By Laura Dokis
Deciding on a career path is challenging at any stage in life and in particular when you may be focused on working within First Nations communities. There are also many unknown factors when attempting to make a choice about the future. When considering different options there are some key areas to think about.
Your interests, values, skills and aptitudes and the labour market play a deciding role in how satisfying a job will be to you. What activities are you good at and bring you the most enjoyment? Where do you enjoy spending your days? How important are financial considerations to you? Are you flexible to relocate and/or work varied hours? What are the job market circumstances in your community and beyond? Do you prefer to work independently or as part of a team?
If you take time to reflect and to write down the important factors you can begin to narrow your choices to the areas of most relevance to you. There are many online resources available to help identify specific areas of interest and to research labour market demand. Look at specific employers within your community and beyond and identify their core values, mission statement and areas of involvement. Match yourself up to employers who most closely reflect your areas of interest, aptitudes and passion.
My personal experience after two decades of working in education with First Nations students and career-seekers has demonstrated to me that the majority of people plan to work within their own communities or within organizations that support the advancement of First Nations people regardless of whether they are seeking entrepreneurship, a trade, direct job entry or higher education. This goal limits the number of overall opportunities available, but with economic development initiatives growing and a greater representation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people working in the broader sector, if you develop a plan, remain patient, committed and flexible there is good reason to stay optimistic.
Initially you may find an entry level job or work with another employer. Look at this as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and abilities and your commitment to career development. Seek jobs that will provide you with transferrable skills that will be important to you in the future. It isn’t unusual to overlook casual employment or generic skills as being irrelevant, but the fact is that any experience can be rewarding and useful to you. An often overlooked area is having a knowledge and awareness of language and culture. These are important resources that you can draw upon to express a personal commitment to health and wellness and demonstrate an ability to manage a healthy work-life balance.
Working at jobs that build your core competencies will serve you well in the long run, even if they are not exactly what you are looking for at the time. Keep focused on your goals and give your best to the employer who hires you. Accept every learning and training opportunity that will build your self-confidence and your resume. Demonstrate that you are flexible and adaptable to accept new tasks and challenges. Doing a good job for your current employer will also provide you with a positive job reference when an opportunity arises for you to interview for the job of your choice.
I have had the opportunity throughout my career to interview many First Nations job applicants and the successful candidates have most often demonstrated not only the required competencies, training and/or education for the job, but also the self-confidence gained from strong ties to their culture, traditional ways of life (hunting, trapping, fishing, harvesting) language and/or First Nation communities. Activities outside of your job including volunteering on Pow Wow committees, drumming, dancing, craft-work, organizing socials, coaching little league sports teams or volunteering for tournaments can all be rich sources of skill development, networking and serve to increase your career confidence.
Remember that it can take time to find your dream job and that if you consider every job and experience a stepping stone and remain focused on building your self-self-assurance, knowledge, skills and abilities you are taking steps that bring you one day closer to your career goal.
Laura Dokis has worked as an education administrator, career counsellor, and human resources professional at the Anishinabek Educational Institute and Canadore College.