How Do Clients Utilize Computerized Career Guidance Tools: Implications for Counselors

by Marilyn Maze and Garry Klein

If your clients had access to a computerized career guidance program, which parts would they find most useful? Where would they choose to start? Would their choices differ by gender? Would high school and college students’ use of the program differ? These are important, but as yet unanswered questions.

In order to find out how different types of clients use a computerized guidance tool, we examined data from thousands of different users of the DISCOVER, the Internet Version. We analyzed DISCOVER usage by gender and environment (i.e., high school, college, adult users) thus creating six groups. Users explore DISCOVER by selecting one or more of the following topic modules:

  • Inventories (contains valid, reliable assessments of Interests, Abilities, and Values)
  • Occupations (contains searchable information about hundreds of occupations).
  • Majors (contains searchable information about hundreds of academic majors)
  • Schools (contains searchable information about thousands of career/technical schools, colleges, universities, and graduate/professional schools)
  • Job Search (contains information about how to search for work)

Analysis of these data showed amazingly similar patterns of use among the groups. Comparisons included:

  • The percentage in each group that used each topic
  • The average time spent in each topic by each group
  • The percentage in each group that started with each topic

Several findings emerged. High School students searched for information about schools more than others, adults viewed the Job Search topic slightly more, and college students viewed the Majors topic slightly more. Overall, the most-used topics for all groups were Inventories, then Occupations.

The specific occupations and majors explored by the various groups were compared. The occupations and majors explored by males were different than those explored by females, and occupations and majors explored the three types of clients (high school students, college students, and adults) differed. Gender also played an important role in the acceptance of the suggestions from various inventories. The occupations suggested by each of the inventories were arranged by Holland cluster and compared to the occupations users chose to explore.

Several of the surprises in the results indicated that the intervention of counselors could play a crucial role. While 80% of users who completed one or more Inventory assessment went on to explore further, some apparently stopped after receiving their inventory results. Had counselors been available to intervene, they might have helped these people understand the connection between the inventories and further career exploration. In addition, information in DISCOVER about educational and career training was used relatively little. Counselor intervention to explain the importance of this information might help a client to locate information that could help them make planning decisions. It is possible that focusing clients' attention on the necessary preparation steps, such as the courses that must be taken, would help some people make more realistic career choices.

For details of this study, attend our presentation at the NCDA Convention in Orlando from 8:30 to 9:40 on Saturday, June 25. To comment on this topic, visit topic #194 on the NCDA Forum.

Marilyn Maze, Ph.D., is a Principal Research Associate for ACT, Inc., and one of the developers of DISCOVER, a computerized career guidance program. She also conducts research on the career choices of youth and adults. Contact: 410-584-8000 or Email maze@act.org.
Garry Klein, M.S., is a Research Associate in the Career Transitions Research Department of ACT, Inc. His background is as a career counselor and associate career center director, formerly at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Contact: 319-341-2313 or Email garry.klein@act.org.

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