Eileen Levinson, Founder & Creative Director
Wendy Jackler, Program Manager
What do most college students, recent graduates, and parents of these students have in common? They all hope that they or their child has a job post-college. Yet, today’s graduate is finding it increasingly difficult to secure full-time employment. Using career as a hook, Jewish becomes the key. Career Up designs immersive experiences for emerging professionals (18-26 year olds) to connect Jewish wisdom to one’s everyday realities. By motivating participants to interact with Jewish wisdom through a lens beneficial to them, we develop the next generation of dynamic lay leaders necessary for Jewish communities to survive and thrive.
An overwhelming majority of Jews between 18 and 26 years old (emerging professionals) are not engaged in religiosity, do not use Jewish wisdom to inform their choices and do not affiliate with Jewish institutions. Research suggests that emerging professionals are passionate about traveling, doing “good,” and finding a career. Focusing in these sectors, Career Up has built a strategy to motivate college students and recent graduates whether extremely or minimally “Jewish” engaged . Using Pirkei Avot, Career Up facilitates conversations and action to integrate Jewish living and career advancement.
Career Up’s immersive travel experiences (4 day/3 night or 2 day/1.5 nights), pre-departure and continuing education sessions have included:
1. “Tsuris Aside: Solving People’s Pain Point” using Pirke Avot 2:12 to understand a potential employer’s needs
2. “If Not Now, When: You Have 30-Seconds” using Hillel’s famous quote “If I am not for myself, who will be for me…” from Pirke Avot 1:14 to craft a 30 second personal pitch
3. “L’fum Tzara Agra: Building and Maintaining Professional Networks” from Pirke Avot, 5:26 teaching participants best practices in building and maintaining professional networks.
Through Career Up, participants gain the skills necessary to network effectively, build relationships with top notch industry leaders, and engage in spirituality and community service, which translates the wisdom of the sages into the Millennial experience.
Career Up makes Jewish Wisdom accessible and directly applicable to emerging professional’s through the concept of Torat Chayim–that Jewish wisdom is living inside of each of us and in the world around us. By focusing on what is relevant to a Millennial Jew’s life stage, building a career path, each participant gains the ability to use Jewish wisdom to:
1. Anchor Jewish living with professional and personal growth, including Jewish learning, social action and spirituality.
2. Enhance one’s ability to network effectively in order to potentially find employment
3. Enjoy dynamic Jewish experiences in a particular community
4. Establish relationships with Jewish communal institutions and top industry leaders in a particular city
The interactive workshops prior to a Thursday thru Sunday immersive travel experience inform their choices leading to overall professional growth. Framing, for example, the development of a 30-second elevator pitch through the Mishna, “If I am not for myself then who will be for me,” provides a direct association between ancient Jewish wisdom and an individual’s daily life.
Currently running immersive networking career advancement experiences in New York, San Francisco, LA, and Boston, this is where the Jewish wisdom comes to life. Starting off on Thursday evening with a networking/chevruta/speed dating session, entitled “48 Sensibilities for Professional Success” from Pirkei Avot 6:6, participants and local industry leaders engage in a meaningful Torah inspired dialogue on questions such as:
1. What are the most/least important aspects necessary in navigating the professional world?
2. How can Jewish wisdom guide our understanding of growth in our business, personal and professional lives?
3. What components are crucial in leading people and learning from others?
4. What is Jewish leadership and how can it be connected to and enrich our current understandings of leadership and professional development?
On Friday, each participant meets with industry leaders for personalized informational interviews. Enabling participants to hone recently learned skills such as professional networking with a purpose, giving one’s 30 second pitch, and understanding a potential employer’s needs. In the evening, the cohort celebrates Shabbat where locals go to pray, mingle, and connect such as the Mission Minyan in San Francisco. Showcasing Shabbat in an environment full of like-minded individuals energizes the individuals.
Saturday consists of identifying with a community through Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam. Using Amplifier’s curriculum on creating a giving circle, the cohort determines their Jewish philanthropic profile, reviews local Jewish organizations, and awards a grant to one of them. Following this introduction and seeking to inspire changemakers, the group works within the local community to perform community service. As Shabbat comes to a close, the cohort goes to a local landmark to experience Havdallah, and with it learn the importance of balance of professional and personal needs.
The last aspect of the immersive experience happens on Sunday with an intimate conversation with a top industry leader. Highlighting the importance of relationships, especially with one’s peers in the experience, this final component ties together that Jewish wisdom and Jewish community can be the much needed gateway to professional growth and success.
Following the experience, Career Up provides participants professional development workshops, internship placement aid and mentoring. The greatest wisdom that comes to life for our participants during this process is achdut--unity. We as a people are one. We do for each other, gain wisdom through each other, and build the communities we live in together.
In the spring of 2016, Career Up conducted beta experiences to New York City and San Francisco with 15 and 12 students respectively on each journey. The initial evaluations reveal that the impact as having instilled greater professional confidence, providing the necessary networking skills for today’s emerging professional, fostering the Jewish in one’s life, and forging well-rounded Jewish professionals primed to engage with and lead Jewish institutions, well beyond college. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, the overall score was a 4.6. Moreover, in ranking the workshops, worship experiences, interviews with industry leaders, and social action projects, the scoring average in each category was above 4.5. Please find some anonymous quotes from participant evaluations below:
1. “It was truly inspiring to hear all of the professionals in their respective fields talk about how they got to where they are now and what it is that they seek when they look for new people to add to their teams. Going on a trip like this, to New York, was truly inspiring and being able to network in the ways that we did was such a phenomenal experience. It gives me hope for my future and it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless—one just has to be willing to look for the tools and resources that are out there.”
2. “Career Up offered a chance to learn about career paths that might be similar to your own or ones who haven’t even thought about yet from Jews who are prominent in their field, while immersing yourself in a new city and Jewish community. Going to Shabbat at The Kitchen made me realize that even though I have felt detached from the organized praying aspect of Judaism there are definitely ways that I can enjoy and have fun with it.”
3. “Traveling to New York City was a tremendous learning experience. I was lucky enough to meet with successful Jewish businessmen and entrepreneurs who shared valuable insights and connections that will continue to benefit me moving forward. For me one of the most unique discoveries was the expansive Jewish business community in the city and the support structure they have built to help each other succeed. As my career takes flight I look forward to becoming part of such a dynamic Jewish community no matter where I go.”
4. “Prior to participating in this program, I thought that I had my life and future plans completely squared away. Upon meeting the extraordinary, passionate, and successful individuals in New York, it became quite apparent to me that I had a long way to go before my plans would be solidified. In less than one week in New York, I experienced a total upheaval in my thought process and my previous complacency shifted into a renewed determination. I was reminded to never let my dream waiver and to seek a career that would capitalize on my passion for helping others. Not only was the trip transformative to my professional life, but I made some wonderful and like-minded friends that made my time spent in the city even more enjoyable and memorable.”
Career Up participants are generally unfamiliar with Jewish wisdom and the ways in which it can inform their daily lives, both personally and professionally. Through post-experience surveys and informal interviews, Career Up has learned that the total integration of Jewish wisdom into the immersive travel experience, combined with interactive workshops that take place before, during and after the Career Up experience have led participants to understand that Jewish wisdom is widely applicable and relevant to their everyday lives. Connecting otherwise unengaged and under engaged Jews to Jewish wisdom and tradition through their desire for career advancement is our crowning achievement and success.
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