New to Refugee Employment? (Or Not.) Peer Support is Important.

Ever feel like noone gets what you do?  Wish you could hear from someone else doing this work?  Take two minutes to give yourself a quick dose of peer support.

Laura Pugliano, Lutheran Family Services in Lancaster, PA talks about her first year in refugee employment.  You’ll appreciate how much Laura’s experience captures the diversity, pace and sastifaction in what we all do.

7 Tips for New Supervisors

On-goScreen Shot 2016-03-20 at 6.23.26 PMing changes and growth in U.S. refugee resettlement makes effective supervision even more important.  Anticipated increases in Matching Grant slots and the annual arrival ceiling seem likely to create opportunities for career advancement.

A recent article from Boyer Management Group offers 7 basics to keep in mind if you are – or hope to become – a supervisor.  They are equally helpful to know for those who receive supervision.

One of the most helpful aspects of the article is a focus on supervisors promoted from within the team they will be managing.

Here are key takeaways from the article:

Trust is important and it goes both ways.  Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 6.24.11 PM

Your staff won’t trust you if you don’t trust them. Your former colleagues are also learning how you fit into a new role on the team. Create a safe space for everyone to develop mutual confidence and respect.

Don’t assume you know all the answers because you did your former job well.  

Listen to your team.  Ask them for input. Don’t expect everyone to do exactly the same things you did.  Don’t start by declaring what you will change before gathering ideas and information.

Here’s additional advice for new supervisors from 120 of your peers so you have even more expert input to consider.

Establish clear objectives and expectations and avoid micro-management.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 6.24.47 PMProvide clear objectives and expectations. Develop them with team input. Then, empower your staff to implement their part of  your work.

This doesn’t mean that you stop paying attention. It does mean that you let go of some of the details. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review provides simple, detailed descriptions of micro-management.

Footnote: The three images in this post are from Dilbert, an American comic strip by Scott Adams. The strip is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office.

Reader Question: How Do You Portray Unique Refugee Experience on a Resume?

James Dean

Ok, so this isn’t Nate, but he’s almost as cool!

Nate Weigel, Employment Coordinator at World Relief Tri-Cities is looking for advice about creating effective client resumes.

Obviously resumes are an important aspect of the American employment process, but clients often lack traditional U.S. work experience. This can make it difficult to create a competitive resume.

Are there ways we can use the unique refugee experience as an asset to make their resume stand out?  What experience can you offer that doesn’t just omit relevant experience on a resume because it’s unconventional?

This is a great question, and one that we’ve been asked before.  If you have any advice for Nate, please comment on this post or send us your suggestions and resources so that we can compile your feedback in a future blog post.

Reader Question: Do You Have Employment Volunteer Training Materials?

Jennifer Barischoff has worked in refugee resettlement for more than 8 years, including work with IRC and Catholic Charitites.

Jenny Barischoff has worked in refugee resettlement for more than 8 years, including work with IRC and Catholic Charitites.

Jenny Barischoff is starting a new refugee resettlement site in Salem, Oregon as a branch office of Catholic Charities Oregon in Portland.  Volunteers are going to be especially important as she builds community awareness and starts with a very small staff.

She’ll recruit volunteers specifically to help with employment and is looking for curriculum and other materials already available.  There’s a lot out there for general volunteer training, but less that is specific to employment.

Please send your suggestions and resources to help Jenny launch the first refugee resettlement program in Salem!

4 New Years Resolutions for Better Client Services

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 8.34.50 PMNow is a good time to get a bit more organized to start the new year.

Recent research shows that the state of your workspace has an impact on concentration and efficiency.

Here are four resolutions you should keep. (Never mind those other ones if you even bothered to make them.)


1.  Catch up on filing. (Not to mention case notes!)

2.  Move five things on your desk into a drawer. (Piles of scribbled sticky notes equal one thing.)

3.  Remove all outdated client resource flyers and materials from your cube wall. (Be a hero.  Do the same in client common areas.)

4.  Add something new to your refugee employment practice. (Think new community referral source or potential employer.)

5 Ideas to Stay Productive At Work During the Holidays


Let Higher help you do better than this!

Of course, there’s plenty of work to do, but if you’re feeling distracted, here are five quick ideas to keep yourself productive and entertained whle you’re working over the holidays.

1.  Hang out on social media.  Share your favorite Higher blog post.  Polish your LinkedIn profile.  Follow employers you want to target in the new year.

2. Listen to some music at your desk.  Heavy metal from SyriaClassic country from BurmaRap from Afghanistan. 

3. Organize an office potluck.  No turkey or cranberries!  Check out recipe ideas from Flavors from Home or Good and Cheap

4. Find fresh inspiration from refugee stories. Hear from Abdi (Somalia) or Clemantine (Rwanda)

5.  Watch refugee videos you can use to freshen up your job readiness class Interview adviceCareer Paths.  English and Other Life Skills

Thanksgiving: A U.S. Tradition for Refugees

tgivingMany of our agencies organize special Thanksgiving celebrations to celebrate with refugees all that they bring to our country and the many benefits we all enjoy all year.  You can click on three links – here, here and here – to read about a few examples.

