7 Tips if You’re New To Job Development

If you’re new to refugee job development, welcome to what is sure to be one of the most challenging and rewarding chapters of your career!

Maybe you’re fresh out of college or perhaps you’re a career changer looking for more meaningful work. You are likely very excited about your new position but you’ve probably also had a few moments of wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.

You have a long and growing list of clients that you need to place and many of them have significant barriers to employment. You’re beginning to think that your title should be Miracle Worker instead of Job Developer. Well guess what? We’ve all been there!

Here are 7 tips to get you through your first few crazy months as a Job Developer:

1. Breathe! What you are experiencing is normal. The work that we do is not easy, but it is rewarding! Murphy’s Law (“whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”) will summarize many of your days as a Job Developer, but there will also be many days where you will celebrate amazing successes with clients and coworkers.

2. Realize that there is a seasonal nature to the work that we do. Ask your coworkers or a supervisor to help you know what to expect at different times in the year. There are times in the year that will be slow and times that will be insane, both in terms of employer hiring and refugee arrivals. October and November will be crazier because of the recent bulge in refugee arrivals and also because employers do a lot of hiring in the fall. December and January are typically slow months in terms of employer hiring.

3. Get a mentor. Mentors are good for your clients, and they are good for you. Find a coworker who is more experienced and ask if they can share what has worked for them, and how they’ve dealt with the challenges of the job. Find an opportunity to “shadow” them as they do employer outreach. After watching them make their pitch to a few employers, try taking the lead on the next few employer visits, and ask your mentor for feedback.

4. Get out of the office! After going out to do employer outreach with your mentor once or twice, get out there and do it yourself. It will be scary. You’ll stumble over your words. You’ll get strange stares and doors slammed in your face. But you’ll get better. Success will come through practice and through getting out there and building relationships with employers. These relationships will not happen by looking at craigslist or doing online job applications; they will happen by you getting out there and “pounding the pavement.”

5. Focus on the Needs of Employers. While there is a humanitarian aspect to the work that we do, focusing on the difficult circumstances of our clients when we speak to employers is not likely to lead to long term partnerships. Employers become partners when they see that you understand the needs and challenges of their business, and can offer them consistent and effective solutions (i.e. motivated, reliable and dependable employees). Over time they may become passionate about helping refugees, but your job is to help them take the first step by convincing them that hiring a refugee is good for their business.

6. Have balanced expectations of your clients. Never underestimate your clients. Don’t be too pessimistic. Refugees are survivors and some of the most resilient people on the planet. You will feel like it’s impossible for some of your clients to get and keep jobs. Many of your clients will prove you wrong. On the other hand, be careful about being overly-optimistic about your clients with higher levels of English and literacy. Starting over in a new culture is a huge challenge for all refugees. Higher skilled clients have their own share of challenges, whether those be unrealistic expectations, trauma, or cultural adjustment issues. Regardless of skill level, the key is to identify barriers to employment early and work with your clients to develop an employment strategy that helps them overcome these challenges.

7. Sign up for Higher’s Online Learning Institute. Our eLearning modules will get you up to speed on best practices in the field ranging from conducting employability assessments, to communicating with employers, to writing effective case notes. Learn more about Higher’s Online Learning Institute here.

 

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!

Friday Feature: NPR Covers Refugees Working in Chicago Bakery

Photo from the original article: Employees hand-finish cheesecakes on the production line at Eli’s in Chicago.
Deborah Amos/NPR

In 2017, Higher will resume our Friday Features which are stories that are published by the media around the country which highlight refugee employment. We hope to brighten the end of your week with some positive and interesting stories that accentuate the great work of refugees and refugee staff. In the article we chose below, NPR explores the yummy world of cheesecake in Chicago.

Read this NPR piece Refugees Resettled In Chicago Help Make Its Most Famous Cheesecake written by Debora Amos. Stories of refugees succeeding in business is one that deserves the spotlight. This article covers the journey a few refugees learning the highly skilled world of a computerized production line with an old world recipe. 15% of the total workforce are refugees from 5 different countries and there is opportunity for advancement and promotion for workers who remain with the company.

10 Tips for Newly Hired Employment Managers

Congratulations! After all the long and hard hours you’ve worked building innovative and successful employment programs, you are now a manager. This new role is important and well-deserved but comes with a whole new set of goals and demands. New managers need just as much guidance in their role so here are a few helpful tips to all the new managers out there:

1) Address the shift immediately: If you find yourself managing your former peers you must address the new dynamics immediately. Have a meeting with the staff and your supervisor. Have your supervisor explain the shift and your new role so everyone is clear about the new team dynamic. Whereas you may have gone out with co-workers after work before, that friendship dynamic may no longer be possible. Please keep in mind that some colleagues may be resentful of your promotions but just be professional and focus on running a great program.

