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The 11th International Scientific Conference

eLearning and Software for Education


Bucharest, April 23-24, 2015
10.12753/2066-026X-15-000

A NEW DIMENSION OF STUDENTS` COUNSELLING.


VIRTUAL PROFESSIONAL IMAGE

Richițeanu-Năstase Elena-Ramona, Stăiculescu Camelia


Bucharest University of Economics Studies, Romana Scuare,no. 6, Bucharest,Romania
ramona_richiteanu@yahoo.com, camistaiculescu@yahoo.com

Abstract: The constant development of computer and communication technologies requires lately, the
transfer from real/reality to virtual into new areas such as career counseling of students. The view
presented by various specialists reveals that the counseling activities have to improve its methods of
investigation of personality as a basic element to stimulate self-knowledge and personal development of
students. The students are a special group of beneficiaries of counseling services that are concerned
about their professional future, building a professional image and personal branding elements. Using
new technologies, the rapidity through which students have access to virtual information, elements of
social media, personal branding are factors to be considered in providing qualitative guidance and
counseling services to students. Trying to answer this need we have developed a set of activities of
career counseling students that combines direct, face to face counseling, with the on-line counseling
and which aims to build a professional image that includes the virtual image component. This paper
clarifies, in the first part the basic concepts such as career counseling, career counseling methods, real
and virtual professional image, elements of social media in the construction of the virtual image. In the
second part of the paper there are analyzed face to face and online counseling activities carried out
with a group of 30 students of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. The results recorded can
be considered a model of good practice in the field of career counseling. The paper concludes by
highlighting some possible future actions in the field of counseling that combines traditional counseling
methods with modern methods (virtual counseling).

Keywords: career counseling of students; traditional counseling methods; modern counseling methods;
professional image.

I. CHAPTER I

1.1 Social media and professional image


In a world dominated by technology and social media development, the individual is required
to readjust his/her position in relation to these new coordinates.
Do you have a smart phone / tablet or laptop? Do you have an Internet connection on your
smart phone, at home or at work? Do you have an account on a social network (Facebook, LinkedIn,
Flikr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, wats app)?
If you answered yes to at least the first two questions you too are exposed to social media and
you have entered the adaptation and repositioning process, the building of virtual image. If beyond the
positive response to these questions, you are also a student then the need of career counseling towards
building a professional image and a personal brand is even greater.
According to the study “Online Landscape: South East Europe”, conducted by Gemius in
2013, in Romania, in December 2013 there were 8.8 million Internet users. Of these users, 26% are
aged 15-24 (2.28 million), 26% between 24-34 and 25% between 35-44 (online, Online landscape).
Following the data from this study we can identify typical traits of the students as users: they
are looking for a job and buy drugs online, men are looking rather for downloadable content and
female consumers focus on issues of lifestyle content and online study.
Correlating the above data with the census conducted in Romania in October 2011, the youth
population (15-24 years) is a percentage of 12.3% of the Romanian population, approximately 2.4
million people. Comparing the two studies we can conclude that 95% of Romanian teenagers are on
the Internet.
Although there is no statistical data used for all Romanian social media, we will present the
two most important social media used in the Romanian market: Facebook and LinkedIn.
Facebook is mainly an entertainment social network, and LinkedIn is a professional network.
According to demographic data published by Facebook (online, Demographics), the network
has the most users in Romania - 7.8 million. Of these, 33.12% are aged between 15 and 24 years, ie
2.5 million persons.
This draws our attention to two important issues.
First, there are more accounts than adolescent people, which shows that perhaps there are
people who have two or more accounts on Facebook and secondly, that almost all teenagers have a
Facebook account.
Another explanation would be that although the minimum age at which a person can open a
Facebook account is 13 years, there isn`t a strict control of this. We found out that many children aged
up to 13, have one or more Facebook account, declaring a fictive birth date.
Another network, whose use is growing constantly in Romania, second in number of users, is
LinkedIn. The number of LinkedIn users is 1.5 million (Online, Social Media in Romania).
Although there is not a clear data on the number of accounts for those aged 18-24 (18 is the
minimum age limit for opening an account on LinkedIn), we believe that in the following years, or
even months there will be an increase in the number of accounts.
The reasons are obvious:
- Being a professional network it creates a more subtle opportunity of meeting the demand and
supply (companies can view account information more complex than a resume/CV, can easily select
the right people for a particular job, can draw some conclusions regarding the individual`s personality
and interests based on posts, feedback/likes, the content shared);
- Is a way for students / young graduates to be more easily noticed and chosen, they can follow
people and companies, can register for a job, can see aspects of organizational culture that they value
or they aim for a future job ;
- Is a resource for building virtual professional image (desired professional image wanted to be
transmitted / displayed).
Although we have analyzed, in particular, the benefits of one of these networks (LinkedIn), it
should be noted that, the concern for building virtual professional image must be a constant concern
for any individual / student, regardless of social media they use.
Many employers practice social networks account analysis, for certain positions as a personnel
selection method. The analyze data posted on these accounts: pictures, popular/liked content,
comments made, accessed games so on. Based on this information, they shape the profile of the
candidates: their personality structure, their interests and concerns.
We advocate for the construction of personal images with discernment and responsibility.
People must become aware that once you post personal information in social media networks, it
becomes public and can provide others very important information about them.
Professional image is a defining element that shapes an individual’s reputation. It is part of the
personal brand and reflects appearance, behavior, the verbal and non-verbal communication used in
face-to-face, direct interactions but also in the virtual space- social media.
Professional image is part of the personal image and has a lot to do with public perceptions.
The goal is to create positive and enduring impressions in your first encounters and throughout
relationships. This is one of the goals of career counselling also – to assist an individual in building a
professional image and personal brand by committing to these principles and practices on a consistent,
daily basis.

