The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
Today we’ll start following the job hunt process of Beryl Klein, a young imaginary client who heard about Pathways to Parnassa from a friend. Beryl has been learning in a kollel for several years, and now he feels that it’s time to go to work. He has never held a paying job, and he has no idea how to find one. He did fairly well in his secular subjects in high school, but there wasn’t anything in his classes that particularly interested him. He does not want to go to college or any extended classroom based program, because he really doesn’t like academic work. He wants to live in the New York area because his family and rebbeim are here. His wife is working, so his family has some income for the meantime, but she’s expecting her third child. Since it sounds impractical for her to work full-time with three kids, Beryl is ready to work hard at finding a job so that he can become the family’s breadwinner.
The first step of Beryl’s job hunt is to identify the skills and talents that he has already used successfully, whether in his yeshiva learning or in everyday life. These skills will help form a framework that Beryl can use to investigate career options. For example, does he take careful notes about what he has learned? Do others seek him out when they need a clear explanation of a difficult point? Has he organized chaburahs, helped arrange chavrusas, reached out to others in some important way? All of these require skills that are easily transferable to the workplace. Beryl had done all of these things at one point or another, but I didn’t notice that spark, that subtle smile that hints of a life’s focus underneath.
I asked Beryl if he could recall any activities outside of his learning which he had enjoyed and where he had been successful. He mentioned a few but it was when he started talking about his yeshiva’s Pesach fundraising campaign that he really got animated.
“Every year, about 10 days before Pesach, my yeshiva sends bachurim to different cities to collect contributions for the scholarship fund. I didn’t want to do it at first—my Mom said it would make me a schnorrer—but my Dad said I should do whatever I could to help. I was sent to Miami with a friend, and we had a list of names to call. My friend asked me to do the talking. I remembered the pointers we had heard before we left, and it just came easily to me. I felt like I was making friends with the people, and when I asked for a contribution, they were very generous. We brought back more than anyone else.”
“The next year I was asked to help organize the project. I really didn’t like checking the small details and the planning, but I did what I had to do to help. Then they asked me to give the other guys a few pointers, and that went really well. Some guys came back to me later and said that my ideas really helped. And I went back to Miami and was successful there too.”
“I liked meeting people and explaining what the yeshiva was all about. When I got to asking them for money, I felt like I was offering them a good deal, and I felt good when they said ‘yes’”.
Beryl and I worked on naming the skills that he had used in the campaign. He had reached out and established warm connections to new people, shared his enthusiasm, motivated others, spoken clearly, and improvised as needed. He had dealt with rejection (not everybody said yes), revised his approach, and tried again.
Beryl might sound like a future salesman, but there is a lot left to do before he’s ready to make that decision. To be a great salesman, you have to have a great product to sell. And Beryl’s first product must be . . . himself. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.