Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #389; Theme: Improvement


Improvement (is an Inside Job):  In Acrostic

It starts with the self
Minimalism and mindfulness
Productivity over busyness
Recursive reading
Occupational happiness
Variety of experiences
Eat well, pray often, love the one you’re with
Making time, taking time
Endless intellectual curiosity
Not afraid to say no
Thank you, please, and I’m sorry


Feature Story Ideas for a College Newspaper


I’ve been the Features Editor for a couple of months now at my local community college newspaper, and what I love about the Features section is that those stories don’t have a hard expiration date.  This suits me, as a mostly fiction writer.

Though some might struggle to come up with ideas for stories, I’ve found that keeping my ears open, staying up-to-date on the school’s home page, and getting involved in extracurricular activities is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Journalism isn’t just for writers, but also for graphic designers and marketers.  Every journalism student should be on the staff, because it will help you build your portfolio.  You’re not just doing assignments for a grade, but you’re producing a product that hopefully, people will read.  A degree means you did the work, but a portfolio shows potential employers what you can do.

If you still struggle with generating ideas, here are many that will help you get started and will hopefully lead you to coming up with your own:

1. Student Success Tips (10 long tips or 20 short tips; humor is always good).  Some editors prefer listicles, others, articles.

2. Volunteer column. You might find a contact through one of the clubs on campus because students who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to donate their time. (http://www.volunteermatch.org/).

3. Easy ways to donate to charity (i.e. Amazon Smile) or corporations and companies that help students in the community or contribute to causes students care about.

4. Living Well (not limited to physical, but also financial, occupational, etc.) or Green Living (as there are many small things we can do to help the environment, or at least not contribute to destroying it).

5. Stories on student veterans, student parents, student married couples, international students, etc.  Everyone has a story.

6. Great jobs for students (with at least 3-5 quotes of working students on how they work-life-school balance).

7. Second generation PSC students (third would be even better); this would make a great in-depth story; it would also be interesting if mom and son, or father and daughter shared some of the same professors.

8. Helpful websites, TED talks, books available in the campus library, etc.

9. 10 Awesome Perks of Starting a Blog (I see a blog as an online portfolio, though I’m not sure many employers would agree).  Another tack would be on what students (especially those in the STEM fields) use as their creative outlet.

10. Health Benefits of Coffee.  (They do exist.)

11. Stress-reduction techniques.

12. Ramen noodle recipes.  (Must be cheap and creative.)

13. Student discounts and deals.

14. What I learned from _____ class.  (5-10 takeaways.)

15. Student success stories.  (Profiles on students who’ve been published outside of the college’s publications, who’ve won awards, or been recognized in some way by the local community.)

16. Scholarship and writing tips.

17. How to choose a major.

18. Variety of ways to use a liberal arts degree, a health information technology degree, etc.

19. Best electives to take.

20. Anatomy of a Resume.  (You might be able to make this humorous, but still be informative on what makes a great resume.)

21. Internships.  (This type of information is helpful to students who want to solidify their soft skills, have experience to put on their resume, and get letters of recommendation.)

22. The Federal Work-Study Program.  (Profile those who are participating, ask them what they’ve learned, and what advice they’d give to students seeking a position.)

23. Club Profiles.  (Go to a meeting and get 3-5 quotes from students.  Hopefully, club projects extend beyond the borders of the campus.)

24. How-To Article.  (How to extreme coupon, how to invest $10 a week, how to become a minimalist, etc.)

What’s more, feel free to check out other college newspapers online.  We learn more when we learn from one another.  Just always remember to “localize” the story.  If there’s something going on in town, find a student who is going or who is involved in some way.  Make it pertinent to the students.  Make it matter to them.

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)


Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.


One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)


I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.


