Young woman wearing backpack sitting on rock in forested area overlooking water.Careering

The importance of a whole-person approach in Indigenous career development

Indigenous career practitioners integrate cultural world view of interconnectedness to support clients in wide-ranging ways

Tina-Marie Christian, Seanna Quressette and Kevin Ned

Author headshotsWhat was your first memory of a conversation you had as a child about education and the relationship to work? How old were you? Was it with parents, grandparents, a favourite aunt or uncle?

For some, the memory of that discussion has long since faded. What you may not have realized then was that these conversations shaped your world view of education and employment. For Indigenous people, these conversations were very different.

Career development from an Indigenous perspective is both similar to and qualitatively different from career development in non-Indigenous settings. There is important historical context that influences the educational and employment experience for some Indigenous individuals and there are current lived experiences that also influence the career paths of Indigenous workers.

The idea of a cookie-cutter approach to career counselling is outdated. Today’s employment counselling practices are much more focused on the needs of the individual – a person-centred approach. This is particularly true for the Indigenous jobseeking client. Before we look too deeply into the current and future opportunities for Indigenous people, we need to stop to consider the source of knowledge and life experiences that shape their choices.

The traumatic legacy of residential schools

The recent news of unmarked graves of children being found at the sites of former Canadian Indian residential schools is being felt across Indigenous communities. Residential school survivors and their children and grandchildren are re-experiencing the trauma of the residential school experience.

In 1996, a report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples exposed the trauma and abuse suffered by several generations of Indigenous people who were forced to attend residential schools. These institutions purported to educate and acculturate Indigenous students; that was not what happened. Education was several rungs below religious indoctrination, domestic and field labour, and life lessons of servitude. The actual learning experience and any scholarly accomplishments were abysmal.

For many children of residential school survivors, school stopped at the mandated age of 16. It wasn’t easy to attend post-secondary education because there was no family support or interest from family members to pursue this education. There was little family value placed on participation in the Canadian school system. To compound matters, the patriarchal system of the Department of Indian Affairs presented many roadblocks to post-secondary pursuits. As noted in the 2009 book A Short History of Aboriginal Education in Canada: “Needless to say, few students progressed past the primary grades regardless of how many years were spent in school. In 1930, only 3% of Indigenous students had progressed past grade 6 and three-quarters of all those in school were in grades 1 to 3.”

A woman and her two young children leave flowers at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of 215 children were found buried earlier this year. (iStock)

This kept many Indigenous people out of the labour market. Some Elders believe that this was by design, as laws also prohibited entrepreneurial and employment efforts by restricting mobility and preventing access to capital. Indian agents employed by the federal Department of Indian Affairs had to provide passes to leave the reserve, which of course limited access to the job market.

When Indigenous students did make it to post-secondary education, they were often ill-prepared academically and found that the teaching methods did not align with their ways of learning and knowing. The inter-generational trauma and impact of residential schools continues to affect today’s jobseekers and students. Many children of residential school survivors have experienced mental health challenges including anxiety and addictions as they move through post-secondary education.

Building a better future in education

The natural progression of learning through discovery and perpetual advancement that Canadians experienced was vastly different than the prescribed autocratic and paternalistic Indian Affairs approach.  Colonization jumped over the whole process of development that Canadians experienced through the Industrial Revolution. Indigenous people went from traditional land-based learning and teaching styles to that of a highly structured classroom approach that didn’t factor in experiential learning.

“For many Indigenous students, learning is best done in a relational, experiential and visual context.”

Despite the challenges they have faced, Indigenous leaders and their communities have held the course for self-governance and self-reliance. Formal political lobbying started as far back as 1972, with the National Indian Brotherhood’s Indian Control of Indian Education policy paper that spearheaded changes to the education system for Indigenous people.

As educational institutions begin to understand the challenges some Indigenous students face, they are adopting more inclusive ways of learning with the support of Elders, Indigenous advocates and Indigenous Learning Centres. For many Indigenous students, learning is best done in a relational, experiential and visual context. In an Indigenous integrated world view, learning includes the heart, the mind and the body. Indigenous ways of knowing include providing context for why the learning is taking place, understanding the relationships being built through the learning, and using images and real-life examples in teaching.

In March 2021, the Conference Board of Canada reported there are currently 80+ national Indigenous institutions that serve over 10,000 students a year. This represents an increase of 15% in 15 years. It will be through these institutions that we begin to see significant changes in Indigenous students’ post-secondary participation and graduation rates.

A 2018 Assembly of First Nation fact sheet on Indigenous education revealed that nearly half (47%) of Indigenous post-secondary graduates have completed a college diploma. Some of the challenges Indigenous students continue to face include lack of confidence/preparedness, not a personal priority, cost, personal/family responsibilities and personal health.

Read more on supporting Indigenous career development

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Connecting to the labour market

We also know that Indigenous people may face other challenges to pursuing employment. Low literacy, for instance, is a barrier to employment rooted in intergenerational trauma and colonial history. Other practical considerations such as limited access to daycare and transportation and lack of a driver’s licence are due in part to living in remote locations. Cultural differences, communication skills, social mores and negative stereotypes also affect Indigenous jobseekers’ employment opportunities.

These stereotypes include the skewed image most non-Indigenous people have of reserves. Many think of the poverty and lack of opportunity. They don’t see the economic development in many communities and the existence of wrap-around services for community members including education, employment, health, mental health and social development.

These services play an important role in supporting Indigenous students and jobseekers – and may be in higher demand going forward, with the Indigenous labour force growing three to five times faster than the labour force as a whole. Youth supports may be especially needed, with approximately half of the Indigenous population under 25.

The role of Indigenous career practitioners

Fortunately, today, there are many robust training programs – on and off-reserve – to assist Indigenous jobseekers to access employment opportunities. These training programs include vocational training and academic training.

Importantly, services often do not stop at career counselling. In keeping with the cultural world view of interconnectedness, Indigenous career counsellors are often tasked with supporting their clients in wide-ranging ways, from referrals to counselling or addiction services, to client data management, to providing intake interviews and working on resumes, as well as assisting workers to communicate with employers.

It is this whole-world, whole-person view that makes the Indigenous CDP invaluable. A federally funded program under the Employment Skills and Development Canada (ESDC), Indigenous Skills Employment Training (ISET) is designed to help Indigenous people find improve their skills and find employment.

ISET provides funding to Indigenous Service delivery organizations that design and deliver job training services to First Nations, Inuit, Metis and urban/non-affiliated Indigenous people in their commities.

Resources for career practitioners to support Indigenous clients:

The program also provides career path training and certification for Indigenous career development counsellors (certified career development practitioners).

One of the great things about the ISET program is that Indigenous jobseekers sometimes experience a sense of comfort working with another Indigenous member. These Indigenous CDPs are knowledgeable about protocols, they are not shocked by family histories and are able to connect with individuals at all stages of their career journey.

Also, Indigenous career practitioners act as role models for folks entering or re-entering the workforce. They see the Indigenous career counsellor as someone from their community who completed training and is now there to offer services.

Indigenous career practitioners also play an important role in educating employers about how to work with Indigenous employees, as well as helping industry learn about Indigenous culture and history and protocols that affect employment.

We’ve heard many success stories from Indigenous graduates of the Douglas College Career Practitioner program that remind us of the important work yet to be done on the road to reconciliation. That road starts with remembering … and then we can create a new vision.

Tina-Marie Christian, MAOM, BEd is from the Syilx Nation (Okanagan) and a member of the Splatsin First Nation (Enderby, BC).  She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Management, a Bachelor of (Adult) Education and an Associate Business Administration degree (Marketing). She has over 40 years of experience working for Aboriginal organizations in education and staff development, advocacy, community and personal development, and health and wellness. Christian teaches the Aboriginal Career Development Course at Douglas College. 

