More than 150 people attended Work Avenue’s Defining Your Second Career event – where keynote speaker David Kaplan described how his own career change was brought about by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

The attendance at the second such event hosted by Work Avenue – the Jewish community’s leading employment and business support organisation – more than doubled that of last year, showing just how many people are looking to new vocations as a result of the current pandemic.

Edinburgh born David told how he was all set to become a lawyer when the former Chief Rabbi persuaded him to pursue a career in the Jewish community instead. That led to roles with UJIA, Laniado UK and the United Synagogue, where he co-created the youth programme Tribe and rose to the position of director.

He told delegates: “I would probably not be the Jew I am today if it were not for Rabbi Sacks. I owe him so much.

“My late mother and father were looking forward to me donning the white wig as an advocate in Edinburgh, but due to his influence I changed and became a Jewish community professional instead.”

A recent second career swap saw David leave the Jewish world to form his own consultancy firm and become the COO of the SBC Group, which provides business coaching to senior executives. 

“One of my first calls when I decided to move was to Melanie Pearl of Work Avenue, who I trusted to look me in the eyes and tell me if I was doing the right thing.

“Melanie took me through all the pros and cons, defined what I was trying to do, nailed my CV and sent me in the direction of positivity that I am still on today.”

At the conference, attendees were able to pick from six different sessions covering everything from CV building and using LinkedIn, to whether age can count against you in the job search. Many had either lost jobs due to Covid-19 or had become motivated during lockdown to try something new.

Event delegate, Jilly Black who has recently changed her career with the help of Work Avenue said: “Trying to change careers, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, seems impossible, but with the right mindset and the right support, it can happen.

Events like this make all the difference, as, not only do they put you in touch with others in the same position, showing that you aren’t alone, they offer a wealth of brilliant tips and advice that you can watch again afterwards. They’re invaluable.”

Other presenters at the half-day event included Whitbread PLC management consultant Adam Katz, Amanda Reuben of Bijou Recruitment and Work Avenue experts Emma May, Richard Linden, Melanie Pearl and Joanna Sadie.

Work Avenue CEO Debbie Sheldon said: “Coronavirus has had an impact on all of our lives, and this is especially true in the employment world. Industries have collapsed overnight and employers have had to make redundancies.

“Many in our community have found themselves looking for a new role in an unfamiliar world, often at a stage in their life where they thought things were secure.

“We have seen clients facing issues of low confidence and self-esteem, mental health issues and devastating financial insecurity, with knock on effects for all family members.

“That’s why we put on this event – to help people address some of these issues and narrow the odds of a successful career change in their favour.”