Paying it Forward

Over the past few months, I have been asked by many young professionals in the Jewish communal field to provide them career advice. Some have been in the field for 2-5 years, others are just graduating from a Bachelor’s or Master’s program. They have asked questions about degrees they should pursue (yes, get a Master’s degree!), networking, job descriptions, negotiating financial packages, career trajectory, and much much more. It really thrills me to be able to “pay it forward” what many of my mentors did for me – providing me that guidance and opening doors for me with their networks. However, my conversations left me incredibly frustrated – and not with the young professionals.  The conversations have left me frustrated and bewildered with our organizations.  Here are a few common themes that emerged:  

  • our professional training programs (schools conferring Jewish degrees in education, communal work, etc) are not doing a great job of preparing their graduates for this process. I was really shocked to hear from several of these young professionals that they were not put through mock interviews, they were not provided sample contracts/letters of agreement, and did not receive advice on what they should expect/demand in a package.
  • in several cases institutions relied only on Skype/GoogleHangout for the entirety of the interview, not ever investing in in-person meetings.  They offered jobs to people they had never sat in a room with.  They expected candidates to accept jobs for positions where they had never seen the facility or even the city. 
  • many of the institutions have incredibly unrealistic expectations.  They want to hire Master’s level candidates, but don’t want to pay for house-hunting trips or relocation expenses, and they want to pay them in the low 30s to low 40s.
  • it seemed that many organizations consider the interview only for their benefit and that it is not a mutual process.  Time was not set aside to allow for a back-and-forth dialogue about the position, the organization, the goals, etc.  Interview times were so tight that they only questions being asked were from the organization to the candidate. 

If you are looking to hire someone and you aren’t prepared to invest in them (and the process) by paying for in-person interviews, then don’t accept out-of-city candidates.  If you aren’t prepared to offer a job and then invest in a house-hunting trip for your new employee, then don’t accept out-of-city candidates.  If you aren’t willing to spend between $3,500-$10k in moving expenses, then don’t accept out-of-city candidates.  It’s simple.  You can’t buy a Porsche if your budget is a Saturn. 

If you want someone with a Master’s degree, don’t insult them, their investment in their education, or their experiences by offering them less than $50k (or as Mark Young expressed, $54k).   It’s simple.  You can’t buy a Porsche if your budget is a Saturn. 

During the interview process, remember, it’s the candidates interview too. It is incredibly important that candidates feel empowered to ask questions and be given time to reflect, develop new questions, and then process their thoughts before giving you an answer.  They have a right to see the facility they will work in and meet potential work colleagues and lay leaders.  If you can’t make that happen, then don’t accept out-of-city candidates.

There are many other things you can do to exhibit your commitment to them as professionals.  Be sure to invest in their on-going professional development, professional network dues, journal subscriptions, and professional books.  Don’t expect them to use their cell phones if you aren’t willing to subsidize the plan.  Don’t ask them to front expenses – you are assuming they can afford to float those dollars; get them an organization credit card, petty cash or a pre-paid card.

I’m very lucky.  When I was 25 years old and decided to enter the Jewish professional field, I had an amazing executive director who facilitated the interview process.  Through his actions, he set a very high standard of expectations for me that I have stood by throughout my career.  He flew me in for an interview.  He paid for a house-hunting trip.  He paid for my move in its entirety.  He gave me a commitment letter outlining the terms which included 100% of health insurance, a life insurance policy equivalent of my salary, short term and long term disability, matching 403B funds, etc.  He gave me an organization credit card.   I’ve moved across the country three times for career positions, each time expecting and receiving the same high quality experience I had when I was 25 (when I didn’t yet have a Master’s degree). I’ve turned down plenty of possible interview opportunities and job offers because they don’t meet these standards and I have no regrets.  

As a leader in the field, I feel it’s my responsibility to help the new generation of young Jewish communal professionals learn and demand the standards they deserve. I feel the need to encourage the professional degree program directors to institute colloquia that will help prepare the new professionals for this process.  It is important that I hold my colleagues doing the interviewing and hiring accountable to this standard.  I feel an obligation to pay-it-forward.

 

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robin
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 09:56:16

    Nice work! So true, I remember one job where someone offered me a contract renewal where the lay leader admitted that he wouldn’t want his own daughter to accept! Respect has to be on both sides of the table.

    Reply

  2. E
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 10:43:44

    So what is your advice to those who are currently in Jewish communal jobs in the situation that you advise against? Having tried already to request investment by an organization as a professional and failed, what is the next step? Is it just to quit?

    Reply

    • rfaintich
      Jul 03, 2013 @ 15:33:28

      If you have tried and failed, I would say that you start looking. It doesn’t mean you quit before you have a better situation, but it does mean that you should be looking for something better for yourself.

      Reply

  3. migdalorguy
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 22:02:53

    Even sadder, Robyn, is that institutions are dealing with experienced, older professionals in the same way!! At least we KNOW how crappily we’re being treated. Oh wait, that’s not necessarily a good thing…

    Reply

  4. drewkaplanis
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 15:23:45

    As expensive as flights are these days, it’s not very feasible for many organizations in this economy to fly out potential candidates. It could be budget-crippling to do so. (Full disclosure: my wife and I flew out to our current jobs, having only ever done Skype and telephone interviews.)

    Reply

    • rfaintich
      Jul 03, 2013 @ 15:31:35

      Drew,

      I think that if an organization can’t afford an in-person interview, a house-hunting trip and relo expenses then they need to keep their search local. It’s only crippling if they are trying to buy something outside their budget.

      You and your wife are brave. I don’t think it’s the model we want to set for our field.

      Reply

  5. Marni
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 10:11:11

    Well said. Kol Hakavod!

    Reply

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