Support for Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens[1]. A community initiative in Silicon Valley is now engaging the immigrant and refugee entrepreneurial spirit through a program focused on supporting potential new business founders.

The Pars Equality Center created the Pars Entrepreneurship Program as a response to a forum that it held; where newly-arrived refugees were invited to hear the stories of successful Iranian-Americans. Participants began asking for more tools, mentors, and practical advice on starting businesses.

Just a couple of years after it started, the Pars Entrepreneurship Program has already become wildly popular, shared Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at the Pars Equality Center. Shortly after creating an Entrepreneurship Program page on Facebook, the page had more than 3,000 followers. “That by itself is an indication of what a huge need there is for a program like this,” said Ellie.

“We sat down and brainstormed with aspiring entrepreneurs for about three months to find out what their needs were,” said Ellie.

The outcome is that Pars Equality Center now hosts bi-weekly meetings featuring experts and business founders who lead roundtable discussions about particular entrepreneurship topics. Topics range from how to incorporate a company to sales planning and fundraising. The group is currently at capacity, with some 50 refugees and immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 3 – 7 years in regular attendance. In addition, a group of mentors is available for individual questions outside of the larger group meetings. Pars Equality Center staff have been successful in finding subject experts and mentors through their personal networks and LinkedIn searches.

Although the group is diverse in age and professional background, one commonality is that “they all have an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Ellie. “They came to Silicon Valley with the hope of starting their own company.”

Twelve entrepreneurial initiatives, all tech-based, have blossomed since the program began. Participants practiced describing their business concepts at a recent Pitch Day event, where investors and advisors were invited to provide feedback. From there, eight participants were selected to take part in a meeting with a capital venture firm and three vendors. Ellie said that although investors expected young refugees and immigrants would need a lot of guidance, they were “in awe of their talent” and also learned new ideas from the entrepreneurs.

The Pars Equality Center is a community-based social and legal organization that focuses on integration of Iranian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-are-immigrants-more-entrepreneurial

WeWork Pledges to Hire Refugees

WeWork is an American company which provides shared workspace, community, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and existing small and large businesses. Founded in 2010, it is headquartered in New York City with many other locations (here).   On Tuesday November 14, the Washington Post reported that WeWork will hire 1,500 refugees globally over the next 5 years. This could be a great opportunity for refugee clients. Check out the full article here.

 

Collaborative Job Fair: Connecting Employers and Professional Refugees and Immigrants in Silicon Valley

Twenty-one employers and more than 140 job seekers attended the first Employer Meet and Greet hosted by the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County in April 2017. It was such a success that a second fair is planned for November 9.

The 31 public, non-profit and individual members of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County noticed that refugees with professional experience start in entry-level jobs when they arrive to the U.S. and can get stuck there. Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at Pars Equality Center and the Chair of the Forum, has a passion for seeing professional refugees and immigrants attain better jobs, “We found a need to really pay attention to this group and not let them fall behind due to very few connections when they first arrive,” said Ellie.

The first job fair made quite an impression on the local refugee and immigrant community, as well as employers. “The excitement in the room was so amazing, from both sides,” said Ellie. Job seekers who attended told organizers they had never been to a job fair with such high-level employers, including Cisco, Airbnb, Bank of America, and Comerica.

Employers who previously never imagined they could find the talents and skills they need among newly-arrived refugees and immigrants are now signing up to join the second Employer Meet and Greet. When asked how the Forum was able to get commitments from so many employers for the pilot event, Ellie admitted, “It was hard!” She said it took the support of the entire Forum sub-committee—each member personally reached out to connections to secure commitments. The organizers emphasized that hiring a refugee is not just about doing a good deed, but that the invited employers have a lot to gain by having access to so many educated professionals.

The Forum sub-committee continues to learn from the successes and challenges of planning a collaborative job fair. The upcoming fair will add a resume workshop for job seekers who want additional feedback on how to best frame their education and experience for a job in the U.S. This event will be held at LinkedIn, which is also providing complimentary profile evaluations for the first 50 job seekers who arrive. Attendees will receive feedback on how their profile compares to others in Silicon Valley. Ellie says they hope to have 30 employers and increase the number of job seekers in attendance.

Although the meet and greet fair has proven invaluable in fostering connections and awareness, one challenge has been the difficulty in tracking how many people were hired from connections made at the fair, a data point the Forum hopes to report after future events.

You can learn more about the career pathways promotion efforts of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Santa Clara County here.

Targeting Growing Industries as a Job Developer

Are you looking to connect with potential employers in fast-growing fields? Here are two online resources to help you make new connections and diversify your pool of job leads.

  1. CareerOneStop lists the 50 fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and that list might spark some ideas for you in looking up industry-specific employers in your area with the Business Finder, which includes contact information for some 12 million businesses. It’s quick and easy to use!
  2. Join LinkedIn “groups” related to the growing field you’d like to explore for potential job openings. Joining a group connects you with numerous employers that you can message personally to set up in-person introductions. Here’s how:
    • Search for industry groups by typing in the name of an employment field the “search” bar at the top left of linkedin.com. A quick search of “healthcare,” for example, returned results such as a “Healthcare Industry Professionals” group with nearly 100,000 members.
    • Click on one of the group names you’re interested in; then click “request to join” on the right side of the page.
    • Once the administrator has approved your request, you can click on the group to access a list of members. Send private messages to set up informational interviews that can help you land a new employer!