2)  Communication- It’s a two way street: A great manager knows how to listen effectively and does not talk down to their employees. Take the time to understand and appreciate the thoughts and feelings of your staff. Have a weekly team meeting where you give a few updates but also allow time for the staff to give updates. A few ideas to get staff talking: have your staff come prepared to discuss a difficult client story, a successful client story, and an issue they need advice on. Then talk through each situation as a team.

3) Effective and Efficient Meetings: In the refugee resettlement world everyone is working at such a fast pace. In order to get your staff to slow down and take the time to comprehend what you need them to learn, be wise about when and how often you schedule meetings. If you don’t have enough information to fill up an agenda, don’t call a meeting. Decide what and when new information needs to be shared. For example ORR changes to programs or problems with TANF are going to lead your agenda. Try to focus on 3 to 5 key issues in each meeting, and try not to meet more than once a week as a team.

4) Delegation: A great manager knows the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. It’s your job now to make sure the workload is divided. A manager does not take on all the work themselves; rather they know what needs to be accomplished and can identify which team member is best suited to accomplish the task. You are there to oversee and guide your staff, not to do their work for them. 

5) Accept Responsibility: Problems arise. Accept responsibility for your own actions, and accept responsibility for your team’s actions. Failure to accept responsibility makes a manager look weak to both superiors and subordinates.

6) One-on-one meetings: These meetings are a great way to learn what your employees need. Employees can sometimes be shy to share in a large groups. Here you will want to focus these meetings on the employee’s: needs, strengths, problems with clients. Ask if they want additional training and how are they managing their time. Some people need help managing their workload and this may mean helping them create a strict weekly schedule. These meetings should also be a chance for employees to hear from you. Positive feedback is always going to be better received. Try to make plans to help employee improve their performance instead of just pointing out their weaknesses. 

7) Continued Professional Development: A manager is someone who is constantly learning and growing. There are tons of great seminars out there on how to be an effective manager, but there are also lots of webinars and resources that can help you advance and grow your employment programs. At the end of this article are a few resources.

8) Find a Mentor: Find someone who is an inspiring manager and ask them if they might become a mentor to you. Advice from someone you respect will go a long way. A mentor can also be a great resource and sounding board for your ideas and problems. Be open about how you are feeling in your new role and what support you need in order to continue growing as a manager. 

9) Passion for the Mission: As a manager you will be asked to address many stakeholders in your community, including employers, funders, and government officials. Public speaking may not be your forte but it will improve over time if you can passionately convey your work. Passion for the clients and your organization’s mission will go a long way in the success of your work and will keep you coming to work with a smile on your face and set a great example for your staff.

10 )Lead by Example: Don’t just tell your staff what to do; show them. A great manager knows how to do the work, not just teach it. Instead of asking new staff to teach job club, give them the opportunity to observe you or another seasoned staff member so that they can learn by example. Offer to sit with them if they have a difficult client, or need support with tasks such as intake paperwork or a food stamp re-certification. Staying engaged in the work of your staff will also give you a chance to exercise and refresh your skills. Above all, inspire others to want to help you accomplish desired goals. People who want to do something are far more effective than people who have to do something.

Additional Tools and Resources for Supervisors and Managers:

Discussing the Changes to the FY17 Matching Grant Program Guidelines

In June, the Office of Refugee Resettlement released the FY17 Program Guidelines for Matching Grant. MG is a highly competitive program and requires significant program outcomes so staying aware of changes to the program guidelines is very important.

Many of you are already familiar with the FY17 changes, but just in case you missed the memo, here are two important changes you need to know about:

  1. Home visits are required for non-R&P clients (any client not resettled by your agency). Here are a few examples of clients that that this policy would apply to:
    • A family of 4 asylees was granted asylum just 12 days ago and comes to your office requesting employment services. After verifying their date of asylum, copying their eligibility documents and conducting a through intake and assessment you decide (you may need to request permission from headquarters) to enroll the family in MG.
    • Another agency calls and says they have a family of 3 recently arrived SIV recipients. After meeting the family, conducting an intake and assessment, and verifying eligibility and requesting permission from the other agency, you enroll the family in MG.
    • A Cuban parolee comes to your office on day 30 and has already applied for her EAD and you live in a state where the EAD come in quickly. You assess the situation and decide to enroll the client in MG.

