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Copyright 1998 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Career Planning: Labor Market Information and Career Counseling

by: Fay Walther


Career planning in the information age involves the use of a diversity of labor market information (LMI), career planning strategies and knowledge of organizational and community resources. This balanced approach to career planning combines knowledge of the individual’s interests, aptitudes and education with information on supply and demand in the labor market. In this article, career planning is defined broadly to include looking for one’s first full-time job, making a transition to a new career field and pursuing growth both laterally and upwardly in one’s chosen career. It also includes a short-term emphasis on obtaining gainful employment and making transitions from welfare to work. However, this article emphasizes a thoughtful implementation of LMI and career planning materials to develop, change or enhance one’s chosen career.

LMI Workshops

To enhance the use of LMI, Research & Planning (R&P) provides workshops for staff in public education, employment resource centers, vocational rehabilitation and other public services. From May 1997 to May 1998, 110 participants attended them. These workshops covered future job openings by occupation and current research in employment and education. They also included technical information on how to use the Internet. Trainers provided information on two levels:

  1. an introductory workshop focused on how to use basic LMI publications and
  2. an intermediate workshop offered more in-depth presentations on computer databases, research and job assistance for special populations.
Another intermediate workshop is scheduled for October 1998 and registration is still available. The workshops offer a combination of people-oriented and technical approaches to using LMI.

In LMI workshops, participants discussed the question: "What problems are many adults encountering in seeking jobs or schooling?" The feedback from workshop participants demonstrated that two major problems are:

  1. lack of skills, training and education and
  2. lack of available jobs, especially jobs which pay above minimum wage.

In workshop discussions on the need for education and training, the participants provided feedback on the role of the Internet in career searches in their organizations. They indicated that the Internet is becoming increasingly important to people who have access to it and understand the technology. However, some people do not know it is available at local employment offices or how to access job information on it. The use of the Internet illustrates a gap between people who are comfortable with technology and people who are not presently able to take advantage of the resource. By using technical resources such as the Internet for information searches, staff have an opportunity for increased vocational counseling and interpersonal support of job seekers. Participants stressed the importance of using current resources such as the Internet to provide information to students and job seekers on marketable skills and the education needed for careers which provide opportunities for growth and advancement.

Career Planning Resources

In using LMI in career planning, teachers and other customers request the 1998 edition of the Wyoming Career Explorer, which is available from R&P. The 1998 edition is useful for a variety of customers/clients such as high school juniors who are researching their career interests, community college students, people who are seeking to change careers or to make a transition from welfare to work. Some sections include information on wages, resumes and job applications, promising career fields and work experiences of Wyoming’s youth. Research & Planning publishes the Explorer on a yearly basis, available both in regular copy and electronically on the Internet. For both short-term searches for an immediate job and for more long-term career planning, customers can make informed decisions based on the projected growth of the industries and on the average wages. The publication can be combined with information on career counseling to make a complete and informed job hunt in Wyoming or across the nation.

For career counseling, a useful publication is the manual What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. His material can be used in individual career planning, workshops and with job search and support groups. The book is updated yearly and the current edition includes an excellent section on how to use the Internet for a job search. His book brings together two aspects of career planning:

  1. how to help individuals to identify their vocational interests/skills and
  2. how to analyze and network in the current job market.
He offers both a short-term perspective on how to find a job for economic purposes, and how to plan a long-term strategy to find a career which incorporates individual vocational interests. Some guidance counselors have reported success with this material in helping a diversity of students in career planning, from adults who are trying to return to the workforce after lengthy absences to high school graduates who may be looking for their first full-time job. The author also provides information on the work environment or context for individual career planning. Individuals do not make effective career plans in a vacuum without recognizing some major social and technical changes of the information age. Changes include competition in global markets, a faster pace of change in the 1990’s and difficulties for some individuals in the workplace due to downsizing. Other changes in the work environment offer opportunities for individuals who have the interests and skills to participate in the creation of new careers and companies.

