Using Websites to Analyze Career Clients

By Debra Preston Russ

Sheila is a claims processor at a major automotive company.  Due to recent declines in the economy, she has recently been given notice that her position will terminate in two weeks.  A despondent Sheila makes an appointment with the career consultant employed to assist with terminated workers.  Upon hearing Sheila's story it might not surprise you to hear that the counselor plans to consult various websites during her work with Sheila.  As professional career counselors, we are practiced at using career-based websites to assist clients with finding resources for taking interest inventories, engaging in job searches, finding occupational information, and creating resumes.  However, Sheila's counselor is not looking at these types of websites.  There are other beneficial websites that may not be as apparent or as frequently used.  There are many websites that have information on career development theories that may be useful to counselors who are working to resolve the dilemmas of their clients.  Below are several websites on the theories of cognitive, sociological, trait-factor, and on diversity issues that Sheila's counselor, and many of you, may find useful.

Cognitive Theory


Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) is an example of a cognitive theory.  CIP suggests that career decisions involve a cognitive process that can be taught. Clients may benefit from learning the multiple elements that embody a career decision. The website contains links to practical information for working with clients. For example, there is a client-ready handout on the CIP approach. Using the handout, counselors can facilitate client understanding of how knowing about themselves, investigating career options, understanding how they make decisions, and exploring their self-perceptions about making decision can direct their career conflict resolutions. If Sheila's counselor consults this website she will also find information on using the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI) to measure possible dysfunctional thoughts that may impede Sheila's decision-making abilities.

Sociological Theory


Sociological theory attempts to answer such questions as: "Are careers the result of careful planning or accidental events?" "Do they come about by hard work or chance?" "How many people can say they had planned to be where they are today?"  Information on this site is aimed at assisting individuals in understanding how planned happenstance can be a career advantage.  The information is based on the work of John Krumboltz who contends that learning to manage life transitions is essential for surviving today's dynamic labor market. Counselors who visit this site can pick up tips for fostering client development of an optimistic outlook, one of the key characteristics to weathering turbulent economics. Using this approach, Sheila's counselor would help her see that her termination is an opportunity to grow professionally in ways she may not have contemplated.

Trait-Factor Theory


Affectionately known as the "test'em and tell'em" approach to career counseling, Trait-Factor type theories advocate the use of assessment in career counseling.  The website provides a comprehensive overview of the elements that comprise assessment. By consulting this website, Sheila's counselor will learn that she wants to assess her abilities, interests, and values before engaging in career decision making.  She may refer Sheila to an online instrument that is based on famed Trait-Factor theorist, John Holland and his interest theory.  The "Career Interests Game" at http://career.missouri.edu/students/explore/thecareerinterestsgame.php will help Sheila figure out her career type by taking her through an imaginary party.



Finally, counselors consulting this site are reminded that many traditional career theories are based on research conducted primarily on white males.  Counselors investigating this site and the associated article will find information for contemporary research on how career theories address gender, race, ethnicity, and social class. The theories explored are Trait-Factor, life-span, and social cognitive. Sheila's counselor will want to consult this site to learn about how her perceptions of self and her environment may impact career decisions.  The counselor would explore with Sheila her cultural experiences and assumptions prior to engaging in career decision-making.

Sheila is an example of a worker in a transition. She expected to remain in her current position until external conditions replaced her career plans.  However, the websites described above can also be consulted when working with individuals facing other types of career decisions. For example, using the Career Thoughts Inventory would work well with high school students considering post-secondary career options.  Planned Happenstance theory can be useful for assisting returning workers as they develop the career management skills needed for today's work realities.   Assessment-based websites such as the University of Missouri's Career Interests Game will appeal to any client desiring a quick start to career exploration such as college freshmen investigating possible majors.  And no matter the career stage or type of transition, considering the impact of diversity is a necessary skill for all counselors.

The use of websites for job searches has been a mainstay in career counseling.  Additionally, websites devoted to applicable career development theory also have a place in a career counselor's toolbox. While only a few selected theories and websites were showcased here, there are many others out there to assist practitioners based on individual needs and client populations.  Professional counselors need to rely on their training and professional judgment in order to be mindful and strategic when selecting and applying theories that are the most applicable to any given client.  Information gained from these websites can assist many types of career counselors in facilitating client management of transitions such as job termination. 


Deb Russ Debra Preston Russ (druss@uaa.alaska.edu) received her Ph.D. in counseling from Virginia Tech. She holds credentials as a Licensed Professional Counselor and a National Certified Career Counselor. Dr. Russ is currently employed at the University of Alaska Anchorage as an associate professor and coordinator of counselor education.