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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5 Fundamental Mind Shifts for Refugee Job Development


Innovations from Allen Anderson at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop

“A shift can change a person, a life, the world…or it can simply change the way you move through it.”

This tagline from a Nissan advertising campaign which ran in the early 2000’s challenged consumers to shift the way they thought about the world, and imagine all kinds of new possibilities.

Allen Anderson, international job development expert and President of DTG-EMP, gave a similar challenge at Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop. Drawing from his 25+ years of experience with social service employment programs as well as his work to help refugee employment programs in Colorado and Nebraska (See this past Higher post), Allen shared five important shifts that lead to improved employment outcomes:

shift to strategy


From personality to strategy: Social service agencies often rely too heavily on dynamic personalities who seem to have the “magic” touch with employers rather than training a diverse staff around strategies and techniques that work. Personality can make for successful job development, but you can’t always hire for personality. No personality can connect with every employer.

Focusing on proven strategies and building a well-rounded and competent team will prove more sustainable and more successful over time.

shift to share


From placement numbers to market share: Market share is the number of employers in your service area who regularly hire your clients and view you as a reliable source for dependable employees. The shift is to set higher expectations for yourself beyond hitting your numbers.

While you may be able to meet your monthly goals by placing everyone in a few large employers (think housekeeping, warehouse assembly lines, or chicken processing), you risk becoming too dependent on a small number of employers and you will severely limit the options for higher skilled clients.

Shoot to cultivate relationships with 25 employers who regularly hire from you. You’ll hit your numbers and you’ll have a variety of job options for clients of all skill-levels.

shift to employer


From getting jobs for clients to getting employers to hire them: It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that you think about your clients less, but shifting your focus to the needs of employers in your region rather than the limitations of your clients preferences will go a long way in helping you increase your “market share.”

Taking this approach will open up all kinds of possibilities that you never considered before, and having more job opportunities will actually increase the likelihood that you will be able to connect your clients to jobs they are happy with.

shift to duties


From multiple hats to separation of duties: Employment service providers have diverse responsibilities. Job readiness, job counseling, job development and job placement are all important and require different skill sets. When possible, creating separate space for job development specialization is critical.

Josh Pacheco, Employment Supervisor at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains (LFSRM) in Colorado, says that making this shift – and implementing policies and processes to support it – has been the strongest success factor in their adaptation of this new approach.

shift to tracks


From one size fits all to tracks for different skill levels: Different clients require different strategies. Our network puts a high value on client empowerment, but we aren’t always consistently successful at creating different tracks for higher skilled clients or opportunities for job upgrades.

It’s important to utilize job readiness and job counseling to empower higher skilled clients who may have the skills to place themselves (or at least participate in the process). Employment staff can then dedicate more time to the implementation of strong job development and sales tactics that prove to employers that clients with more significant barriers have the baseline skills necessary to do the job.

Over the course of the next year, Higher will be helping those who attended the optional day at our Annual Refugee Employment Workshop put what they learned to work in their own programs. Together, we will begin implementing, testing and tweaking these strategies. Stay tuned to follow how your peers are adapting these new techniques and how Higher will offer expanded access to what’s working in our network.





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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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