Seanna Quressette, MEd, CCDP has 30+ years’ experience in career development and has taught Indigenous career practitioners for over 20 years. Quressette is the Co-ordinator of Continuing Education in the Faculty of Applied Community Studies at Douglas College.

Kevin Ned is a member of the Upper Nicola Band and is the Employment Training Facilitator for Westbank First Nation. Ned has been involved in training and employment for over 20 years, including 14 years as the Education Director for the Okanagan Indian Band. He also served for 12 years as an elected band councillor for his band, and has a business diploma from Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, a Career Development Practitioner Certificate and Essential Skills Certificate from Douglas College.

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Employer-engaged workforce development: Strategies to address sector shock

The sharp decline in hospitality and tourism employment during COVID highlights the need for new approaches to workforce development

Vanessa Wong

Author headshotSector shocks such as the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry are nothing new and will continue to happen in the future. They can affect employment opportunities for jobseekers and the ability of employers to retain experienced workers as the industry navigates the novel impact of a shock. Within this context, workforce intermediaries like the Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC) will have to change how we look at workforce development strategies that aim to support workers and help employers manage and recover from sector shocks.

What is a sector shock?

A sector shock occurs when there is a change that affects the amount of goods produced and/or services provided by the sector. The impact can be positive or negative and the sector shock can result from events such as natural disasters, technological change, pandemics and/or politics. It can also displace a significant number of workers (Keane, 1991 & Chehal, Lougani, & Trehan, 2010), affect the types of jobs available and change the skillset required of workers. Displaced workers may also remain unemployed longer because of the time it takes to find work in other industries where their skills are transferable (Keane, 1991; Chehal, Lougani, & Trehan, 2010).

The sharp decline in the hospitality and tourism industry as a result of COVID-19 is an example of a sectoral shock. Employment data from May 2020 shows that employment in hospitality and tourism decreased by 43.3%, with an overall unemployment rate of 28.8%. The pandemic has also accelerated the impact of technology and automation in the hospitality industry, changing job roles and work environments. It has also highlighted the importance of soft skills such as initiative, adaptability, communication and customer service in workers and employers to navigate uncertainty and support recovery (Boudreau, Rose, & Landine, 2021).

What is a workforce intermediary?

A workforce intermediary is an organization that brings together key stakeholders across a local labour market – such as industry representatives, employers and workers – to improve workforce conditions, supply and skills. The work of the workforce intermediary is to plan, develop and implement strategic approaches that would meet local employers’ recruitment and retention needs, while also elevating local jobseekers’ employment and skills development opportunities. – Urban Institute, 2021

As the industry begins its slow road to recovery, employers have also expressed challenges in retaining experienced workers and hiring qualified workers because of employment instability within the sector and higher wages and better career prospects in other industries. Full recovery from this devastating shock is not expected (by the most optimistic projections) until 2023.

What is an employer-engaged workforce development strategy?

Employer-engaged workforce development strategies are an example of how workforce development intermediaries can support workers and employers to navigate sector shocks. Currently, programs implemented by workforce intermediaries are focused on helping jobseekers access training, certification and job search supports for specific positions, and connecting them to employer partners who will hire them. During a sector shock, this strategy is less effective as employment opportunities may be shifting or the skillsets required for those jobs change as business owners adapt their operational model to ensure viability in shifting markets.

Employers representing small- to medium-sized businesses have also said that they struggle to access the support of workforce intermediaries because the services they provide do not necessarily meet their just-in-time recruitment needs (Boudreau, Rose, & Landine, 2021). Businesses report that they would like workforce intermediaries to collaborate with them and play a bigger role in connecting them to training programs and tools that represent the best solutions to their workforce needs (Boudreau, Rose, & Landine, 2021).

Read more:

The hybrid future: Shifting employment services to meet client needs

Geography matters: The value of place-based workforce development

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An employer-engaged workforce development strategy offers a more transformational approach that addresses the concerns expressed by employer partners while meeting the employment stability needs of jobseekers. This is especially helpful in industries that are experiencing sector shocks and have concerns about unwanted employee turnover rates. Those strategies focus on the development of meaningful relationships with employers as key labour market stakeholders. When employers are invested and involved in the collaboration, workforce intermediaries are better able to understand and identify their current and future employment needs and work with them to co-create and deliver relevant responses to address them. Employer-engaged workforce strategies look at opportunities for jobseekers to access employment while supporting nimble and responsive processes for employers, workers and workforce intermediaries to work together.

Examples of employer-engaged workforce development strategies

Based on our experiences, best practices in the field and industry input, these are three examples of employer-engaged workforce development strategies we have found to be the most impactful. We recognize that sector shocks are not static and that all of these strategies and activities will evolve based on changes in industry and the needs of employers, employees and jobseekers.

“An employer-engaged workforce development strategy offers a more transformational approach that addresses the concerns expressed by employer partners while meeting the employment stability needs of jobseekers.”

Leverage live labour market information to support demand-driven labour market attachment strategies: Access to accurate, timely and relevant labour market information is critical to understanding changes and trends in the labour market. HWTC has leveraged technologies such as SkillsPath Ontario, FutureFit AI, Vicinity Jobs and Burning Glass Technologies to provide real-time data about job vacancies and in-demand skills. This approach provides current insights into what employers are looking for when hiring. This information enables us to better support workers navigating challenging career transitions to explore training opportunities and make informed decisions about their job search – right in line with the most current employer demands.

Engage employers with customized tools to support recruitment and retention: The loss of employees is one of the greatest challenges for employers and this is exacerbated by job uncertainty as a result of a sector shock. Many employers will be required to recruit, on-board and train new hires to support re-opening, as their pre-COVID workforce many not be available or willing to return. Retaining workers will be critical to the speed at which a business will recover and regain profitability.

Pre-COVID research showed that retention issues were ascribed to a deficit of workers’ soft skills (Boudreau, Rose, & Landine, 2021). HWTC’s Retention Skills Enhancement Tool (ReSET) is an online platform that enables employers to articulate and share soft skills performance expectations with their employees and objectively measure soft skills performance. With ReSET, employers can develop targeted training interventions to support soft skill development and improve performance and retention of their top talent. ReSET assumes that skills development does not stop at hiring, and employers and employees need to work together to develop strategies for an engaged, highly skilled and resilient workforce.

Alternative credential recognition: As jobs are reallocated and changed as result of a sector shock, attracting skilled workers becomes more competitive for employers. Tools to assess skills when recruiting and hiring employees will need to evolve. Micro-credentials in the form of e-badges offer a quick and reliable indicator of competency for employers to identify and screen for in-demand skills. Micro-credentials also provide an accessible training opportunity for individuals who have low levels of literacy and/or face system barriers to accessing traditional academic learning opportunities. HWTC in partnership with Bow Valley College and industry partners is developing a hospitality-specific series of micro-credentials aimed at supporting employers to recruit for the skills they need.

A strong foundation

Sector shocks will occur again in the future. These will affect the number of employment opportunities available and the skillsets required for jobs as business owners adapt their operational models. With the implementation of relevant employer-engaged workforce development strategies, such as those mentioned above, workforce development intermediaries can support workers and help employers manage and recover from sector shocks.

Vanessa Wong has been successfully developing and implementing community-based literacy and employment programs for over 10 years. She is a lifelong learner who recently received her designation as a project management professional and is currently completing her second degree in social work.


Boudreau, A., Rose, H., & Landine, J. (2021). Soft skills in the post-pandemic hospitality and foodservice sector in Ontario – A report for the Hospitality Workers Training Centre. Hospitality Workers Training Centre.

Group of masked people sitting in circle on chairs talking.Careering

The hybrid future: Shifting employment services to meet client needs

ACCES Employment reflects on its digital transformation, and what it wants to bring forward – and leave behind – as service delivery continues to evolve

Manjeet Dhiman and Aimee Holmes

Author headshotsLike many other businesses, ACCES Employment had to respond quickly to the sudden and significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the employment services sector overall moved swiftly to adjust years of honed service delivery practices to align with public health restrictions and safety protocols.

