Career conversations

Career development is a profession whose most important tool is conversation. Career conversations are guided by person-centred principles and processes that foster a collaborative partnership between practitioner and career seeker. This article explains how Motivational Interviewing and Guiding Circles can be used to enhance the career conversation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Culturally appropriate guidance

Many students or clients who do not fit into the mainstream can become culturally excluded from a counselling or guidance process. This may happen because:

  • the counselling process is geared only to those who have a self-awareness that aligns to the mainstream world of work
  • the guide and the student/client have a different understanding of their respective roles
  • in many societies counselling or guidance is not sought outside the family or community
  • a formal visit to a career practitioner’s office may be perceived as an authority having power over the client/student
  • the guide and the student/client each have different expectations of the process.

Therefore, to facilitate a productive guidance process it's important for the practitioner to:

  • understand the cultural context of the career seeker
  • identify any special needs
  • adapt their technique and process to suit the career seeker
  • establish the best possible conditions for effective communication
  • explain the process to alleviate any concerns and clarify expectations.

Motivational Interviewing and Guiding Circles are two approaches that consist of elements which can facilitate a positive and productive guidance process for both the practitioner and career seeker.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is an effective way to talk with people about making decisions and taking steps towards their goals. In some traditional cultures, to offer advice is impolite and to tell someone what to do is rude. With Motivational Interviewing the guide and the individual are both on equal ground. (Matulich, 2013)

There are elements that are useful for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Deep listening
  3. Dealing with ambivalence
  4. Readiness for change

Guiding Circles concepts

Guiding Circles was developed by Amundson, McCormick and Poehnell, 2002, to reflect the Indigenous holistic worldview. It includes:

  • the circle metaphor
  • community orientation
  • connectedness
  • balance
  • roles and responsibilities
  • gifts
  • spirit
  • aptitudes
  • values and meaning

Guiding Circles also engages effective questioning techniques that facilitate the individuals’:

  • telling of their own story
  • self-discovery versus being told
  • ownership of findings and growth in self-esteem.

The self-awareness process gives individuals the opportunity to include the importance of personal identity as it relates to their cultural ideology.

Through circles, career seekers can map their holistic experience of their identity by linking self, family, community, country, culture, natural and spiritual worlds. It starts with where the person is engaged within their life. It's a culturally appropriate way to encourage positive focused self-reflection for individuals who have inhibitions because of enculturated humility.

It also includes feedback from others. The individual tells his/her story and the narrative becomes the entry point for the career conversation. Career possibilities are generated through exploring the interconnectedness of favourite skills, interests, personal style/spirit, values/meaning, life balance, learning, work life roles, and work connections in his/her community and to educational pathways and the world of work. This removes the conversation from the unreal model of a linear career.

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© 2014/2015 Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA). The More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative (MATSITI) was initiated by the Commonwealth Government and funded for a four-year period 2011-2015. Within this initiative, the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA) managed the project; Follow My Lead: Careers in Teaching.