Resume Writing for Advanced Positions

Often Higher is asked for guidance on how to help clients prepare a more advanced resume. Outlined in the section below are some of the best rules and advice on how to build a professional U.S. style resume.

The Rules

  • 1-page rule: In the US, job seekers must stick to the one-page rule unless they have a master’s degree or higher; then a resume can be two pages.
  • Get the order right: Move backward in time, starting with the most recent job in each section.
  • 10-year rule: Never recount more than 10 years of employment history.
  • Equal bullets rule: Under every position, there should be the same amount of bulleted information and job duties.
  • Education: Spell out the degree so it will stand out. It is not necessary to include a GPA or GMAT score. Do not list courses. Do list any leadership roles and study abroad experiences.
  • Font rule: Keep the entire document in the same font, and only the name should be in larger font. Use a standard font (Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica), so it reads the same on any computer or printer.
  • Avoid the objective: Many people like to start their resume with an objective outlining their purpose. However, every applicant has a similar objective; as they are all seeking employment. Express the objective in a cover letter, and keep the resume for professional and educational history.
  • Addressing Gaps: Use cover letters to briefly and directly address the gap in the career, particularly for refugees who have experienced long periods of time where they were unable to work. For example, “I am returning to the workforce after a period of raising children/living as a refugee.” Then address the strengths, qualifications, and goals. Emphasize the job seeker’s excitement and preparedness to re-enter the workforce now. If the gap is over 7 years or a refugee prefers not to address the time gap, it may be time to consider a skill based resume which will be tackled in a subsequent Higher blog.
  • Creativity rule: Create a new version of a resume for every job opportunity. Similar to a cover letter, a resume should be tailored to a job description
  • Finally, don’t forget to have a friend or colleague help edit and proofread. An outside perspective is most helpful in selecting what is most relevant to each job.

What are some rules or content guidelines that you use when writing advanced resumes? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Check out Higher’s past blogs for more information on Resume Strategies, Entry-Level Resumes or Cover Letters.

 

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Webinar Alert: Financial Literacy Training Resources

Financial Literacy training is a required resettlement service. On Thursday, June 21st, CORE, the Cultural Orientation Resource Exchange, is providing a 30-minute Money Management webinar on how to engage refugees around key messages on budgeting, financing, and self-sufficiency. The session will draw on CORE’s new resources on Money Management, including a supplemental lesson plan, and also feature additional resources as well as an opportunity to engage with peers on the subject.

To accommodate a range of time zones, the webinar is being offered at 8:00 AM EDT and 1:00 PM EDT on June 21. Note that each webinar will feature the same content.

To select your preferred session time and register, click here.

Other financial literacy resources, such as courses like Understanding Your Paycheck, can be found on Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

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Three Steps to Consider Before Crafting a Resume

Resumes are vital to the job search process, whether it is for a first job or a job upgrade. Generally, resumes should be one page and include a detailed history of the applicant’s ability to meet the needs of the employer. The skill set of the job seeker should match the job description. Resume writing is a critical topic that should receive ample coverage in your interactions with clients.

Recently, Higher presented posts on Cover Letters and Resume Writing for Entry-Level Positions. Today, Chris Hogg, an employment counselor and job-readiness instructor at Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) in Columbus, Ohio, offers his advice on how to prepare for a client resume writing session in three steps:

Step One: The Interview

Personalization of a resume for each refugee can be challenging when working with the number refugee clients that employment staff are assigned. To add individualization to each resume, there needs to be a thorough and far-ranging interview with every client. While it may seem that employment staff can use a resume template, fill in the blanks, and crank out several bullet points to create a complete resume, such an approach defeats the purpose of a resume and ultimately does the client a disservice. The client needs to understand and articulate what an ideal job (or three) looks like for him or her before staff can even think of putting pen to paper.

Step Two: Skills and Limitations

Identify the client’s skills, experience, and knowledge as they apply to a particular job objective. Identification of soft (transferable) skills is essential because in most cases, and certainly, for the first job, soft skills (teamwork) almost always supersede hard skills (sewing). For example, a refugee may have excellent communication skills (the ability to listen, read body language, to ask questions, give feedback) even though they may have minimal English ability.