The things that we took for granted were suddenly and significantly disrupted – foot traffic leading to new client intake, the spontaneity of collaboration among colleagues and the energy in a room when dozens of people interact at a networking or hiring event. As a community-based service provider grounded in human connection, it was a tremendous shift from the established norm of in-person service delivery. And yet, we did it.

Now, we are eager to begin envisioning the post-pandemic landscape of employment services. Unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, we now have more time and opportunity for thoughtful reflection and informed decisions. There are clear benefits to offering a hybrid model of employment services, even if it is not out of necessity. For some jobseekers, who have professional backgrounds and digital literacy, their ability to access our services is enhanced when they can learn remotely and on their own schedule. For other clients, who are seeking to re-enter the workforce after a gap in employment, who lack digital literacy or who have lower levels of English proficiency, they will often be better served through in-person career counselling and job development. In this article, we aim to contribute to the sector-wide conversation on how to create a hybrid model of employment service delivery.

More from this issue of Careering:

Geography matters: The value of place-based workforce development

Employer-engaged workforce development: Strategies to address sector shock

Increasing inclusion and engagement in virtual career workshops

Setting up for digital success

Prior to the pandemic, ACCES was already on a pathway to digital transformation. The technological capacity and infrastructure that we developed over a period of several years allowed us to quickly pivot to full online service delivery as the pandemic forced businesses across Canada and around the world into lockdown. Our ability to change and respond to the technological requirements of online service delivery enabled ACCES to continue supporting our staff and clients with little to no interruption. But by no means was this an easy endeavour.

The online capacity and infrastructure we developed in our offices needed to be resourced differently for remote delivery from home. The skills and technological acumen of a select team of individuals now needed to expand to all staff. We embraced a range of tools and systems to be able to meet with our clients and employers online. We adopted technology into all aspects of our business, not only in service delivery but also in program administration and organization-wide operations.

Woman wearing earphones and waving at computer screen.

One tool we found particularly useful was a chatbot that we built and launched just before the pandemic hit. VERA (Virtual Employment and Resource Attendant) uses artificial intelligence to understand user inquiries and direct people to programs, register them for events and answer their job search questions. The chatbot is available 24/7, offers client-centred interaction and frees up staff time for more complex tasks. VERA has demonstrated to us how technology, used alongside traditional pathways to service, can help increase clients’ access to services. Thousands of people have interacted with VERA, which indicates to us that clients are increasingly comfortable with this kind of technology, and appreciate – if not expect – the ability to self-serve online.

Reflecting on pandemic challenges

The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on marginalized communities, front-line and essential workers. Our clients are predominantly newcomers, who lack professional networks in Canada and need orientation and introductions to the local labour market. If they sought to work in an industry that was hit with widespread layoffs due to COVID-19, their job search process has been more challenging. The pandemic has exacerbated the barriers faced by our clients who lack digital literacy and access to digital resources, including the internet or a computer.

Going forward, all of these factors need to be considered in our service planning and delivery. Approximately 80% of ACCES Employment’s clients are newcomers to Canada, so a reduction in immigration numbers has moved us from a position of having consistent waiting lists to needing innovative strategies to connect with those who need our services.

To make informed decisions about how to evolve our services, we gathered input from our staff on the effectiveness of virtual delivery of each program component, from intake through to post-hire support. We have added related questions to the evaluation surveys that clients fill out at the end of our programs. The responses show that virtual services offer clear advantages for some clients, staff and employers. Clients save time and money accessing virtual services without commuting and arranging childcare. The flexibility for clients to participate on their own schedules by watching recorded sessions and engaging in e-learning is also an advantage. Employers that we work with have embraced virtual hiring events and found it easier to engage with our programs when they don’t have to come to one of our physical locations.

On the other hand, clients and staff also identified limitations of a virtual approach. Some clients told us that they consider virtual hiring events to be less effective than those done in person. They have found it more difficult to interact with their peers and thus build their professional network in Canada. There are also clients who have simply not been able to access our services because they cannot get online. While our teams at ACCES Employment have worked hard to stay connected and improve their technology skills, many staff lament the lack of interpersonal contact, interactions with those outside of their team and ability to do creative brainstorming work.

Meeting future needs

To balance the needs and preferences of all stakeholders, ACCES Employment is creating a hybrid model of service delivery, where there will be a combination of virtual and in-person delivery. This will include live broadcasts of sessions, where some clients will be in-person and others will participate online. This will require us to examine best practices in engaging virtual attendees and determining the best set-up and equipment to ensure effective service delivery.

In addition, our post-pandemic hybrid model will provide greater options for clients, to ensure that all elements of our services can be accessed either in-person or online. This includes individual intake and assessment, job search support, mentoring, peer networking, workshops and follow-up support.

ACCES Employment’s hybrid service model will capture many of the recommendations made in a comprehensive study conducted this year by the Settlement Sector and Technology Task Group, which emphasized the need to meet clients where they are in terms of digital literacy and typical online usage: “Organizations should not rely on any one specific technology, but create multi-platform, multi-channel communications strategies rooted in the actual use of technology by clients.”

We look forward to opening our doors once again to serve our clients, especially those who face significant barriers to employment. There will be adjustments, both practical and psychological, for staff and clients as we return to in-office work. Our hybrid service delivery model will intersect with our hybrid work model for staff, which will be consistent with trends and expectations in the post-pandemic workplace.

In this article, we have shared some of the questions and considerations that we will take into account as we shape our programs and services in the coming months. If the COVID-19 pandemic has silver linings for the employment services sector, they would include the opportunity to deeply reflect on how we should be delivering services to meet the needs of our various stakeholders.

Settlement Sector and Technology Task Group recommendations:
  1. Develop a roadmap to support organizational digital transformation.
  2. Establish a common and sector-wide vision for digital literacy.
  3. Establish a hybrid settlement service delivery lead at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
  4. Establish baseline sector competencies.
  5. Establish a national sector capacity-building approach.
  6. Ensure sector nuances are taken into account.

Manjeet Dhiman is SVP, Services & Strategic Initiatives and Aimee Holmes is Director, Online Services at ACCES Employment, which serves 40,000 jobseekers annually. Services are primarily delivered through seven locations in the Greater Toronto Area, with some programming available to jobseekers across the province and pre-arrival programs for those who have been approved to land in Canada.


What students want from employers to create safe, inclusive workplaces

Dalhousie University interviewed students and graduates belonging to equity-deserving groups to better understand their experiences in the labour market

Vicki Mackintosh and Michelle Patrick

Author headshotsEquity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) have been major buzzwords in the labour market in the past 18 months. But it goes beyond language. The onset of a global pandemic has exposed inequities in the workforce experienced by historically excluded communities. What does EDIA actually mean to the people facing inequities in the workforce, and how can career development shift to appropriately serve them?

It is no surprise that jobseekers from equity groups – including Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and people with disabilities – report that they feel underrepresented and lack support in the workplace. Members of equity groups are often denied employment opportunities, and even when hired, face inequities and discrimination. In Canada, people of colour experience significant hardship securing employment, even if they are highly educated. They are also less likely to attain higher positions such as management and senior roles and are more likely to experience substantial wage gaps.  Career development must acknowledge these inequities and provide effective strategies to support diverse individuals.


Dalhousie University Career Services – within Student Affairs, the Faculty of Management and SITE (science, information technology and engineering) co-op education – wanted to better understand the experiences of students and graduates belonging to equity groups in accessing the labour market and gaining meaningful employment (including work terms or co-op placements). In July and August of 2021, as part of a pilot project, EDIA Outreach Assistant Vicki Mackintosh facilitated conversations with 13 individuals to identify their barriers, challenges and needs.

