Building Professional Online Networking for Refugee Clients

Higher presents a guest post from Jessica Ploen, Career Advancement Specialist at Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFSN), on their partnership with LinkedIn to provide training for highly skilled refugees.

In today’s professional landscape networking is one of the best ways to secure a job and a professional online profile amplifies your reach. Limited personal connections in the US and narrow exposure to online professional systems present a barrier for newly arrived refugees. Developing a high-quality LinkedIn profile helps clients overcome this barrier and increase confidence by showcasing their skills, education, and experience.

In February 2018, LFSN partnered with LinkedIn to provide refugee clients with a training on creating and updating their LinkedIn profiles, including profile pictures. Guidance on how to utilize LinkedIn profiles in the job search process was also provided.

This partnership was inspired by a Higher blog post describing a jointly produced job fair for immigrants and refugees where participants received guidance from LinkedIn staff. LFSN proposed a similar idea to LinkedIn and was connected with “LinkedIn for Good,” a program promoting access to economic opportunity for underserved communities including youth, veterans, and refugees. LinkedIn for Good helps participants build networks and acquire needed skills for advancement in their fields of interest.

A total of 14 LFSN clients and 2 mentors attended the event on February 17th, 2018. After presenting on how to build a great LinkedIn profile, a LinkedIn Product Education Consultant and three volunteer LinkedIn staff created professional profile photographs for attendees.

Participants had the opportunity to interact with other refugees facing similar challenges in building online and professional networks. With their new profiles, participants report feeling empowered to expand their network and more hopeful of advancing in former or new career pathways. LFSN staff members also gained skills in assisting other clients with creating LinkedIn profiles.

Encouraging and supporting refugees to pursue their career goals is critical to promoting long-term professional development, economic self-sufficiency, and community integration.

For more information on the partnership and event, email Jessica at jploen@lfsneb.org.

How do you incorporate partners to help your clients along their career pathway? Email us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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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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Resources for Highly Skilled Refugees

Highly skilled refugees are unique from other refugees as they often arrive to the U.S. with higher levels of education, advanced English language ability, or extensive training and experience in a particular occupation. Resettlement sites that see smaller numbers of highly skilled refugees tend to find themselves in unfamiliar territory, without the availability of job upgrade programs or experience in long-term goal setting. Higher is sharing resources that can help sites with limited numbers assist highly skilled refugees in obtaining employment that matches their skill level or, ideally, in their previous field.

Foreign Degree Certification

Job Readiness & Education

  • Higher’s Online Learning Institute is our free online system with courses designed for refugee employment staff and job readiness instructors, many of which refugees could take on their own to reiterate coursework and practice skills needed for the American workplace.
  • Upwardly Global provides career development programming for SIVs, immigrants, and refugees who were professionals in their home countries.
  • WES Global Talent Bridge assists community organizations and public agencies that support skilled immigrants with tools, training and other resources.
  • Utilize volunteers in your community to support job readiness classes, career mentors, in-home tutoring for spouses, access to childcare, transportation orientations, and more.

Job Development

What are some unique approaches you use with highly skilled refugees? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org.

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WES Career Pathway Guides

Higher presents a guest post from World Education Services (WES) Global Talent Bridge announcing their new career pathways guides.

Skilled immigrants and refugees can find step-by-step guidance on how to use their international education and professional experience in the United States or Canada in World Education Services (WES) Global Talent Bridge’s new Pathways e-guide series.

What are the Pathways e-guides about?

WES Global Talent Bridge created its new Pathways e-guide series to help skilled immigrants explore career and academic pathways in their professional fields. The guides offer practical information on the different educational pathways in each field, licensing and certification requirements for common field-specific careers, and career options that make the best use of transferable skills.

The e-guides provide sector-specific advice and resources on academic requirements, career options, and, when applicable, licensing and certification requirements. A one-stop source for strategies, support, and additional resources, the Pathways e-guides are helpful at every step of the journey toward professional success for skilled immigrants in the United States or Canada.

What fields do the Pathways e-guides cover?

So far, WES Global Talent Bridge has published Pathways e-guides for the fields of nursing and education. WES Global Talent Bridge plans to publish additional e-guides for internationally trained health care professionals in the coming months. Additional future topics include regulated fields like engineering and architecture, as well as unregulated fields like business, information technology, and the creative arts.

Like Career Pathways in Nursing, the upcoming e-guides will feature:

  • Strategies for achieving career success.
  • Helpful charts highlighting licensing and certification requirements.
  • Interactive worksheets and guides.
  • Success stories spotlighting the real-life professional pathways of skilled-immigrants.
  • Links to helpful resources in each field.

For more information on WES Global Talent Bridge’s Pathways, contact Mia Nacamulli mnacamul@wes.org.

