The Grammar Girl Returns

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Today is the day I start my Baccalaureate program as a Creative Writing major.  I was fortunate to be able to take two months off from work to read, write, and spend time with my family; I even got to catch up with friends.  I got back into the habit of strength training (as weightlifting doesn’t sound very feminine) and took up water aerobics; I’ve also focused on updating all my online presences (including my portfolio), professionalizing them for potential employers as well as uploading my resumes to all the usual suspects (e.g. Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.).  The university I am attending also provided invaluable feedback on my resume and cover letters.  

After refreshing my Upwork account, I was hired as an independent contractor to proofread documents submitted by Grammarly clients.  Even though I work from home, the job has a very Silicon Valley startup feel, which I love.  I am learning so much already; it’s a great gig.  Though there is nothing quite like being able to set your own hours, walk into the next room to go to work, and never answer a telephone, I will always be the type of person who has to have an outside job where I communicate face-to-face.  I’m a people person who also happens to be an introvert.

In addition to my jobs as an office assistant at uni and as a professional writing tutor, my plate will be full, but it will be full of things I enjoy, and that makes all the difference.  

Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022

She’d graduated a Titan
before The New Millennium,
watching her training grounds
as a gladiator
in the public school arena
disappear.
Loosely prepared
to become a Pirate,
she laid down
her educational armor,
only to pick it up again
with eyes wide open,
diving head first
into the land of magnolias,
with their spinach green leaves
& mascarpone white petals.
Now, well-prepared
to become an Argonaut,
her armor fortified
with precious mettle,
she dove once more,
under graying canopies
of Spanish moss.
As a Titan,
she had brought home
the bronze medallion;
as a Pirate,
the silver chest;
but as an Argonaut,
she would put upon herself
the Golden Fleece
& battle with her wits
that had no end.

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Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Blogging

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Blogging is a fantastic way to get the word (i.e. your work) out, but it’s easy to be torn between what you should put out there for free & what you should hold dear until it finds a home (because once it’s posted, it’s considered published, & you may never be able to submit it anywhere again). This guide should help: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/04/15-blogging-prompts/

Twitter, for the most part, is a colossal waste of time. With Twitter, there are too many expectations of reciprocity. You should be so productive creating new content, you don’t have time to reciprocate every like or respond to every comment or thank someone for every retweet; you need actual fans—not just those who follow to get a follow back. Thus, you need readers who aren’t also writers.

Goodreads is great for posting book reviews & connecting with other readers. However, not everyone who follows your blog has a Goodreads account, so post your best reviews on your blog. Get as much mileage as you can out of everything you write. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/06/book-review-the-girl-on-the-train/

Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, businessy articles/listicles that are largely forgettable. I rarely write articles specifically for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll either post it on LinkedIn Pulse or share it from my blog. There is no such thing as too much visibility. Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article on LinkedIn, & then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest. Rather, post a short bio, including a link to your blog, so that if people liked what they read, they might want to read something else you wrote. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-own-personal-minimalism-sarah-richards-1/?published=t

Seek out guest posting opportunities. Most of them don’t pay, but it’s extra exposure (which is helpful if your blog doesn’t have many followers). There are opportunities to write about writing, life hacks, & parenting. GetConnect Dad is a sweet site to start with, chock full of awesome content from moms & dads around the world. https://getconnectdad.com/write-with-us/

Instagram forces you to become a better photographer—to produce more original content. It’s bright, clean, & minimal—everything Twitter isn’t. https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/

If you’ve ever had any work published in print or online (other than your personal blog), create an online portfolio. A portfolio showcases not just what you know, but what you can do. https://sarahlearichards.journoportfolio.com/

 

For Writers: Time Wasted vs. Time Invested

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Finding the time to write requires figuring out, over time, what is a good investment of your time and what is not.  Here is what I have found:

