Frontline Perspective: Former Refugees Now Working in Refugee Employment Share Their Advice

Many of our colleagues in refugee employment are former refugees. These staff members bring with them valuable first-hand knowledge of the refugee experience, critical language skills, and a unique perspective that benefits us all.

It’s important to acknowledge, however, the personal challenges and cultural adjustment that these staff members have successfully navigated (or are currently navigating) in order to be effective in their roles.

Speaking about his own experience getting started in refugee resettlement and employment services in 2011, former Higher Peer Advisor Subash Acharya says:

 “[As a Job Developer coming from a different cultural background] I found it challenging to build rapport with employers in the beginning…Many did not feel comfortable with me because they had never worked with someone like me in the past.”

Over time Subash developed strategies for overcoming these challenges, and  eventually was promoted to Employment Services Coordinator at Ascentria Care Alliance in Concord, NH. In this role he managed a successful refugee employment program from 2015-2017, before transitioning out of refugee services in order to pursue the next steps in his own professional journey.

We wondered what the experience of other former refugees now working in refugee employment has been like, so during a breakout session at Higher’s 3rd Annual Refugee Employment Workshop, we asked these individuals to answer 3 questions:

  1. What was your biggest challenge when you began working in refugee employment?
  2. What advice do you have for new refugee employment staff coming from a refugee background?
  3. How can management at resettlement agencies support staff coming from a refugee background?

Here is what they had to say:

Biggest Challenges of refugee employment staff from a refugee background (past and present challenges)

  • Adapting to a new culture while trying to help others (many from cultures different from mine) adapt at the same time can be difficult.
  • Clients from my culture often have higher expectations of me and sometimes expect me to show them favoritism.
  • Coworkers, clients and employers sometimes have had difficulty understanding my accent.
  • Coming from a different culture, early on I had some difficulty building relationships with American employers.

Advice for refugee employment staff from a refugee background

  • Be open-minded and not too judgmental towards your coworkers and clients.
  • Stop…think about when you first arrived. Then act. Your perspective as a former refugee will help you.
  • Be flexible, and don’t take things personally.
  • Work hard on your own cultural adaptation so that you can set an example for clients.

Advice for management about hiring and working with staff from a refugee background

  • Provide additional cultural orientation and be patient as these staff members continue to adapt to American culture.
  • Don’t just hire for language ability; hire former refugees who have some experience with American culture as well as the professional skills necessary for the job.
  • Just like clients, former refugees now working in refugee employment services are adjusting to general American culture as well as American workplace culture. Set these team members up for success by clearly communicating professional expectations and office etiquette.
  • Respect the unique perspective of the former refugees on your team; show an interest in their culture and demonstrate a willingness to learn from them.

We hope that sharing the perspective of our colleagues coming from a refugee background will be a reminder of their vital contributions and provide an opportunity for coworkers and supervisors to think through how they can best support and learn from these staff members.

“Why I Love What I Do”

Dallas Refugee Employment Staff on What Keeps Them Going

Happy Monday! At a recent Higher workshop in Dallas, TX (which we highlighted in last Monday’s post) we asked the participants to share one reason why they love working in refugee employment services.

Here are a few of our favorite answers:

  • Every day we make a difference in our client’s lives
  • Waking up every day and working with people from all over the world
  • Working with coworkers who are like family and are passionate about the work that we do
  • Getting to watch the process of refugees going from knowing nothing [about life in the US], to getting jobs, paying taxes, starting businesses, and becoming citizens
  • As a former refugee, I do this work to give back
  • Seeing clients come back after a couple years and seeing how they are succeeding
  • Making great connections between clients and employers
  • Through empowering our clients it empowers me
  • Everything I do for my clients contributes to this great nation

We hope these reflections from your colleagues in Dallas will be a positive way to start your week!

What inspires you to do work with refugees? Let us know in the comments section!

Job Readiness Instructors from several Dallas and Fort Worth agencies participate in an activity during Higher’s workshop on April 6, 2017.

Higher Texas Workshops Recap

Last month Higher was in Texas where we conducted 1-day workshops in both Houston and Dallas. In each location we brought together employment staff and resettlement directors representing 12 local resettlement offices from 6 of the 9 national resettlement agencies. The workshops were full of interactive activities focused on best practices in refugee employment, local collaboration, and strategies for success at a time when many refugee resettlement offices and employment teams are going through significant changes.

As is the case with all Higher events, we walked away inspired by the dedication and commitment that refugee employment staff bring to their work and the resiliency and creativity that the staff we interacted with in Texas are applying to their current challenges. We were also encouraged to hear about the outpouring of support that programs are experiencing both from surrounding communities and employers.

Thanks to all of the staff who participated in our workshops in Texas! You have provided us with valuable insight into your work which will inform our technical assistance activities for the next several months.