Sarah Lea



Book Review: Black Beauty


I’d read this book almost a decade ago, and it made an impression on me, for it gave a voice to those who could not communicate in a way we could understand. Black Beauty isn’t a novel with a plot, but a series of vignettes—a timeline of one horse’s life.  Rather than The Five People You Meet in Heaven, it’s the multitude of people one horse meets on Earth who pass through his life, and how each person (or animal) illuminated Beauty’s understanding of the world.

The first time I read Black Beauty, I had expectations of something other than what I read—something more along the lines of National Velvet.  However, upon recursive reading, I saw that Beauty was Every Horse—a creature who makes friends with most of those he meets, for he has a servant’s heart, and is almost a Christ-like figure in his willingness to bear upon him the sins of men (and flightiness of women), complete with stripes from a whip, and the white star on his head, as if he was touched by the finger of God.  However, I saw Beauty like an innocent child who is shuttled to a series of foster homes, giving me a feeling of nomadic insecurity.

Sewell weaves a Christian narrative in a way that shows that what is good for God is also good for horses and humans: “If workingmen don’t stick to their Sunday…they’ll soon have none left.” (Loc 1612). Humans, like animals, are often valued for their productivity, rather than the value God has placed on them, “For ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 16:20).  To have a day of rest actually increases productivity.  Sewell’s “spirit sense” has universal appeal in that even though it comes across as didactic at times, it does so in a way that employs common sense rather than religious dogma (i.e. “The Golden Rule” vs. “The Ten Commandments”): “There is no religion without love, and people talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham…” (Loc 582).

If one is expecting an exciting horse story, this isn’t the one; War Horse is closer to that.  What I loved more about Black Beauty is that the horses have verbal communication between themselves (something not in War Horse).  We’re not just privy to Beauty’s lots, but those of his friends and handlers; the story of Ginger, who considers Beauty her only friend, is one that would touch any animal lover.

Black Beauty highlights how what happens to humans can affect a horse’s life, for inasmuch as a horse may be considered part of the family, they are still property. Anna Sewell did a wonderful thing when she wrote this, and for that alone, it should get five stars; each little chapter reveals a simple truth, put plainly.  The book doesn’t contain many literary elements such as metaphor or foreshadowing, but it’s a charm bracelet with a clasp connecting Beauty’s life.  The anthropomorphism device and the spare writing style puts the reader in Beauty’s horseshoes in startling verisimilitude.

The brightest moment of the text for me was (next to the ending)—just as in “War Horse”—that wonderful familiarity when someone from our past who was kind to us, crosses our paths through happenstance.

A few of my favorite quotes from the texts are, as follows:

  • Ignorance is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness (Loc 806). Sewell speaks through her characters when she says that humankind is responsible for their own ignorance.
  • A real gentleman has got “time and thought for the comfort of a poor cabman and a little girl” (Loc 1696). That goes for ladies, too.
  • “…but he is blind as to what the workingmen want; I could not in my conscience send him up to make the laws” (Loc 1829). This resonates today, because of all the elites in Washington who don’t seem to have stake in the laws they pass. Moreover, the working class is also given a voice in this book (horses being a part of that station).

Black Beauty left such a mark on me that the end result of this inspiring story was my research paper—the best work I’ve written for a college course thus far: “Divine Equestrian: The Beauties and Beasts of Burden”.  One of my friends, who is a lover of horses (I, being more of a beach babe, have always admired these glorious animals from a distance), requested a copy and wrote this wonderful Christmas message (as I sent out stories, poems, and recipes in lieu of throwaway cards someone else wrote this holiday) on my timeline:  That was the most inspiring thing I’ve read about horses, ever. Yes, they are majestic, divine creatures who speak directly to your heart. Thank you for sharing your beautifully written paper with me…



Book Review: The Headmaster’s Darlings


Had I not listened to the author speak at my college, I probably would’ve never picked up this book.  Books about teachers who live to teach (what I call “vocational novels”) aren’t generally my thing, simply because I learn a little something from every teacher (good and bad, but never online), rather than a lot from one.  I prefer books about relationships, be they friendships, love stories, etc.  All of the relationships in this book are superficial, at best, nonexistent, at worst.

