Three Ways to Use One Article in Your Work with Highly Skilled Clients

Pro JobThe CEO of JetBlue outlines 10 strategies to make the most out of a first job.  Here are three ways you could use it as a handout in your work with highly-skilled clients around

– Adjusting Expectations

– Job Retention, and

-Interview Skills.

Adjust Expectations:  Any employer with a professional job opening will expect candidates to have the skills and strategies outlined in the article.  In addition, they would need strong enough English comprehension to read and thoroughly understand the article without assistance.

Use this article as a skill test or basis for a homework assignment you can follow-up in your next client appointment.  Experiencing difficulty for themselves will be more effective than hearing you tell a client that their skills aren’t strong enough, yet.

Job Retention:  Help a client see beyond dissatisfaction with their survival or starter job.  Refocus them on advancement strategies or stronger US-style workplace behaviors as outlined in the article.  Those strategies point to yet another good reason why they should keep their first job for at least six months.

Interview Skills:    After clients understand basic interview skills through your existing job readiness classes and one-on-one meetings, provide this article as they continue to prepare on their own time.

Based on the article, you could assign them the task of preparing an answer to an interview question or preparing two good questions they could ask in an inteview.  How well a client is able to do this will be a reality check for them and will help you document their ownership and activity level in their own job search.



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Job Readiness Models Webinar (05/22)

You're InvitedLearn how others are conducting job readiness classes and find resources and strategies you can use in your own work.  Includes examples of how others are using Higher‘s new eLearning training in their approach to client job readiness.

WHEN:  Thursday, May 22 from  3:00-4:00 PM EDT

WHAT:  Higher Job Readiness Class Models and Resources

WHO:  Anyone whose time is designated all or part time to job readiness or working with clients. 

HOW:  Register here and we’ll follow-up by email. (Attendance includes a free lifetime username and password to Higher’s On-line Learning Institute)



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11 Job Options for Low Skilled Clients

Want AdsMost of our newly arriving clients need to begin work before they have fully mastered English.  Although they bring strong transferable skills, they lack the US work experience many employers require.

After gathering great ideas from around the country, it’s time to repost this list from a September 2013 post with some great new ideas!

Several are seasonal summer opportunities.  Now is the time to pursue these.

  • School and University Student Services – contractor and direct employment in multiple dormitory, student union and sports facility food outlets.  Multiple janitorial, building and grounds maintenance opportunities, too.
  • Recycling – sorting single streams, electronic component break-down or simple processing into reusable materials could be contractor or government jobs.   
  • OrangeRoad- or Curb-side Trash Pick-up – it’s hot work, but road crews often leave from central locations and can be full time seasonal work for people who don’t want to work indoors
  • Goodwill Sheltered Employment – Opportunities could include retail stores, temporary staffing services, donation sorting and vocational training.  Lack of English is often a qualifying barrier for receiving services.
  • Food Processing – think beyond meat packing to the booming locavore, organic and artisanal sectors, as well as frozen food.  Look at grocery store suppliers, too.
  • OrangeFarming/gardening/landscaping – look into arboretums, urban farms, corporate campuses, apartment complexes, nurseries, garden stores and lawn care services
  • General labor with a small contractor – larger companies may have inflexible safety and security parameters, but small contractors or independent professionals may be willing to give clients a chance.
  • OrangeVehicle detailing – car washes, rental car agencies, other businesses with commercial fleets – like Greyhound or school districts and contract detailing services.
  • Home Healthcare for Relatives – in some cases, SSDI benefits can include payment for in-home care provided by a family member. Find out more from resettlement colleagues or other social work professionals.
  • Housekeeping – many clients are afraid of this type of work, but hotels are key employers in many places. Nursing homes, office cleaning contractors or anywhere with public space could also be options for this type of work.
  • Dishwasher Hotels, convention service contractors, chain restaurants and nursing homes can all be great possibilities.  Some fast food chains (like Kentucky Fried Chicken) have positions with no customer contact.

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Craft Your Initial Pitch to Employers at a Special Webinar on 4/24

You're InvitedWHEN:  Thursday, April 24, 2014, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM EDT

WHAT:  Use Higher’s eLearning training – Communicating With Employers:  Initial Pitch – to develop your own concrete communication strategy.

WHO:  If all or part of your time is designated for job development and you have begun that role in the past year, this webinar will strengthen your employer relationships and access to job openings.

HOW:  Register here and we’ll follow-up by email. (Attendance includes a free lifetime username and password to Higher’s eLearning platform!)

Optional:  Complete the eLearning training in advance and prepare a pitch to be one of four attendees selected to present your pitch and receive feedback from a panel of employers, experienced Job Developers and Higher staff during the last half of the webinar! 


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Employer Resource: Chipotle Study Guide

chipotle logl

A number of employment programs have placed clients in jobs at Chipotle.  Click here for a great study guide for Chipotle job interview preparation.  (It’s in an online slideshare format)

The guide provides very useful detail about Chipotle corporate values, job descriptions, the interview process and the experience of employees who have been promoted far above the entry level position that got them in the door.

How You Could Use It

  • Develop an interview practice and training session to prepare a group of clients qualified to apply.
  • Provide it directly to clients with the appropriate English language skills for Chipotle interview preparation or to see useful resume and job description examples.
  • If you don’t already have a connection at Chipotle, use this information to plan your initial pitch to establish a relationship with a hiring decision maker.