A home visit must be conducted for each of these clients if they are enrolled in your MG program if they are receiving funds for housing. The home visit should ideally be conducted with an interpreter to ensure the housing is safe then the staff must be documented in the client’s case notes. Please check with your RA for specifics of how to conduct this visit. 

2.Potential clients who arrive without the benefit of R&P services must be screened for human trafficking. If there is reason to believe that the client has been trafficked an appropriate referral must be made. This change pertains to potential MG clients who did not come through the Reception and Placement program. Examples include:

    • Cuban or Haitian entrants with paroled status
    • SIV recipients who travel to the United States on their own
    • Asylees

Photo credit CWS Durham

ORR does say that this rule will only apply after the Office of Trafficking in Persons (under the Administration for Children and Families) and Refugee Council USA have jointly developed a screening procedure. After speaking with RCUSA that policy has yet to be developed. If this changes, Higher will be sure to send an update. It is important that refugee MG programs regularly review and train staff on the MG guidelines as ORR will continue to ramp up it site monitoring of this program throughout FY17.

The FY17 MG Program Guidelines with highlighted changes can be accessed here..

Higher is here to support you. If you need additional support related to MG, please let us know at information@higheradvantage.org.

Upcoming Learning Opportunities

Friday, October 7, 2016 – American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) Conference

What: This Friday, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) will hold their second conference, Integrating Migrants into the Workforce.  Bringing together nonprofit, educational, corporate, and federal and local government actors from the United States and Germany, this conference will highlight both countries’ strengths of educating the workforce (Germany) and integrating newcomers into society (United States). To learn more about this event, visit the AICGS website.

Where: Washington, DC

When: Friday, October 7, 2016 from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm (EST)

How: Register to attend here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 – Free Webinar: Job-Ready, Set, Go! Connecting Immigrant and Refugee Youth to Employment

What: Cities of Migration is hosting a free webinar to explore enterprising ideas from Stockholm and Paris that are connecting talented young people to jobs while helping businesses tap the diversity advantage.

Where: Online – learn more about this event here.

When: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 10 am (EST)

How: Register to attend here.

Simple Strategies to Address Common Barriers, Part 2

transportationAt a recent Maryland-wide workshop which focused on refugee workforce development, Higher had participants do a brainstorming activity, in which groups worked together to list common barriers refugees face to employment as well as possible solutions.

These types of activities inevitably generate a “wish list” of solutions which are great ideas but not always in our power to implement quickly (e.g. adding staff members, ESL at work sites, home-based self-employment for refugee women).

While there are certainly times to pursue those big ideas, perhaps the best thing about exercises like this is that they allow groups to identify simpler solutions that can be implemented immediately.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share some of these insights from your Maryland peers, focusing on simple and practical strategies that are relatively easy to implement!  Last week we focused on tips for overcoming childcare challenges.  This week we’ll share a few tips on overcoming the barrier of transportation challenges.

Tips for Overcoming Transportation Challenges:

  • Cover transportation options into job readiness training.  Include orientations about public transportation, including information about weekly or monthly bus passes, using smart phone applications to get around, perhaps even information about obtaining driver’s licenses.
  • Develop partnerships with public and private transportation organizations.
  • Be strategic about resettling families closer to job location and/or public transportation hubs.
  • Work with local DMV offices to improve accessibility for speakers of other languages.
  • Encourage your clients to work with you on this challenge, asking them to network within their community to explore solutions.

For more on transportation solutions, click here.

Stay tuned for more tips from MD refugee employment programs and stakeholders. Future barriers will include limited English proficiency, limited computer skills, and unrealistic client expectations.

Feel free to participate in the conversation by leaving a comment below or sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

Everything You Wish You Didn’t Know About Pre-Employment Drug Tests

Drug Screen Fail iStock_000021653588XSmallThrowback Thursday: a classic Higher blog post about a fundamental of our work.

How many of you have felt the frustration of a failed drug screen that prevents a client from starting a job you worked hard to help them get?  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, one client’s failure to pass a drug screen can put a dent in employer relationships.  It definitely has a negative impact on family self-sufficiency.

When a candidate fails a drug screen, most employers will not accept a re-application for six months.  For large corporations with multiple brands or retail outlets, the ban applies system-wide.  For clients with minimal English, one more barrier to employment is especially problematic.

Here are some tips for working with clients around drug screens.

Discuss US law related to illegal substances in Cultural Orientation. 

