Friday Feature: A Refugee Family’s First Month in the U.S.

Erika Shultz/Seattle Times

Erika Shultz/Seattle Times

Although our posts typically focus on the employment search of our clients and not on what they experience in their first days or weeks in the U.S., it’s good to keep in mind the extreme adjustment (with all the hopes, fears, and uncertainties) that our clients are going through when we begin working with them.

Take a few minutes this Friday to check out this fantastic multi-media piece from the Seattle Times on the first 30 days of a Bhutanese refugee family in Washington state:

Webinar Announcement: International Perspectives On Connecting Immigrant and Refugee Youth to Employment

Looking for ideas and inspiration for connecting immigrant and refugee youth to employment? Tuning in to ideas from other countries resettling refugees can be a helpful way to get some fresh perspective and think outside the box.

This Wednesday at 10:00 AM EST, Canada-based Cities of Migration will host a webinar featuring “enterprising ideas from Stockholm and Paris that are connecting talented young people to jobs while helping businesses tap the diversity advantage.”

The webinar will highlight strategies such as social enterprises, vocational training and mentorship programs that help prepare under/un-employed immigrant and refugee youth for the labour market while promoting the values of corporate diversity and leadership to employers.

To register, click here:

Soft Skills: A Fundamental in Our Work

We think a lot about skills and what employers are looking for in new hires.  Even though this data was published by the Confederation of British Industry, it closely mirrors what we experience in our job development efforts with employers and job readiness preparation with clients.  Take a quick look at this graphic to remind yourself of the importance of “soft skills” and characteristics over specific technical skills and experience.











Want to spend more time thinking about soft skills and how to help clients understand why they are valuable and how to convey that value to employers?  Check out Higher’s eLearning course How to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions. Also, review these three previous Higher blog posts:

The U-Curve of Cultural Adjustment

The initial resettlement period is action packed for refugees and employment service providers.  Everything is new.  Much of it is exciting and scary. Multiply that experience by however many clients you resettled this month and it’s easy to forget the typical emotional journey of anyone who experiences life in a different culture.

This 2011 resource from the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) is a quick reminder of a less tangible part of the new arrival experience.  When clients express unrealistic expectations, don’t show up for interview practice or don’t seem fully engaged in their own job search, their experience of cultural adjustment might be part of the reason.


Employer Perspectives on Hiring Refugees in the U.S. and Europe

Successful Job Development and Customized Job Readiness Preparation Offer Business Solutions

Two recent articles illustrate proven strategies we know work, outline employer perspectives shared between U.S. and European industry and point to growing industry-led innovations to integrate refugees into the workforce.

Results from Best Practices in Our Work

An article in highlights successful IRC employer partnerships with Chipotle, Starwood Lodging and others. They describe customized job readiness preparation, effective applicant pre-screening and interview preparation similar to services many of you provide to employer partners.

According to a quote from the article, “refugees sent [to Chipotle] by the IRC are more than seven times more likely to be qualified and hired compared to someone in the company’s typical applicant pool.

Employer Partnerships and Corporate-led Solutions in the U.S. and Europe

Businesses..say that working with refugees isn’t charity, it’s good business, according to another quote from the article from Jennifer Patterson,quote-snip project director for the Partnership for Refugees, a new initiative the White House announced in June to work with the private sector.

recent article from mentions on-line educational opportunities offered for refugees in Europe. Read a previous Higher blog post about a similar opportunity from Coursera for Refugees, part of the White House initiative.

Similar Employer Motivations and Initial Concerns about Hiring Refugees

The article highlights early successes and the corporate perspective on hiring refugees in Germany. Prospective employers express concern about limits to initial productivity due to low language proficiency.

Refugee employment service providers know that employers who partner with us to hire refugees quickly see beyond initial worries about language, illustrated in this quote from the article.

“We do sometimes need to increase up-front training for our refugee recruits,” says Starwood’s associate director of community partnerships and global citizenship Kristin Meyer. “But the dedication and passion they bring to the job definitely outweighs that investment.”

Statistics about initial job placements for new arrivals in Germany also mirror our success placing refugees in starter jobs with strong hospitality and service sector employer partners.  Across the country, strong hotel employer partnerships yield supportive starter jobs and support for short-term vocational pre-employment training like pilot hospitality training programs developed by IRC and Starwood lodgings.

