Guiding Circles

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What is Guiding Circles?

guiding circlesGuiding Circles is an interactive, flexible and fun approach to career development. It helps guide participants through the process of self reflection, career exploration and decision making. The holistic approach combines a traditional Aboriginal worldview with contemporary career development concepts and helps participants identify options and move towards a career path.

Guiding Circles provides a unique perspective on the essence of career and life decision making elements. Often individuals make career choices based on duties, level of pay, a career/training path, travel, or location to determine if their skills and interests match the career they are researching. These elements are important and also need to be supported with reflection into other areas such as personal style/spirit, life balance, values and work and life roles (i.e., how does my family or community role fit with my career option?).

The full Guiding Circles program is made up of two separate workbooks and extensive hands-on training for teachers or facilitators.  This training is done face to face with a Guiding Circles trainer and generally includes travel to a workshop or hosting a workshop in their community. To make the resource more accessible for on-line use in the Discovering Strengths Toolkit, we have developed unique set of activities from the workbooks as well as downloadable instructional guides to prepare facilitators for delivering the activities with their students or clients.  This package is only available to Discovering Strengths toolkit members.

How would Guiding Circles help my students or clients?

People who have used Guiding Circles say that it awakens self-esteem and self-awareness so participants can uncover personal talents that are transferable to a future career. This happens through activities that help them tell their story and relate life experiences to career planning.

Guiding Circles can also help people become (re) engaged in school or life-long learning as they discover their potential career options and see the relevance of education to job opportunities. The 'rings of influence' delivered through the series gives individuals hope for a rewarding career.

Program Logistics

Guiding Circles activities are intended to be lead by a teacher or facilitator and can be delivered to large or small groups.  Each activity can be completed in about 45 minutes, but individual needs vary and some people may benefit from more time to reflect.

The activities are designed for youth who are ready to begin thinking about career options.  Mostly the materials are used with youth and young adults aged 14 and above.

There is no special equipment or technology required to get started.  You just need a copy of the activities for each student and a copy of the Instructional Guides. That's it!

How Does it Work?

There are five activities that registered toolkit members can download from the Discovering Strengths portal, as well as support material and instructions that make it easy to use with your students, participants or clients.

"Telling Your Story" and "Favourite Things" encourage participants to begin the process of telling their own life story and discovering the unique gifts they can bring to the world of work and school.

"Even More Possibilities" is a career idea generating activity to explore related careers in a field of interest.

"Looking Down the Path" and "Expanding the Decision Circle" work together to help participants refine their career path, gather insights from their community about their ideas, and write a plan to outline preliminary next steps.

Available Training for Teachers and Facilitators

Instructional Guides are available to help teachers and community workers deliver the activities effectively. They can be downloaded from the Portal by registered members.

How Does Guiding Circles Fit into the Discovering Strengths Toolkit?

Guiding Circles works well as a follow up to The Real Game, which introduces youth to future visioning as well as career and lifestyle decision-making.  This would be followed by the Resiliency Survey if you are doing pre and post testing to measure effectiveness of the tools.

Although the Toolkit suggests a specific order for the activities as well as a potential path for integrating Guiding Circles with other programs in the Toolkit, Guiding Circles is a flexible approach and teachers and facilitators are encouraged to bring their own creativity to using the materials.

Who Developed the Program?

Guiding Circles was written by Dr. Norm Amundson, Dr. Rod McCormick and Gray Poehnell.  The program became a national initiative through a partnership with the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC)Read more about how the program was developed.

About the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC)

Since its inception in 1998, the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC) has built many public-private partnerships that have enhanced its research and development work and created a wide range of practical Aboriginal inclusion programs, products and solutions. The council has launched, hosted and coordinated numerous initiatives – all with the shared goal of creating a better future for Aboriginal people through an advanced Aboriginal workforce. Our focus on results has earned us a reputation for service excellence as the nation's leading innovators in Aboriginal recruitment, retention and advancement.

How the Program Was Developed

Both the council and the Guiding Circles authors (Amundson, McCormick, Poehnell) have a shared history of commitment for developing innovative Aboriginal career tools and services to advance the participation of Aboriginal people in their journey toward school and work.

Dr. Norm Amundson and Dr. Rod McCormick began their research program on career decision making for Aboriginal youth in 1997 with research funding first from a UBC Hampton Grant and then from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). They extended their research team to include Gray Poehnell, which led to the creation of the Guiding Circles concept and the first booklet in 2001-2002.

In 2000, the council initiated the first national study to identify career information resources for Aboriginal people to support the need for Aboriginal career development strategies and tools. In 2002, a research project called, 'Connecting the Dots,' examined the perceptions, expectations and career choices of Aboriginal youth.

In 2002, the two partnered an agreement to take Guiding Circles to a national level. The partnership has resulted in a unique national program that provides career coaches, teachers, human resource practitioners, and employment counsellors with a flexible, innovative and practical strategy for helping Aboriginal people to know themselves better and to identify possible future career possibilities. By 2010 , over 1000 practitioners have been trained in Guiding Circles and more than 15,000 workbooks have been circulated. Ergon and AHRC are both proud of the unique partnership strategy that was created. This process was well received and has made a tremendous impact on Aboriginal people. Currently both Ergon and the council work with a community of corporations, not-for-profit organizations, practitioners and individuals to develop solutions to advance Aboriginal training and employment and engage Aboriginal people into the world of work.

Contact Guiding Circles

For more information about Guiding Circles, please email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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