An important resource for information on career planning is the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists. Their Internet address is:

Some association publications include analyses of future work environments and organizational structures which have a bearing on the career plans of individuals. This information poses the question of "what will the world of work be like for individuals who are presently entering the workforce or seeking to re-enter it?" Evolving workplaces include a relatively new emphasis on a more flexible, team-oriented approach to some job duties. For example, instead of the traditional job description, an individual may need to work across functional units such as marketing and engineering to accomplish a work assignment. Changing work environments involve increasing interpersonal skills such as a quicker adaptation to change and greater flexibility. For career counselors, a challenge is to prepare individuals to enter some workplaces which have radically changed in the last decade to an information age of technology.

The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists emphasizes that career planning is a partnership between the individual employee and the organization. Organizations can facilitate the career planning of their employees. Some of the challenges in organizational career planning of human resource departments are to improve internal structures to increase both efficiency/productivity and the job satisfaction of employees. Obtaining both objectives in a complementary fashion is an illusive goal whose attainment may facilitate retention of the organization’s best employees, especially in high demand fields such as computer technology. In career planning and development, industrial/organizational psychologists stress the importance of cooperation between the individual employee and the organization. They suggest changing some organizations’ concepts of career planning from periodic or emergency training programs to a lifetime of new learning experiences for employees. The process would involve the active participation of the organization in providing funds and time for training and the individual responsibility of the person to actively participate in and plan his/her career.

Some other resources in career planning for students are educational research organizations such as Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory and Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory. Their Internet addresses are, respectively:

They specialize in research applications for special populations of students. For example, they have publications on career counseling for students who are "at risk" of dropping out of high school. Other information includes career counseling of students in rural areas and how to better connect academic learning with community and work opportunities. They offer some state-of-the art applied research and technical assistance to career counselors in public high schools.

A practical example is now provided to illustrate this balanced approach of a combination of vocational counseling and the use of LMI. Career counselors in high schools are called upon by students and parents to help students make informed choices about future careers. If a student needs assistance in exploring his/her vocational interests, counselors may administer inventories such as the Strong Vocational Interest Blank to compare the vocational interests of students with those of actual employees.

Let’s explore the career planning of a hypothetical student whose career interests are in the health services or social services industries. The student wants to obtain LMI on the current employment in these industries and the projected future employment and wages. The counselor looks up information for these industries in the Table. Both industries offer growth in employment, and the counselor then discusses some wages for specific occupations of interest to the student. Based on the vocational interests of the student and LMI on employment and wages, the student is able to pursue more informed career choices about occupations in these industries. After focusing two initial choices on becoming a doctor or a nurse, the counselor advises the student of career planning strategies which involve information interviews and "shadowing" or going through the daily work routine with professionals in these fields. This approach could be used in counseling students or individuals who are making a transition to new careers.

Conclusion

In summary, career planning in the information age involves the active partnership of organizations and individuals. The available resources include Internet job searches, current publications such as the career planning manual by Richard Bolles, networking through community and organization groups and the use of materials from the Society of Organizational and Industrial Psychologists. Other helpful LMI publications such as the Explorer provide information on the labor market which can be integrated with career counseling. A balanced approach of assessing the individual’s aptitudes and interests in conjunction with information about employment opportunities and wages provides a foundation for informed decision making about careers. Individual and labor market information can then be integrated with knowledge about the work environment.

An essential question for career counselors, students and parents is: What will the world of work be like for individuals who are presently entering the workforce or seeking to re-enter it? Effective career planning can not take place in a vacuum. Some major social and technological changes have drastically altered the career planning and paths of individuals. Looking toward the future, career counselors can utilize applied research from organizations such as Research & Planning, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, and Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory to provide state-of-the-art information to their customers for their use in making informed decisions.


Fay Walther is an Economist, specializing in Labor Market Information (LMI) projects with Research & Planning.


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Last modified on June 7, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.