Last updated February 14th 2017
Have you got a top degree from abroad but have no idea where to start finding jobs in Israel in your field? This is one of the most common concerns we hear from members of our community.
This week we are very grateful to speak with olah chadashah Esther Hershcovich, an interior designer at top Israeli architecture firm Sharon Cheshnovsky Architects…
Esther made Aliyah from Montreal, Canada, 3 years ago, with very little Hebrew and no contacts… but a great qualification in Interior Design from a top Canadian school… and a lot of motivation!
Hey Esther, thanks for having us! Tell us about your background and Aliyah story, how did you end up where you are now?
After finishing my studies in Interior Design I was ready for an adventure, so I started looking for internships in Israel by sending emails to architects. I used a resource that I was familiar with, Houzz, a very large database of architects and designers. I sent emails to the offices that interested me, along with my portfolio and a message in English offering to do an internship with them, and five of them offered me a position.
After my internship was over I got an offer to work full time at the company where I was working and spontaneously decided to accept it. I realized this was the place I wanted to be right now, so I called my parents, subletted my apartment, sold my furniture to the new tenant, and took the offer. I had never planned to live in Israel, I just loved it here and decided I wanted to stay. For some reason, the job offer fell apart and I was left with no job and rent to pay.
I was living in Modi’in with a friend from high school at the time and I started looking for a job. I ended up with a part time job in Tel Aviv for another architecture firm on a maternity leave contract and a part time Job in Modi’in in an Art Studio. I was commuting 2 hours a day and taking my folding bicycle everywhere I went. I eventually moved to Tel Aviv and ironically started working full time in Modi’in so I was still commuting 2 hours. I knew I wanted to build a career in Architecture so I started looking for a job in my field.
Which problems did you encounter while looking for a job?
As well as using the Secret Tel Aviv Jobs Board, I looked on Israeli jobs sites because that opened up many more job opportunities to me. I barely understood anything on the Israeli jobs sites, but Google page translate was my saviour. I also found in Israel that many people get recruited from contacts, friends’ recommendations and people they have previously worked with, so it was very difficult to break the circle. I had many no’s from companies but I tried not to let that deter me.
What are your top tips for Internationals looking for a job in Israel?
1. Check Israeli jobs boards – I found my job on Archijob – a jobs board for Israeli architects. If you can’t understand it because it is in hebrew, use Google Translate and ask friends for help. The Secret Tel Aviv Jobs Board is also a great resource.
2. Do things to differentiate you – I realised that I wanted to get a job in an architecture company, so I started to build a portfolio in architecture photography. I also kept freelancing for Houzz in Israel, covering Israeli architecture. This helped me meet a lot of good people and get some extra income.
3. Be prepared to work for free in an internship – I had 5 companies offer me an internship – I chose one, worked there for 3 months, and was then offered a full time job.
4. Use contacts from home – I used my contacts from Houzz to help me build a network in Israel.
5. Be prepared to travel – I worked 1.5 years in Modi’in in an art studio, travelling 2 hours a day, it wasn’t too bad.
6. CV in English is fine – but try to send emails in Hebrew even if it is with a sentence saying ‘please excuse my poor hebrew’, your effort will be appreciated.
7. Be firm with your requirements – when I was doing interviews, I explained that I was doing Ulpan 2 times a week in the evening, this wasn’t a problem and I got to an arrangement with my boss to make up for the lost hours.
8. Don’t get demotivated – I failed a few interviews before finding this job, some of them it was because I didn’t speak good enough Hebrew to meet clients. I kept telling myself it was their loss.
9. Get out of your comfort zone – don’t let the language barrier or being an international make you less motivated.
10. Learn and embrace the cultural differences between Israel and home.
What do you think is the hardest part about working in an Israeli company?
First of all is the cultural change, working in an office as the only foreigner brings that to light. I’m Canadian, so standing up to someone on the phone who’s impatient or aggressive in a language I struggle to speak takes some getting used to and it’s important not to take it personally. The same person will often surprise you by going out of their way to get the job done out of office hours etc. The language barrier is tough too, that’s why I decided to take one year of Ulpan even if it meant working longer hours to make up for the missed worktime.
We also talked to Esther’s boss, Sharon, to know what are employers looking for when they hire internationals.
Photo: Esther on-site with Sharon
From an employer’s point of view, what are the advantages and things to have in mind when hiring an international?
In my previous jobs I was working with internationals and there is something about speaking other languages and learning the cultural differences that gives a special environment and new ideas to the office. I also find internationals have a much better professional attitude – they are more peaceful which is good for the office and for clients, and are very accountable – I give a task, it gets done. Finally English is becoming the first language in architecture, even in Israel. It is good to have a native English speaker in the office.
What recommendations would you give to internationals looking for jobs in Israeli companies?
Learn the technical terms of the job in Hebrew so you can keep up with conversations; and don’t despair trying to be on top of the job, Esther started off with design (conceptional and rendering), not client facing. Now she is starting to get more responsibility and facing clients.
Esther also gave us some great tips on how to survive in Israel…
1. Don’t feel stress of making aliyah at the beginning – I used up as many visas as possible first.
2. Don’t put yourself under pressure by committing to Israel forever – I know that right now this is where I want to be.
3. But make the place you are your home – decorate your house to make it a place you want to go to and don’t be afraid to make “commitments” (like a buying a surfboard if you like to surf), if you want to do something just do it.
4. Get out of the house to meet people – I made a lot of my core friends at Communal Shabbat Dinners – my favourite place was the White City Shabbat Dinners at 126 Ben Yehuda Synagogue, but there are loads of great options. Secret Tel Aviv also have a great blog post on where to meet new people.
5. Try to make Israeli friends also – it is too easy for fall into the international scene only, and Israeli friends become your family here.
6. Set yourself goals – it gets easy to fall out of routine in Israel. When I knew I wanted to be here for a long time, I set myself goals to achieve by the end of the summer, and before I knew it they were done! I’m now working on the next round 🙂
7. Learn Hebrew – I decided to join an Ulplan when I was ready to learn hebrew and stuck to it for a full year. Check out Secret Tel Aviv’s Guide to Ulpan in Tel Aviv for some good ideas.
8. Language exchange with colleagues – teach them English and they will teach you Hebrew. SMS in English and they respond in Hebrew. One-day English, one-day Hebrew, I do it with my colleagues and work great for both of us.
9. Take responsibility for choices – don’t blame Israel if things aren’t working out, you make your own choices.
10. Don’t give up! Here’s one of my favourite quotes: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.
Thanks very much Esther for your advice… if anyone else would like to share a success story please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.