Before I continue, I will say that Ms. Clark’s “book talk” was fantastic.  The way she described her childhood home of Mountain Brook, Alabama, painted an intriguing picture; I was also riveted with the second part of her talk on her friendship with Pat Conroy (author of “The Prince of Tides”).  Though I’m the type of person who is impressed with credentials (Ms. Clark graduated from Harvard and has a Ph.D), I will say I’ve never found that the more academic or educated one is, the better writer they are; Ms. Clark is no exception.  Creativity and imagination can be nurtured, but I don’t believe they can be taught.

Though Ms. Clark is an engaging speaker, and this book is based on what she knew—real life high school teacher, Martin Hames, who changed her life (though I’m not quite sure how, judging from this book) and was, literally, larger than life (i.e. not fun-sized)—it stirred absolutely no emotion in me.  I did not care about any of the characters, including the one I was supposed to care for.

In her talk, Ms. Clark mentioned how it was important that even heroes have their flaws, but there was one thing Norman Laney (i.e. Martin Hames) was a party to that I found reprehensible (75).  Laney never seemed to care about helping his students grow as human beings, but only getting them into an Ivy League school (219).  That’s impressive, but there’s a whole big world out there that isn’t concentrated in the Northeast.  Rather than help students find the college/university that would be a good fit for them, his “one-size-fits-all” solution was to push them into the Ivy League.  I never saw him guiding his students to pursue their passions or help them choose a major.

I remember at the talk, when Ms. Clark was talking about Mountain Brook being an elitist bubble, one of the ladies spoke up and said, “Kinda interesting you went from set of elites to another?” (referring to Harvard).  I could tell Ms. Clark didn’t like that very much, but the woman was right:  the “Hah-vahd” types may promote diversity of race, gender, etc., but not diversity of thought (Christianity or conservatism, I imagine, isn’t very popular there).  I can read an author by his/her book, and it is clear that this author has a disdain for the blue-collar worker—those who don’t get a prestigious education and who prefer to work with their hands in a non-artsy way.

One interesting analysis occurs with the “dull” Midwestern doctor who tells Laney “…the South clings to the worst things about itself simply because it’s afraid it will lose what makes it unique if it changes” (222).  I can see this translated to food; the South is knowing for frying everything edible in existence, and our region, in particular, is weighed down with an obesity epidemic.  One of the missionaries I knew who served here (she was from British Columbia) gained 15 pounds while on her mission.

This book had so many different characters flitting in and out, I felt they were mere names in an obituary, for all I got to know any of them.  I think this would have been a stronger book had the author focused on one (perhaps herself in character form), or just a few students, whose lives were transformed by this particular teacher.  I believe it would’ve been even better had it been told with the immediacy of the first-person point-of-view (even if it was told through several viewpoints).  Moreover, the reader is never privy to Mr. Laney’s classroom lectures, but, I suppose, like plays, the real action happens behind the scenes (or, in this case, in his office).

If I was Martin Hames, I wouldn’t have appreciated this shady portrayal.  There was a bizarre chapter where he suffers from paranoia, thinking people believe he’s a pedophile (162), which was never mentioned before, and it’s never mentioned again, by him or anyone else.  Because of his morbid obesity, he is stereotyped as having no sexual feelings, because what would be the use?  (Lots of obese individuals still get married and have families—they’re just like anyone else, except bigger.)  I can understand his size making it extremely hard to get a date, but to never struggle with such feelings at all made him seem less realistic.

