A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

Back to the Basics: Advice for Job Applicants & Job Developers

Jordan“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”                                                               -Michael Jordan

Without knocking innovation, sometimes the best way forward is to go back to the basics. A recent Lifehacker article made this point when they asked a couple dozen hiring managers to weigh in on how applicants can stand out from the crowd.

Here are their top 10 suggestions and how they apply specifically to refugee employment:

 1.  Be Prompt, but don’t arrive too early to your interview.

Many cultures have more flexible standards when it comes to punctuality than we do in the US. It’s a good idea to encourage clients to be early to appointments and interviews. But make sure to also discuss the importance of not being too early, as that can also make a negative impression.

2.  Don’t apply for a job unless you meet the qualifications. 

This can be a tricky one when working with refugees, many of whom may have limited English and all of whom lack US work experience when they first arrive. On the surface, it may seem like your clients do not meet the qualifications for many jobs. Don’t give up too easily though. Politely push employers to tell you exactly what competencies are necessary for the job at hand. If you think your clients are capable of performing the duties described, make the argument, and close the deal!

3. Research the company. 

The more you know about the company, the more you will be prepared to make the argument that your clients are a good fit for their needs. Whenever possible, share information about the company with your clients before taking them to an interview. They will perform better if they know who they’re talking to.

4. Make the right match. 

Don’t try to force opportunities that are clearly not a good fit. That will not result in long term partnerships. Making a good connection with an employer is the first step, but showing them that you understand their needs is what will keep them coming back.

5. Come prepared with questions. 

Make sure you are prepared with good questions for employers and coach your clients on good questions to ask before the interview. Part of this coaching also means helping them know what questions not to ask (e.g. Can you give me a different schedule so I can work with my brother?).

6. List all your (software) skills on your resume. 

This tip may apply to some higher skilled clients that have software skills but may not mention them. The basic point though is just to make sure you are using the resume to list any skills that demonstrate that you are motivated, reliable and dependable. So even if your clients don’t have formal work experience, find a way to highlight their skills.

7. If you lie, you’ll probably get caught. 

Pretty straightforward. Don’t lie. Don’t even exaggerate. Do, however, find a way to present your clients in the best light possible, demonstrating their skills, and highlighting the unique ways that they will add value to employers.

8. Say thank you. 

Sometimes you should be the one to say it. Sometime your client should be the one to say it. It might be a handwritten note. It might be an email. It might even be a text message to your employer connection saying “Thanks for your time today. I really appreciate your partnership.” There are many ways to say thank you. The point is that you should.

9. Don’t be pushy. 

Following up is part of the process. Either you or your clients should follow up after interviews. Just keep in mind that being persistent and being pushy are two different things. If your client is going to be the one to follow up, make sure to coach him/her on how to do this professionally.

10. Put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. 

Perhaps the most important tip on this list. You should always be asking yourself questions like “What does the employer want?”, “What would make their life easier?”, “What do my clients bring to the table that would really add value to this company?” If you do this consistently, employers will love working with you, and your clients will get jobs.

If you’d like to read the Lifehacker article in its entirety, you may do so here.

Job Readiness Activities for Adult Learners

Last week in Denver, attendees in the job readiness session participated in an activity to list the tools, resources and activities they currently use with clients.  Here’s the combined list.  If possible, a link to a version of the activity is included.  If you have a different version of any activity, or you have any resources to add, please contact us so we can update the list!

Interview Practice

Mock Interviews

Record Clients & Play Back for Client

Practice Interview Questions

Interactive Activities

Job Readiness Bingo

Body Language Activities

Flash Card Bowling

Welcome Circle: Begin Class by Asking Everyone Name, Origin, Languages and their First Job

First Day: Classroom Expectations – Importance of Classroom Success

Incorporating Certificates after Job Day Trainings

Resume Jeopardy

Skills

Identifying Skills that Refugees Have – Physical vs. Personal Skills

Explain How to Transfer Skills

Look at Job Listing Examples and ask, “Do you have the skills?”

