Expert Advice From Career Counselor Patrick Chidsey at the University of Washington

College students, self-learners and job seekers: Are you still searching for the right career? Do you want to know how to get the most out of the Web in your job hunt? Need advice on getting through the recession? Don't miss this interview with Patrick Chidsey, senior career counselor at the University of Washington (UW).

Patrick Chidsey from the University of Washington UW Career Center

Patrick Chidsey

Career Counseling in the 21st Century recently spoke with Patrick Chidsey, senior career counselor at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. Patrick landed a work-study job in the career center as a freshman at Western Washington University (WWU), and it was there that he got bit by the career counseling bug. Upon graduation, he spent several years as a career advisor for ITT Technical Institute in Bothell, Washington before moving to Corvallis to pursue a Master's of Education at Oregon State University (OSU), where he also worked as a career advisor. Patrick honed his skills at OSU, focusing his graduate studies on college student development, student affairs, career counseling and academic advising.

Patrick started working as a full-time career counselor at the UW in July, 2004, and has spent six great years there helping students. Looking back at almost 17 years in the business, Patrick reflects:

'Having started in this field in 1993, I've seen many things change (technology!), yet many things stay the same - networking as the best job search strategy, dedicated professionals working in career services, many proactive students seeking career and academic support and, unfortunately, many students not seeking support and just hoping things work out for the best.'

Read on to see what Patrick has to say about digital media, discovering your career and the most important tips for graduating seniors and incoming freshmen.

University of Washington Career Center Web 2.0 services have been heralded as the cutting edge of professional networking. Do you see social media as a 'game changer' for job-hunting students or simply as a new tool?

Patrick Chidsey: Social media is fascinating. New technologies and online venues are occupying the minds and time of so many people these days. I view Web 2.0 as people now having so many options to learn and connect at their fingertips, and it's exciting for many people. I want people to learn how to best utilize established and emerging online tools/venues (and handheld devices as well) primarily to then connect with people in person and via phone. Many job seekers and information-gathers spend too much time online and too much time using technology and forget to use proven methods of communicating and networking, like showing up in-person to socials, networking receptions and association meetings, using the phone and sending cards in the mail. In this era of everything NOW and FAST, I say go 'old-school' and do what most people are not doing. That being said - technology is incredible and convenient and empowering.

E-P: Your office once ran a very highly regarded blog. How did you get into blogging? What benefits did your office see from blogging?

PC: We started our career center blog in 2006, back when blogs started taking off more. I was spending time on music blogs and political blogs, then was encouraged by a grad student interning in our office to help launch a career blog for our center. I jumped into it head-first and helped build a blogging team and from 2006-2010 we added hundreds and hundreds of postings on a wide range of career and non-career related topics. People commented on the posts from around the U.S. and world. We enjoyed including links, YouTube videos, photos and our opinions, stories and words-of-wisdom. We felt the blog helped personalize our career center, inform students and alumni about career trends and the job market in a fairly dynamic way and provided staff a creative outlet and venue for expression.

E-P: What led you to switch to other forms of social media? What form has been the most effective for your office?

PC: Even though we had a lot of traffic to our blog and national and international attention on our blogging efforts, we decided to shift efforts to more fully focus on Facebook and Twitter as venues for connection, information sharing and marketing. This move also came from our reduced budget and staff, simply less people and time to keep our blog thriving. In a short amount of time we've gained 1,100+ fans of our center's Facebook page and 1,100+ followers of our Twitter page. Many students are commenting on our posts and videos and we find our current Facebook and Twitter strategy very encouraging.

E-P: Based on your observations, what form of social media has been the most effective for job-hunting students?

PC: LinkedIn and Twitter mostly. Job seekers that actively use Twitter can act fast when opportunities arise (i.e. mini links about jobs or networking opportunities posted within Tweets), and can connect with recruiters. Developing a complete profile on LinkedIn, joining interest and professional groups, and networking with recruiters and alumni via that platform can be highly effective. I've also seen some students find contacts and job offers via building their own blog and growing a blogging reputation, or contacting bloggers for ideas, referrals, information.

E-P: Many people go to college looking for their 'calling' in life. How do you help people find careers as well as jobs?

PC: I try to motivate and encourage students to explore classes to find a 'fit' in college; pursue campus jobs, volunteering and internships to explore the world-of-work and try options out; network with peers, faculty and alumni to gather information about options and to build contacts; use college career centers, academic advisers and student organizations for support, mentorship and resources. Most importantly, students should get to know themselves (strengths, interests, values, personality) well, take some risks and pursue interesting academic and career experiences, and realize that careers are built over time. Dream big, fine tune your job search materials and strategies, network online and in person, develop a great reputation with coworkers and friends, create back-up plans and have fun with life and work.

E-P: Of course, everybody's wondering: What is it like to be a career counselor in this economy? How is your office helping students adapt to the difficult job market?

PC: Working as a career counselor in a tough economy is quite interesting. The world-of-work is changing and the economy is dynamic, always making moves. Many students are anxious about the job market and about their options. Many job and internship seekers are frustrated and concerned about what's next for them. As a counselor, I meet every day with individuals and in groups with undergraduates, graduate students, alumni - all are asking tons of questions, pursuing a variety of opportunities to keep options open. It's sad for me to see people give up on a job search or let go of a dream. It's hard work, yet so important, to keep a positive attitude and maintain pro-activity during challenging times. It's a lot of fun, but tiring as well, working with a high volume of students and alumni as a counselor - I try to maintain balance and optimism by exercising, listening to music I love, leaving work at work and enjoying my non-work life, and by staying current with trends and opportunities by searching the Web and reading A LOT.

E-P: The end of the school year is approaching. College seniors are thinking about finding work, and high school seniors are thinking about starting college. What's your #1 piece of advice for graduating seniors getting ready to go into the job market?

PC: Search out 'hidden' job opportunities by utilizing your network and by contacting employers directly via phone, in person and via their website. Be patient, yet persistent.

E-P: What's your #1 piece of advice for incoming freshmen hoping to maximize their education?

PC: Here's several tidbits of advice for new students: Get involved on-campus. Get to know faculty, advisers and counselors. Build your skills, confidence and experience through jobs, service, internship, research. Network and build relationships with peers and mentors. Study what you enjoy most.

E-P: Finally, is there any information about the UW's career counseling office that you'd like to share with our readers?

Our office's core philosophy about people and about our work draws largely from Dependable Strengths. The director of our center, Susan Terry, and Associate Director of Counseling, Vic Snyder, are both dedicated board members for the Center for Dependable Strengths, a non-profit organization. I'm incredibly humbled to contribute to the DS movement.

Learn more about Dependable Strengths on their website.

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