Thanksgiving may be a U.S. holiday tradition, but feeling and expressing gratitude is universal.

One Somali way to express thanks is to “touch the shoulder” of someone you want to show respect and appreciation.  Today, I touch all of your shoulders for your commitment to our work and, to all refugees, for all they bring to their new U.S. communities.

Higher’s blog will begin again on Monday.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



Sleep and Self Care. Both Important for Our Work.

Cross-cultural communication. Driving all over the place. Difficult conversations with employers. Frantic calls from clients. Training clients on public transportation. Long meetings. Cold-calling. Working in refugee employment is rewarding AND exhausting!

Most of the time we look to techniques, best-practices and strategies to make us successful in our work, but we often forget about the importance of self-care. If we burn out, our clients won’t get the services they deserve.

Effective self-care requires discipline and means forming new habits. Developing a new rhythm won’t happen overnight. But one thing that can happen overnight is you getting enough sleep! Here’s a video from Fast Company to inspire you to take this first small step towards being healthier and more productive at work.

Start with this “baby step” and then spend some time exploring other self-care strategies. The University of Buffalo’s School of Social Work has developed a “Self-Care Starter Kit” that provides many helpful suggestions and resources.

Cleveland, OH: Making the Case for Collaboration

cleveland_rocks 640x480Collaboration is a buzz-word in the non-profit world, but as we all know, it is “easier said than done.” There are many factors in our work that make collaboration tricky, and at times it doesn’t seem worth the effort. Before you give up on collaboration, however, consider this example from Cleveland, OH.

The Refugee Services Collaborative (RSC) of Greater Cleveland is a group of organizations (14 in total!) that have been working together since 2011 to better serve the rising numbers of refugees resettling in Northeast Ohio. The RSC includes three refugee resettlement agencies, area school systems, healthcare providers, and community and faith-based organizations.

In order to get a little insight on what collaboration has looked like in Cleveland, Higher spoke to Janus Small, president of Janus Small Associates and the Facilitator of the RSC:

How and why did the RSC get started?

The purpose of the RSC is to make Cleveland the best place in the country for refugees to be resettled and to make the individual organizations that serve refugees successful in the work that they do.

We got started when a group of refugee service providers came together back in 2010-2011 to inventory what services were being provided, what services were being duplicated, and also to identify gaps that existed.

We started with a survey of 14 organizations and had such a positive experience that we decided to formalize the collaboration, and in January of 2013, after receiving a generous grant from the Cleveland Foundation, launched a full calendar of joint activities.

 What does the collaboration actually look like?

The RSC meets on a monthly basis. We have task forces that are working on different projects.

For example, one group recently worked on a public awareness campaign which commissioned 5 local film makers to make short documentaries on refugee families. These films were shown as part of our World Refugee Day celebration and have also been screened and discussed in local “town hall meetings.”

At each RSC meeting we have someone from an outside organization present information that will be relevant for RSC members. We also host quarterly professional development workshops that help service organizations refine their skills (e.g. workshops on data management, developing excellent volunteer programs, board development, community outreach, and strategic development).

Collaboration is not easy to pull off in the non-profit world. Why has it worked in Cleveland?

One thing that has really worked for us is to have a neutral, objective, 3rd party facilitator that is not on staff at one of the refugee service organizations.

Additionally, there is not a lot of money involved, and the money that is involved is a result of multiple RSC organizations working together on certain grants.

For example, we collaborated on a grant that allowed us to do an economic impact study that helps document all the ways that refugees and immigrants contribute in Cleveland.

What are some concrete ways that you have seen refugees better served as a result of the RSC?

We’ve formed a refugee advisory council that meets monthly. This was important to us because we wanted to make sure that we are not only serving the refugee service organizations, but also the refugees themselves.

We’ve also worked together as a collaborative to build relationships with employers and landlords so that there will be more employment and housing opportunities for refugees in Cleveland.

Many thanks to Janus Small for sharing this collaboration success story. Keep up the good work Cleveland!

For another example of successful collaboration check out this 2013 Higher post about the Refugee Employment Coalition in Kent, WA:

We’d also love to hear about your successes and challenges in developing collaborative partnerships related to refugee employment. Let us know at!

Collecting Arabic Language Job Readiness Resources

Arabic calligraphy is so beautiful. Can anyone tell me what this says?

Arabic calligraphy is so beautiful. Can anyone tell me what this says?

We’ve recently received several requests for job readiness materials translated into Arabic.

The only resources available on our site now are picture vocabulary guides for housekeeping and food service. Click here to download those.  They’re great for use in interview preparation or ESL classes.  Employers love them, too.

If you have resources to share or helpful online resource links, comment on this post or email us at We’ll make them available on our Downloadable Resource page so everyone can use them.

Thanks in advance.