Fight Burnout. Cultivate Innovation.

hamster wheelIt’s easy to work harder and not smarter in the field of refugee employment.

We are often distracted by the “tyranny of the urgent” – the constant influx of arrivals, employers and client “emergencies”. We rarely give ourselves the freedom to learn, imagine, or innovate.

I’m afraid – and I’m speaking from personal experience here – that we often play it safe and end up on the hamster wheel of the status quo. Burned out, stressed out and focused on producing just enough results to keep our jobs, we can lose sight of our clients and maybe our passion for this important work.

How can we fight this downward spiral?

Innovate Like a Tech Company

I’d like to suggest taking a cue from tech companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Dedicate some time each week for innovation and creativity. Why not take a few hours on a Friday afternoon – or in your next team meeting – to consider questions like these?

1.  How can we help clients develop career pathways that include early employment AND are in line with their long-term goals? What does this look like for clients with low levels of English or literacy? What about for highly skilled clients, single mothers or young adults who crave education but must work?

2.  How can we be more creative with social media? What makes sense for us, and what makes sense for the employers we work with?

3.  How can we cultivate community partnerships outside of refugee resettlement that create new opportunity for clients and for us? Think about city officials, other workforce development professionals or relevant university researchers, students or professors.

4.  How can we develop job readiness or job club programs that build client skills to become independent over time and even increase self-placements?

5.  How can we learn from other refugee employment professionals around the country? Are there strategies and solutions that have worked for others that might work for us too?

You might feel like you can’t afford the time to think beyond current stressors. Your team will be stronger if you do.  You’ll rediscover the joy in your work and you and your clients will be more successful.

If you don’t believe me, ask Google!

DWilkinson HeadshotDaniel Wilkinson is a Philadelphia-based job developer with nearly 5 years experience serving refugee communities. He has worked for Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey in Trenton, NJ and Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, PA. 

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