Thanks to Stephen Allen, Refugee Employment Team Supervisor with IRC in Phoenix, AZ, who posted this via LinkedIn.



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MIT Living Wage Calculator

calculatorI’m afraid to recommend using this Living Wage Calculator with clients directly or they will be much less likely to accept the first available job if it pays a non-living wage. 

I also don’t recommend looking too closely at the non-living wage listed for most community and social service jobs. 

So, what can I do with this, you ask? 

  • Check the monthly budget estimates you use when talking to clients or completing mandatory Family Self Sufficiency Forms (an RCA requirement). 
  • Compare the estimated rent payments with the rents in apartments your agency finds for clients as a reality check. 
  • Think about how you can help clients reduce the estimated monthly expenses with access to benefit programs, tips on smart shopping or connections to other social service assistance. 

If you think of other ways it could be helpful, add a comment to this post. 


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Practical Strategy for Working with Clients

Vladimir BessonovVladimir Bessonov with Partners in Careers, Vancouver, WA uses a flexible and effective strategy to help clients learn vocabulary and important work readiness concepts.

He starts with a list of 50 words describing attitudes and characteristics valued by employers.

Vladimir used the example of AMBITION and explained that, due to cultural and historical factors in his country (Russia), to be ambitious is often considered risky and undesirable.  Talking with clients from that culture about how it is seen in the US can create space to talk about career paths and begin to help clients develop long term career plans if they’ve never had a chance to think about that before.

You could also choose a few characteristics – like TIMELY, HELPFUL and HARD WORKING – to help clients describe why they would be the best candidate for the job – a common inteview question.

Vladimir says he also assigns clients with higher levels of English the task of finding definitions for each of the words on the list.  Follow-up on homework assignments is often a great way to evaluate client commitment to their own job search success.

You can download Vladimir’s vocabulary list to use with your clients here.  Spassiba bolshoi, Vladimir.

(Look for a series of posts over the next couple of weeks sharing highlights and key takeaways from Higher’s March 3-4 Employment Workshop in Seattle, Washington.)

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Failed Drug Tests: It’s Gonna Happen

Homer-Simpson-wingnuts-dohHere is a repost about how to handle drug screens and what to do if clients can’t or don’t pass.  The motivation for reposting is a question raised in Seattle last week that we didn’t have time to fully address.

(Look for a series of posts over the next couple of weeks sharing highlights and key takeaways from Higher’s March 3-4 Employment Workshop in Seattle, Washington.) 


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 Refugee 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, 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 have negative consequences for their long term immigration status, a drug related arrest could prevent them from becoming citizens.

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

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 the 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.

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.

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.


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Interview Statistics Infographic

Infographic snipBuilding client interview skills is a big part of job readiness, no matter the combination of group and individual instruction your agency offers.

Infographics are a great resource for us because they rely more on visuals than language to convey complex topics.  That can be very helpful when working with our clients – or anyone, for that matter.

You can download the entire infographic you can see a part of in this post.  It does a great job of covering the basics of hygiene, ettiquete and common questions.  Many of the statistics will add emphasis and credibility to the concepts we all know are key success factors for our clients.

More Resources for Interview Skills

Higher’s October 2013  newsletter and several previous blog posts focused on a comprehensive overview of skills and techniques to help clients learn this fundamental US job market skill.

Later this year, we will debut two new eLearning trainings about interview skills:  one for Employment Specialists and one for clients.  Stay tuned for more about those in the coming months.



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E-Verify and Work Authorization Checks: Deepen Employer Relationships and Advocate for Clients


Images of valid EADs which you can also find through the links included in this article

Even though our clients are work authorized, they often get tangled in E-Verify details.  Lack of familiarity with this system and our client’s legal status on the part of employers can delay or even deny them jobs we work hard to help them secure.

Providing timely assistance is a much-appreciated service to employers.  The problem is most often a lack of knowledge.  In the less common case of intentional discrimination, advocating for client rights is an important and satisfying part of our jobs.

A recent email from the Department of Justice listserv offers so many great resources for clients, employers and you that we’re included it here.


Beginning February 27, 2014, the E-Verify webinar on Employee Rights will now be offered in Spanish! This webinar will help Spanish speakers understand and teach others about employee rights during the employment eligibility verification process.

USCIS and the DOJ Civil Rights Division, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices are co-presenters of this free live webinar, which has been offered to the public in English since November 2012. USCIS and OSC subject matter experts will discuss what workers need to know about:

  • Employee rights in the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes
  • Employer responsibilities
  • How to resolve and understand the Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) Further Action Notice
  • Self Check, a tool for job seekers

Spanish speaking worker advocates, workers, and job seekers are encouraged to attend. Pre-registration is not required. Just add the date and time to your calendar. Click here to join one of the following dates:

  • Thursday,      February 27, 2014 at 11:30 AM EST.
  • Tuesday,      March 25, 2014 at 2:00 PM EST.

See our flyer for more information. Please share this announcement with everyone who may be interested! Click here to see the schedule of other E-Verify and Form I-9 webinars. More information and resources are available on and


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