The “shrugging of shoulders”, “nodding of heads”, and “hung up the phone” were annoying.  He shrugged/she nodded/he hung up is sufficient.  The phrase “allowed for a pregnant pause to gestate (105) I thought an odd choice of words, though I understood the play-on nature of them.  I think many well-placed metaphors might have improved the book.  We see, we hear, but we don’t touch, taste, or smell.  Overall, the book was well-written, but it lacked any kind of warmth, levity, or humanness.  Though I did finish it, it was a task, because I was craving to feel something; I’ve read nonfiction books about business that have evoked more feeling in me than this book.  I don’t like to write a negative review about a local author, but it did win a Southern fiction award, so what do I know?  I simply know how the book made me feel (or didn’t feel); though I’d checked out her other Mountain Brook novels, I traded them in for something else.  I’d had enough of the secular deification of Norman Laney.  He just wasn’t all that inspiring to me, but I guess I had to have been there.

Ms. Clark was quite vocal about her upbringing, but her portrayal of Mountain Brook seemed very one-dimensional.  It strained my credibility to believe that “Brookies” thought everyone from New York was a Jew—never Irish, never Italian, but always Jewish.  That type of ignorance in the eighties (and yes, even in the Deep South) was hard for me to believe, though she lived there, I did not.

What rubbed me the wrong way about Norman Laney was referring to someone as a barbarian because they liked to hunt, fish, and watch Alabama football (and I say this as someone who hates spectator sports) is an elitist attitude.  One could say people who enjoy such things are uncultured, yes, but not a barbarian, however polite (130).  If there weren’t farmers, Norman wouldn’t eat.  Moreover, he talks about how this certain barbarian would never once go to Europe (lots of people can’t afford it), and they’re not going to fill their homes with fine art when they need that money to feed their families.

Part of society’s problem (in my opinion) is when we squirrel ourselves away in academia too long, we lose our spirituality (I’m not talking about religion, but just communing with nature).  “You’ll never catch me gazing at mountains or wildflowers…I want to see paintings and sculptures!  Don’t give me what God can do.  I want to see what man can do,” quoth Laney (124).  How unfortunate that someone would prefer to see a painting of a flower than a real one, but maybe, this is one of those character flaws the author was talking about.  Perhaps it is in this way that Laney is a bit hedonistic, as he is in his eating habits.  A piece of fine art goes up in value, whereas flowers die, so perhaps this was his thinking.  It was interesting how Laney made his glorious fat work for him, but for him to think that his outward appearance was what made him special was sad.  He was a one-man body-acceptance slow movement (131), though he did choose to get bariatric surgery in the end.  Laney was the type of academic who was only focused on his mind, and not his body, but if the body dies, the mind dies with it.

I know it sounds like I hated this book, but there were a few gems, such as Laney’s philosophy that Arts and Culture were integral to personal growth, even if one was majoring in one of the STEM fields (though the term STEM wasn’t used), or going to MIT.  “…his long-held belief that those who lived for Art and Culture had the greatest chance of fulfilling the best part of themselves” (74), as reading and writing strengthen empathy and critical thinking skills.

There was also an interesting quote at the bottom of page 97 I thought quite profound (about the interconnectedness of all things).  I won’t cite it, but if you ever come across the book, look it up.

One of the best quotes of the book was by one of the female colleagues of Laney’s: “…the need for future mothers to have an education worthy of their most important task of raising the world’s children” (141).  A well-rounded education is good for all moms—whether stay-at-home or working-outside-the-home.  Even Latter-day Saints are big on higher education for both genders, per their belief that “the glory of God is intelligence”.

One of the worst (three) parts of the book is when, towards the end, Laney starts spouting spurious, uncontested claims about Ronald Reagan having Alzheimer’s while in office.  My take:  the author wanted to get her dig in by “speaking through her character”.  These were the final sour notes in the book, and added nothing to the story.  The ending didn’t pack a punch, and seemed a bit rushed, after such laborious reading.

Though this was definitely a comedy of manners, there wasn’t much funny about it.