Presentations

Picture Heavy PowerPoint

Visual Resources

Pictures

Describe Career Dreams Using Pictures

Videos

Videos to show the Work Done at Different Jobs

Quality Control Video – Quality, Quantity

Cards

Realia – Safety Gear

Higher Resources

Higher Advantage Modules

U.S. Job Cycle Visual (page 2)

Guided Practice

Mock Hotel Environment – Practice

Dishwasher Training at Location

Time Clock Practice

Time Clock for Attendance

Production Line Simulation

6-Day Training Spurts (short-term)

Applications & Resumes

Resume Preparation

Filling out Applications

Applications Planted at Businesses

In Class Resume Building (Skeleton Version)

Practice Application

Job Search

How to Find Jobs

Digital Literacy

Computer Lab

Mobile Computer Labs

Group Discussions

Small Group Discussion about Hygiene & Dress

Small Groups – Have clients create their own business & say what skills are needed for job

Specific Training Topics

Safety Classes: Use signs with Pictures, explain what signs mean. Explain the importance of reporting issues

Lessons on Trauma and the Impact of Trauma

Workplace Culture (i.e. handshakes & other non-verbal communication)

Job Security/Responsibility to Communicate with Supervisors (2 weeks notice)

Coworker relationships, manners, mannerisms

Hygiene, Grooming

Transportation – Teaching bus lines

English Instruction

Translated Materials

Mandatory ESL

Teach Job-Appropriate Vocabulary

Community Partnerships

Clothing Donations as Incentives

Local Library Partnerships

Adding Social Enterprises into your Curriculum

Financial Literacy

I-9 & W-2 (Tax & Pay)

Explain Payroll, Direct Deposit and Tax Forms

Assist with Opening Bank Account

Translators/Interpreters

Record Videos of Interpreters

Assessments

Go Over Pre-Employment Assessment (Reading Comprehension)

Mock Interview/Application Process as Assessment

Other

Self-Reflection

Tour at Companies

CORE

Childcare (Paid Employees)

One-on-One Pre-Employment Counseling

Wish List

More Tactile Activities

Child Care Resources – Toys for Kids

Notes

Factoring in Trauma when making Job Placements

Meat Packing isn’t good for People with Trauma

Reader Question: How Do You Create Unique Email and Phone Numbers for Each Client…

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Rachel joined CCSWOH in January new to resettlement work. Her job focuses on in-house job readiness classes and in-house short term vocational training

….even if the client isn’t computer literate and doesn’t have a phone?

Rachel Wiers, Employment Specialist at Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio (CCSWOH) in Cincinnati needs a better solution for creating online applications that require a unique email address and phone number. She’s exhausted all of her team’s phone numbers.

The perfect solution is to spend enough time with each client to help them understand why and how they need to establish and monitor an email account. Rachel knows that, but it isn’t practical to make that happen every time, yet. Meanwhile clients need jobs.

I know this is a common problem because I had the same one. Instead of solving it, there’s a trail of blueunicorns@… email addresses on every free email service out there.

I know our network has better solutions than this. Please help Rachel with your advice by commenting on this blog post or by email at information@higheradvantage.org.

 

Resumes and Cover Letters – Infographic

One of our most requested resources is for resources to assist with creating resumes for clients. We’ve searched far and wide for resources to share, and here’s what we’ve come up with so far.

Although the below infographic uses the term CV  (curriculum vitae), the preferred European term, the advice applies to the U.S. term resume, as well.  Here are a few more tips that you might find helpful. Be sure to check out the original articles too – we pulled out the most relevant tips for working with our clients, but the articles are full of valuable content.

Youth Mainstream Resource for Resumes and Cover Letters

Choose verbs that mean something. “Assisted,” “Worked on,” “Contributed to” and so on don’t convey much to a prospective employer. Instead, say what you did: “Wrote,” “Designed,” or “Managed.” The more specific, the better, according to this Harvard Business Review Article

Share accomplishments, not responsibilities. This Harvard Business Review Article also includes a helpful “Do” and “Don’t” list, as well as links to sample resumes.

Resources for Cover Letters: This Harvard Business Review Article includes a helpful “Do” and “Don’t” list.

The 11 Most Common CV Writing Questions Answered Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

 

Cover Letters: Yes? No? When?

Source: www.resumegenius.com

Source: resumegenius.com

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about whether or not to include a cover letter with job applications.

One perspective: A cover letter customized for the company and position is a best practice. A well crafted cover letter can give you an edge, and just might be what separates you from the crowd.

Another perspective: Cover letters are a waste of time. They are rarely read. If it’s not a standout, it’s just one more thing the employer won’t open. At worst, a cover letter may hurt your chances, especially if it’s boring.

What’s the right way to look at it for us?

We work with a wide variety of clients and employers, so to write or not to write a cover letter is probably a decision you’ll make on a case-by-case basis. There will certainly be a range of employer expectations depending on which industry or job you are targeting for your clients.