What are some other ways you’ve found to successfully diversity your network of employers? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org

Written by guest blogger Carrie Thiele.

 

Workforce Collaborative Brings Together Local Service Providers to Enhance Refugee Work Readiness

When looking at ways to enhance your job readiness training or employment placement, has your agency tried looking into existing community organizations doing similar work?

Local collaboration can mean more than working with other refugee agencies. Collaboration and partnership with other nonprofits in your community doing similar work can maximize the benefits of your employment programs. Like using a bank to teach your financial literacy courses. Looking to other nonprofits who are doing job development or job readiness courses is a great way to further develop opportunities for your clients.

This week, guest blogger Elizabeth Ringler shares an example from Pennsylvania.

A workforce collaborative in Pittsburgh, Pa has launched a new initiative to enhance refugee work readiness through targeted training. The collaborative includes the Career Development Center at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which is a resettlement agency, and the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.  Together, the two organizations serve large numbers of refugees and immigrants in Allegheny County, Pa. This collaboration was made possible through the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative organized by the City of Pittsburgh.

Refugees participating in the program meet twice a week to learn job readiness skills including how to look for a job, resume writing, interview preparation, and networking skills. The program also offers opportunities to enhance participants’ computer literacy and workforce specific English language skills. Additionally, the program offers on-site childcare for participants.

“This program aims to teach immigrants about the American job search process and work culture, and supports each individual in developing a job search strategy that meets their needs and leads to long term career success. By working with regional employers, we hope to showcase the important role and economic value immigrants have in Pittsburgh,” says Career Development Center Director Sarah Welch.

To learn more about the All for All Immigrant Workforce Initiative, contact Iris Valanti, Public Relations Associate, Jewish Family & Children’s Service Email: ivalanti@jfcspgh.org

If your agency does a similar event please write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your story.

A Few Ways to Engage Volunteers in your Employment Program

With all the changes over the course of FY17, Higher has learned that many offices have seen a surge of interest from community volunteers.

Though it can be time consuming to bring on volunteers, when volunteers are involved in the resettlement process they can become powerful community advocates on behalf of refugees.

Here are a few specific ways you can use volunteers in key program areas.

Job Readiness

  • Filling out mock job applications with clients: Gather various job applications from employer websites or places of business. Have volunteers practice filling out applications with clients for the jobs that they are interested in. Focus on any English words that may be confusing or new to clients.
  • Assisting with Job Readiness training: Volunteers can help teach job readiness class or meet 1-on-1 with clients to review key concepts or help them to prepare for job interviews. Mock interviews with individuals or small groups is a great way to prepare for job interviews.
  • Assisting with Transportation: Volunteers can provide transportation for clients searching for jobs nearby or attending job interviews. Once a client accepts a position, volunteers can assist with learning routes to and from a job or assist with arranging transportation if the job requires work at times when public transportation may be inconsistent (e.g. Sundays or night shifts).
  • Financial Literacy: Volunteers can help teach financial literacy courses or provide one on one training to clients. This includes helping clients to open a bank account or complete personal budgets.

Job Development

  • Researching available jobs: With a client by their side, have volunteers research employment opportunities near bus lines or within walking distance of the client’s home.
  • Recruiting potential employers: Have volunteers tap into their networks – work, church, sports teams, family, etc. – to see if anyone they know is interested in hiring refugees.

Post-Placement Assistance

  • Helping clients maintain employment: Once a client is employed, ask a volunteer to sit down with him/her and review the importance of timeliness, not missing work, appropriate dress and proper work behavior.

How do you utilize volunteers in your programs? Write to us at information@higheradvantage.org to share your stories.

For more ideas on engaging volunteers, check out these previously published Higher blog posts:

Head, Heart, Hands: A Strategy for Employer Conversations

When I was a rookie job developer just starting out I came up with a little strategy that I would use when approaching employers. I called it Head, Heart, Hands, and it represented 3 simple messages that I wanted to communicate to employers:

  1. Head: It makes good business sense to hire refugees- it will be a good investment.
  2. Heart: I’m doing something positive by hiring refugees- I’m helping someone rebuild their life.
  3. Hands: It will make my life easier to work with this job developer and hire refugees.

Original Sketch, Daniel Wilkinson, Circa 2011

While I had initially thought of the elements of Head, Heart and Hands as the three points on my employer pitch outline, what I began to realize was that it wasn’t as important to hit all three points, but rather to identify which of the elements was the driving motivation for the employer.

Some employers’ primary concerns may be business issues such as high turnover, frequent employee absences, lazy workers, or issues affecting their bottom line. For these employers you take the “Head” approach and emphasize how your clients will meet the employers’ need where past employees have fallen short. You might highlight client retention rates, strong work ethic or the Work Opportunity Tax Credit incentive.