Laws and cultural norms may be more accepting of the use of some substances that are illegal in the US.  Clients will not know our laws and expectations unless they are told.

If you involve law enforcement spokespersons directly as presenters, hearing about the consequences of illegal drug use from someone in uniform can be especially effective.  It goes beyond discouraging client drug use to include issues of neighborhood safety, school security for their children and long term family success.

While a failed drug screen won’t result in deportation, a drug related arrest could have negative consequences for their long term immigration status, preventing them from becoming U.S. citizens.

Include an explanation of how a drug screen works in Job Readiness Class. 

betel

Betel nut. Barrier to employment? Perhaps. Illegal? No.

Describing what happens after a job interview is a logical place to discuss drug screening since it is a common pre-employment step in the process.  If  asked to take a drug test, it is a good indication that a client will get a job offer if they pass.  Clients should be aware that drug tests are often free for job candidates and expensive for employers.

Explain that alcohol, tobacco or betel nut are not included.  Substances that are illegal in the US – including marijuana – are.  For our clients, pills, cocaine-based products and party drugs are largely unfamiliar and inaccessible.  Marijuana or hashish is usually the substance that causes issues for our clients during their initial resettlement period.

Reinforce in One-on-One Client Meetings.

Describe what happens in a clinic that administers the tests to help clients who don’t speak much English navigate a pre-employment drug screen.  Be specific about container use, sanitation, form completion and identification, especially if they will go unaccompanied by resettlement agency staff.  Don’t forget to remind clients to bring any medications they take with them to the drug screening clinic.  Some prescription medications can cause the same results as detecting illegal drug use, which is called a “false positive”.

Consider preparing translated versions of a map, directions and procedures for large employers or commonly used clinics accessible via public transportation.  Employers will likely see this as offering them a valuable customer service.

Talk about the kinds of jobs that client has expressed interest in that will NEVER be a possibility if they can’t pass a drug screen or if they have a drug-related arrest record.  Any kind of driving, security or medical job is likely to be included on the list.

Exactly How Direct Should You Be?

 As an employment professional, you need to know up front if a client will not be able to pass a drug screen.  If your approach makes a client feel judged or guilty or fearful of being punished, they will likely not be honest and might not take you seriously.

fake remedies

Drinking lots of cranberry juice is not proven to help pass a drug screen.

Profiling and stereotyping clients is never a good thing.  But, if you suspect a client might present this barrier, be direct.  Explain the consequences.  Advise that they refrain from using illegal substances, at least until they have a job.  Read more about the employer perspective, including their preference for candidates to take themselves out of the running before taking and failing a drug screen.

Debunk rumors about the effectiveness of home remedies or expensive products for sale in retail stores or online.  Common wisdom is that marijuana usage can be detected for at least a month after the last use.  The only way to be sure you can pass a drug screen is to avoid using illegal drugs.

Homer-Simpson-wingnuts-doh

How you feel when a client can’t pass a pre-employment drug test.

What to do if a client can’t pass (or doesn’t pass)? 

Identify some employers who do not require pre-employment drug screens.  Many restaurants and some hotel chains are included in that list.  Small or locally-owned businesses are more likely to avoid unnecessary expense if safety and liability are not at issue.

Discuss counseling or other treatment options with case managers, who can reinforce the information clients are hearing from you and in classes.

Present affected clients with options for skills training or intensive ESL classes to keep them productive (and too busy to revert to previous bad habits).  It is likely to take longer to help find a job for client who has failed a drug screen or admitted to the need to wait until they can pass.

As an agency, discuss what your policy related to drug use is and how it will be communicated to all clients.  You could consider sanctions (especially related to financial benefits), a reduction in employment services or even requiring a self-funded drug screen before resuming active employment assistance.  Having a policy and procedures outlined and explained in advance can help you inform clients, preserve employer relationships and encourage long-term self-sufficiency.

August Webinars with E-Verify

everifyU.S. Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) regularly offers free webinars for clients and employers about completing I-9 forms and other questions related to E-Verify. Some are in Spanish.

Check out the August Schedule here. Many of us can “verify” the value in attending.

Think you already know how this all works?  Click here to take a 5 question quiz. It’s quick and fun.  Your results might surprise you.  Mine did.

American Job Center Overview

Department of Labor Fact Sheets

  • American Job Center Overview – With nearly 2,800 delivery points nationwide, American Job Centers, also known as One-Stop Career Centers, provide a vast network to address the human resource and employment needs of both job seekers and business in every community.
  • Workforce System Overview – Provides a general overview of how funding flows from the Department of Labor to the local level.