Further, discover the client’s barriers and limitations before preparation of a resume. A client may have the physical strength to work in a fast-paced distribution center, for example, but may be easily distracted or become confused if the job requires a wide variety of functions in a short period. Religious and cultural factors also must be identified and resolved.

Step Three: Uniqueness

Resumes should be crafted individually for each client to support the client’s job goals. Thus one could be working with two clients who are very similar (say, civil engineers), and yet craft two resumes that are significantly different in form and content. Resumes can be written in a “human” voice using, when appropriate, the pronoun “I” and including wording such as, “I am seeking my first paid employment ever (I am 21-years-old) – I want to work, I want to do good work, and I want to help my employer be successful.”

Now you’re prepared to craft a focused client-specific resume that will be more likely to result in a client in finding and obtaining a meaningful job.

 

Does your agency have a unique approach to writing resumes with clients? If so, please share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

Continue to follow Higher’s blog, for another post on resumes for advanced positions.

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Worker’s Rights Review

At Higher, we frequently receive inquiries about the rights of refugee workers. To address those past and future inquiries we have compiled a list of worker’s rights and associated websites.  These rights are important topics for job readiness classes and may enable refugees to recognize instances of discrimination and unsafe working conditions.

Right to be paid – in most instances, workers have the right to be paid federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and to receive overtime pay for work over 40 hours a week. If workers do not receive all of the wages for the time they actually worked, they can take action to recover those wages. Note that many states have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage.

Right to be free of discrimination – it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against or harass workers based on race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin or sex.

Right to organize – in most workplaces, it is illegal for an employer to punish or threaten workers for organizing with others to improve their working conditions.

Right to be safe on the job – workers are protected by workplace health and safety laws at their worksites.

Right to benefits if injured on the job – in most states, workers who are injured on the job are entitled to the protections of state workers’ compensation laws.

Right to unemployment payments – in most states workers who are fully or partially unemployed, looking for work, and have valid work documentation are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Right to choose which documents to show your employer for employment eligibility verification (I-9) – for example, your employer cannot demand that you show them a green card. If you do not have a green card yet, you may show your employer your driver’s license or ID and Social Security Card (SSC).

Right to begin work – if you do not have your Social Security card but can provide other documentation of status such as an I-94, you can still begin working unless e-verify is required, in which case a SS number or card is needed at time of employment.

Right to a work environment free of harassment – if you encounter harassment in the form of sexual aggravation, taunting and bullying, or hazing, you may file a report with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel.

Right to report unfair hiring or work practices – you can report any offenses to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Special Counsel by calling their hotline at 1-800-255-7688.

For more information, check out these resources:

How do you teach refugees in your job readiness classes about their rights in the workplace? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Refugees in America: Employment Skills Training

As part of their ORR funded refugee employment program efforts, Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley (CSSMV) of Dayton, Ohio has explored a variety of employer partnerships. For example, CSSMV forged a partnership with a staffing agency that works with local clothing manufacturers in need of skilled sewers, and a volunteer sewing teacher to create vocational sewing classes. Together, this partnership serves to prepare refugees with the skills required for employment as Industrial Sewers. With Dayton being the home of several niche market clothing manufacturers, the classes have played a significant role in preparing a trained workforce for this market.

Class Set-up

The vocational sewing classes started in spring of 2012 when a staffing agency approached CSSMV refugee employment staff about the need for skilled sewers. The staffing agency reported needing a large number of experienced sewers for a new employer they had recently contracted. Thus, a program intern who had sewing experience was tasked with providing one-on-one training to clients in the basement of the CSSMV office using donated materials and sewing machines. The demand of refugee trainees and employers quickly outgrew this informal arrangement and the Employment Coordinator approached Pam, a local schoolteacher and ESL volunteer about teaching sewing to clients in a more structured setting. Pam a dedicated, compassionate advocate for refugees agreed and began working with a few clients. Pam and the Employment Coordinator worked together to build a program focusing on sewing skills and job-specific vocabulary. The sewing classes quickly filled up with clients recruited by the refugee employment program, with Pam teaching 6-8 students at a time, two evenings a week.

