This blog post was written by Higher Employment Services Technical Assistance and is included as an archived post on the Switchboard blog.
If 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. It’s important that you know what to expect so that you are prepared for the busy times and so that you don’t get too discouraged during the slow times.
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). Over time 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. Seek out learning opportunities. Keep your eyes out for webinars, conferences, newsletters, and peer learning opportunities. Start by checking out our resources page. Also, don’t restrict yourself to learning opportunities which focus specifically on refugees. There are many learning opportunities focused broadly on workforce development that will give you great ideas for your work.