Dalhousie University campus. (iStock)

In these virtual one-on-one discussions, participants spoke about their career goals, and what they looked for when applying for a job and in an employer. They opened up about the challenges they faced in employment and while accessing supports from employers or the university – often describing how frequently they encountered discrimination. Students shared how they needed to work twice as hard as others who did not represent an equity-deserving group. Mental health was frequently mentioned as a challenge stemming from the discrimination and oppression they met daily. Students and alumni spoke about their experiences disclosing their identities with others and acknowledged areas of support to make this, and the overall experience, more comfortable.

Below are some of the priorities for supportive action identified by students and graduates, which can inform career development practices in a post-secondary context and beyond. Institutions and employers should take the time to build relationships and trust with these communities and listen to their specific needs, as regional and cultural difference can further shape practices. Significant consideration should be given to the equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility of services and the workplace, as well as the positions being recommended to jobseekers, and employers should actively encourage diversity in upper management.

More from Careering magazine:

Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer isn’t enough to make workplaces safer for racialized employees

Career development as a social justice imperative

Career competencies and skills translation: Helping students prepare for the future of work

Inclusive environments

Jobseekers shared that an equitable hiring statement was a critical element that they looked for in a job post. However, they also wanted further information to determine the employer’s true culture, policies and practices to recruit, train and retain equity groups in the workplace.

People of colour stated that company culture, diversity and positive leadership were essential to their consideration when applying for a job. All participants who identified as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community said that they sought compassionate female leadership. These participants added that while it was a start to hang the Pride flag, they wanted to know what was being done to create an inclusive and supportive environment. Students and alumni who identified as having a disability suggested they sought employers who would consider accommodating them in their work environment, including with paid sick days.

“Career development for jobseekers within equity groups must include building self-efficacy to be able to advocate for their needs at each stage of the employment process.”

Career development then has a place to assist jobseekers to understand their own needs from an employer to feel safe and included. This may include helping jobseekers learn how to evaluate job postings to determine whether a potential employer’s policies and practices are reflective of their EDIA statements.

Building empowerment

Providing students with the resources and skills to advocate for themselves is another important recommendation that emerged from the conversations. Many of the participants experienced feeling undervalued, unheard and harassed during their work term or employment.

Those who identified as having a disability spoke about how often co-workers and managers made them feel guilty about taking time off for illness, working at a slower pace or receiving accommodations. Participants were also discouraged by the lack of clear communication after submitting applications. They shared that they would appreciate being asked if they required accommodations prior to a meeting or interview. Those with learning disabilities who struggled to think on the spot identified that having clear meeting goals or being provided the interview questions in advance would be beneficial.

Career development for jobseekers within equity groups must include building self-efficacy to be able to advocate for their needs at each stage of the employment process. Career services can help empower students and graduates to ask for what they need, which can include education and information on labour laws to help jobseekers understand their rights and responsibilities. Employers can provide confidential, culturally competent employee supports and include ongoing diversity and sensitivity training for all staff. Both career services and employers must understand their own power and privilege, and the impact this can have for equity groups in a workplace setting.

Supportive networks

The value of mentorship and networking was also a significant topic of discussion among most participants. Having mentors with shared identity and similar lived experiences, or in their chosen field of work, was something participants felt strongly about. Those with mentors spoke about their positive experiences, with some saying they would not be where they were today without mentorship.

Career development must include the fostering of networking skills, particularly to support students in building their network within their own community – not just their industry of interest. Similarly, general mentorship programs must focus on recruiting a broad range of diverse mentors and equip mentors and mentees with a clear understanding of their roles to encourage a healthy and lasting relationship. To promote cultural safety, mentors who do not share the identity of their mentees should be educated on the systemic barriers faced by equity groups and to recognize their own power and privilege.

Safer spaces

Creating safer and more open space for jobseekers is vital. When asked what would make equity-deserving folks feel more comfortable in the workplace, students suggested:

  • open, honest conversations regarding identities and accessibility needs
  • pronouns on name tags and in email signatures
  • information specific to equity policies and practices in the workplace available to employees, as well as the general public
  • seeing themselves reflected in all aspects of the workplace such as diversity in senior management

Career development practitioners should consider these suggestions within their own practice and engage in professional development to learn more about employment equity and discrimination and their effects in the workplace. This includes but is not limited to using a trauma-informed lens and collaborating with diverse colleagues.

It is clear in Canada we have a long way to go to reach equality and equity in the workforce. The global pandemic has shown how equity groups are disproportionately affected, and career supports for them are more essential than ever. It is our hope that this knowledge will be used to strengthen the future of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in recruitment, hiring and employment. If we are to reimagine career development, we need to acknowledge and understand the individual and their identities, and the impact of the intersection of identity, and honour their lived experience by providing inclusive, relevant supports.

Vicki Mackintosh (she/her) is a master’s student in Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, in Truro, NS. She has been working with the Bissett Student Success Centre as the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Employer Outreach Assistant on the discovery of equitable hiring and recruitment. She participates heavily in equity advocacy and sits on many boards and committees for women’s rights as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Michelle Patrick (she/her) is the Student Success Career Advisor at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax. Prior to this, Patrick was the program manager for PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians), which aimed to increase representation of Black health-care professionals in Nova Scotia. She is also a member of the Racial Violence policy development group and co-chair of the Student Affairs EDIA committee at Dalhousie.

Aerial view of the Kingston road area in Scarborough, Ontario.Careering

Geography matters: The value of place-based workforce development

The story of one community’s exploration of geographic solutions to geographic poverty

Anne Gloger

Author headshotIt was lack of services in the inner suburban community of East Scarborough, ON that prompted the design and development of a new kind of organization. The East Scarborough Storefront was created by the community for the community to ensure that local people had access to local services. The Storefront began as a service hub where staff acted as hosts, conveners, facilitators and connectors for 35 social sector organizations offering a range of services from employment to legal advice, settlement to addictions support.

The Storefront was originally funded by the federal government as an innovative approach to providing employment services for people furthest away from the labour market. By creating this community-based, one-stop shop, The Storefront seamlessly brought together quality employment services and easily accessible wrap-around supports under one roof. The Storefront became a trusted place in the community that offered holistic services, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for jobseekers to navigate systems in order to have their needs addressed.

This was the early 2000s, when there was growing evidence that in Toronto, like in so many cities across Canada, poverty was becoming increasingly concentrated in specific communities. These communities, predominantly in the inner suburbs, were and are largely populated by people of colour, and are plagued by decades of underinvestment, poor transit and few options for decent work (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2004; 2011; Hulchanski, 2010; 2015).

Over the next two decades, both on-the-ground experience and research evidence began painting a picture of geographic poverty and yet, there were few geographic solutions to this rapidly increasing problem.  Ultimately, social services were never going to be enough to reverse this alarming trend. Access to decent work is fundamental to geographic solutions to geographic poverty. The Storefront was well positioned to begin exploring innovative, community-centred approaches to workforce development to create that access.

Infographic demonstrating Connected Communities model, showing connections between employment support, trade unions, wrap-around supports, colleges, local people and employers.

Part 2 of infographic demonstrating Connected Communities model, showing connections between employment support, trade unions, wrap-around supports, colleges, local people and employers.
Images provided by author.
Working in the context of a community ecosystem

What was unique about The Storefront’s approach to designing and operating a service hub was its emphasis on facilitating and stewarding inclusive processes, constantly listening, learning, iterating and fostering collective action. Surfacing local stories and ideas made it glaringly obvious that while the service hub effectively broke down barriers to service access, the community aspired to so much more.

Services help people overcome individual barriers to jobs. The people of East Scarborough identified that, in communities like theirs, so many barriers were not individual, but systemic. Services are important and necessary, but do little to shift the systems that for too long have acted to keep Black, Indigenous and people of colour from accessing opportunities to decent work.

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The Storefront was created as a “by the community, for the community” solution to service access. The Storefront’s role as facilitator and convenor has been variously called a network weaver, an integrator and a community backbone organization. Over time, by learning together with partners and community, it became clear that the implications of this role could go well beyond service delivery, and could make a significant contribution to improving economic inclusion in marginalized communities.