Refugees in the CSSMV classes are now taught on basic sewing machines and industrial equipment donated by community partners and a local employer. The entire CSSMV training process usually takes eight weeks, but varies depending on the individual’s ability to master the necessary skills. Once participants pass employer skill tests, continued training takes place at the job site, and if necessary, clients can return to CSSMV classes for additional training.

A Partnership that Benefits Everyone

Since its inception in 2012, more than 200 refugees (men and women) primarily from Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, D.R. Congo and Sudan) have completed the CSSMV training with most transitioning to full-time company employment and some participants being promoted to team lead and supervisory positions leading to increasing wages and opportunities over time.

Do you have any volunteer-led vocational training in your community? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org

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Women Centered Employment Programming

Across the country, employment programs are engaging more women in their programs. Both PRM and ORR emphasize the need to provide full services to all adult case members. In addition to the usual barriers most refugees face, women may disproportionately face barriers such as access to childcare, lower levels of formal education, and cultural expectations regarding their role in the workplace. Still, there are powerful examples from across the country that highlight women being empowered through employment. For example, a group of women entrepreneurs in Phoenix, AZ are tackling obstacles they face and gaining new skills by selling homemade art, candles, body products, jewelry and more. Their pop-up store allows them to make short-term income and learn valuable business skills.

In Maryland, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) implements a program to provide women additional access to employment services.  IRC’s method is to increase access to classes through gender-specific services and continuing support beyond the initial employment services period.

“It’s not that women don’t want to be employed, it’s that the traditional [employment services] model may not fit their needs,” said Neisha Washington, IRC Maryland Youth and Women’s Employment Coordinator. “We wanted to design something that takes into account the challenges that families are finding as well as the specific barriers that women are facing.”

Neisha and her colleagues surveyed the agency’s female clients and found that nearly 100% want to work. However, many women need additional support and flexibility to balance work, education, and home life. The resulting IRC program is the Youth and Women’s Employment Program (YWEP), serving women in individual and group sessions as needed.

One way in which YWEP addresses self-sufficiency barriers while managing the resettlement process is by providing additional childcare support and long-term case management.

An additional training opportunity offered through YWEP is a women’s only class focused on career coaching, increasing confidence in self-promoting, and creating new social connections. YWEP encourages the women in the class to invite friends to expand social circles and provide grassroots support for those with limited English and work experience. IRC has found that the women’s class gives participants the opportunity to engage in more meaningful ways than in a general employment class.

Providing supplementary training programs centered on women like YWEP in Maryland and the women entrepreneurs group in Arizona can be significant to the long-term success of refugee women.

How does your agency ensure employment success for refugee women? Share your thoughts by emailing us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Writing a Cover Letter that Stands Out

Cover letters are often a client’s first introduction to an employer, and should always be included with a job application. Like the resume, tailor the cover letter to the position announcement. The goal of a cover letter is to entice an employer to review the client’s resume and to secure an interview.

Here are five tips on how to structure and write a cover letter that will lead to an interview:

  1. Start off on the right step

The header on the cover letter should be a replica of that on the resume. A matching header gives the two documents an added professional look. These two documents should be submitted together. Be sure to include the date, candidate’s name and contact information.

  1. The greeting

Avoid nameless salutations such as, dear sir. It might take a little research but finding the actual name of the position’s hiring manager will score major brownie points. Never start a cover letter with, ‘to whom it may concern,’

  1. The structure and body of the letter

Limit the letter to one page. Try to keep the cover letter to a maximum of three paragraphs. Keep it simple and clean, not cluttered. Structure your letter so that each part achieves a particular goal. Try not to use the same wording that is on the resume.