Here are some photos from the events:

Omar Al Sammarraie, a Job Developer at Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, contributes his thoughts to an activity highlighting current challenges and opportunities in refugee employment.

 

Andre Shango, a Job Developer at Catholic Charities in Houston, reports out for his group on our activity discussing the elements of successful refugee employment programs.

 

Job Developers from Dallas and Fort Worth, TX

Job Opening at Catholic Charities in Fredericksburg, VA

Do you have refugee resettlement experience and are looking to take the next step in your refugee employment career? Laurel Collins at Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington asked Higher to share this job description with our amazing network. If you have experience and want to be the next Program Manager, Fredericksburg Migration and Refugee Services please consider applying. 

 

To see the full job description and to apply for this position, click here!

Holiday Outreach Strategy + Holiday Graphic!

Showing appreciation for your employer partners is easier than ever before.

We designed this holiday graphic to provide you with an easy and quick way to send a thank you email to employers and community partners. 

You can do it in three easy steps:

1. Download a high resolution JPEG by right clicking on the below image and selecting “Save As”.

higher-holiday-card 2016

(or Download a PDF here)

2. Add your agency logo and message to an email.

3. Hit send.

Do you have a holiday outreach strategy that works? Please share in the comments below or contact us with the details!  

Job Opening at IRC Dallas


dallasAre you ready for a change and looking to take the next step in your refugee employment career? Higher Peer Advisor Jim Stokes just let us know that IRC Dallas is looking for an Employment Supervisor. Here’s his elevator pitch:

“We could use your help!  IRC Dallas has posted this critical opening for an Employment Supervisor.  The office is a USP pacesetter in this core service, and we are looking for an experienced and inspiring supervisor to lead our program. This is a great career development opportunity!”

To see the full job description and to apply for this position, click here!

Higher’s December Webinars

Financial Literacy: How to Teach the Basics

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

2:00 – 3:15pm EST

Financial literacy is an essential component of economic self sufficiency. This webinar will explore what topics are most important and will feature resources designed to be used as job readiness activities. Panelists will share financial literacy initiatives and examples of community partnerships that can be replicated. Financial literacy curriculums will be highlighted throughout the training.  

Register here


Collaborating with Mainstream Workforce Development and Taking Advantage of WIOA-funded Training Opportunities

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2:00 – 3:30pm EST

Higher has made a concerted effort over the past couple years to educate our network about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) and has highlighted mainstream workforce development resources and collaboration case studies on our blog. In this webinar, Higher will continue building our network’s awareness of WIOA-related opportunities by highlighting specific career pathways opportunities within the mainstream workforce system that have potential to help refugees move beyond “survival jobs.” Speakers are still being confirmed, but Higher is hoping that this webinar will feature both government WIOA experts, as well as refugee field staff that have successfully collaborated with the mainstream system.

Register here

Job Opening at IRC Baltimore

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Baltimore Inner Harbor

Are you ready for a change and looking to take the next step in your refugee employment career? Higher Peer Advisor Christina McPherson has just let us know that IRC Baltimore is looking for a Senior Employment Specialist to work on its Targeted Assistance Grant program which connects refugees to vocational training and employment. Here’s her elevator pitch for this exciting opportunity:

“If you are interested in working for the largest resettlement agency in Maryland- look no further than IRC. The employment program is quickly growing and with new funding IRC is happy to now support clients in vocational trainings and job upgrade opportunities. This position will be part of a larger employment team that assists both newly arrived and post 8 month clients.”

To apply for this position, click here!

Self Care: Using Different Skills is More Relaxing

beach work two

Best way to relax and decompress?

Start another busy week with your well-being in mind.

We all know self-care is important, we know what to do and sometimes, when we have time, we do it. What’s the point of one more blog post about it?  Actual research points to how to make limited time for breaks and relaxation more effective.

“If you’re using the same mental activities to relax as you do to work, your brain isn’t really getting a rest. To really relax, it’s better to find something that doesn’t resemble the work you do”,

When you have time to relax and decompress after work, make that time count by using different skills and doing different things than you do at work, according to a recent article in lifehacker and a stress management research review in 99u.com.  

For example, spend a lot of time working on the computer (e.g. case notes, monthly reports, employer research)? Spending an evening or lunch break surfing social media with your eyes on another computer screen might not be as relaxing as you hope. 

And again, the point?  Take a 10 minute break from work – and leave your cell phone behind, too!

 

 

link 99u.com

Job Opportunities in Charlottesville, VA

Monticello_reflected

Live and resettle refugees amidst American history – Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpieces andEdgar Allen Poe’s college dorm room – in the home town of three U.S. presidents.  The gorgeous Shenandoah mountain hiking’s not bad, either.

The IRC in Charlottesville, VA is hiring for both a Senior Employment Specialist, and a Resettlement Manager (with oversight over both case management and employment services).

If you have a refugee employment job opening, send it to information@higheradvantage.org and we’ll post them on Friday