Systemic barriers need systemic solutions

A visionary funder, the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, invested in the early research and development that The Storefront needed to understand the potential of being an integrator or community backbone organization in local economic inclusion.

Early insights from the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, Ohio helped to identify that in many marginalized communities, decent work did in fact exist: “Cities are increasingly turning to their ‘anchor’ institutions as drivers of economic development, harnessing the power of these major economic players to benefit the neighborhoods where they are rooted. This is especially true for cities that are struggling with widespread poverty and disinvestment.” (Wright et al., 2018)

Anchors are institutions that are “rooted in place” like hospitals, universities and, in the case of East Scarborough, the local zoo. Millions of dollars are spent and hundreds of jobs are created in these anchor institutions and yet, local people, especially people who are racialized and living in poverty, are rarely able to take advantage of these employment opportunities. In 2016, The Storefront, as part of the provincial poverty-reduction strategy, began to explore how workforce integration at a local level might make a difference.

The Storefront’s role as an Employment Ontario service provider brought insights into just how programmatic, siloed and fragmented the workforce ecosystem was in East Scarborough. While there were excellent organizations doing excellent work, there was no unifying vision that would help address the personal, practical and systemic barriers that local people were facing accessing decent work.

East Scarborough Works: Place-based workforce development in action

Employment services are essential in helping people find, secure and keep employment. Our research found, however, that employment organizations are often frustrated by the complex dynamics of employer cultures, recruitment norms, and economic and regulatory environments that exist at the “demand” end of workforce development pathways.

The research further revealed that people furthest away from the labour market often feel that employment services are not for them. While there are certainly exceptions, by and large, employment organizations work with the people who walk through their doors or attend formalized events, leaving those who don’t further marginalized from the labour market.

And finally, without intentional integration, employment service providers often struggle to find the right wrap-around supports and the right training to help people furthest from the labour market prepare for and secure employment.

East Scarborough Works (ESW) was born out of The Storefront’s experience as a service hub integrator and from new learnings about the employment ecosystem. It is based on the recognition that even when the components of employment ecosystems exist in a community – jobseekers, social services, training organizations, employment organizations and employers – they are typically disconnected from one another. Local expertise, assets and resources are critical to creating effective local workforce development strategies, but leveraging them requires a new way of working.

East Scarborough Works uses a Connected Community Approach (CCA) to cultivate a deep understanding among local people, organizations and networks about each other’s mandates, priorities and expertise. This understanding creates a foundation for multiple organizations to work together to ensure that local people have the best opportunity to prepare for jobs created by anchor institutions.

Early prototypes have shown promising employment outcomes: pre-pandemic results in hospitality saw 22 local people secure employment at a new event venue and a success rate of 70-80% in the social sector. The ultimate impact, however, is in changes in the system. To this end, we have seen:

  • Increased transparency from anchor institutions about recruitment needs and processes
  • Improved cross community/cross-sector communication
  • Increased collaboration among Employment Ontario organizations
  • Increased voice and involvement of grassroots groups in problem solving and outreach
  • Improved overall understanding of the community as ecosystem and who plays what role in supporting people furthest from the labour market to secure decent work

Based on these early outcomes, The Storefront has begun working collectively with anchor institutions, service providers, trainers and jobseekers to design demand-led, supply-driven, network-managed workforce development pathways in construction, tourism and facilities maintenance.

Implications beyond East Scarborough

East Scarborough Works is one of the inaugural projects of Toronto’s innovative Workforce Funders Collaborative (TWFC). TWFC, Metcalf Foundation and other funders and policy-makers are helping to deepen our collective understanding of the potential of using the Connected Community Approach in place-based workforce development.

East Scarborough is not the only community where people furthest from the labour market are unable to access jobs created through large-scale local investment in anchor institutions. What is emerging in East Scarborough can be adopted and adapted to work in various contexts.

The model beyond East Scarborough is known as Connected Communities Work (CCW), which takes a whole-community approach to supporting people furthest from the labour market to prepare for and secure local employment. The Future of Good has identified CCW as one of the country’s most promising initiatives to move toward more equitable and sustainable cities post-pandemic.

The City of Toronto has adopted the model as a pilot in its new Community Benefits Framework. Together with the Centre for Connected Communities, the City is exploring how CCW can move the needle on equity hiring associated with large-scale development and anchor institutions in communities across the city.

Researchers have been pointing to increasing geographic concentration of poverty in Canadian cities for almost two decades now; there are, however, relatively few examples of successful geographically based strategies to address it. The Storefront’s service hub is one such example and its relatively new foray into local workforce development is poised to be another. And we need a lot more, because, as local residents, researchers and employment service organizations will tell you, geography does matter.

Anne Gloger is the founding Director at the East Scarborough Storefront and Principal at the Centre for Connected Communities. Gloger’s background includes early childhood education, social development and business. She has over three decades of experience co-designing impactful community projects and approaches including the Connected Community Approach for which she has received several awards including the Canadian Urban Institute David Crombie City Builders Award, the Jane Jacobs prize and the William P Hubbard Award for Race Relations.

Additional references

Bhatia, A., Heese-Boutin, C.-H. & Roy, M. (2020). Geography Matters. Metcalf Foundation.

Gloger, A. (2016). The Connected Community Approach: What it Is and Why it Matters.

Mann, C. (2012). The Little Community That Could. East Scarborough Storefront.

Stapleton, J., Murphy, B. & Xing, Y. (2012). The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing. Metcalf Foundation.

Book on wooden table with glowing graph illustrations and symbols.Careering

What you measure matters … but your mindset matters more

It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics of success and take ownership of our story of positive impact

Deirdre Pickerell, Sareena Hopkins and Lynne Bezanson

Over the past 30 years, and counting, career development professionals (CDPs), their managers and employers, along with various funders, have hotly debated the data that demonstrate the need for services and how to best evaluate the success of various interventions.

The sector has been caught in a seemingly never-ending loop of funding priorities based largely on work-search interventions, which are then measured by number of clients in education and training or employed. In some jurisdictions, these are not only the metrics used to evaluate services, but also what triggers funding. With the shift to performance-based outcomes, service providers are increasingly incentivized to shape their programming and interventions to achieve these narrow outcomes.

Yet, career professionals know that the individuals they serve present with a wide range of needs beyond wanting referrals to training or jobs. CDPs know they make a difference in the lives of their clients in a myriad of other meaningful ways, including positive improvements to hope, confidence and mental health, and reductions in poverty and addiction. These changes have important positive implications not only for the individuals served, but also their families, communities and, broadly, the socio-economic health of the country.

As we consider career development reimagined, there may be no better time to explore what we measure and to shift our mindset. It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics and truly take ownership of our data, our services, our evidence and our story of positive impact. With this in mind, a team of career development leaders recently came together to develop and study a logic model for Canada’s career development sector.

Building a vision of career development

A logic model is a linear picture of a program or intervention that comprises the resources needed – which are called inputs (e.g. staff, budget) – and the services being offered, called activities (e.g. counselling, training). These combine into various programs and services offered, which are called outputs. The inputs, activities and outputs need to result in some sort of expected change in clients who engage with services; these are the outcomes. The outcomes are generally broken down into three timelines for when the desired change might occur, such as short-term, mid-term, long-term.

Teal background with dark blue text, with arrows in between and icons representing each word: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes. Within the sector’s logic model, our ultimate outcome (i.e. what would happen if every other outcome was achieved) is to have Canadians manage learning and work to both build the lives they want and to contribute to a thriving and inclusive economy. This is a lofty goal, but it serves as an important north star, shaping the mindset we need to move forward.