What We Might Learn from Germany About Registered Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is already a widespread business strategy for on-boarding and training new hires in Germany.  Read more about the expansion of registered apprenticeship opportunities in the U.S in a previous Higher blog post from our mainstream resource series.

German employers see pre-apprenticeship bridge training as necessary to prepare refugees to succeed in apprenticeship programs. This mirrors successes many refugee employment programs have with contextualized ESL, in-house short-term vocational training programs as prerequisites to successful refugee access to other mainstream workforce resources.

Businesses in the U.S. and Europe share some of the same goals and needs when hiring refugees. The services we provide to employer partners offer solutions that could be replicated in Europe.  There many be lessons we can learn from bridge training in the context of registered apprenticeship in Germany.




New CORE Videos Offer Useful Employment Stories

SIV Stories:  Starting Anew in the United States

Three new videos from the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange (CORE) include excellent first hand stories from Iraqi and Afghan SIVs about their employment experience.

They specifically discuss adjusting expectations around starter jobs, realistic hourly wages, career advancement and how many members of a family might need to work.

Each one is 10-15 minutes long, so you might want to first identify where to queue just the part you want to use in your job readiness activities. They’re available in English, Arabic and Farsi.

SIV Video Series

Please, Take a Quick Lunch Break Today

nyc lunch breakWhile you’re reading this, take a minute to feel good about the difference your hard work makes to refugees. We’re all hustling to get a huge number of arrivals settled in and on solid ground for success.

Leaving your desk at lunch will help you be even more productive and keep burnout away.  A recent article in is a fast read on your smart phone while you get 15 minutes of fresh air and sunshine.  You deserve it.



3 Fall Job Development Strategies

Photo Credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Michael Nagle/Getty Images

A surge in arrivals now means that you’ll need strong employer relationships and plenty of job openings this fall.  Hiring slows down over the holidays. Now’s the time to make the next four months count with lots of solid job placements.

Here are three ideas to consider from a previous Higher blog post:

1.  Turnover  in Student-related jobs:  There will be turnover in jobs filled by students as their schedules change for a  new semester.  Campus housing, maintenance and food service jobs will be widely available.  Watch for school district hiring fairs for kitchen and lunchroom monitor jobs.  Great for moms who need part time work around children’s schedules.

2.  Start of busy season for hotels:  Business travel.  Cooler weather. Hotels are gearing up for full occupancy now.  Get in touch with your hotel partners.  Approach a couple of new ones.  Consider organizing a special job readiness session focused on preparing for success in back of the house jobs.

3.  Special events staffing:  State fairs. Fall concerts. Football games. All kinds of special events recruit staff to set-up, serve, and clean up. These opportunities are great to build US work experience or as an interim job while you work on a permanent placement. Aramark and Sodexo are national contractors.  A quick google search or phone call should help you identify local contractors.

And why the turkey suit, you ask?  My favorite college job was delivering flowers in costume, including the Easter bunny and a Thanksgiving turkey!  

A Good Idea from Haj Ghassan


Job opportunity promoted on Facebook

Reach former clients via the social media networks of colleagues from a refugee background

Our network benefits from all of the former refugees, asylees and SIVs who work in refugee resettlement. Their strong networks, social media presence and leadership in their own communities is only one reason.

By the time I saw Ghassan’s post in my Facebook feed, it already had more than 20 comments from job seekers interested in the opportunity he shared. I recognized many of the names as former clients who are likely no longer in close contact with their resettlement agency.

Many of our colleagues from a refugee background have similar strong networks among their ethnic communities.  Sharing job leads – or other important information – via their social media networks – could reach clients who don’t come to your office.

How can your agency take advantage of the strong connections offered by staff from a refugee background?  Share job leads?  Reach out to highly skilled professionals?  Get back in touch with clients about new programs and resources you offer now?

Ghassan Amdeen works as an Employment Specialist in Central Texas.  He was my colleague and is still someone whose friendship and wisdom I value.  Thanks to him for allowing me to share his idea as a best practice others can replicate.


A Free Economic Integration Webinar from Welcoming America

welcomeJoin Welcoming America on Tuesday, August 9 from 12:00 – 1:00 EST to learn about two promising practices for including refugees in your community’s economic development.  You’ll learn about models for creating inclusive training and structuring culturally competent lending programs.  Click here to register.

And don’t forget that September 16-25 is Welcoming Week!  Click here to learn how you can bring an engaging event to your community and get involved in other ways.