Using Web-Based Career Resources to Enhance Career Counseling

by Mary E. Ghilani

Just as the advancement of the Internet and the World Wide Web has changed the way we interact, conduct business, play, and even shop, so has it changed the way we do career counseling. We can now research and access career-related information from sources all over the world. Students can perform more in-depth, extensive research than ever before, do it more quickly, access information from home or at school, and subsequently make more thoughtful, informed choices about their career path.

Web Site Validity
Given all of this information at our fingertips, which web sites should school counselors use or recommend to students? I generally prefer web sites that are authored by professional organizations, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, or college and universities. These sites have a longer history on the Internet and usually will not disappear or change addresses. How do you know if a site is a college site? Or part of a state or government agency? Most web addresses or URL (uniform resource locator) end in .edu, .org, .com, or .gov. These extensions, or "domains," can help you identify the web site. When organizations register their web site addresses on the Internet, they are given a web address, or "domain name," appropriate to their particular type of organization. Domain names ending in .edu are reserved for educational organizations (colleges and universities), .org for non-profit organizations, .com for commercial or personal web sites, and .gov for government sites. By noting the domain you can determine, in advance, if a site is from the federal government or a university, which offers its information and services free of charge, or a commercial site which may charge a fee.

In general, sites should contain content that is free of bias, and provide career information that is current, accurate, and locally relevant (NCDA Ethical Standards, 2003). Career-related information should be authored by a professional organization, a reputable commercial company, or by an individual who is appropriately licensed or credentialed in their discipline. Students often may assume that because something is online, the information is true. We can help students learn about and evaluate online resources as one source of career information. Once several useful sites are identified, you may suggest that the students save the site's address under "Favorites" so students can easily find and access career-related information without having to remember the URL or re-type the URLs from a list.

Web Site Dynamics
Unfortunately, one of the realities users face is the dynamic quality of the Internet. New sites appear and old sites disappear. Sites also move to new addresses as servers are upgraded or web sites are updated. This migration tends to play havoc with users, especially if one hasn't visited a site in a while. The following tips can be useful in coping with such a problem:

  1. When a web site address has been changed: Most of the time when you type in an address, or URL, for a site that has moved to a different location, you will receive a prompt telling you to wait a few seconds while you are automatically forwarded to the new location. Simply save the new URL by selecting "Bookmarks" or "Favorites" on your toolbar and then "Bookmark Your Page" or "Add to Favorites," depending on which internet browser you are using.
  2. When the page you are looking for doesn't exist: First try searching for the site by using one of the many search engines available today, such as Google. The second option is to do what the techies affectionately refer to as, "peeling back the URL." Let's say you are trying to access http://www.americancollege.edu/career/whatisthismajor.html. The last 15 characters of this college web site are sub documents within American College's homepage. Knowing that, you can simply delete everything in the address from right to left until you arrive at the root URL which is www.americancollege.edu. Once on American College's homepage, select "Career" services, find "whatisthismajor," and bookmark the new address.

Helpful Web sites
The following are some of my favorite career exploration web sites. Counselors may want to become familiar with these so as to recommend them appropriately to students.
General Career Exploration Sites:

Career-Specific Sites:

There are also a number of self-assessment tools that are available on line. However, there are some ethical concerns about allowing students to use on-line assessments without feedback or interpretation from a trained counselor.

Most students know very little about the hundreds of career opportunities available to them, or what these careers require or involve. Worse, these same students may be overwhelmed by the volume of career information available. The Internet is a powerful tool that can help students, and the counselors who work with them, make better, more informed, career decisions.

Harris-Bowlsbey, J., Dikel, M. R., & Sampson, J., Jr. (2002). The Internet: A tool for career planning. Columbus, OH: National Career Development Association.

National Career Development Association. (1997). NCDA guidelines for the use of the Internet for provision of career information and planning services [Statement]. Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from www.ncda.org.

Robinson, N. K., Meyer, D., Prince, J. P., McLean, C., & Low, R. (2000). Mining the Internet for career information: A model approach for college students. Journal of Career Assessment, 8, 37-54.

Sampson, J. P., Jr., Kolodinsky, R. W., & Greeno, B. P. (1997). Counseling on the information highway: Future possibilities and potential problems. Journal of Counseling & Development, 75, 203-212.

Stevens, D., T., & Lundberg, D.J. (1998). The emergence of the Internet: Enhancing career counseling education and services. Journal of Career Development, 24, 195-208.

Mary E. Ghilani is the Director of Career Services at Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Web-Based Career Counseling (2005). More career resources may be accessed through her website at http://depts.luzerne.edu/career. Email: mghilani@luzerne.edu