Collegiate Blue is the Warmest Colour


This was my second year in community college.  I’ve learned as much about myself as I did about MLA formatting, medical coding, and how to write captions and headlines.  Life often works in mysterious ways, for I went back to school to specifically learn how to become a medical biller and coder, only to find that I don’t anymore.  The semester I couldn’t get into any classes in my major but one, I took a creative writing elective so I would still qualify as a part-time student.  That semester, I won a couple of writing awards, and began to wonder if I could bridge my career path with my passion.  When a friend of mine got a job at a hospital writing press releases and health writing campaigns, I knew it could be done.

This past semester, I interned at a hospital and that is when I discovered that coding wasn’t for me, and not because I did poorly (I made a 90% in Beginning Coding).  I just had to take something I wanted to know I didn’t want it anymore.  That said, I still have two more coding classes to go, which I consider to be “paying my dues”, for everyone has to take a class or two they don’t particularly like.

My dream is still working in a cold hospital rather than a hot kitchen, so my question to myself was, “Where do I go from here when I am two-thirds deep into my degree?”  I don’t want to be a professional college student, I want a career while I take one class every semester while building my career until I get my Masters in English and Communications, for it will be my medical degree that will pay for the other.

When I confided in my instructor about my feelings and she told me there were a multitude of jobs I could do with an HIT degree—that I wasn’t limited to coding—I felt like I’d released a breath I hadn’t known I’d been holding.  Because the one hospital I hoped to be able to work for someday had fired all their coders and contracted them out remotely, I wanted to do something else in the healthcare field; I still wanted to work in administration, because I cannot stand the sight of blood (not even my own).  How glad I am that I chose to get a well-rounded degree I could build on to rather than a college diploma, where I would be stuck doing one thing.  The only thing I’ve ever known I wanted to be is a writer, and I’m still discovering, at the age of an old millennial, what I want to be as I continue to grow (being grown up already).  I remember someone told me once, “It’s never too late to redefine yourself.”  He was right.

When I got a scholarship for my articles written for the student newspaper, I realized I’ve made a fair amount of money from my writing this year, whether through scholarships or submissions.  I say I went back to school to find myself, only to lose myself in it, so that I could find my new self.  I don’t know exactly what I want to do with this degree, but I know what I don’t want to do, and I know where to look for the career I want.  My ENC1102 professor told me that’s what makes a person educated—not that they know the answer to everything, but they know where to find the answer.

There’s a line from an old movie about married women being like a solved crossword puzzle, but that isn’t true; I’m still solving my own clues, because we’re human beings, subject to change—yesterday, today, and forever.  And yet, perhaps I haven’t changed at all—I’m simply discovering that I am more than what I thought I was.

Self-Help: Auditioning for the Job Before You Apply


Social media, like anything, when used in the right way, can be a great tool for laying the foundation for a future job, for making connections that might come in handy after earning a degree.  Using a LinkedIn account to post a resume (and keep it updated) and upload papers written for school is a great way to start; posting scholarship essays, sharing interesting articles about subjects that would be taught at a University, and networking with those in the field one has majored in elevates a person’s status and visibility.  Connecting with someone first through LinkedIn is also a great way for introverts to break the ice.

That said, it is important to keep one’s profile professional, so here are 20 tips for getting the most out of an account:

1. Using a professional headshot.  No full-body poses.  People are less likely to add someone as a connection if they cannot see their face.  Same principle applies as to why would a person invite someone into their house if they were wearing a mask?  The headshot is not the place to get artsy (i.e. no black-and-white photographs or pictures with “props”, such as cigarettes or sunglasses).

2. Using their actual name.  No Twitter handles or blog names.

3. Customizing their public profile URL.  It’s the difference between myblog.wordpress.com vs. myblog.com.  Less is more (i.e. like how much more appetizing a food seems when it doesn’t come with a list of all those hard-to-pronounce ingredients.)

4. Including as much information about themselves as possible.  Just as employers don’t like to see gaps in an application, a future employer might find a spare profile a red flag.  However, never post addresses or telephone numbers, for safety reasons.