What the research showed

One key interest in studying a logic model for Canada’s career development sector was to understand whether respondents could provide evidence for specific outcomes and, if yes, what kind of evidence they could provide. The research consisted of a targeted survey of CDPs across Canada. We had close to 400 responses, with representation from almost every region. The research team explored four distinct outcomes from the logic model; two were short-term outcomes and two were more mid-term:

The research consisted of a targeted survey of CDPs across Canada. We had close to 400 responses, with representation from almost every region. Our key interest was whether respondents could provide evidence for specific outcomes and, if yes, what kind of evidence they could provide.

“It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics and truly take ownership of our data, our services, our evidence and our story of positive impact.”

The majority of respondents felt fairly confident they could provide evidence. However, specific examples of evidence were limited and included data such as year-end statistics, quotes and testimonials from clients, and information from clients about their wages and employment status. Much of the respondents evidence referenced was focused much more on securing future funding than on client progress toward longer-term career development outcomes. As one respondent put it, “I believe most organizations look at the needs of clients when providing services. What makes it hard is to try to match to our funder needs also.”

This is the self-fulfilling loop referenced earlier; what gets measured by funders is what is incentivized to get done, with funders’ priorities potentially superseding clients’ real needs and priorities. But what if we could shift the mindset of all stakeholders, including funders, to recognize that the employability needs of clients should drive services and that their progress toward goal achievement is critically important – and, in fact, the only way to achieve sustainable outcomes? To do this, the sector must have the ability to provide evidence (proof) that clients have made progress, even if they are not yet employed.

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The hybrid future: Shifting employment services to meet client needs

Cross-cutting concerns for public policy in career development

What students want from employers to create safe, inclusive workplaces

A new way of evaluating outcomes

Over the past decade, the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) has partnered with multiple jurisdictions and frontline CDPs across Canada on the “art of the possible” when it comes to employability assessment, service planning and delivery, data collection and the story of impact our sector can tell. The resulting tool, PRIME, engages clients in a robust assessment of employability strengths and needs, captures a richer range of progress and outcomes indicators, and uses this data to feed improved service and impact. PRIME is now being integrated into career/employment services, with clients actively shaping the interventions they need and CDPs providing strong evidence of the deeper and wider impacts of quality career services.

Here are just a few highlights from the most recent research:

  • Statistically significant positive changes in clients across 48 progress indicators across the full spectrum of employability dimensions (e.g. pre-employability/readiness, career exploration/decision-making, skills enhancement, intra-personal factors such as hope, resilience and motivation);
  • Statistically significant positive changes in clients across 16 indicators of mental health/wellness;
  • Data on client community engagement and involvement in part-time work, volunteerism, entrepreneurship and self-care;
  • And, of course, outcome data on employment and training.

CDPs involved in using PRIME as part of this research – and who were able to generate and use the resulting evidence – were transformed as well. A broader mindset shift affected CDPs’ ownership and empowerment, with positive impacts on their sense of professionalism, commitment to ethical practice and quality service, client engagement and – not surprisingly – evidence-based practice.

These kinds of developments that begin to shift our thinking about progress and outcomes are moving the career development profession in Canada forward. Tools like PRIME allow CDPs to take charge of our own data, ensuring we can measure meaningful and concrete progress in addition to the outcome data funders value. Only then will we be positioned to tell full and real stories of client transformation – both the progress they made, and the outcomes achieved.

To achieve this goal, CDPs must shift their mindset to owning their data, and the story it tells. What we measure matters, but decisions about what gets measured must come from the profession, not the funder. Our collective minds must shift from:

  • a preoccupation with outcomes to a preoccupation with context, progress and outcomes
  • services driven by funder priorities and program availability to services driven by client needs and evidence of progress
  • a focus on client numbers to a focus on client change

The research briefly described here creates a foundation for providing tools and supports as our field shifts its mindset to truly embracing our capacity and identity as evidence-based professionals.

Dr. Deirdre Pickerell is an award-winning career development leader. She has spent many years exploring the data that demonstrates impact of career services and has led the recent research teams examining evidence-based practice.

As Executive Director of CCDF, Sareena Hopkins works to strengthen the impact of the career development sector by moving from ideas to action in areas of public policy, research and development, capacity building and advocacy.

Lynne Bezanson is Executive Director Emeritus of the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF), which means that she has been contributing to the career development field for a very long time and simply cannot stop! 

Illustration of woman walking toward sign with arrow pointing backward with text "Comfort zone" and forward with text "Growth zone."Careering

Client Side: Agility is the ‘resilience vitamin’ in a career with many twists and turns

Meeting change and uncertainty with positive thinking and eagerness to learn has helped this professional navigate a career with many pivots

Christina Fung

Author headshotWhile living in Hong Kong for the first 16 years of my life, I never imagined my career would be in a foreign country. Career counselling was not a popular topic, and I was left unaware of options and how to relate my strengths and interests to my career choices.

However, going with the flow and keeping my mind open turned out to be one of the best assets I have. My ability to be adaptive has helped me come a long way, including during COVID.

In the Client Side feature, workers and students reflect on successes and struggles in their career development

The journey

I finished my last two years of high school in Toronto, after my family moved to Canada in hopes of providing me with a better education and career options. This was a daunting experience and the initial hurdles to overcome were not small, but this served as a training ground to help me build stronger resilience and flexibility.

One of my early challenges was to select a discipline to study in university. I did not think too far ahead about my career goals, but instead focused more on the path of least resistance (i.e. embracing my natural strengths) and choosing a discipline that would help me develop transferable skills and knowledge. I studied engineering – but as it turned out, my career would take me in many different directions.

“I began to notice that the best way to deal with complexity is simplicity, and the best way to prepare for career challenges is to un-prepare.”

My first job was as an assistant investment advisor in a small firm. I then moved to a sales-marketing compliance officer role for one of the top mutual funds companies in the world, before shifting to an IT position at a large Canadian bank. I have tried different leadership roles including program management, delivery execution, sales and now leading a global team in building software.

The challenges

When I look back on my career, there have been unexpected hiccups and disruptions. I have faced challenges around culture differences, language barrier and gender disparity. These affected my ability to communicate effectively, to build a strong rapport and to network. I experimented and tried different ways to adapt (such as attending communications training, broadening my knowledge of Canadian culture and joining industry associations). Some worked and some did not, but regular reflections helped me to “fail fast” and find new ways to improve my skills while staying true to who I am.

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I’ve become the career strategist I wish I had when launching my career

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I had my career mapped out – until a new experience opened my eyes

I am fortunate to coach many different talented individuals, and I noticed there is a common set of challenges among us, regardless of our career directions. We often experience doubts and hesitation along the journey, because we are afraid to make decisions that we will regret. These doubts are typically around whether we are taking the right path and if we will be wasting our precious time. When we don’t have guidance to navigate these decisions, it creates challenges. Threats, such as new technology or other changes, also compound the complexity that may affect our sense of security and our confidence. The most recent disruption and threat is certainly the COVID pandemic.

These different elements create a complex “spiderweb” that can make career decision-making confusing. I began to notice that the best way to deal with complexity is simplicity, and the best way to prepare for career challenges is to un-prepare.

The necessary vitamins

While I am unable to prepare for all the surprises the future may hold, there are certain things I have tried that strengthen my ability to work through difficult times. Similar to the agility I used to adapt when I first came to Canada, my “resilience vitamins” come from positive thinking, can-do mentality, eagerness to learn and maintaining a network of support.

Where others may see career gaps in my journey, I see development opportunities to get to a better self. For instance, when pivoting into roles in the mutual funds and IT industries, I had knowledge gaps, so I completed new certifications to help me move forward. I have used time away from work to help set new goals and boost my energy level. This in turn creates the momentum to keep me having the right mindset and believing in myself.

Another “vitamin” is comfort with learning new changes. There are always new people, new work and new areas that are intimidating. I have tried different areas of work every few years in my career. I find it to be an excellent way to learn about myself, including my strengths and gaps, what I like and dislike. I found areas that I could do well but had little personal interest in, as well as areas that I am performing well with great passion. For every role I try, it helps me move one step further along my journey.

