Monthly Archives: November 2006

Cool Internet tools for your career counseling tool kit

Janet E. Wall November 10, 2006

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.

Assessment

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.

Occupational information

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.

Seeking jobs

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.

Summary

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: ct@counseling.org

Career and life assessment: Are you taking care of you?

Amy Reece Connelly

We are approaching that time of year when various end-of-the-year checklists will be published in a wide range of venues. 

The end-of-the-year financial checklist will remind you to gather all the information you will need for your taxes, to make sure you get your charitable donations in before Dec. 31 and to use the funds in your flexible spending accounts for child care, health care and insurance.

The end-of-the-year technology checklist will ask you if the technology in your office is adequate, while also recommending equipment upgrades.

The end-of-the-year health checklist will advise you to schedule any physicals or diagnostic tests that you’ve put off,  check those all-important numbers (cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure) that help you to monitor your health and quit any bad habits that endanger your well-being.

But have you ever seen an end-of-the-year career and life planning checklist? For too many busy professionals, reflection on career and life planning focuses much more on career — the getting around, the getting ahead and the getting things done — and less on life. 

During this time of the year (arguably the most taxing time for counselors, as clients often struggle with the holidays), it is particularly important to assess your own needs. You will be more effective as a counselor and, therefore, more successful in your career, if you ensure that your own life is balanced.

Donald Super theorized that our career consists of our many life roles: child, student, leisurite, citizen, worker, spouse/partner, homemaker, parent and pensioner. These roles constitute our “Life Rainbow,” and they are also the basis for the end-of-the-year checklist that follows.

As you reflect on each element, consider how you define your responsibilities in each individual life role. How do you see this role changing over the next five to 10 years?

Child

Are you as close as you want or need to be to your parents (or other older relatives) as they age? Do they have all of the help they need?  

Student

What do you want or need to learn? Do you want to devote more time to professional reading? Do you need to explore new treatment options for one or more of your clients? Are you thinking about pursuing additional formal education?

Leisurite

What hobbies have you put off pursuing until you “have time”? When was the last time you took a vacation? If you can’t get away for an extended period of time, can you schedule a long weekend for a mental break?

Citizen

Are you new in your area? Have you given yourself permission to break away from work to explore opportunities for getting involved in your community? Are you involved in a religious organization, political movement or nonprofit group? How are you giving back to your community?

Worker

Are you satisfied with your life’s work? What can you do to increase your satisfaction level? Have you established your end-of-practice plan in compliance with the revised ACA Code of Ethics? Do you have adequate insurance for your practice? When is the last time you updated your resume? 

Spouse/Partner

Are you and your partner able to meet each other’s emotional needs? Do you have time to spend with one another? When is the last time you had a discussion that didn’t relate to household maintenance or child-rearing issues?

Homemaker

Are your living arrangements appropriate for your stage of live? Have you taken care of any necessary repairs to ensure the safety of all who reside in or visit your home? Do you desire aesthetic changes?

Parent

Are your children getting enough of your time? If they’re young, do you know who their friends are? Do you know what their interests are? Have you spoken with their teachers, and do you know how they’re doing in school? Do you have fun with them? Are you modeling positive life choices for them? Is your will up to date, and have you established provisions for their education and health care in your absence?

Pensioner

Have you reviewed your retirement funds recently? Will your investments be adequate for your long-term needs? If you’re nearing retirement, are you working to reduce or eliminate debt? Do you need to adjust the distribution of your retirement funds to decrease your level of risk? Will you have adequate medical coverage?

Once you’ve considered these life roles and their significance in your own life, you’ll be able to affirm the positive and adjust the neglected. It might even be the basis of the list that emerges at the beginning of next month — your New Year’s resolutions!

Amy Reece Connelly is the manager of ACA Career Services. E-mail your career-related questions to her at acacareers@counseling.org. Telephone consultation is available to ACA members by appointment.