For additional information on career pathways, checkout Higher’s recertification assistance guides for engineers, accountants, pharmacists, and more. For examples of career pathway programs, go to Higher’s blog.

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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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Baltimore Healthcare Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a valuable solution to creating a path for refugees to get started in a new field, upgrade a current position, or get back into a former field. The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH) has created an apprenticeship program that provides an opportunity for just that. BACH seeks to create a pipeline of qualified frontline healthcare workers in the Baltimore area by collaborating with local employers and community colleges to provide training opportunities to interested individuals.

To engage refugee participants in the program, BACH collaborated with the International Rescue Committee Maryland (IRC) to provide an opportunity for refugees with higher levels of English, extensive education, or work history.

As part of their BACH apprenticeship, participants are paid and work part-time at an area hospital while completing on-the-job training and classroom training provided by Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). The on-the-job training is competency-based, so not every participant is at the same level or moves through at the same speed. The program’s flexibility allows refugees with backgrounds in healthcare to progress through the training more quickly. As apprentices complete a designated set of competencies, they receive wage increases. Once participants complete their apprenticeship the hospital moves them into a full-time position.

The first apprenticeship cohort by BACH was for Environmental Care Supervisors at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital. The initial cohort includes four refugees.

The training starts at $15 an hour, with competency completions adding raises, and pay starting at $20.29 an hour for those who complete the program.

A new BACH apprenticeship program for Surgical Technologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center will launch in Spring of 2018. The program will follow a set full-time schedule with twice a week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

The BACH program is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor’s ApprenticeshipUSA program through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation.

For those interested in starting a similar program, Janie McDermott, BACH Program Manager for Apprenticeship, suggests that the first step is to find employers that are on board and willing to be fully engaged.week CCBC classroom work and three days in the hospital. Both of these apprenticeship program specialties provide refugees with backgrounds in healthcare an opportunity to re-enter the hospital environment without having to forgo work for school or having to pay tuition.

For more information on BACH contact Janie McDermott at jmcdermott@baltimorealliance.org.

What kind of training or apprenticeship programs do you use for refugees? Share with us at information@higheradvantage.org!

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WES Pilot Provides Alternative Credential Assessments for Syrian Refugees

Resettled refugees often face several barriers to formal recognition of their credentials, preventing them from reaching their full career potential. This is especially problematic for refugees arriving without official documentation such as a completed transcript, diploma or other proof. A World Education Services (WES) pilot in Canada has tested an “alternative assessment” methodology using available evidence of educational attainment and professional achievements when these official documents cannot be obtained. WES is a non-profit organization that evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications.

As Canada has resettled more Syrian refugees, local institutions and employers voiced concern that these refugees, many of whom are highly-educated, would not have access to recognized credential documents for pursuing higher education or regulated professions in the future.

“Because Syria had a highly-literate population and a well-functioning education system before the war, we knew many of these refugees would be highly educated, proficient in English or French and determined to resume professional careers or pursue further study. Recognition of previous education in Syria, therefore, would become a priority for these individuals, since it is critical to this goal,” shared Denise Jillions, Associate Director of WES Global Talent Bridge, during a recent webinar about the pilot project.

WES started exploring the degree of support among academic institutions and regulatory bodies for an alternative assessment model allowing for use of non-verifiable or incomplete documents, in contrast to their standard strict document policy. They decided to move forward in testing a new service delivery model among Syrian refugees in Canada to determine the validity and potential utility of alternative assessments. WES received 337 applications for the pilot program between July 2016 and May 2017, and they were able to prepare Alternative Credential Assessments for applicants who submitted at least one piece of documentary evidence.

Preliminary Findings

78% of refugee participants surveyed after the project indicated that the Alternative Credential Assessment will be useful in taking next steps toward their education and/or career goals. About 20% of those surveyed who already have plans for using the assessment indicated they would like to pursue a new profession, with the majority of respondents reporting they would like to use their assessment to pursue higher education, return to their original profession or find a similar position suited to their level of experience and education.

About 73% of end-users, including academic institutions and employers, reported confidence in the alternative methodology for assessing credentials. Some institutions reported that they are already accepting the assessment for admission to colleges, universities and regulated professions, while other institutions are still reaching a decision on how to use it.

WES hopes to expand this pilot program to the U.S. in the future, and will report their final findings and plans when the project analysis is complete. In the meantime, check out their 2016 report, Providing Pathways for Refugees: Practical Tips for Credential Assessment, which includes six steps for credential assessment for refugees and displaced people.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

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Support for Refugee and Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Immigrants are nearly twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens[1]. A community initiative in Silicon Valley is now engaging the immigrant and refugee entrepreneurial spirit through a program focused on supporting potential new business founders.

