These four best practices are 100% achievable in the context of our emphasis on starter jobs and limited resources. We can all do these things to provide highly skilled professionals with the basic foundation they need to achieve career advancement.
Our emphasis on early employment means that most highly skilled professionals need to accept a starter job. Helping clients develop realistic expectations and a long term career plan is critical. We can also do a better job of identifying initial job options that offer some chance to practice English.
Depending on a client’s current level of English, this might mean busing tables to support English speaking waiters instead of washing dishes with a Spanish speaking crew. Instead of hotel housekeeping, try to develop custodial jobs at hospitals or nursing homes with more chance to interact with English speaking staff and customers.
Strong employer partners offer other options to strengthen the English-speaking potential of a starter job. Discuss mentoring, lunch time English conversation clubs or on-site language classes. Providing picture vocabulary guides or other bilingual signage can create common ground for managers and team members with different native languages to work on vocabulary and improve communication.
Make sure accurate information is available about career advancement options
Clients need strong and diverse support networks for long term success. One downside of that is the likelihood of hearing bad advice from a source they trust more than you. If a well-meaning community leader or ESL teacher doesn’t have complete or accurate information, clients can waste their time and money on the wrong things.
Make sure that accurate information is available through your agency. Make sure you provide it to key community leaders, anchor relatives and other community stakeholders, as well.
Don’t be afraid to have frank conversations with partner agencies when you become aware that well-meaning staff or volunteers are providing mis-information and conflicting advice.
For new populations especially, holding community forums and information sessions to explain your services and provide information can really help. Don’t forget to LISTEN to the community perspective, too. You’ll learn things that will improve your services to that population.
Even when high quality English classes are available, it’s just not always possible for clients to attend despite their strong desire to improve. There are many creative strategies all clients can use to work on improving their English. There are all kinds of free language learning resources available for mobile devices. The public library offers free computers and, many times, excellent language learning resources. Sit next to a stranger on the bus to work and try to talk to them in English.
We know how important this is and already have all kinds of strategies to make it happen. Volunteering. Internships. A starter job to add U.S. work experience to an impressive career overseas.
Even providing professional references with U.S. contact information can help once clients make it past the interview stage. You can serve as a professional reference, as can case managers, ESL teachers and volunteers.
Consider listing successful completion of your job readiness class and initial basic ESL as a small initial step toward adding U.S.-based experience to a resume. In time, adding courses from a community college or other recognized institution is even better.
The best practices in this post were presented at the White House National Skills and Credential Institute (2016) by Stacey K. Simon, Director of Imprint, an organization that works to help highly skilled refugee and immigrant professionals utilize their training and expertise to its fullest in their new homes in the U.S. Click here if you aren’t already familiar with Imprint’s work and resources.