Highly skilled, highly motivated

A career acceleration program for immigrants with strong educational backgrounds is coming to Jerusalem.

A marketing and hi-tech job fair run by Gvahim at the Google TLV Campus in December. (photo credit: MICHAEL ALVAREZ-PEREYRE/GVAHIM)
A marketing and hi-tech job fair run by Gvahim at the Google TLV Campus in December.
Valerie Gottschalk has been engrossed in Israel for a long time. She was born in the country to new immigrants from Belgium, though they returned to Belgium when she was four years old. She wrote her thesis on Israeli NGOs working for conflict resolution. And she decided to do her internship in Israel in 2011, working with the Israel/ Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI).
“With all the media bias in Europe, and the anti-Israel sentiment, I wanted there to be one piece of work that presented Israel in a different light,” she says of the thesis.
But when the 27-year-old, who is fluent in Hebrew, French, English and Spanish, made aliya in October 2013 and settled in Jerusalem, she had trouble finding a job suited to her qualifications and professional expectations.
She hopes that is about to change with her enrollment in the Gvahim organization’s new Career Acceleration Program (CAP), which is coming to Jerusalem in partnership with the municipality and the Jerusalem Foundation. The heavily subsidized program, which has been running in Tel Aviv since 2010, aims to give talented, highly skilled olim between the ages of 18 and 35 the tools, guidance and connections to find jobs compatible with their abilities.
It also aims to create a “brain gain” in Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem absorbs the highest percentage of new immigrants in Israel,” says Pini Glinkevitch, director of the municipality’s Aliya and Absorption Authority. “We see the new olim as an asset to the city and to the state.”
Despite having a BA in political science, an MA in international relations, and experience interning for a Washington-based tour company that brings groups to conflict zones, including Israel, Gottschalk has been working in an administrative position for the past year. However, when an Internet search led her to Gvahim’s website, she discovered that people she knew had found meaningful jobs after the program, including an acquaintance who was now the director of a nonprofit organization.
She planned to travel to Tel Aviv for the course, but when she found out that the program was coming to Jerusalem at the beginning of January, she immediately signed up for an interview.
“I have career dreams, and I don’t know how to reach them here in Israel,” she says. “I want to break out of administrative work and find a managerial position that will give me the opportunity to grow.”
She will be one of 25 participants in the first course, which begins January 4.
The Rashi Foundation founded Gvahim in 2006 to facilitate the smooth integration of young, careeroriented olim professionally and socially. Today, Gvahim is a subsidiary association of the foundation.
There are some requirements for would-be participants in the four-week CAP workshop.
They must have completed a Hebrew ulpan, be in the process of actively looking for a job and undergo a personal interview.
But those who are eligible for the course can then benefit from services that include one-on-one human resource consultation, active placement targeting leading companies in Israel, and individual mentoring with high-ranking local professionals.
“Our assistance is comprehensive,” says CAP director Dana Pollak Wasserman. “We help olim to map their profession in Israel, develop tools to look for work, hone their Israeli interview skills, translate their professional experience so it is relevant to the Israeli job market and learn how to repackage themselves.”
As an example, she explains that in Europe, finance is a highly developed field. When young Europeans come with rich international financial experience, it is not applicable to Israel’s more local banking industry, and they need to learn how to adjust their skills accordingly. The same goes for fields such as green energy, which has seen rapid growth in Western countries, but is in its infancy in Israel and the private equity industry.
Since CAP’s inception, 1,200 olim have participated.
Most of them come from the fields of finance and consulting, marketing and communication, technology and industry, and the notfor- profit and public sectors.
Gvahim has partnered with some 400 businesses and organizations, and with 250 volunteer mentors from a diverse range of professions.
And it appears to be paying off. A recent study by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company reported that 80 percent of CAP graduates find quality employment at the end of the program.
SAMANTHA HULKOWER, 32, is one of those people. She made aliya to Jerusalem in 2013, leaving a successful career at the US Environmental Protection Agency. On completing ulpan and a short internship, she felt that she needed assistance in order to realize her professional aspirations, so she traveled to Tel Aviv for the CAP workshop.
While in ulpan, she had set up a website about the environment in Israel.
“My human resources consultant advised me to use my website skills to find a job, and then Gvahim helped me to successfully apply for a position in digital marketing,” she says. Today, she works at Kahena Digital Marketing in Jerusalem, a young company specializing in SEO (search engine optimization) and webanalytics.
Simmy Allen is another new immigrant who made aliya to the capital and took the Tel Aviv course. Allen, 35, came with his wife, his two children, and a degree in political science and communications. He had previously worked as a licensed nursing administrator, but has since landed a job as international marketing and events coordinator at Jerusalem’s Cinema City.
“The tools we learned [in the course] were very applicable, and it was here that I discovered what I was passionate about and how to market my skills and experience,” he says.
He adds that the workshop also “gave me the feeling that I was not alone or an outsider.”
Gvahim CEO Gali Shahar explains that “our decision to open a tailored Career Acceleration Center for experienced, academic new olim who arrive from all over the world to Jerusalem will ensure a smooth absorption for the olim and provide placement of high-quality people in a variety of businesses and companies that will help to strengthen Jerusalem’s economy.”
Moses Sutton, who has been accepted to the Jerusalem course, has been job seeking since he made aliya from Brooklyn this past August with his new bride, Ellie. He holds a BA in electrical engineering from Yeshiva University and Columbia University, as well as a master’s of science in electrical engineering from Columbia.
“Everyone told me that engineers are in high demand in Israel and I would have no trouble getting a job,” he says.
“But the reality on the ground has proven otherwise.”
An Israeli friend from Columbia helped him get his first interview at Apple Computers, but Sutton was not called back. Next, he went to Intel, where he felt that the interviewers did not really understand his resumé, and communication was stilted.
After the second interview, he was not called back there, either. The same pattern followed with IBM.
“I am having a hard time getting noticed,” he says. “I feel like I need to sharpen my interview skills and to understand more how to market myself in the Israeli marketplace.
This is so important if I want to get my career going.”
He heard about CAP through an old classmate from elementary school.
“She made aliya two years ago, with a major in Chinese studies, because she wanted to help Israel take advantage of growing economic relations with China,” he explains. “But she also had trouble finding her niche. With the help of CAP, she landed a job leading tours in Israel for businesspeople from China. She told me that this program would definitely help me to get a foot in the door.”
Wasserman notes that interviewing is a major obstacle for new olim.
“Israeli interviews are much more personal, informal and fast-paced than those in the US or Europe,” she says. “In the US, no one would ask personal questions like they do here, and in Europe the interviews are more understated. They involve a lot of talking before getting directly to the point.
Here, you have to sell yourself and your talents very quickly.
You have to communicate differently. Making an elevator pitch is an important tool for new olim to learn.”
More than 800 ambitious and highly skilled olim in the 18-35 age group make aliya to Jerusalem every year, many of them with advanced degrees and impressive career achievements.
Glinkevitch says the municipality’s partnership with CAP “will ensure that young newcomers and academics integrate and find quality jobs, and remain permanently in the city. This program is part of the across-the-board services available in the city for the benefit of new olim.”