SANTA YNEZ, Calif. -- Clearly Indian country is coming into its own when a
startup dot-com devotes itself to matching Native employers with Native and
non-Native job seekers. Patterned after monster.com and career builder.com,
nativecountry careers.com brings Indians across the continent together with
just a mouse click.
So, if you're a hopeful on either side of the employment fence, consider
yourself moments from a database designed to link professionals and
"We are a unique Web site that offers this type of service," said company
president and San Ynez Band of Chumash Indians member Nakia Lent. "My
feeling, since my tribe is in a remote area two hours from Los Angeles, is
that when we're looking for talent to fill our positions within our home
communities, sometimes a local search only goes so far."
In 1991 Lent was tapped as special assistant to the manager of her tribe's
new casino, and for the past three years she has served as recruitment
manager. "Since I've been working to fill positions at the casino, I've
really become aware of the need for a Web site for Native American
"Our Web site mainly attracts the experienced, educated job seeker, so we
give nationwide exposure to Indian businesses trying to fill professional
positions," Lent continued. "Mainly who we're targeting are the
professionals in Indian country. People with bachelor's and master's
degrees in a range of fields -- not just casino management."
Lent said one of the benefits of managing a national clearinghouse site is
that she can spot employment trends that could be helpful to college
students trying to decide on a major. "Right now I'm seeing that there's a
big need for social services and, of course, Indian gaming. But in social
services it's around TANF -- temporary assistance for needy families.
Tribes are now running their own TANF programs so there's a big need for
social workers and others associated with that profession."
In the heady world of gaming, most any business degree is a boon, according
to Lent, who added that CPAs and people with marketing degrees are always
in demand. She also noted that "tribal museums have positions. It has to do
with repatriation. Now that Indian gaming is offering more financial
stability, the tribes are hiring cultural development people -- curators,
The Web site has been up only three months, but already praise has come
Lent's way. "One person told us our Web site is clean and very
professional," she said, "and 'straightforward and businesslike' was the
feedback someone else gave us. We really appreciate that, since we've tried
to be user-friendly. Our resume builder has a template that guides people
through, and they can go ahead and cut and paste if they have a resume
already done in Microsoft Word."
The same ease applies to Indian businesses, Lent noted. "Since we're
catering to Native American companies that have Native American hiring
preferences, job seekers can mark off a box that asks them if they are
Native American. Employers, in turn, can search our database for applicants
on that basis -- so our search capability helps tribal business wanting to
find Native Americans for their positions."
It's early in the game, of course, so Lent's focus has been on advertising.
So far, she's swapped Web links with American Indian news providers and is
making a lot of cold calls. "We've had a lot of different tribes
interested, but this is a whole new Web site, and the Indian community just
isn't used to a service like this. So I call people and get them online
with me and take them through to show what we have to offer."
Lent will also be going to major trade shows coming up in Indian country --
the American Indian Chamber of Commerce meeting in Palm Springs in August;
the National Congress of American Indians in Tulsa this fall; and, next
spring, the National Association of Indian Gaming in Albuquerque.
In that way, the family partnership -- with Lent's brother Desi Zavalla as
CEO and her mother, Antonia Flores helping out with the startup cash -- is
poised to get off the ground. "My brother started as a bingo cashier 11
years ago and worked himself all the way up to director of human resources
at our tribe's casino. And my mother started out in the bingo hall way back
when as a pull-tab seller. Now she's helping us with her per capita
payments she gets from her tribe's gaming. Honestly, I wouldn't be where
I'm at if it weren't for Indian gaming. We're kind of evolving to the next
level: taking our experience and revenues from this type of economic
activity and parlaying it into a new venture."
Exciting stuff? Lent clearly thinks so, and her enthusiasm is contagious.
"The thing is, Native American companies do not need to sell themselves. We
are like our own Native American Fortune 500 companies. We have built our
own large businesses, and they deserve to attract top talent," Lent said.
"That's where native-countrycareers.com comes in. We want to be the service
that helps them."