5. Adding a background photo to personalize their page and make it stand out.  Never use a photo with writing on it, just as one should never wear a T-shirt with a message on it to a job interview.

6. Posting only professional content.  Nonfiction book reviews, articles or links to articles on writing, public speaking, education, business, finance, medicine, design, and any of the STEM fields, are some of the kinds of topics LinkedIn Pulse is looking for.

7. If a blog is set to auto-post to LinkedIn, making sure the article is appropriate for the audience.  Recipes and articles on parenting are generally no-nos, but articles on drafting a resume or tips on dressing for success are typically better received.

8. Being timely with posts.  According to LinkedIn, weekdays during business hours are the best time to post.  (Specifically, Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.)

9. Leaving issues like politics, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc., off of LinkedIn.  That is what Facebook or Twitter is for.  Discussion of current events are at one’s discretion.

10. Upon receiving an endorsement, returning the favor or sending a thank you note via private message.  Always acknowledge an endorsement.  Follow the rule of reciprocity, but be sincere.  (Don’t endorse just to get an endorsement.  Also, always respond to comments, and seek to read what they have written and comment on theirs, as well.  This is one of the easiest ways to build a connection.

11. Always screening one’s profile before adding as a connection, as it is much more awkward to accept, and then reject, than to never accept at all.

12. If planning on meeting a connection in person, always meeting during the daylight hours in a very public place.

13. If selling make-up or insurance, not pitching the product or service except through one’s feed (a.k.a. “soft-selling”).  Do NOT sell via Private Message, and do NOT cobble together connections simply for the sake of selling them something.

14. Never using profanity anywhere, and, if disagreeing, always doing so tactfully by backing up a comment with a fact or personal experience.  Never get combative, and keep in mind that letting someone have the last word is not an acknowledgement of being wrong.

15. Scrolling past things one doesn’t like.  It’s not worth the argument.  If the person is inappropriate, it is entirely appropriate to quietly remove the bad connection.

16. Focus on skill sets, and not just previous employers.  Skills are portable, companies, not necessarily.  Be sure to add any certifications, publications, or volunteer experience.  The more one know, the more valuable they are to a future employer.

17. As for resume references, leave them “upon request”, because it is discourteous to publish one’s friend or colleague’s phone number on the Internet.

18. Join groups and follow companies of interest.  Everyone are in the business of selling, even if it’s only themselves.  After all, that’s what candidates do at job interviews.

19. Frequency matters.  Hiring managers are 10 times more likely to look at a profile from which something is posted weekly.  Also, 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn is better than 70 minutes in one day.  (Just like every day physical activity is better than one big workout.)

20. Article posters should write what they know.  If too much research is involved, they are probably not the one to write it.  Use links (when applicable), images, and tags in posts—the image brings a post to life (i.e. pulls in some eyeballs), and the tags help people find the post.  Don’t click-bait people with headlines, and don’t post an article that is nothing more than a link to a personal blog.  Just like on the telephone, people do not like being re-directed; doing this comes across as simply someone trying to drive traffic to their site.  Simply post the entire article on LinkedIn, as one would on their blog.  Posters can always add their blog address in a brief bio at the end of the article.  Also, focus more on being interesting rather than trying to “show-off” (i.e. using complicated jargon).  Posts should be no more than 600 words, which is recommended for blogs.  Listicles are also preferred over long paragraphs.  People like their information like they like their cake—bite-sized and easy to digest.

Think of LinkedIn as a formal cocktail party.  Act like a guest who wants to be invited back.  Generally, whatever is acceptable “watercooler talk” is acceptable on LinkedIn.  Though only 13% of Millennials use the social network, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use it to find candidates.  Finding a job, or even getting an interview isn’t just about resumes anymore, but also relationships, and LinkedIn is the web that connects these two worlds.  Use it.  It’s free.

*originally published in The Corsair (the Pensacola State College newspaper), Nov/Dec 2016 edition.