1.2 Online counseling, a new way of career counseling


Career counseling is done traditionally, in the classical form of individual counseling, face-to-
face, to help students become aware of choice for a particular academic field and / or to a specific
career. Individual counseling aims to realize to what extent there is a compatibility with a particular
profession, applying many standardized instruments.
Although issues such as career decisions, career planning, exploration of individual
characteristics, personal marketing skills are formed effectively by traditional modalities (individual
counselling and group counselling), the number of people who use such services is quite little.
Also, many people feel better in a familiar environment (home, office) than in a forced /
outside environment (counsellor’s cabinet). Many people want a more pragmatic perspective on career
counselling, not a simple discussion but, doing, exploring and practicing the career option.
All these changes require new adaptations of career counselling services. In this respect we
promote the idea of using modern ways making career counseling.
These modern methods of career counseling can be categorized in: ways that involve
preparation for contacts with the labor market (courses, workshops), methods involving direct contact
with the labor market (visits, fairs jobs, volunteering, training - practice, apprenticeship, internship)
and other methods such as coaching, mentoring or computer assisted counseling.
For A.M.G. M. Schreuder and Coetzee (2006, p. 135) career counseling is "a service that
facilitates self-reflection and cognitive restructuring of the client and requires the development of
career competence, career maturity and career self-efficacy".
„Career counselling refers to the services and the activities designed to assist individuals,
regardless of age and at any point in their life to make educational, training or employment choices
and to achieve their own career management”(OECD, 2004, pg.10).
One of the interesting ways to use the Internet in career counseling is the posting of
information related to careers and jobs on various websites (including social media). Today,
universities, organizations, government agencies and even individuals, post on their site public
information on education and career.
The advantages of this method consist in continually updating data and links to other sources /
resources.
The disadvantages of using this method are related to the accuracy of the information and
standards of quality of some information.
In online counseling we must make a distinction between asynchronous online communication
and synchronous online communication (Gore Paul A.; Leitwerke, Wade C., 2008, online).
Asynchronous online communication refers mainly in using email and blogs for counseling.
The advantage of this online counseling is the possibility to return, the edits that can be made on the
material and the therapeutic effects of writing itself.
Asynchronous communication challenges and limitations lies in issues such as client
confidentiality (its identity can be easily located), lack of nonverbal aspects of communication,
delayed response in some cases.
Synchronous online communication is based on the use of videoconferencing, chat or phone
connected to the Internet. The main advantage is that answer is provided immediately by the counselor
and disadvantages cover issues such as limited access to high speed Internet, the security of systems or
malfunction, expensive equipment, limited visual field. However, videoconferencing is approaching
the traditional way of individual counseling because it is done face to face. A comparative research
even reached the conclusion that career counseling services using the phone connected to the Internet
or videoconference have positive effects, equivalent to the traditional way of individual counseling
(Gore Paul A .; Leitwerke, Wade C., 2008 online ).
Most specialists (Watts, 1996; Wiston, 2003) recommend using this method of counseling as a
starting point or in addition to traditional counseling services.
However, the large number of visits of sites offering career guidance and counseling indicates
that individuals often prefer direct online access to the detriment of a speaking with a counselor.
Therefore, the greatest challenge of the coming years is to increase the quality of counseling services
offered online so as to produce results comparable to traditional counseling methods.

