suitable employment is one of the most common perceived challenges when making aliya. For this reason, Nefesh B’Nefesh offers comprehensive employment assistance both before and after making aliya. At NBN, we believe that preparation for aliya generally, and employment specifically, is essential and helps ensure successful integration. Though it can be challenging to secure employment prior to making aliya, we encourage olim to research their fields and network well before they come so that they can begin their job search from a much more informed and educated standpoint once they arrive.
As a strong command of Hebrew is important for many fields, particularly those that are language intensive such as the mental health professions, we encourage olim to start working on their Hebrew language skills prior to making aliya. In fact, the NBN Employment Department has worked with an online Ulpan company to offer profession-specific Ulpanim during evening hours US time. They have proven to be highly successful.
We have found that the education, professional experience and work ethic that NBN olim bring are highly regarded and valued in Israel. This, combined with proper preparation, results in a very encouraging statistic: within the first year of Aliya, well over 90% of NBN olim are employed.
Insofar as obstacles in the way of a successful matriculation into the Israeli workforce are concerned, what usually accounts for the biggest hurdle? Is it the language barrier, like one might assume, or is it something else?
Language can be a potential obstacle for some olim depending on their field and level of Hebrew skills. However, olim are able to overcome this obstacle by working on improving their language skills as well as being creative and resourceful.
For example, I know an olah social worker who applied for a job at one of the municipal social service agencies. Her Hebrew was fair but she had prepared for the interview by looking up social work related terminology in Hebrew. She landed the job and then had to deal with the next hurdle: as part of her job, she was required to present weekly written reports, in Hebrew, regarding her cases. Viewing this experience as her learning curve, she hired a native Israeli to help her write the reports. Slowly, she was able to start writing them on her own and then had this individual just review her reports prior to submitting them. She is now successfully integrated into the language, culture and system. It can take hard work—and an upbeat attitude and healthy sense of humor go far, as well.
Cultural differences can also present a hurdle and are manifest in resume form and content, interviewing style, salary negotiation, and the like. We help prepare new olim for these differences, but time, immersion in the culture and firsthand experience generally are key variables to overcoming these barriers, as well.
 While the majority of olim are concerned about salary decreases in Israel, other olim also worry about their careers themselves. Can olim who have prior training and certification within various fields expect to enter those fields within Israel or—like their salaries—should they lower their expectations also in this respect?
Most olim are able to transfer their existing careers to Israel. In fact, many are finding that the market is stronger in Israel than it is abroad and are successfully developing their careers. For example, those in professions that are related to hi-tech, biotech, pharmaceutical, and alternative energy fields - including research and development as well as sales and marketing - are integrating into a robust economic sector that is increasingly global.
However, there are some professions that don''t exist here. For example, the field of Physician''s Assistant is growing in popularity in the US but isn''t currently recognized here by Misrad Habriut. Also, it''s important to understand which specialties even within recognized fields are going to be transferable and marketable. For example, local specialties of law such as criminal, family, insurance defense and litigation are significantly less marketable in Israel than are global specialties such as intellectual property, transactional and corporate.
Flexibility is also key in integrating into the Israeli job market. For example, teachers who taught subjects such as math or science abroad and don''t have strong Hebrew skills should be prepared to teach English, at least initially, until their Hebrew skills improve.
How can prospective olim best prepare themselves for a successful job hunt?
As I mentioned above, preparation involves research, networking, and learning Hebrew. An oleh should research whether his/her field exists in Israel, which specialty within the field is most marketable, whether there is licensing necessary, and if so, become familiar with the licensing process. Also, he/she should start researching which Israeli companies have positions that are relevant to their experience and skills. Reading the Israeli financial publications such as Globes and The Marker can also give olim a good sense of the economy.
Networking is an essential key to a successful job search. This involves using online networking resources such as Linkedin which is very popular in Israel. Linkedn is a powerful networking resource in that it connects to other professionals as well as to information about job openings. The NBN Employment Department has an active Linkedin group where we post dozens of jobs as well as job related information daily.
Face to face networking is also important, even in our technologically sophisticated world. There is nothing like a personal meeting and handshake. We encourage olim to continually build their network of contacts via family, friends, acquaintances and the connections that we provide. The idea of "paying it forward" is strong here and both olim as well as native Israelis are generally very happy to assist new olim.
What services does Nefesh B''Nefesh do to help olim with finding employment?
The Nefesh B’Nefesh employment professionals are on hand to assist with every aspect of an oleh''s employment search. We provide career guidance, help with navigating the Israeli job market, networking resources, interview tips, licensing assistance, information about vocational courses (covered by the Ministry of Absorption),  creating or adapting resumes for the Israeli job market, interview preparation, advice about salary negotiations, and with Job placements.