My last “vitamin” is a solid network of support. Meeting new people and expanding my network helps me broaden my horizons. Some of these people have become my best friends with whom I share passions and mutual respect. They are my sounding board and provide me valuable feedback when I am in need.

Bird’s-eye view as an employer

Translating my career reflections to the perspective of an employer, I think an individual’s qualities are a very important element when we evaluate talents. We understand the workplace is a complex environment with many variables. What helps people to sail smoothly in this long journey is their ability to adapt, learn, collaborate and persevere.

Relevant work experiences and tangible skillsets are always important. But what ultimately differentiates one person from another and the trajectory their career will take depends on more than just tangible skills.

We have seen during the pandemic that people with a positive viewpoint, who are adaptive and open minded, have been able to find new ways to shine and contribute differently. They are the ones embracing their uniqueness, continuing to develop their personal strengths without over-analyzing each circumstance that may hold them back. They embrace changes and view them as opportunities to grow.

Perhaps it is more important than ever before that we, as employers, focus on transferable skills, soft skills and resilience. We cannot predict what the next disruption will be, but we can prepare ourselves by focusing on core values instead of trying to get ahead of every possible challenge. Preparing to unprepared will give us the adaptability we need to thrive.

Christina Fung is currently the Head of Global Wealth & Capital Markets Products in CGI, with more than 20 years of financial services and IT experiences. She has held various executive positions throughout her career. She is a board member of Skills for Change, the Oakville Symphony Youth Orchestra and a member in the Industry Council of NPower.

Older man sitting at desk and writing in notebook.Careering

Reflection is key to helping jobseekers reimagine their career

These exercises can help individuals derive meaning from their observations and experiences, which can then inform future actions

Helena Prins

Author headshotRecently, during our team’s monthly “Show & Share,” my director delivered a presentation on all the jobs she has had, starting with her first babysitting gig to now being the director of learning and teaching at an organization that serves the province. It was fascinating to hear her reflect on the positive, negative and sometimes funny lessons she learned from each role, despite the perceived importance or insignificance of her job title. I loved hearing about her journey, and it reminded me about the power of reflection. It can heal, it can ground us, it can provide insight and it can inspire us as we consider the next steps in our career.

Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. Engaging in reflection activities when at a crossroads in your career or when supporting clients who need to reimagine their future will lead to more effective action. People who make the space to reflect are more articulate about their goals and “value add” in resumes, interviews and during meetings in existing roles.

I see career development as a continuous and lifelong process through which people come to understand themselves as they relate to the world of work and explore and discover their role, or ideally, their purpose in this world.  Whether career practitioners are guiding clients toward occupational achievement by establishing congruence between type and occupation (Holland), or whether their client’s development task is Exploration, Establishment or Maintenance (Super), or promoting opportunities that will impact self-efficacy (Bandura), I believe reflection should be build into every coaching session. Whether choosing a quantitative or qualitative assessment tool, providing opportunity for the client to reflect on the results is what leads to meaning making, helping them to stay true to themselves, and therefore, better govern their own lives.

More from Careering:

Client Side: Agility is the ‘resilience vitamin’ in a career with many twists and turns

Case Study: Carleton careers course aims to help students manage change and complexity

Career professionals need accessible tools to build LMI literacy

Putting reflection into practice

A first step in providing opportunity for reflection is to make clients aware of the purpose of reflection and to prioritize it by scheduling 10 to 15 minutes for meaningful reflection daily. Fraser-Thill refers to this intention as “targeted reflection,” which has a set goal and system for carrying out the contemplation.

Here are three exercises practitioners can use with clients to help them engage in career reflection.

1. Likes and dislikes reflection

One of the easier questions to start reflecting upon is: What works and doesn’t work for your client in their current position? Consider a template like this:

Likes Dislikes
Job 1
Daily tasks
Workplace culture
Office space/location/building
Work-life balance
Job 2

When discussing the list with a peer or career coach, a clearer picture of wants and needs emerges for the jobseeker. Career professionals can encourage clients or students to consider how the job description and company culture for prospective employers align with the preferences they identified in this activity.

2. Self-reflection: Who do I want to be?

For some, it might be intimidating to look within themselves and share personal insights with a career coach. Brené Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability comes to mind. One way of easing into self-reflection could be to ask the client to name role models and to identify what the admirable qualities of these figures are.

The next step is to consider which of these qualities or behaviours the client wants to apply more consciously in their life or which they would like to develop further in the pursuit of their next goal. As Swords reminds us, self-reflection takes time, trust and honesty. Support jobseekers in starting from a position of strength and focus on helping them develop their self-belief.

3. Reflected Best Self Exercise

The Reflected Best Self Exercise is based on research by Quinn, Dutton, Spreitzer and Roberts. This eye-opening activity involves having the individual reach out to their network to ask for examples of when the jobseeker was their “best self.” Grant (2013) outlines the four steps:

  1. Choose sources and seek feedback. Have the client identify 10 to 20 people they know well from different walks of life (e.g. friends, current or former colleagues) and ask them to write a story about a time when the client was at their best.
  2. Spot patterns. Once the feedback arrives, help the client look for the common themes that appear in multiple stories. Have the client make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each of them and what they suggest about their strengths.
  3. Create a self-portrait. Using this information, have the client write out a brief profile of who they are when they are at their best.
  4. Put strengths into action. Support the client to create an action plan for how and when they will use their strengths.
  5. Self-reflection prompts. The following is a short list of questions that provides insight into what is important and inspiring to you or your client. These could serve as a weekly prompt, a conversation-starter activity or a five-minute daily journal reflection.
  • Name the top three peak experiences in your life – times when you were in states of highest happiness. What do they have in common? What does this tell you about yourself?
  • If money weren’t a consideration, what would you spend your every day doing?
  • One thing I still really want to learn is …
  • In five years, I see myself …
  • Success is … and I feel successful when …
Next steps

While self-reflection is important, the work doesn’t stop here. It is only the beginning. The value of reflection lies in effective action. It may take time to make use of all the insights gained through self-reflection activities. However, these reflections will provide a sense of purpose toward a reimagined future.

Helena Prins is a Certified Career Strategist with Career Professionals of Canada. She is a full-time advisor in Learning and Teaching with BCcampus and an associate faculty member at Royal Roads University, where she is teaching a career development course to students in the School of Tourism and Hospitality.

Close-up of sign at protest reading "There is no Planet B".Careering

Cross-cutting concerns for public policy in career development

Governments have opportunity to use career development as a tool to advance social justice, sustainability and social change

 Pete Robertson

Author headshot.In the early years of the 21st century, public policy for career development began to be taken seriously by researchers, policy-makers and service leaders. Around that time, there were some international comparison studies led by key figures including Tony Watts, Ronald Sultana, Richard Sweet and Helmut Zelloth. From this work there emerged an international consensus about what governments were seeking to achieve when they created policies for career development. It seemed that governments were a) trying to make the labour market operate more efficiently, b) trying to make the education system and its interface with work operate more efficiently, and c) trying to promote social equity.

One of the great achievements of this work has been to secure recognition from international bodies that career development can contribute toward these governmental aims. A good indication of this is the joint statement by CEDEFOP, ETF, European Commission, ILO, OECD and UNESCO, which highlights the value of Investing in Career Guidance.

I have argued that this work is excellent for highlighting what governments do and say they do, but it does not capture everything they could do. The full potential contribution that career development services could make to society has not yet been recognized by policy-makers. By using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as inspiration, we can systematically consider all the policy goals of responsible governments. From this, we can identify additional potential contributions we can make to:

  • Health and well-being goals, through supportive guidance and access to good-quality (health-promoting) meaningful work and learning
  • Environmental goals, through guidance to support the transition to a green economy
  • Peace and justice goals, through reducing crime and social tensions by providing fair access to work and learning

It is for the career development profession to make the case that it can have an impact on multiple socially desirable outcomes. While it can be useful to identify separate categories of policy goals, there are some concerns that cut across all of these categories. These include the three s’s: social justice, sustainability and social change.