  • Paragraph 1: Have a strong opening statement that make it clear why the applicant wants the job and why he is right for it. Include the job title and how the candidate learned about the opening (e.g., company’s website, an employee referral, job search site).
  • Paragraph 2: Describe the candidate’s qualifications. A cover letter should show what she could bring to the company and the position. Give the job listing a careful read and see where the candidate’s experience best matches up. Then, reveal why the applicant is a perfect and unique match for the position. Explain why she has chosen the employer or job. Briefly summarize the applicant’s talents, experience, and achievements. Use specifics. For example:
    • Office manager cover letter: I currently serve as office manager for a busy financial services firm, (XYZ Company), where I supervise a team of 12 employees and coordinate all office functions. My strengths in improving office systems and building a top-performing clerical team have earned repeat commendations and formal recognition from the company CEO.
    • Chef: Classically trained at the renowned XYZ Institute, I earned an AOS in culinary arts and mentored under celebrity chef Bill Jones as a sous chef for 3 years. Following this experience, I held executive chef positions within 4-star restaurants for a leading hospitality group and spent the past two years as a chef on luxury yachts.
    • IT: Key strengths include: High-volume ticket management. In my current position as helpdesk support specialist for XYZ Co, I handle 1,725+ tickets per month, fully resolving and documenting issues for future reference.
  • Paragraph 3: Follow up information. Mention that the resume is enclosed and indicate a desire to meet with the employer. Thank the employer for their consideration.
  1. Want an error-free and perfectly written cover letter? Then you must edit!

Make sure the letter has no spelling, typing, or grammatical errors. Job applicants are frequently passed over because of such mistakes. Take some time away from the document and return with fresh eyes, ready to edit. It’s always better to have a second person proofread the text as well.

Bonus Tip: Save both the resume and cover letter in the following format [last name, first name document title] for example [Redford, Nicole Resume]. Hiring managers like to be able to quickly find and access documents as they often receive dozens to hundreds of resume for any open position.

Need a template for a cover letter? Start with this one from CareerOneStop!

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Resume Writing: For Entry-Level Positions

At Higher, we receive many inquiries from the network on how to write a professional style resume with refugee clients. While this can be a time-consuming task, below is a sample illustrating vital areas to focus on for streamlining this process.

Start from the beginning. Explain to your client what a resume is and how to use it in their job search. Show visual examples of resumes and describe all the information that they will need to include. 

    1. Review what personal information is essential to ensure that prospective employers will be able to contact and stay in touch with the candidate.

     

    1. This section can also be titled Professional Experience. Providing accurate information and keywords is extremely helpful to employers. O’NET may be useful to gather descriptions of your client’s specific career or jobs.

     

    1. Include past education, as well as education and training that your client is currently undertaking. It is important to emphasize training and education that is relevant to the desired position. Including English Language classes for non-English speakers shows potential employers that the applicant is committed to learning.

     

    1. Listing skills that are crucial to particular industries may help a client get the job. Use Cultural Orientation Resource Center (CORE) lessons on identifying skills.

     

    1. Professional references are not always required on a resume, but they may provide a way for an employer to reach out to your agency to address concerns and give you the opportunity to advocate on your client’s behalf.

     

    1. Once completed, ensure that the client understands the resume’s description of their experience. Additionally, the client needs to know how to tailor resume revisions to job openings.

     

    1. Practice interviewing with the completed resume, as employers will likely use the resume as a basis for their interview.

     

    1. Finally, work with your clients so that they can understand how to identify accomplishments and responsibilities and update their resumes as they move from their first job and beyond.

For more information on resumes, see CareerOneStop’s online Resume Guide to help your client’s build a successful resume. Additionally, Higher has resources on our site and look for Higher’s Job Readiness Curriculum, coming soon!

What are some tools or ways your write resumes with your clients? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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Tips from the Field: Safety Training – Safety Gear

Having an understanding of the importance of workplace safety rules and gear helps prepare refugees for work in the United States. Below are two activities, provided by network agencies, which may help you to incorporate safety training into your job readiness or ESL classes.

World Relief DuPage/Aurora

Dan Peterson, Higher Peer Advisor and Early Employment Specialist, says that World Relief DuPage/Aurora developed several lessons that includes safety as a part of their six-week job readiness training course. Each lesson is taught by an ESL teacher in the daily sessions and reinforced with a once a week workshop taught by Employment Counselors.  Dan shares one of the safety gear activities here:

  • Safety Gear Review: “We bring in lots of safety gear and have an interactive lesson where clients examine the gear, guess its use. Participants also learn what equipment might be required and supplied by various companies and which equipment is often required, but must be purchased, by the employee.” The picture of safety gear on the left shows the types of equipment that might be included in this activity.

