The Internet is being used more and more frequently in the counseling profession. The fields of career exploration, career guidance and career development have been the happy recipients of some excellent tools that help inform persons about their occupational options, find education and training opportunities to prepare for jobs, and seek the right job. I want to suggest that you give attention to some free, effective, interactive tools that you can incorporate into your tool kit as you work with students, persons in career transition, dislocated workers and entry-level job seekers, among others.
Although several excellent Internet resources exist containing useful information that can be read, this article focuses on interactive, not static, tools. By interactive tools, I mean that the output is dependent upon the information you provide. You can use these resources time and time again and receive new information and new results — results that are specifically tailored to a person’s wants and needs. I’ve highlighted tools in four categories.
One of the first steps in career exploration is to know about yourself, your wants and your needs. The Department of Labor has produced two excellent instruments to help with those tasks — the Interest Profiler and the Work Importance Profiler. After answering the items on these instruments, clients will receive a listing of matching occupations. The instruments can be downloaded to your computer from www.onetcenter.org/tools.html. Another helpful tool is available at www.iseek.org/sv/12399.jsp. Here, clients can identify the skills they want or don’t want in an occupation. The tool covers the areas of basic skills, interpersonal skills, judgment skills, technical skills, reasoning skills, movement skills and others.
Clients can go to O*Net Online at http://online.onetcenter.org/skills/ to search for occupations that match the skills they think they possess and/or want to use in a future occupation. After receiving a list of occupations that match their requirements, clients can find more detailed information about preferred occupations, including tasks performed, knowledge, abilities, education and training requirements, interests, work values and wages and salary. Clients can also find the tools and technology used in many of these occupations.
For locating in-demand occupations, emerging occupations and/or occupations that are important to homeland security and the U.S. economy, www.careervoyages.com is the place to go. The tool provides resources and information for students, counselors, career changers and career advisers. Extensive industry information and useful supporting resources are provided, including hundreds of career videos that can be downloaded for free and In-Demand magazine, which highlights various in-demand industries looking for workers. The site also has an interest inventory, Career Compass, which helps sort occupations by dominant interest areas.
Education and training
Various tools are available to help find education and training opportunities. For college and university information, have clients set their preferred criteria, such as geographic location, size of school, setting, academic programs, cost, campus life and so on, and find their college or university by going to the College Finder at http://studentaid2.ed.gov or to the College Opportunities Online web tool (COOL) at http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cool.
Community colleges are an excellent choice for getting high-quality education and training at a bargain price. Individuals can find the community college nearest them by accessing www.aace.nche.edu and entering their location information. Clients can also take their pick from several free business courses offered by the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/training/courses.html. Some of these courses are offered 24/7, whereas others use a live instructor. Want to know where you can get some training to help a client that needs help to earn a GED or improve their understanding of the English language? Tell www.literacydirectory.org your criteria and see which institutions can provide that help.
To assist a student or client in planning his or her education program leading to a career in one of several industry clusters, go to www.careerclusters.org/plans.htm. You will find templates for constructing educational plans for industries such as agriculture, food and natural resources, architecture and construction, arts, audiovisual technology, communications, business management and administration, hospitality and tourism, information technology and many others. These templates can be modified to change the names of the courses to match those in your school, to add your own logo and to make other modifications that will help individuals map out an education and training strategy that leads to their chosen careers.
Many counselors who work with middle school, high school or postsecondary students on course scheduling encounter student complaints that the courses aren’t relevant. Send your doubting students to www.acrnetwork.org/ncdg/ECC.html, an interactive game that asks them to match science, math and language arts courses to job activities and tasks. The game offers positive or negative reinforcement as appropriate.
Job search sites have been available for many years. Examples include Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Many local newspapers have their own job search sites that allow prospective employees to find jobs according to salary, location, content area and other criteria. Although few interactive tools are available to help with the actual job search process, an excellent one is found at www.washingtonpost.com/wpsrv/jobs/nti/nailtheinterview.html. This is an interactive game that helps individuals through the job-seeking and interviewing process by providing opportunities to select an appropriate résumé, answer interview questions via phone, face a panel of interviewers in person and answer questions asked by the vice president of the company. If the individual makes it through all the steps successfully, there is an opportunity to negotiate a salary. At any stage of the process, if the individual is found to be deficient in his or her decisions or responses, a rejection letter is delivered in the mail. Feedback for improvement is provided. The instructional game can be played for both entry-level and management jobs.
Internet tools can be extraordinarily useful in helping people make career decisions. Because these tools are easily accessible, individuals can take control of their own life choices. Many additional tools can be found in my book Job Seeker’s Online Goldmine: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Government and No-Cost Web Tools.
Janet E. Wall is a member of the American Counseling Association, the National Career Development Association, the Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education, the National Employment Counselors Association and the Association for Counselors and Educators in Government. This article is based on a program she presented at the July 2006 NCDA conference in Chicago and on her book, Job Seeker’s Online Goldmine: A Step-by-Step Guidebook to Government and No-Cost Web Tools, published by JIST (www.JIST.com). Letters to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org