Loads of Work Experience but No Job? Join the Club

Age Positive is a nonprofit that brings people over 40 together to navigate Israel's rapidly changing job market.

Tomer Appelbaum

Amir Reichenstein, 64, worked at an Israeli startup for a year and a half. But a year ago, the company ran into financial trouble just as it was finishing the development of a new product, and he was let go.

“Since then, I've been looking for work in every way possible, and there's still no positive sign,” Reichenstein said. “But I'm looking hard and haven't lost hope.”

For many years, Reichenstein worked in high-tech sales, including in senior positions at Orbotech, an Israeli producer of computer-aided manufacturing systems, and at companies abroad. Eventually, he decided to make a career change. He went back to school — studying psychoanalysis, group guidance and personal coaching for businesspeople and couples at Bar-Ilan University — and then started a business for career, management and couples coaching.

“I thought I would make money from the field, which is rather trendy, but the business went nowhere, and there was no profit. As a result, I went to work at a startup that later collapsed,” said Reichenstein.

He has had quite a few job interviews in the past year. Two Israeli companies recruited him on LinkedIn, a professional social network. "They were looking for a salesman who knew European languages. I went to interviews, but nothing came of it," Reichenstein said. "I'm sure they were impressed that at Orbotech, I sold products worth 100 million euros and that I know the business culture in Europe. But they balked at the last minute, and I have no doubt it was because of my age."

Having passed his eligiblity period for unemployment compensation from the National Insurance Institute, Reichenstein is living off his savings. “It’s not simple," he said. "Suddenly, I'm in a survival situation."

Looking for work is a full-time job

Reichenstein recently began participating in a nonprofit initiative called Age Positive, which helps people over 40 get back to work. Located in the Bnei Brak industrial area and run by businessmen Gil Steinberg and Itzik Nativ, the group runs a free biweekely seminar that gives unemployed people training and practice in finding employment. Dozens of people show up.

A number of companies, including Nice, Samsung, Learning Tree, Yes, Cadense and the Mifal Hapayis national lottery cooperate with the group and consider hiring its participiants. Age Positive’s offices were donated by the owner of the building where it meets, developer Itay Katz.

Nativ says the idea for Age Positive came from seeing his coworkers lose their jobs. “After the waves of layoffs at Comverse [an American telecommunications software company], where I worked, I identified with the crisis experienced by people who are fired, some of whom are older,” he said. “Even though I wasn't fired, the seeds were planted for establishing a body to help people 40 or older who have been laid off and are having a difficult time finding work somewhere else.”

Age Positive doesn't find people jobs; it help them find jobs themselves, Nativ says.

“We provide tools. Looking for work is a full-time job in itself, and it's almost inappropriate to do it from home, where there are temptations and interruptions. It's better to do it from the initiative's offices," said Nativ. "Job seekers who come here also meet people in a similar situation. I don’t want to call it a support group, because of the negative connotations, but the fact that the people share their job search experiences and give useful advice to each other contributes to strengthening their self confidence. The participants are given training in professional areas, resume writing, interviewing and using the Internet to search for jobs — all within the framework of the initiative. Steinberg and I give a seminar on creating and finding job opportunities, and I will emphasize once again: The responsibility for finding a job is on the participant only."

“Every group has 20 people, and every participant can come to meetings twice a week for six weeks," said Steinberg. "If participants haven't found work and keep coming to meetings, we won’t stop them, or ask them to pay. If participants receive jobs offers they aren't interested in, they are required to pass them onto to friends in the group. It's a strength multiplier. We have only one condition for participants: You must volunteer twice during the period, distributing food to the needy or in a hospital.”

It's their loss

Michal Yaakobson, 43, has a background in human resources management but has been out of work for two years. Although she is looking for work, she is a member of Age Positive's steering committee.

“The employment market is very difficult for me, because of my age and also my profession, which is flooded,” Yaakobson said. “I'm trying to use my connections everywhere I can think of. I also get help from specialist employment agencies and social networks. But it isn’t simple."

Yaakobson also volunteers. “I'm active in a nonprofit organization that deals with at-risk children and in the Vehadarta organization, which advocates for senior citizens in the job market. I believe that volunteering can lead to finding work for pay, since the this is the way I can make connections and can prove my talents,” said Yaakobson.

Danny Navon, 44, is an electronics technician who worked for Dialogic, a communications technology company, for nine years. Four months ago, the company fired many of its workers, including him.

“I felt the earth shaking under my feet,” said Navon. “When I recovered, I went to the Employment Service, but they had no jobs to offer. I went directly to high-tech and cellular companies, but they didn’t even bother to respond."

In addition to directly approaching companies, Navon perused Facebook, LinkedIn and sites that share technical communications jobs and used the services of employment agencies. Out of dozens of applications, he only got one response. After three interviews, he was not hired.

“It's mostly because of my age, which is considered old," he said, though the communications technology field he works in is also shrinking. "The employers are making a mistake. I bring with me 14 years experience in the field of communications, including work in Europe, Asia and South America with communications operators at all levels. Older workers have grown children, and they don’t do reserve duty. I'm even ready compromise on salary — just to work."

The new rules of the game

“Age is just one barrier,” Yaakobson said. “All the rules of the game have changed. Employers are looking today for workers in a technical way, with lists of strict requirements. If you don’t meet the exact requirements, the system will filter you out automatically. That is why we need to help each other. Looking for work involves despair. It is disappointing to receive a negative answer, or not to receive a response at all. After you hear ‘no’ many times, the support that you get from the initiative is especially important. The idea is to get away from searching alone and do it together, since the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

Rivi Beller, the director of the nonprofit Vehadarta, said, “Looking for work is a stressful event, at any age and in any situation. When the jobseeker is older and has not undergone the experience of looking for work for a long time, the difficulty increases.”

But understanding the job-search process can help level the playing field, he says. Here are some of his tips for older people, or really anyone, looking for work:

Here are some of his tips for getting a job you want:

- Employers spend no more than 10 to 15 seconds reading your resume, so cut it to a page — or no more than page and a half.

- Don't try to pack too much into your resume using tiny font.

- Emphasize your work experience, it's more important than your education, and it's your main advantage.

- Don’t be afraid to include your birthday. It does no damage.

- Do your homework before the interview. Search the Internet and do research.

- Telephone interviews are acceptable today as a way of filtering applications. Be ready.

- During an interview — whether on the phone or in person — be clear and direct and project self confidence.

- Take the job requirements seriously. Try to avoid a situation where the employer finds out you're not qualified a few minutes into the interview. It will be unpleasant for everyone.

- Don't be insulted if the interviewer is unpleasant or unkind. Stay calm and focused.

- You’ve been hired? Congratulations! Start with a positive attitude. Hold off on any criticism. You will have plenty of time to share your experience.

- Keep an open mind and be willing to learn new things.