II. CHAPTER II
2.1 The need for career counseling services in students` opinion
Career counseling services offered to students are very important for them.
In October 2014 we conducted a research, applied to graduate student of the Bucharest
University of Economic Studies, in which we wanted to find out the opinions of students about: career
counseling service benefits, types and forms of counseling appreciated. We used survey method based
on questionnaire, which we applied directly to a number of 230 graduate students from faculties:
Management, International Business and Accounting and Information Systems Management.
Counseling and guidance is perceived by the surveyed students, as an activity that benefits
them, helps them, in particular, to know themselves better, to be more motivated for the professional
activity, to communicate better (78% of the responses). Counseling and guidance activities develop
students` capabilities such as: job search, career planning and design, identification of occupational
alternatives (72% of responses).
The vast majority of those surveyed say that for a good insertion in the labor market, they
need information counseling in the field of career (83%) and individual counseling (70%).
Guidance and counseling services, rated by the respondents as necessary for their insertion in
the labor market are particularly the next: testing skills and professional interests, gaining knowledge
and learning about personal marketing elements (techniques of drawing the "Letter of Intent" and
„Curriculum vitae", presentation at a job interview), testing using instruments of personality
exploration.
On the method preferred in providing counseling services, the students surveyed consider that
the most useful counseling is the individual one, but realize its limitations in terms of time. They also
remark the lack of competent people that can offer these services at the university. They say that the
online counseling alternative is one that must be developed in the future.

2.2 Good practices in career counseling services offered to students


Taking in consideration the above theoretical and research data, we have developed a set of
activities of career counseling for students that combines direct, face to face counseling, with the on-
line counseling and which aims to build a professional image that includes the virtual image
component.
Face to face and online counseling activities have been carried out with a group of 30 students
of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. The results recorded can be considered a model of
good practice in the field of career counseling.
Counseling services were offered in several stages as follows:
- Organizing group sessions that were debated topics such as: career management, effective
communication, personal effectiveness, personal branding (public, professional image, CV, cover
letter);
- Individual Counseling: testing skills, attitudes and interests of students, biography analysis,
analysis of CVs, cover letters, so on.;
- On-line counseling: providing feedback on-line (e-mail) on the achievement of personal
resume, letters of intent, the student’s virtual image analysis (analysis of accounts on social networks
of students).
All these services have focused on students` counseling for a better professional insertion in
the labor market, on identifying compatibility between what the student is and how it can enhance his
or her potential in the personal and professional life.

III. CONCLUSIONS
In the end, we want to highlight some possible future actions in the field of counseling that
combines traditional counseling methods with modern methods (virtual, online counseling):
- The development of courses and workshops for students (about: adapting to student life,
knowledge of educational opportunities offered on campus, writing a resume, making a career plan)
with a Power Point Presentation support that can be distributed online;
- Offering various counseling services: individual or group activities on career topics
suggested by students, and posting on the social media university/organization account of interesting
topics of discussion;
- Occasional group activities offered by teachers or invited experts, conferences ,
transmitted also online;
- Individual counseling of students, and periodic mail feedback;
- Delivering responsibility to teachers to act as a coach/mentor and developing blogs with
life experiences and lessons learnt.
As a conclusion and recommendation we would like to state that counseling services offered
to students must be developed and adapted to the necessities and contemporary life.

Reference Text and Citations


[1] Coetzee, M.; Roythorne-Jacobs, H., 2007. Career counselling and guidance in the workplace: a manual for career
practitioners. Cape Town: Juta&Co. Ltd., 2007
[2] Gore, Paul A.; Leitwerke, Wade C., 2008. Computer-Assisted Career Counseling. În Encyclopedia of Counseling.
2008. SAGE Publications. Online: [http://www.sage-ereference.com/counseling/Article_n521.html] 7 Apr. 2010.
[3] Sultana, R.G., Watts, A.G., Octomber, 2005. Career guidance in Europe's public employment services. European
Commission
[4] Xxx, D. Online: [http://www.facebrands.ro/demografice.html#evolutie]
[5] Xxx, O. Online: [http://www.slideshare.net/manafu/online-landscape-in-southeast-europe]
[6] Xxx, S. Online: [http://www.manafu.ro/2014/10/social-media-in-romania-octombrie-2014]