  1. Trying to write for a publication or contest because it either pays well or the entry is free when you have no interest in the topic, theme, or publication itself, will take more time than writing two pieces you are passionate about for a publication you read.  For example, there was a national women’s magazine on which the short story topic was, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?”  When I saw the previous years’ winning entries–serving in Afghanistan and other equally courageous things–I thought, well, I got my wisdom teeth pulled without being put under.  Pass.
  2. Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, “businessy” articles/listicles as passionless as cooking without love, implementing lingo like analytics, logistics, and statistics (okay, sometimes stats can be sexy),  I don’t write articles for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll post it on LinkedIn Pulse.  Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article, and then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest.
  3. Keep virtual clutter to a minimum.  Delete bookmarks you will never use, e-mails you will never read again, etc.
  4. Don’t have more than one account on any social networking site.  I tried to have both an author Twitter account and a fictional character Twitter account.  A lot of time was spent signing in and out, and sometimes, I’d get the two crossed.  I had the character account for a year-and-a-half, and have been repurposing the tweets for my Fiction Fridays series, just as the micropoetry I used to write for Twitter daily ended up becoming my Micropoetry Monday series, so you could say my stint on Twitter helped me become a regular blogger (versus a sporadic one).
  5. Keep track of what you write.  I have a master list of pieces I’ve written (with keywords for easy look-up), and where I have submitted each.  I’ve written so much poetry, I’ve had to divide it up into “anthologies.”  (Submittable is good for keeping track, but not every publication uses it.)
  6. Plan for writing contests a year in advance.  That way you never miss a deadline and you’re always submitting quality work.
  7. Have a submission schedule for the publications you write for on a regular basis. You don’t want to overload a publication with submissions, because they might think you’re just using the “kitchen-sink theory” (throwing everything at them and seeing what they’ll take).  For example, the fifteenth of every month, I submit a poem to a certain publication I adore–one I’ve been published in before.
  8. Twitter is a colossal waste of time, though I still have all my blog posts auto-post, adding the hashtags separately.  There are too many expectations of reciprocity–you need true fans, not just those who follow to get a follow back.  You need readers who aren’t also writers.
  9. Be selective with what television programs you watch.  I only watch a couple a week, and maybe a couple of movies.  Every once in awhile, I’ll binge-watch a television show, but time watching TV is time not writing.  Don’t watch something because you’re bored; write something, for writing is doing.
  10. Read.  You need to read everyday (not just blog posts, even like this one), but the kind of slow reading that draws you in).  I’ve gotten into reading pieces on The Saturday Evening Post’s website.  I’m enjoying what I’m reading, and at the same time, getting a better idea of what they go for.

My 500th Blog Post: Why Blogging Rocks

When I look back at my earliest blog posts, I found myself editing some, deleting others (including reblogs–don’t waste your time on those, unless your blog or name is mentioned).  I wanted my 500th to be my true 500th.  It was quite a task going through all the old stuff.  I’ve learned so much about copy editing since then, and my writing has improved tremendously.

My blog used to be something I only posted on when inspired.  Now, it’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without fail–the other days, when I feel like it.  This self-imposed discipline has helped me become better at meeting deadlines.

I had written this piece about blogging, and why blogging is awesome, for a scholarship contest. I’ve won hundreds of dollars writing scholarship essays, and even when I don’t win, I have a nice piece to post on here or LinkedIn, or submit elsewhere.  Who doesn’t love recycling?

Blogging, for me, hasn’t just been about the product, but the process.  It’s given me great writing practice, and given me an additional creative outlet, because sharing what I write is part of the fun of writing.

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Virtually Living the Good Life,
in the Blogosphere

A blog, unlike a painting, is a multi-layered work of art
that cannot be seen all at once.
A blog, unlike a book, is ever-evolving and has no end.

With the advent of the Internet, words have more power today than they ever have before, for they can transmit in a matter of seconds to billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is a virtual pond, where the thoughts of anyone with an Internet connection can ripple forever. Like blood scrubbed with bleach, even when something has been deleted by the administrator, there are still traces of it. Once you’ve spilled your guts into a computer, it is never completely gone.

So be careful with your words—they might come back to haunt you someday.

Since I was a third-grader in Ms. Yvonne Cahoon’s class, I’ve been a writer. “I just love reading your journals,” she would say, and the spark was ignited. Those journals weren’t just logbooks, but how I felt about what I saw and heard. (I didn’t learn how important it was to include sensory details, like touch, taste, and smell, until much later). Those journals were my first taste of writing creative nonfiction. I started with what I knew, and then, as Mark Twain would say, “distorted the facts as I pleased.”

My blog, besides my child(ren) and the few whose lives I hope I touch, are part of the legacy I will leave when I depart from this world. I like to think that my descendants, a hundred years from now, will know so much more about me than I know about mine. Many of my words I will take with me, but the ones I’ve written and will write for the enjoyment, and, hopefully, the enlightenment of others, are the ones I will leave for my great-great-great granddaughter to read. I like to think even if my words don’t become famous in this life, perhaps they will posthumously (à la Emily Dickinson). I suppose that’s why I chose creative writing over journalism, for how many newspaper articles about local politics or blog posts about parenting endure like a poem or a piece of literature?

That said, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out, for with the ease of sharing, there is oversharing, as there are over 74 million blogs on WordPress alone. Though I cannot control how many people choose to follow, share, reblog (also known as the Holy Grail of blogging), or comment on my posts, I do have control over the quality of the content. I’ve found that the shorter the post (400-600 words is recommended), the more likely it is that someone will read the whole thing. (I suspect that’s why haikus are so popular.) We like our information bite-sized now. Think about it: We’ve gone from the cake slice, to the cupcake, and now the cake pop.