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, says that she has incorporated safety training into Vocational and work-related ESL classes because a majority of clients will encounter it on the job and need to understand what it is and why it is important. Here is one of the safety gear activities Jessica uses:

  • Safety Gear Race: “I put clients into two groups, and they pick one person to put the safety gear on, and the group labels each piece. The team that finishes first, wearing and labeling the gear correctly, is the winner.” Clients not only practice vocabulary for safety gear in this activity, it also ensures they know how to correctly wear the gear.

Safety gear is an important aspect of safety training that may be highlighted in job readiness or ESL classes. Providing opportunities to see, wear, or touch real safety items will assist refugees in understanding how United States workplaces function.

Follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for more information on safety gear standards for various workplaces.

Look for our next blog post where we will discuss how teaching specifics on workplace safety can continue to prepare refugees for new positions that have specific regulations and rules on safety.

What are some ways that you incorporate safety training in your job readiness curriculum? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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A Collaborative Approach to Career Development

Higher presents a guest post from the Refugee Career Hub, operated by Friends of Refugees in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. RCH employment staff share their best practices for helping clients find immediate income while encouraging long-term career growth and fulfillment.

Refugees have limited time after arriving to the U.S. to become self-sufficient. Clients often have limited time to complete job readiness courses before starting work. Here are our team’s tips on how to maximize short- and long-term career planning in just a few visits:

Partner with Refugees in Career Development

Refugees arrive in the U.S. with varying expectations, dreams, and previous experience. During the first employment meeting with a client, it is essential to honor a client’s work history and input in designing a career pathway. Staff should not assume that clients understand the refugee employment process, such as accepting entry-level employment or needing to have their education evaluated. Likewise, staff should not expect that clients will seek out a job upgrade on their own to move out of an entry-level position. Creating a career pathway plan that addresses both short- and long-term goals may help to solidify the relationship between employment staff and the client. Check out an example of an employment plan strategy on Higher’s blog.

It is vital to explain procedures, process, and systems to help answer client questions like, “Why am I being referred to a different job than my neighbor? Why is my friend taking a computer class, and I wasn’t referred? Why is someone else having their credentials evaluated when my career counselor told me it is not the best use of money?” For some clients, the differences behind career specific development steps can be elusive. With greater programmatic transparency, clients will have an easier time staying motivated as they navigate through the job market.

Know the Field

The best way to properly advise and connect clients with their next career steps is to know the employment outlook for local industries. Because clients’ backgrounds vary, employment staff must be familiar with employers in a variety of industries and fields. Researching industry information, such as labor market statistics and publications from professional organizations and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as anecdotal information, helps staff understand the specific training, education, and skills needed to move clients forward in particular careers.

 

Promote Personal Responsibility

Very few people are able to reach a fulfilling career by having someone else do the legwork. An easy way to determine if a client is ready for the next stage of his or her career pathway is to see whether or not the client is willing to put in the necessary effort. At RCH, every client goes home with homework. For example, RCH may give a client an employment manager’s business card and encourage them to email their resume to the employer. This allows RCH to see if the client has the motivation to follow through on the assignment and if they are comfortable sending an email with basic professional courtesies and an attachment. If the client returns to RCH and has not sent the email, RCH staff follow up with the client to determine if the issue is a lack of skills or motivation.

Promoting client responsibility and empowerment helps clients take ownership of their own job search and career pathway.

Explain Networking

While clients are incredibly resourceful in making connections, they often do not leverage these relationships in their job search or long-term career pathway. Taking the time to explain career networking and its benefits is highly productive. Clients often say that they feel alone and disconnected when looking for employment, so RCH created a professional networking activity for clients to identify and leverage relationships with friends, neighbors, family members, and coworkers. RCH challenges clients to contact their connections and learn where they work and if their employers are hiring. This is another way for clients to take ownership of their career pathway.

RHC hopes that these suggestions will be helpful for other refugee employment programs in their efforts to help clients move from survival jobs to career fulfillment.

Tirzah Brown is the interim employment services manager at Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, GA. She is currently earning her Aaster’s of Public Administration and plans to work on anti-trafficking policy and survivor rights.

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