Google Alerts: A helpful tool for counselors and clients alike!

By Pete Hubbard

If you regularly use Internet search engines like Google, and periodically repeat one or more searches, you will be excited about Google Alerts. Learn what they are, see some examples, and discover how easy they are to create and manage. Career Counselors and our clients alike can benefit from these helpful, user-friendly tools.


What are Google Alerts?

The Google Alerts home page says "Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic." In other words, Google will send you an email when something has been added to the Internet that matches the search argument you placed in an alert.

Google searches versus Google Alerts

A Google search produces results for content currently on the Internet that matches your search argument. For example, if you "Google" the word "career", you will receive a list of thousands of resources that match this key word. A Google Alert - using that same search argument - will only produce an email when that item you are interested in has been added to the Internet within the last few hours or day. This feature allows you to receive the most up-to-date and newly added content on the web.

Examples of Google Alerts you might want to create

If you have a web presence (Hubbard, 2007), you may want to know when someone is "talking" about you in their blog, webpage, news article, etc. Therefore, it is wise to create a Google Alert for your name. Our clients can also benefit from this feature, especially those who are in the job search process or who are working to develop a stronger web presence in a particular field. It is common knowledge that employers often "Google' their candidates; therefore an Alert keeps your client aware of what prospective employers may be exposed to online. See "Hints" below to learn how to reduce or limit the number of results you get, in case someone else on the Internet has the same name as yours.

Alerts can also generate content about professional topics of interest. If you have a long term interest in constructivism, for example, create an Alert using the word "constructivism". Like most career counselors, I have many interests in this career development field. "Advocacy for career development", "John Krumboltz", "career clusters", ePortfolios, lifework, etc. are just a few of the other alerts I have setup for myself.

If you have clients who are doing career exploration, consider informing them about Google Alerts and suggest that they create alerts for key words related to their occupations of interest. Suggest that they revise their alerts as they focus in on a specific occupation to see what others are saying about it and to discover trends. They should continually revise their alerts while they are narrowing their search to a specific company, then a specific location and job - all the time gathering useful information to aid in their decision-making process. You or your clients might find this article "Google Alerts for Job Seekers - Job-hunt.org " of interest.

And don't forget to create alerts for your personal interests as well. I have an alert for ...

  • Political candidates I may vote for to see what others are saying about them
  • "Green cars" because I'm planning to buy one within the next year or so
  • The name of a new piece of consumer electronics I am considering buying to read reviews
  • And many other items that interest me!

Google Alerts are easy to setup

Google Alerts are easy to set up and manage. For more information, here is a link to Google's FAQ website . The  Google Alerts for Job Seekers -- Job-hunt.org article mentioned above is also very informative and provides helpful tips and suggestions for transitioning employees.


Use your search engine's advanced search webpage to set up a search argument that has the right key words to be included, but more importantly - words to be excluded. When your search argument is producing the results you want, COPY it and go to Google Alerts to PASTE it into a new Alert. It's that simple. If you are not getting the results you want, simply modify your search argument in the Alert.


  • Google Alerts are an excellent tool for you and your clients to use to automate repetitive searches that will keep you aware of the latest news and information.
  • Alerts are easy to create, modify and delete.
  • Create an alert for your name and anything else that is a long term interest.


Hubbard, P. (2007). Creating, Shaping and Managing your Internet Presence, National Career Development Association Website. Retrieved on May 24, 2008.


Pete Hubbard is the Founder of LifeWork Planning Services, and CD Forums (formerly NCDA Forums), member of three NCDA committees, Chair of the ACSCI Public Relations committee, and (co-)author of two other Career Convergence articles. Pete received the 2005 NCDA Presidential Recognition Award for his work on NCDA Forums. More info is available at http://lifeworkps.com/hubbard/weblog/3530.html or by emailing Pete at hubbard@waypt.com