You will (usually) get more mileage out of a tercet (a 3-line poem) than a 500-word blog post; in short (pardon the pun), you will be able to make more with less (i.e. generate more readership).

Wednesdays are the only days in which I have to create new content, which frees up time for me to spend on writing pieces that may get published for pay. (Every April and November, I post my Writer’s Digest PAD, or Poem-a-Day, Prompt. This is when I get a bulk of my followers, but you will stretch yourself too thin if you try to post 365 days a year. Once a week is the minimum you should post.

My blogging journey started in October 2014, after I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Market.  I read that blogging should be a part of every author’s platform, and Sarah Lea Stories: A Flurry of Creativity, was born (which I’ve since renamed). I blogged about everyday life: marriage, motherhood, food, and many other things (none of which I am an expert, but rather just have an interest in), though a part of me felt why should I give it all away for free? Did followers really translate into sales, even though I had nothing tangible to sell, but would someday? (The only time I’ve ever bought a book from someone I knew was if they were a member of my local writers’ group. Other than that, my way of book shopping was browsing the bookshelves at one of the local bookstores, reading Amazon.com reviews, or listening to my friends about the books they’ve read, simply because anyone can publish a book now.)

So no, not for me, at least not right now.

That said, it got to a point where I struggled to find things to write about—not that I was running out of ideas, but I liked to save the really good stuff for professional (i.e. paying) publication, as once something is published online, even on your own blog (and even if you have only 100 followers), it’s considered published and you will likely never be able to submit it anywhere else. So, never publish anything online that you may find an adopted home for someday. I’ve written volumes of work I will never publish on my blog.

My advice: Never blog your book—you’ve worked too hard to give it away, and I have found that a book I haven’t paid for, but downloaded for free, is actually less likely to get read because I have so many books I paid for competing for my attention. Professionally self-publish before you ever blog your book. At least that way, you might have a chance at making a little money off of it.

Notwithstanding, you should still always post your best (but not necessarily your most ambitious) on your blog, and it should never be a dump site. When I write something (whether specifically or not) for my blog, it represents me, and it’s going to be polished to a fine patina.

Moreover, writing short on a daily basis has helped me add richness to my longer works, for what is a Great American Novel without great lines? With a blog, you see the results immediately, mostly via likes and maybe a follower or two (comments, apparently, take a great deal of effort because it requires you to actually read the article). With a novel, it might be months or years before you get feedback (much less published), besides the form letter that says it was great, but just wasn’t for them (which are the most maddening kind.)

Nevertheless, don’t let blog writing take too much time away from the writing that might make you money someday, unless you plan on making money from your blog. (I prefer the term “online column”.) Give your audience just enough to get to know you and your work (don’t just sell, but tell), because your blog will be one of your greatest assets when you publish that breakout novel.

~

Don’t think of blogging as giving away your hard work for free, but as investing a little time in yourself and your brand. There are fifteen great reasons to start blogging now!

1. It helps people get to know you better. If you are at present unknown, people are more likely to take a chance on buying your book if they feel they have a personal connection with you. Blogging is also a great way to advertise your product, but make the ad entertaining. Everyone loves a story, so use a story; you’re a writer, after all. Even Jesus got people to “buy” what He said using parables.

2. It gives you a voice, an outlet. Blogging isn’t a diary, but a narrative. No one sees the world quite like you do. As Edmund Wilson says, “No two persons ever read the same book.”

3. It satisfies our temptation for instant gratification. That’s one of the many reasons why we write—to connect with others.

4. It gives you writing practice.

5. It instills discipline with self-imposed deadlines.

6. It enhances your creativity. I’m not sure I ever would’ve stuck with the Writer’s Digest prompts if it hadn’t been for needing regular content. (I always include the link to the prompt, as it helps with search engine optimization.)

7. It’s free. (You don’t even have to pay for images.)

8. It can make you money. Attract enough followers, and this can happen to you.

9. It can get you speaking engagements. This is where many writers make a lot of their money.

10. It sharpens your observation, makes you become more aware. Everything, and everyone, has a story.

11. It helps you learn. You can learn as much by researching as you would by being taught.

12. Depending on the job description, it looks great on a resume.

13. It leaves a legacy. Like any distant star, there is a chance someone might land on it.

14. It replaces the dreaded Christmas letter. (This is if you post personal stuff on your blog, and some do, for friends and family.)

15. You get to know yourself better. Though writers often live inside their heads, they don’t always self-reflect, especially if they’re used to making things up. I’ve learned how to capture the ordinary, and make it extraordinary.

I’m still learning everyday how to become a better blogger, website designer, photo editor, and someday photographer.

Blogging, if done right, will not take a great deal of your time. What’s great about it is that you have complete control over your content and can even write ahead for it if you know you’re going to be short on time. (I did this during my summer medical internship, with months’ worth of Monday and Friday blog posts “in the can.”)

