An AUT University researcher has uncovered the key to Maori career decisions, where relationships with whanau, iwi and friends are key.
Ngati Porou PhD scholar Lynette Reid set out to understand how Maori cultural values influence the career process. And along the way, the new doctor unlocked a new typology of cultural career identities.
“My research has revealed that relationships were, and are, the life blood of career for M?ori,” says Dr Reid. “But it’s not just the traditional markers like family and tribe that influence what it means to be Maori. It means so many things.”
“My findings show that when regarding careers, we need to pay greater attention to diversity and the value different groups bring,” adds Dr Reid, who was capped last week during one of AUT’s six graduation ceremonies.
When Dr Reid put out the call for people to interview, she received more responses than she could ever hope to interview. So she refined her research and conducted comprehensive interviews with 22 Maori. The group of 13 females and nine males included people who spanned age, career and life stages as well as M?ori cultural responsibilities.
Dr Reid asked about and listened for cultural values and influences and how they impacted career choices and decisions.
Prompt questions like: ‘Tell me about your working life’, through to more specific queries about how being Maori influenced career choices yielded a distinct pattern of answers. These led the new doctor to develop three distinct typology groups which she named cloaked, seeker and keeper.
For the cloaked Maori, says Dr Reid, culture and career were seen as completely separate entities and one was less likely to influence the other.
“This group are very urban. They are most influenced by friends, with whom they have strong bonds, and much less so by whanau,” she says.
Seekers by contrast are very easily able to combine career and Maori cultural themes in their decision-making and, like the cloaked, they draw enormous support from their friendship networks.
“The seekers stand out because they retain huge networks of friends – much more so than any other group in the study,” says Dr Reid.
“They retain friends from primary school through to current workmates and they use this rich resource to discuss their career decisions.
The seekers are a unique group who have generally held a lot of different types of jobs.
“Each job has been just as important as the other regardless of the tasks they performed,” says Dr Reid. “The seeker is always willing and able to talk about what they have experienced and how each job has contributed to who they are today.”
The group Dr Reid called ‘keepers’, by contrast, retain strong links with whanau, hapu and iwi and place importance on their identity as Maori.
“Throughout their career, keepers ask: ‘How is what I do going to help my tribe and sense of being Maori?’, and this influences their career decision-making process,” says Dr Reid.
“Their career stories are secondary to life stories, with cultural values consistently embedded and intertwined. Rich career themes are dominated by poetic life stories, and filled with people and their relationships to each other.”
Another stand out feature of all groups, with no exception, she adds, is that instead of reiterating their CV all the interviewees spoke about their career in terms of the people around them at that time.
“One kuia I spoke to, for example, talked about her supportive landlady and all the female friends she made in the job,” she says. “These are the people who surrounded what she was doing at the time and supported and influenced her career choices.
“This showed me that for Maori, relationships were a central influence in the career process. By contrast, Western careers tend to be influenced most by extrinsic motivations such as money, achievement and obvious career progression.”
Dr Reid says her results are consistent with overseas indigenous career research.
“Other indigenous career research has also focused on the importance of relationships. Relationships contribute to the understanding of career processes by replacing the individual with ‘the other’ at the centre.
“For cultural groups with a collective focus, the relational context may hold the key to the link between career and cultural values.”
Dr Reid hopes her research will inform career and HR practitioners. The Onehunga resident is a senior lecturer at AUT in post-graduate career development in the School of Education.