That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when considering whether or not to write a cover letter with or for your clients:

DO NOT include a cover letter if…

  • the instructions say not to do so. If instructions aren’t followed, the application will likely go into the “circular file”.
  • it will be easy for the employer to tell that the applicant did not write the letter themselves. If a client cannot write a cover letter for themselves, don’t misrepresent them by giving the employer the impression that they are fully literate and fluent in English. Employers don’t like surprises.
  • a cover letter won’t be considered or isn’t appropriate for the job or application process. Many online application systems do not include space for a cover letter for hourly positions, for example.

DO include a cover letter if…

  • the application is for a more professional job. If you have a client who is qualified for professional positions, make sure to involve them in the cover letter writing process so that they can learn this important job application skill.
  • there is an instruction or option (e.g. sometimes it’s optional on online applications) to include a cover letter. Take advantage of any opportunity to help your client stand out.
  • there is a need to explain gaps in employment or minimal employment (as is often the case with refugees).

Two additional ideas to consider:

  • In cases where the employer does not require or want a cover letter but you feel like some explanation is necessary to highlight your client’s skills, consider adding a “Summary of Skills” list or Background section to their resume where you can point out what isn’t as obvious from the simple resume.
  • Some employer partners may prefer a simple email from you which gives them basic information on your client instead of a cover letter. Sometimes referred to as a “candidate profile”, this note would summarize skills, work history, and language ability.

For more on cover letters check out this post from www.greatresumesfast.com.

Looking for Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources?

Source: http://www.accuform.com/safety-sign/caution-eye-protection-required-wgraphic-MTAA605

Source: www.accuform.com

In case you didn’t know, YOU are our greatest resource! After receiving several requests for Arabic language resources, we put out a call for resources earlier this month, and sure enough, our network responded.

Our friends Ali Abid and Brittani Mcleod from Catholic Community Services of Utah submitted a helpful English/Arabic version of the Walmart job interview, and Carol Tucker from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska provided us with several other Arabic/English Job Readiness materials.

Visit our Downloadable Resources section to check out these great resources! You may also want to check out a post we published in 2014 that links to picture vocabulary guides in several languages, including Arabic.

As we continue to serve Iraqi refugees and SIV recipients and anticipate increasing numbers of Syrian arrivals, these resources will continue to be a “must have” for your Cultural Orientation and Job Readiness tool box. If you have other Arabic language resources that you would like to share please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources

Here is a list of helpful Job Readiness Resources in Arabic that we have collected from our network:

Many thanks to Ali Abid and Brittani Mcleod at Catholic Community Services of Utah and Carol Tucker at Lutheran Family Services, Nebraska. If you have other Arabic language resources that you would like to share please email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Finally! Personality Assessments Explained

personality assessments @higheradvantage.org

Photo credit: Alberto G./Flickr

“The questions are twisty and these small circles are no good.”

A client told me this after a painfully long and less than perfect explanation.  I agree.

Online personality assessments are a nightmare.

Until now, I’ve never found anything that really helped me figure out how to explain them (or even get them “right”, myself).

Confession time.  A colleague had to make me a cheat sheet because I couldn’t help my clients pass the online Walmart questionnaire.

A recent article in businessinsider.com goes into the psychology behind seven common personality assessment questions, including this one:

“I’d rather do things quickly than perfectly.”

The article explains why the “right answer” to this question might be different depending on the job in question and explains the relationship between the questions and common soft skills valued in the U.S. workplace.

Use of personality assessments is increasing. Clients will face these questions throughout their working lives.  Helping them begin to understand them is a fundamental in job readiness preparation.

Share your tips and strategies for navigating personality assessments by commenting on this post or sending an email to information@higheradvantage.org

 

 

 

Free and Easy Strategy to Identify Key Words and Skills

wordle

I tried this technique using Wordle and a warehouse logistics job description. Here’s my result.

Here’s a great idea for identifying key words in job descriptions.  Generate word clouds to help clients write job descriptions, get past robotic online application screens and identify a variet of hard and soft skills required for the job.

3 Easy Steps to Use This Idea in Your Work

1.  Google free word cloud applications.   Click here to find one list of options.

2.  Paste in a job description and click generate.

3.  See the words emphasized by the employer.  (The biggest words are used more frequently.)

You could print out your word cloud and use it in a client meeting. Taking the words out of a traditional paragraph format can really help you and clients identify the important characteristics and job requirements.  A great way to build English vocabulary, too.

This idea came from a blog post from the U.S. Peace Corps.  (Click here to read it).

Check out two previous blog posts (Click here and here) for more information about key words, on-line applications and other tools to use with clients.