Blogging is a great way to unload some pent-up creativity—a way of shedding the excess, so you can focus on writing down the bones.

Doubling up: Maximizing your writing, and more

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So I am getting ready to start summer school–another semester of work-study, a class I don’t care about, and Intermediate Algebra, which is very scary indeed.  I made a D in it about 15 years ago, and I allowed my fear of failure–that I wasn’t smart enough to finish college–keep me from finishing.

Like Buddy Sorrell on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” who could make a joke out of any word (including “milk bath”), I can write a poem on the spot about any word, but algebra has always been the bane of my educational existence.

Except this time, I am so close, with only a handful of credits left before I can work as a copy writer somewhere in the medical field.

This time, I will have access to free, on-campus and virtual tutors.

This time, I will have a few hours a day at work to focus on this class I will never use again, but will help me get to wherever I am going–that place called Career Contentment. I don’t know where that is yet, for I am still following the map, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing when I get there.

 

My time is more limited than ever now, so I’ve decided to cut most of my weekend posting (I’d just had enough of dealing with self-inflicted “homework” first thing in the morning).  The one exception is a single #SundayInspiration Instagram post (see bottom) with what I hope will be considered “thinking outside the candy box” (https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/?hl=en).

I’d forgotten I even had an account until a recent Facebook friend followed me, and I thought, well, I do have one of those phones now, and I can take a shot of virtually the same thing (which will help establish my “theme”).  I’d tried Pinterest, but it’s more for consumers than creators, and I like the cleaner, sleeker look of Instagram.  Pinterest also seems like it’s more for crafters than writers or photographers.  Furthermore, Instagram seems much more personal, more real.  It has a freshness Pinterest does not.

 

Streamlining your writing process is a form of minimalism, and it can help you focus on the more important aspects of writing (like improving your craft and getting paid).  It’s good to have a social media presence (any publisher expects this if you’re unknown), but the thing that will get you noticed is submitting, submitting, and submitting [quality] work.

 

Instead, I will be posting two writing “workshops” (basically, writing tips) the first and third Mondays of the month, and two book reviews the second and fourth Mondays (as I will be dropping the Micropoetry Monday segments at the end of the year).  The latter will help me read more (as I’ve been reading poetry this semester, mostly), and the workshops are bits I post on my Facebook author page, so they’re already “baked in.”

This is one way of maximizing your writing.  To come up with brand new content for every social network isn’t worth it, because chances are, your friends, fans, and followers won’t catch your post on every network anyway, so it won’t seem like you’re repeating yourself.

One Instagram post a week is much more doable than six a week on Twitter–that’s too much time taken away from submitting.  LinkedIn is limited, because it’s what I call “businessy-boring.”  I rarely write a post specifically for the network but if something I write works on there as well as my blog, I’ll post the whole piece on there (as people hate being redirected to another site).

LinkedIn is basically Facebook-lite, complete with memes.  All too often, I see “connections” sharing someone else’s quotation.  Have an original thought in your head, for goodness sakes!  It doesn’t do anything for your brand, only the person’s you are quoting.  Though I haven’t been guilty of posting such things, I have been guilty of sharing them.

 

For me, it’s all about creating content.  The only new blog post I have to create is on Wednesdays–the Writer’s Digest poetry prompt.  Fridays are taken care of, because the posts are based on my novel, rewritten in verse form (which I’ve decided to make a separate, promotional chapbook out of called Mormons on the Beach).

I plan on spending the writing part of my weekends writing new work, editing existing work, and submitting to publications.  I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but then when I come home from work and school, my daughter’s just gotten off the bus and I only have about about three hours with her till it’s time for her to go to bed.  I need that time with her as much as she needs my attention.  If I didn’t have her, I’d be spending too much time clacking at my keyboard, my eyes glazed by the glow.

 

Social media has its place, but it should be used wisely and sparingly.  Though Twitter is the equivalent of a bathroom wall, it isn’t a complete waste of time, as one of my friends hooked up with a local philanthropist through it who self-published her book; I got a guest blogging gig.

As for WordPress, don’t waste time reblogging (people never return the favor), unless you’re reblogging your own guest post.  Don’t waste valuable real estate on your blog with someone else’s work.  Again, this is elevating their brand, not yours.

What’s more, it’s one thing to use stock photos on your blog (I balked for the longest time, but I’m just a fair photographer with a lousy camera), but photography is Instagram’s focus (pun intended).  Strive for authenticity.

 

The moral of this post:  Write, edit, and submit–that’s the real work.  That social media stuff is a hobby.  A blog is the best of both worlds–a hybrid, of sorts.  Someday, I hope it will make me money (either directly or indirectly), but in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

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

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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.)

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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.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

Self-Help: Auditioning for the Job Before You Apply

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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.

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