In order to become successfully employed, it helps to know what it is employers are looking for when recruiting.

One of my colleagues observed that ‘rather than having employers go through Indigenous cross-cultural training, would it not make more sense to have our Indigenous people who are looking for jobs, go through training explaining what employers really want’.

Firstly, let us keep in mind that in North America most businesses are ‘small’ businesses, meaning they have 50 or less employees and most jobs are found in this sector of the economy. Most Native owned businesses fall into this ‘small’ business category.

Large businesses certainly hire many people, but the needs of all employers remain basically the same.

Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band has given workshops and presentations across North America, to Indigenous business and youth groups. When he talks about ‘jobs’ he has one very strong message – Rule Number One ‘You must show up!’ Rules Numbers Two and Three – ‘You must show up!’ No excuses. If you do not show up it is not possible to teach you how to do the job; it is not possible for you to engage in the job and it is not possible to keep you on the job.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were two young Indigenous men working for the same construction company. One of the young men complained about the other, saying, ‘I have to show him how to do all the tasks and I do not understand how he gets chosen for overtime and gets called back first’.

The answer was very simple. The one who did not have the experience nor the knowledge showed up every day – EVERY day, on time, without fail. The other was of the opinion that his experience and knowledge entitled him to take time off, not show up without notifying the foreman, etc. etc. Employers need people who show up EVERY day. When they interview potential employees they are interested if individuals have completed high school or additional training, as this indicates a commitment to ‘showing up regularly’. Employers need people they can rely on to be at work.

Job skills can be taught to anyone willing to learn, but the person must be on the job. Since it seems that the type of work ethic has changed, it is important now for individuals to do more self evaluations to see if they are indeed employable, as getting a job doesn’t mean a person is employable. Not showing up on the job is just an indication of a larger issue – as a persons’ characteristics of no commitment, a quitter, or unreliability are what a person has to discover about themselves.

Another major concern for employers is the ability of staff to get along with each other. The main reason for terminating staff is due to ‘personal issues’. When an employer has a team of staff who get along harmoniously with little or no problems among themselves, bringing in a new person who cannot seem to fit into the team is a major disruption to the workflow. Most of us can think of examples of this phenomenon. Two immediately come to mind from my own experiences. Both were individuals who were highly skilled and competent in their specific jobs. Both were individuals who felt they were allowed certain concessions due to their experience and knowledge, to the point that neither was willing to share their knowledge with others and made other team members feel badly due to how these two treated the others.


Maya Angelou

These two employer requirements apply whether we are talking about Indigenous job seekers or any job seeker.

Employers need to find the ‘best’ possible staff and often small business owners do not have time to train or provide guidance, so they look for those with experience and a track record of the types of characteristics outlined above.

One of the key ways to address these areas is to obtain a ‘work experience or coop education placement or an internship’ at any stage of your education. This can provide real experience and feedback.

With most reservation schools are located in geographic areas unable to offer these opportunities, the next best thing is ‘volunteering’.

It is recognized that competition for jobs, at any level, is extremely high and obtaining that first entry level job in order to gain some experience is difficult.

There are many resources available to those seeking employment, e.g. the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC),
a non-profit located in Albuquerque, New Mexico or the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

L.C. Stanley and colleagues are available for training and presentations on Career Development for Native People by contacting SAY Magazine – 1.866.485.2380.