Make your mid-career move

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At some point in our careers, many of us have thought about working for the federal government. For some, it means a chance to make an impact. For others, it means better pay, a pension and job stability.

Thinking of making a move? Read on for stories and tips from Indigenous public servants who joined the federal public service mid-career, and are here to stay.

Curtis Kayseass, Program Delivery Officer, Environment and Climate Change Canada

Ever since he was little, Curtis Kayseass wanted to become a helper. As a young boy, he looked on as his grandfather, a Medicine Man who raised him on Yellow Quill First Nation, offered blessings and medicines to anyone who knocked at their door. “He inspired me to help, but in my own way,” says Curtis, “so public service was always one of my aims.”

Curtis began helping right out of high school, volunteering across Canada through the Katimavik program. Later, he managed a Saskatoon call centre, helping survivors get compensated under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Use our PDF poster to share these stories and job opportunities: Jobs for Indigenous people at the Government of Canada

Published: 2023-06-01

The goal of public service was always in his heart, but it took a lot of determination and persistence to get there. “I was applying for maybe 6 years, and applied for about 35 jobs, and the furthest I got was an interview,” he recalls. Curtis has 2 big lessons to share. First, use the keywords from the job posting right in your application and résumé. Second, learn to talk about your accomplishments. “That was difficult because being Indigenous you’re taught to be humble. But in the interview and application process, you have to say, ‘me, me, me,’” he says.

That’s changing. The Indigenous Centre of Expertise is shifting how the public service recruits and hires Indigenous people. The centre encourages hiring managers and human resources specialists to consider Indigenous ways of knowing and being, rather than asking Indigenous people to consider non-Indigenous approaches. To achieve this, it holds workshops, develops resources and offers support to help hiring managers across the federal public service be more inclusive.

Curtis’s persistence finally paid off. In November 2021 he started a 2-month contract with Indigenous Services Canada. That led to 2 more contracts in the department, helping bands and individuals with treaty payments, status card registrations and more. He felt at home working among Indigenous colleagues. And he loved helping First Nations, Métis and Inuit clients. “I really liked helping my people, even being yelled at because someone didn’t get something right away; I still kind of miss that,” he says.

Now that he’s a public servant, it’s much easier to look for his next federal government job, and he values the ability to move around and try new things. Curtis is now on a 2-year term with Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Saskatoon office as a program delivery officer. His next goal: to find a permanent position back in Indigenous Services where he can help Indigenous people day in and day out, with kindness and without judgment, just like his grandfather.

Whether you’ve qualified in a pool, or you’re just getting started with your job search, the Indigenous Centre of Expertise is here to help. Let us tell you about training and employment opportunities available to Indigenous people.

Amy Amos, Associate Regional Director General, Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the Arctic Region

It was 2020 and Amy Amos was happy in her post as Executive Director at the Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board in Inuvik. As a Gwich’in woman, she was helping to sustainably manage lands and resources in the Gwich’in Settlement Area. At the time, Fisheries and Oceans Canada had been consulting the board on priorities for the new Arctic region it was establishing with the Canadian Coast Guard, and Amy was excited by the region’s “for the North, by the North” approach to decision-making.

She wasn’t looking to change jobs, but when she saw the posting for Director of Arctic Operations, she saw an opportunity to shape policy from a northern perspective. Amy applied, and 10 months later, after passing an interview, some tests and security clearances, she was sitting in her new office.

Her tip for job seekers: Apply to postings on GC Jobs, but don’t stop there. “I strongly encourage using every method of communication possible. Find emails for the managers located in the office that you want to work with and share your résumé with them.”

Entering government mid-career was a big learning curve, she says. There were lots of new processes to master, and there was new training to do. But it was worth it. Amy stepped into a supportive, welcoming environment where she feels empowered to lead in her own way. Each day she works toward the same goal: improving how we meet reconciliation objectives, including using Indigenous knowledge, hiring Indigenous employees and strengthening partnerships.

Michelle Franks-Fortin, Technical Advisor, Shared Services Canada

It was the mid-90s, the height of the dot-com boom, and Michelle’s IT career was gaining steam. She got promotion after promotion at large IT companies, right up until the collapse of Nortel left her and some 60 000 colleagues unemployed. A former boss offered her a job, but Michelle turned instead to the federal public service, which could offer her the job security she was looking for.

Even with an in-demand skillset and experience, getting your first government job can take time. She recommends getting your foot in the door by considering short-term contracts or entering at a lower level than your experience. “I took a large pay cut, choosing to come in at a lower level,” she says. Within 4 months, Michelle was promoted, becoming a permanent employee 2 years later.

A proud, non-status Mohawk, Michelle joined employee groups like the Indigenous Advisory Circle at Shared Services Canada. In the circle, she felt a new sense of belonging and felt safe to express her Indigeneity. These days, as a “warrior” she does things to help other people, like taking on the role of an Indigenous career navigator with the Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion where she helps her First Nations, Métis and Inuit colleagues advance or change roles. She also checks in weekly with 8 Indigenous IT apprentices hired through Employment and Social Development Canada’s IT Apprenticeship Program for Indigenous Peoples.

Over her 22 years in government, Michelle is finally seeing a systemic shift in federal public service work culture: “I feel like now our voices matter and micro-aggressions will be dealt with. There’s never been a better time to be an Indigenous public servant.”

The Public Service Commission of Canada collaborated with Indigenous public servants and undertook this storytelling project highlighting their perspectives. Implementing the Many Voices One Mind: a Path to Reconciliation action plan allows us to:

  • better understand Indigenous public servants’ experiences
  • support them in their professional careers
  • find ways to improve current practices to enable their full participation and inclusion in the workplace

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