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Balancing Strategies: Self-Directed Life and Career Exploration for Indigenous Students

Balancing Strategies is an interactive, flexible, and holistic program that utilizes culturally-relevant curriculum to support and guide the career success of Indigenous students at UVic. While the number of Indigenous students at UVic is steadily increasing, many local Indigenous communities are voicing concern that their graduates are facing significant barriers accessing employment despite their level of education. This is largely because many of the conventional career development options geared towards post-secondary students rely on models and approaches that defy the configurations of Indigenous students’ lives.

Mainstream career/life exploration options often rely on a Euro-Western worldview that doesn’t take into account the full spectrum of responsibilities in Indigenous students lives. Many of the counseling techniques used by mainstream counselors who work with Indigenous students are culturally encapsulated. Additionally, the curriculums and pedagogical approaches used in conventional career development models are in many ways culturally-irrelevant and may be inconsistent with the realities of Indigenous students’ needs and lived experiences. This is largely because, as scholars such as Axelson (1993) have observed, most career development models are based on generalizations of “middle-class and white male populations” (p. 41).

In the aim of providing comprehensive and culturally-relevant support for Indigenous students throughout their academic journeys, Balancing Strategies will offer career/life exploration and transition options in a flexible, self-directed, and cyclical format. Specifically, the program will provide a series of creative career exploration options that provide insight into students’ strengths, aspirations and abilities to incorporate into their career goals. The intent is to facilitate the strengthening of students’ self-awareness and confidence to identify personal talents that are transferable to future life or employment goals. It is our hope that activities which encourage students to tell their story and relate life experiences to one another will facilitate this process. Art making, cultural activities and traditional teachings around meaning and visioning self and career journeys will also be incorporated into the program curriculum. Additionally, the program will connect students with relevant resources to support their career goals and objectives (resume and cover letter writing help, professional development workshops, Indigenous internship programs, career & coop services).

Balancing Strategies will be implemented following a creative, dynamic approach which meet students where they are engaged in life. It will be a holistic and interactive program that encourages students to involve their families and cultural communities in setting life and career goals.

Rather than a linear action plan, the cyclical format emphasizes the continuing nature of life’s journey. Students can engage in the program well before they leave post-secondary. They don’t need to have specific objectives or timelines in mind. As students share their interests and passions with Elders and one another, they will learn new things which will help clarify goals and vision, which in turn lets them decide on new actions. The career journey is a walk taken one step at a time, each new step will help focus the next.



Organization: UVic Office of Indigenous Affairs

Address: University of Victoria First Peoples House

City: Victoria, BC


Phone number: 250-472-4913

Country: Canada

About catherine

Catherine Ducharme is a bilingual communications specialist based in Toronto. She has been the Content and Communications Co-ordinator for the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) since April 2012 and administers, an online community for career development professionals in Canada. She is also the editor of Careering magazine, the curator for the CareerWise newsletter and she leads francophone outreach at CERIC. Prior to joining CERIC, Catherine worked abroad for nearly two years and worked as a project manager for Quebec’s sector council for the community sector (CSMO-ÉSAC). She is also a translator.

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