Other employers just need workers fast. They’re looking for an easy solution to their current labor shortage. For those employers, you take the “Hands” approach, and emphasize how you can solve that problem by getting them work-authorized, motivated and dependable employees quickly.

Finally, there are employers out there who get really excited about the “Heart” aspect. Some may be immigrants or descendants of immigrants and identify with the struggle from that perspective. Others may just have a strong motivation to help others. Although the “business case” is typically much more effective than the “charity pitch,” if you can tell that an employer is really excited to help refugees from more of a humanitarian perspective, then run with it!

Do you have a go-to strategy that you use when walking into a meeting with an employer? Let us know at information@higheradvantage.org or in the comments section below!

Free Job Development Webinar June 27- Space Limited!

Mark your calendars for an upcoming FREE webinar from our friends at DTG-EMP/Kenfield Consulting.

The webinar, “3 Red Hot Issues Every Successful Job Developer Must Address” will take place on Tuesday, June 27, from 9-10 AM Pacific Standard Time and will give an overview of the basics of the Consultative Selling model – a job development model designed for those assisting job seekers with significant barriers to employment.

The webinar will focus specifically on the following:

• How to Convince employers to hire a candidate they would typically reject
• How to Assess clients for motivation to work and when motivation is an issue implement basic intervention techniques that work
• How to Find employers who will hire candidates with employment barriers

This webinar is limited to 200 registrants, so visit www.dtg-emp.com to sign up now!

How can Consultative Selling help refugee employment programs? Listen to what Ryan Overfield, Manager of Refugee Education and Employment Programs at
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, had to say about his staff’s experience implementing this model:

For more on Consultative Selling, check out Higher’s Consultative Selling Resource Pack, located in the Downloadable Resources section of our website.

5 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

Aside from language, literacy, and cultural adjustment issues, transportation is one of the most significant barriers to employment that our clients face. While not always possible, finding employment that is easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation is ideal. Here are a few mapping strategies that you can use to help your clients overcome this employment barrier:

1. Explore the area immediately surrounding your client’s home. Type your client’s address into Google Maps and zoom in and out to look for grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, factories, etc. that would be easily accessible for clients. After familiarizing yourself with a neighborhood through Google maps, it’s a good idea to visit the neighborhood, since there are things you will notice in person that you wouldn’t see just by looking at a map on a computer screen.

2. Use a map of your city’s public transportation system to inform your employer outreach efforts. Start by looking at a paper map or maps that may be available on your city’s public transportation website. Then go to Google Maps, and find transportation lines near where your clients live and follow them to see what businesses are along these routes. Another fun thing to do is to drive public transportation routes as you are doing employer outreach. Sometimes you will see businesses that may not be listed on Google Maps.

A sample of results for Google Maps search: “manufacturing near Chicago”

3. Search for target industries or major employers in the neighborhood, city or region where your clients live. For example you could search for “manufacturing near Pittsburgh, PA” or “Hotels in New Orleans.” Research the largest employers are in your area to see how accessible these employers are for your clients. Where Are the Jobs? is a very helpful website that you can use to obtain labor market information for your area.

4. Start with areas of the city your clients are already familiar with. Take a look at a map with your client or just have a conversation to find out which areas of the city they travel to on a regular basis. If a job opportunity were to open up in an area they are already familiar with and comfortable traveling to, chances are they will be positive about that job and will be likely to be successful there.

5. Use maps to advocate for your clients. Maps can come in handy as visuals in conversations with employers or with your R&P (Reception and Placement) department. With employers, you can use maps to prove that transportation will not be a problem, pointing out the exact transportation lines that your clients will use, and that the transportation schedule will coordinate with the work schedule. With your R&P colleagues, you can use maps to show which neighborhoods are best situated for easy access to employment opportunities. Employment departments and R&P departments may want to consider doing strategy 1 (above) together as a strategy for increasing collaboration on housing and employment.

One rule of thumb for public transportation: Try to keep commute times to an hour or less and avoid having clients take more than two modes of transportation (e.g. switching buses). When the commute is longer than an hour and clients have to take more than 2 modes of transportation, it is almost inevitable that they will struggle to make it to work on time or that they will end up quitting their jobs because the commute is just too overwhelming.

Hopefully, these tips will help you find jobs closer to home for your clients, as well as improve job satisfaction and retention. Let us know if you have other innovative mapping strategies at information@higheradvantage.org!

Body Language Tips for Job Developers – Infographic

In most cases, as a Job Developer, you essentially do the first interview for your clients. If you make a good impression, that employer will want to meet your clients. If not, it’s game over.

We often focus on content rather than form, preparing our clients for job interview questions or preparing our “elevator pitch” for employers, but we sometimes forget that most communication is actually non-verbal (about 80% according to this Businesstopia article).

So the next time you focus on interview prep in job readiness class or get ready to walk into an appointment with an employer, keep these 27 body language tips in mind:

body-language-tricks-to-be-instantly-likeable-infographic-2

Want to see a couple more cool info-graphics related to body language for job interviews and business interactions? Check out The Basics of Business Body Language and 7 Body Language Interview Mistakes.

We’d love to highlight your success story about a recent exchange you’ve had with an employer. Get in touch at information@higheradvantage.org.