Read more on CareerWise:

It’s time for a UN International Day of Careers and Livelihood

Advocating for career development in the time of COVID

Making the case for career development: why it matters and what it’s for

Social justice

Most people are in favour of social justice, but we do not all agree on what it is. Arguing about justice and fairness has kept philosophers and politicians in work for centuries. There are a variety of different ways we could think about it. When applied to career development, for some, social justice means providing the same standard of service to all; for some, it means proactively targeting key groups; and for others it means a more radical stance of supporting people to challenge the system.

Nonetheless, it is relevant to all aspects of practice. It is also relevant to the big-picture policy objectives for career guidance. Disadvantaged groups find it harder to access and benefit from good educational opportunities and good quality jobs. They are more likely to have poor mental and physical health. They are likely to find it harder to avoid environmental degradation. And they are more likely to be on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.

Issues of social justice are central to career development work and should infuse all aspects of policy with and awareness of the needs of disadvantaged groups.

Hand holding light bulb with icons showing energy sources for renewable, sustainable development
The need to promote environmentally sustainable careers is increasingly as unavoidable as the impacts of climate change. (iStock)

Sustainability is another slippery concept, with many people seeing it as broadly a good thing. It has been used cynically in some corporate marketing to “greenwash” carbon-producing corporate interests. Nonetheless it is a useful and multi-faceted idea. Of course, the UN goals give great prominence to sustainability. The term has become familiar from its ecological sense, and the need to promote environmentally sustainable careers is increasingly as unavoidable as the impacts of climate change. But sustainability is a usefully ambiguous term: it means the potential to endure over time. This does not imply a static position; renewal and adaptation are necessary to survive.

The notion of the “sustainable career” has been explored by management scholar Ans De Vos and her colleagues. De Vos, Dujardin, Gielens and Meyers (2016) suggested that the sustainable career needs to be on policy-makers’ agendas. With longer life spans come longer careers, and the need to find pathways through education and work that can be sustained and renewed over several decades. Work needs to be health-promoting rather than harmful in order to be sustainable, and this may require some re-adjustment as we age.

Societal change

In considering career development policy, there is a distinction to make between a reactive and proactive role for career services. In some conceptions, career services are seen as part of the education and employment systems, perhaps even as a lubricant to help the machinery work more smoothly. This positions services as more or less supporting the status quo. It is very different from seeing career services as proactive agents or levers for social change. This latter position could be described as “radical.”

This does not mean distorting individual career counselling to push the political agenda of the practitioner. But it might mean re-envisaging career education and career learning in group settings to raise awareness of social issues and change. Career development does not have simply react to socio-economic change; it can help to drive the transformation.


Career development services will continue to focus on supporting the operation of the labour market and education system, and in promoting social equity. In addition to their traditional role, career services may also be able to make a contribution to public health policy, to environmental policy and to criminal justice policy objectives. Infusing all of these areas must be a concern to promote fairness in society, to help individuals find long-term sustainable solutions and to reflect a willingness for services to take a pro-active role in the social changes that we face.

A former career adviser, Pete Robertson is Professor in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland where he teaches policy and theory to trainee career development practitioners. He is a Fellow of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling (NICEC) and promotes the work of the Career Development Institute (CDI) in Scotland.

Man sitting at desk looking at laptop with pensive expression.Careering

Career professionals need accessible tools to build LMI literacy

Despite the importance of labour market information for job search, few career practitioners receive training in this area

Liz Betsis and Anthony Mantione

author headshotsSome of the most important choices a person will make revolve around career and education. We spend our entire lives equipping ourselves for these choices – from a young age when we imagine ourselves in various careers, to adolescence, when we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. And it doesn’t stop there. Mid-life career changes are increasingly common and even expected. Throw in a global pandemic, and the importance of making these decisions based on research and careful consideration of facts becomes evident.

In this context, facts refer to labour market information (LMI). Simply put, LMI is any information that supports the decisions Canadians make in the world of work. It includes education, wages and salaries, skills requirements, job outlooks and other information about the labour market. When a career development professional (CDP) helps clients identify available career opportunities, in-demand jobs and how to build sustainable careers, they need to access and use LMI. In other words, without some understanding of how to find and use LMI, it is unlikely that CDPs will be able to fully support their clients in realizing their career goals.

Research conducted by the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) showed that four out of 10 CDPs surveyed in Canada found LMI difficult to understand and only 35% reported receiving any LMI-specific training. LMI is crucial to Canadian jobseekers’ informed decision-making, which has been reinforced by the escalating uncertainty and urgency of clients’ needs in the wake of COVID-19.

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To address this concern, LMIC initially proposed creating a series of LMI user guides to provide CDPs with training on how to leverage existing LMI tools and resources in a client-facing capacity. Fifteen CDPs from differing specializations across Canada were invited to participate in a workshop aimed at better understanding how they serve clients, to identify how LMI could be leveraged to support their work and to learn what an ideal LMI guide should look like.

Two profound insights emerged from this workshop. First, most sources of LMI contain too much jargon and require specialized knowledge and/or investment to find, access and understand. This leads CDPs to rely more often on informal sources of LMI such as social media or their own perceptions. Second, CDPs want to improve their LMI literacy, but there are few –if any – low-cost, flexible and self-directed options that enable CDPs to get practical support to integrate LMI effectively into their practices.

Illustration of woman sitting at desk with thought bubbles showing question marks, light bulb and woman graduating.
Ghassene Jerandi, LMIC

CDPs, especially those who work in client-facing roles, are incredibly busy. They serve clients across the country who have varied and unique support needs. While most clients require help finding work, there are often pre-employability issues that must first be addressed. For example, CDPs are often engaged in helping clients find transportation, childcare and mental health services before they can address the issues of employment. This means they do not have the time to read lengthy or comprehensive reports on LMI. While some use informal sources, others may turn to a colleague who has been informally designated as their organization’s LMI person.

The role of LMI and its importance in helping clients develop realistic and achievable career goals is acknowledged. The Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF), with the support of Employment and Social Development Canada and sector stakeholders, has developed a renewed Competency Framework for CDPs. The Framework highlights the maintenance of current labour market knowledge as one of several CDP characteristic competencies that are core to their practice. LMI literacy is also being evaluated as part of the new pan-Canadian professional certification.

As a result, LMIC has proposed creating a new micro-credential to help CDPs expand their LMI literacy. Consisting of several independent learning modules, the micro-credential will align with the LMI competency outlined in the new CDP Competency Framework. This will ensure CDPs have the necessary skills and knowledge of the Canadian labour market needed for the new pan-Canadian professional certification. Each module – which can be taken individually –will be approximately one hour and will consist of a variety of activities and embedded assessments to maintain engagement and check for learning. Individuals who choose to complete all modules in the series will be eligible for a micro-credential endorsed by both LMIC and CCDF. We hope to have the first module completed and ready by early 2022, with the full micro-credential to follow later next year.

CDPs serve diverse clients and often face barriers to finding, accessing and using LMI to support their clients’ unique needs. LMI literacy for CDPs – knowledge of the labour market and skills required to help clients find and use information supporting their decision making – is an important competency for practice but one for which training is often unavailable. CDPs need access to free and easily accessible tools and resources; the creation of a free LMI micro-credential will help ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed when leveraging these tools. This will further career professionals’ success in supporting their clients’ diverse needs while they navigate a rapidly changing and emergent labour market.

Liz Betsis is an economist with the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC), where she contributes to ongoing and forward-looking research projects, primarily focused on the future of work, innovation and human capital formation. Coming from a visual arts background, she still loves creating and consuming art.

Anthony Mantione is a senior economist with the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC), where he conducts research and analysis primarily related to the skills needs of the Canadian labour market. This includes identifying and measuring labour and skills shortages, exploring new technologies for skill classification and building resources for making LMI accessible, among other work.

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