Using the Internet to Help College Students with Career Planning. (Education)

Article excerpt

IF ASKED to conjure up the image of college students surfing the Web, one very well might imagine them in their dorms downloading MP3s, playing high-tech video games, or hanging out in chat rooms. However, it is also the case that an increasing number of college students are turning to the Internet to research career and educational opportunities and seek assistance in making the transition from college into the workforce. Students will find no lack of information on various institutions, scholarships, school and corporate rankings, internships, and job postings.

With an increasingly tight and complex job market and a growing number of New Economy refugees, young people seem to be giving more thought to their career choices. While the days of chasing high salaries, options, or other perks using on-line job posting boards may not be completely gone, there seems to be a sense that all of this earlier frenzy may have yielded more disappointments than millionaires. Students and career changers are now looking for support services to help them navigate their way to personally and professionally rewarding careers.

Survey data from The Gallup Organization reveals that almost 25% of college students would include the Internet for help or information in their career planning. While this percentage may not seem large, keep in mind that, as more students of the Interact generation progress through the educational system, this number is likely to grow tremendously.

As colleges, universities, and other institutions enter the online education space, they are looking into ways to provide a full array of support services to distance learners as well as traditional student populations. These services include academic advisement, career counseling, and recruitment assistance. The delivery of online career counseling is taking on a new face due to the abundance of technology-based services, and finally seems to be getting its due. The Internet's ability to allow students and career counselors to engage in real-time online conversations, as well as videoconferencing counseling sessions, has created exciting and effective options for what is becoming known as distance career counseling.

Questions naturally arise with regard to the differences and relative advantages of distance career counseling in comparison with more traditional delivery systems. How does it differ from face-to-face models? Can it be personal? Is it effective?

Many career counseling practitioners and trainers of counselors are weighing the benefits and risks of online counseling and determining how theory informs practice in this important field of education and human services. With distance career counseling, the challenge is to combine the best practices of traditional career counseling with electronically assisted strategies in order to provide state-of-the-art career counseling services to today's college students.

A structured career counseling process usually includes the following four steps:

* Assessment of interests, skills, values, and related personal characteristics

* Exploratory research techniques aimed at linking personal characteristics with career options

* Decisionmaking with regard to employment or further educational options

* Self-marketing strategies, including resume and interview preparation.

While these steps often unfold in a linear and sequential way, they are also recursive in that individuals frequently "take a step back" and revisit tasks within an earlier step from a more-informed perspective. For example, students involved in preparing for an interview may need to reconsider and fine-tune their grasp of actual skill-set capabilities, which they anticipate presenting to a potential employer.

Typically, Web-based resources assist students in steps one, two, and four outlined above. Many individuals consider career counseling to be synonymous with assessments. …