Take care when using online career resources

There is a wealth of career information, advice, and tools available online. These resources need to be used with care.

Here are four types of resources and what to look for.

1. Qualities

Career guidance often starts with exploring who you are so you gain some sense of what your interests, values, sense of identity are. This information in turn, informs career choices.

Part of understanding who we are is to examine what qualities we might use to describe who we are. Qualities include terms such as determined, honest, friendly, organised.

Employers prefer staff who have certain qualities, such as reliable, honest, punctual.

There are many qualities apart from those preferred by employers. If the tool you are considering only reflects qualities preferred by employers, you could well miss many qualities that are vital to describing not only who you are now but also who you might wish to become. Qualities such as idealist, rebel, versatile, flamboyant, vivacious, bolshie, exotic, suave.

Before using a qualities list check how generous the list on offer is.

2. STAR model

The STAR model is a simple approach to writing a response to a selection criterion. It covers:

S = situation

T = task

A = actions

R = results.


For entry level and lower level roles, this structure may well be enough. For more senior roles, that is, roles that carry a salary of $70,000 or more, the STAR model is too simple.

It doesn’t convey the strategic complexity of the example.

Using the STAR model risks considering the selection criteria in isolation. While this may have worked two decades ago, it is no longer the case. An applicant must consider the total context of the role and tailor examples to match that role. To do this the applicant must conduct research into the organisation, the role, and the level of seniority in order to fully understand what they are applying for.

A more useful model for either responding to selection criteria or giving examples to support a statement of claims, is the CAR model: Context, Actions, Results. The context of the example is the critical component as it conveys information about:

  • The strategic context: what goals, policies, strategies was the situation supporting?
  • Complexity: what factors added complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty?
  • Risks: what risks needed to be considered?
  • People: who was involved – colleagues, clients, stakeholders, senior executives, staff etc?
  • Role: what was your role in this situation and what were you setting out to do?
  •  Actions are limited to the most critical, relevant, senior.
  • Results take account of not only the immediate output, but also any outcome and unintended consequences.

Replacing the STAR model with the CAR model is likely to result in much stronger, more tailored responses.

3. Job Guides

Most job guides, listing the many occupations available along with their required qualifications and skills, and main duties, are categorised according to a set of six personality types established by John Holland. The six are summarised as RIASEC, each letter referring to a type. While useful in distinguishing jobs of interest that match who you are, this typing approach has limitations.

Occupations are treated in isolation and technical jobs [Realistic] tend to focus on the technical skills needed with little information about the need for communication and interpersonal skills and how these are used both in the short and long term. Missing is information about how different trades, professions, occupations need to work together to solve problems.

If you are hoping to find a job that doesn’t require you to talk, read, listen, write, you might be misled by job guides that reveal little about using these skills.

4. Fear-based labour market information

Many media reports, research reports, and general commentary alerts readers to trends in the labour market and the economy. Such reports can convey the impression that mass unemployment is imminent due to automation, factory closures, globalisation, trade agreements.

It is not possible to give certainty about what will happen in the near, let alone, long term future. Nor is it possible to accurately predict what jobs will disappear or be created.

There are many factors affecting our economy, they are complex, interrelated, and what happens much depends on political will and vested interests.

Before becoming alarmed when reading these reports, best to gain some basic understanding of economics, statistical analysis, trend and chart interpretation, and ask some questions about who wrote the report, what is their vested interest, who funded the report, what methodology was used, are the conclusions sound, what are the gaps?

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.