The Pars Equality Center created the Pars Entrepreneurship Program as a response to a forum that it held; where newly-arrived refugees were invited to hear the stories of successful Iranian-Americans. Participants began asking for more tools, mentors, and practical advice on starting businesses.

Just a couple of years after it started, the Pars Entrepreneurship Program has already become wildly popular, shared Ellie Derakhshesh-Clelland, the Senior Director of Social Services at the Pars Equality Center. Shortly after creating an Entrepreneurship Program page on Facebook, the page had more than 3,000 followers. “That by itself is an indication of what a huge need there is for a program like this,” said Ellie.

“We sat down and brainstormed with aspiring entrepreneurs for about three months to find out what their needs were,” said Ellie.

The outcome is that Pars Equality Center now hosts bi-weekly meetings featuring experts and business founders who lead roundtable discussions about particular entrepreneurship topics. Topics range from how to incorporate a company to sales planning and fundraising. The group is currently at capacity, with some 50 refugees and immigrants who have been in the U.S. for 3 – 7 years in regular attendance. In addition, a group of mentors is available for individual questions outside of the larger group meetings. Pars Equality Center staff have been successful in finding subject experts and mentors through their personal networks and LinkedIn searches.

Although the group is diverse in age and professional background, one commonality is that “they all have an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Ellie. “They came to Silicon Valley with the hope of starting their own company.”

Twelve entrepreneurial initiatives, all tech-based, have blossomed since the program began. Participants practiced describing their business concepts at a recent Pitch Day event, where investors and advisors were invited to provide feedback. From there, eight participants were selected to take part in a meeting with a capital venture firm and three vendors. Ellie said that although investors expected young refugees and immigrants would need a lot of guidance, they were “in awe of their talent” and also learned new ideas from the entrepreneurs.

The Pars Equality Center is a community-based social and legal organization that focuses on integration of Iranian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

Written by Carrie Thiele.

[1] https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-are-immigrants-more-entrepreneurial

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3 Ways to Empower Highly Skilled Clients

Refugee employment staff are deeply committed to the work that they do and work hard to empower all clients. Finding ways to empower clients of different skill levels takes creativity and intentionality.

Empowering highly skilled refugees is a unique challenge as it requires balancing immediate needs with long-term aspirations. Creating a standard approach to helping clients develop both short-term and long-term goals will help them have realistic expectations and a sense of optimism for their career path!

Here are 3 best practices for empowering highly skilled clients as you help them work towards their career goals:

1.) Build volunteer/internship opportunities into the Job Readiness experience

Where can you provide opportunities for highly skilled clients to use their skills during the job search process? Consider providing volunteer/internship opportunities for these clients at your agency or at other local organizations or employers.

One idea is to have highly skilled clients mentor or assist in teaching ESL to lower skilled clients. Providing volunteer/internship experiences will be good for clients’ morale and will look good on a résumé!

2.) Take a collaborative approach 

Collaborate with highly skilled clients on a job search strategy that takes into account both their short term needs and long term goals. Encourage highly skilled clients to participate in their job search by assigning them tasks they can complete themselves to move their job search forward.

Wherever possible, provide choices that allow the client to guide the process. Providing choices for our clients can be empowering, as explained in this video interview with Carrie Thiele, Integration Programs Manager at ECDC/African Community Center in Denver, CO.

3.) Develop a long-term career plan

Be sure to let highly skilled clients know that after they attain the first step of basic self-sufficiency you really want to see them take the next step to move towards their career goals.  Remind them that their first job is not their last job, but rather just the first step to achieve economic security.

Set an appointment for 6 months after they begin their first job in which you will discuss appropriate next steps to pursue, whether that be credential evaluation, a job upgrade or a referral to another training or employment program.

Consider connecting highly skilled clients to a volunteer career mentor who can support them through the process of pursuing their career goals (Check out this guide from LIRS on setting up an employment mentoring program).

We are looking for stories from the field about agencies that have provided volunteer or internship opportunities for clients or have implemented other creative strategies. Share your story by sending us an email at information@higheradvantage.org.

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Last Minute Webinar Announcement!

Tomorrow, Thursday, June 22, from 2:00 – 3:15 PM, WES Global Talent Bridge will be hosting a webinar entitled “Exploring Reskilling Opportunities for Immigrant Professionals focused on helping immigrants and refugees with professional backgrounds re-enter professional-level jobs.

In this webinar presenters Allie Levinsky from Upwardly Global and Jamie McDermott from the Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare will discuss best practices for providing career guidance to highly skilled immigrants and refugees as well as current reskilling initiatives.

To register for this webinar click here.

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