Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop – Optional Day Presentation

The optional day at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop was focused on job development strategies that can be used for individuals who have serious barriers to employment. Allen Anderson, international job development expert and President of DTG-EMP, trained attendees on what he calls the “Consultative Selling Model.” For an overview of his presentation, check out this PowerPoint Presentation:


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Holiday Opportunity: Walmart Community Grants 12/3/15 Deadline

walmartWalmart is one of the top 20 employers of refugees in the country.  No matter any controversy or personal opinions, for many of our clients, Walmart offers starter job opportunities that can add U.S. customer service and big box retail experience to resumes.

The Walmart Foundation Community Grant Program will award grants to local nonprofits that help residents within the service area of individual Walmart stores. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2015.

The facility manager has a lot of decision making authority and makes the first recommendations about which proposals he/she support for selection.  (Job Developers, this is one more example of how your strong existing employer relationships can pay off!)

Grants target four strategic priorities:  Hunger Relief & Healthy Eating, Sustainability, Women’s Economic Empowerment and Career Opportunity.  Here’s how they describe Career Opportunity.  (Sounds familiar, right?)

For our communities, living better means greater access to opportunity. The Walmart Foundation supports many initiatives that provide opportunities through job training and placement, career advice and greater access to the resources that help people become self-sufficient.

There are some activities they will not fund with these grants.  Click here for a list of exclusions (like scholarships and salaries).

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4 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

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

Aside from language, literacy, and cultural adjustment issues, transportation is one of the biggest barriers to employment that our clients face. While not always possible, finding employment that easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation is ideal. Here are a few strategies using maps that can help:

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.

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.

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.” Also do some research to find out who the largest employers are in your area, and see how accessible some of these employers might be for your clients.

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.

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!

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7 Tips if You’re New To Job Development

hair-pullingIf 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). Overtime 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.

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3 Ways You Can Cultivate a Welcoming Culture in Your Community

W07-Welcome-ColorOnBlack-bannerHappy National Welcoming Week! From September 12-20, communities all over the nation are celebrating the cultures and contributions of immigrants and refugees. In honor of this nationwide initiative, Higher is exploring the idea of cultivating welcoming communities, especially as it relates to refugee employment.

There is a strong connection between local attitudes towards immigrants and refugees and successful employment outcomes for our clients. This may not be a comforting thought because it is a factor that seems out of our control. We can provide solid job readiness training for our clients, and we can hone our sales techniques as we speak to employers, but what can we really do about indifferent or negative attitudes that may be prevalent in our communities? Perhaps more than you think.

In order to get some insight on this question Higher spoke to Rachel Peric, Deputy Director at Welcoming America, who shared the following 3 strategies from Welcoming America’s Model:

  1. Engage local leaders. Local government and other faith and community leaders can be invaluable partners in cultivating a welcoming community. For more on this check out Welcoming America’s “Welcoming Cities and Counties” initiative. Additionally, speaking at your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a great strategy for building awareness and making connections in your community.
  1. Develop strategic communications that highlight the strengths and contributions of immigrants and refugees. Welcoming America’s Welcoming Refugees project provides a helpful toolkit entitled “Reframing Refugees” that is a great starting point for developing positive messaging about refugees and the work that you do. Also check out the “Stronger Together” toolkit, which focuses on immigrants as a force for economic growth.
  1. Create opportunities for relational connections between refugees and receiving communities. One of the most powerful ways to break down stereotypes and prejudice is by getting people in the same room and simply allowing them to interact. Be creative. Find ways to facilitate mutual learning and networking between refugees and employers, mentors and other community members. There are many ways that this can happen, but one possible strategy could be to plan an event that targets prospective employers and features success stories from both refugees and employers who have successfully employed refugees.

When discussing refugee employment strategies we often focus on our approach to individual employers. While these interactions are essential, it is also important for the long term success of our clients to develop strategies that focus on the wider community. The practical steps above are a great way to get started. Many thanks to Rachel Peric for sharing these insights!

To find a National Welcoming Week event near you check out Welcoming America’s “Find an Event” page.


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How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

linkedinSome of the most successful job developers in our refugee employment network have a strong presence on LinkedIn.

Coincidence?  I think not.  Their great networks and content help me find blog post inspiration and examples that benefit all of us.

A strong profile summary is a win-win for your own professional development and to boost LinkedIn’s value for your job development efforts.

Click here for practical tips for improving your LinkedIn profile. Thanks to Chris Hogg, Employment Counselor with CRIS, Columbus Ohio who first spotted the article.

Ready to up your LinkedIn presence?  Here are some past posts to make it easier.

Connect with Higher, Chris Hogg, Kelly Rice, Bonni Cutler and other star job developers on LinkedIn.  See you there!


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The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is Back!

act nowGreat News for Employment Partners Who Act before May 1

WOTC provides tax relief to employers who hire from eligible target groups with significant barriers to employment.

Until the end of this month (April 2015), employers can file to claim as much as $9,600 per employee hired during 2014.  In 2013, the program was unfunded and is not yet funded for 2015.

Refugees are eligible.  One eligiblity criteria is receipt of TANF or SNAP benefits. Each State is different, but most of the cash payments we can provide are considered a TANF replacement.

What You Can Do TODAY

Reach out to your employer partners to be sure they know about this. It’s a great excuse to offer employers one more way you improve their bottom line and make their lives easier. There is no limit on the number of eligible employees they can claim.

Here are two resources provided by the Department of Labor that will help employers (and you) understand how to file.

More Background Information

Many of our employer outreach materials list WOTC tax incentives as one of the benefits of hiring refugees. WOTC filing paperwork is a common part of many new hire packets you probably help clients complete. Many savvy employers did not remove this paperwork even though the program was unfunded during 2014. Now, you can understand why.

Click here to read all of the details you’ll need to understand in order to better help employers.  Thanks to HRBartender for helping me catch this one.



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Employer Outreach Strategy Success

LSSThe cover of Advantage Business Magazine Jacksonville features an employers take on the value of hiring refugees and partnering with refugee employment programs.  Congratulations to Lutheran Social Services Northeast Florida for the successful employer partnership and an article that should result in more potential refugee employment partnerships.

Click here to dowload the publication and turn to page 14 to read the article.

Here are 3 things you can model in  your own employer outreach:

1.  Let employers tell the story from their perspective.  Other employers will be motivated by peer testimonials.

2.  Explain your services from the employer perspective.  What do our clients and our services provide that solve employer problems?  This article includes an excellent example.

3.  Target employer publications as a way to spread the word about your services.  Don’t forget to include contact information to make it easy for all those new employment leads to call you.





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Holiday eCard Graphic


Holiday eCard graphic you can use in your own branded thank you message to employment partners.

Happy Holidays!

PDF Version 

JPEG Version


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Where to Find Refugee Resettlement Programs

ORR MapORR’s website has a clickable US map where you can find lists of all of the ORR-funded refugee resettlement programs in each state.  Click here and consider bookmarking the site for futurre reference.

It’s useful when employers want to tell their colleagues how to get great employees and supportive services.

Sometimes, clients outmigrate and you might want to give them information about where they might seek services in their new community.

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see where our work happens all over the country.


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