Stephanie Heckman

Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page

Twitter Tips: Seven steps to increasing your Twitter potential

In Branding, Career, Marketing, Social Media on March 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

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Twitter is an effective tool whether you are a representing a company, organization, cause, other person or yourself. However, it can be a time-suck if you don’t know how to use it effectively.

1. Know the basics

What do you plan to use Twitter for? Twitter is not a time waster if you use it wisely. You can use it to connect with people who have similar interests, network with professionals, keep up with news and industry trends and promote your brand, organization or even your own personal brand. Make sure your tagline includes important tidbits that reflect who you are and why you are on Twitter.

Finally, if this is a personal Twitter account, include a good picture of yourself. People are more likely to follow an actual person than someone hiding behind a picture of someone or something else. If it is for your organization, include a recognized logo.

2. Develop a plan.

Like any good marketer or publicist, you shouldn’t devote time to social media without developing a strategic plan first. Even if this is for your personal Twitter account, it makes sense to think of a general strategy. Consider what are the main topics you would like to tweet about. Try to stick to less than five main categories of interests and include these in your description.

Try to tweet every day or use HootSuite schedule your tweets. HootSuite can also be used to manage your Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media profiles. It’s a great tool if you manage many social media accounts for yourself or for clients.

3. Make everyone word count.

A mark of a great writer is one who can express herself in few words. If you are a communications professional, you should have great writing skills by now. Put them to work by writing Tweets that are concise, grammatically correct and meaningful. Find ways to get your point across in 140 characters. When you include links, use a URL shortener such as Bit.ly to make every character count.

4. Make effective use of #Hashtags

Try to include relevant hashtags in every post but #don’t #hashtag #every #single #word. See how annoying that is? Useful hashtags for the communications industry include basics like #PR, #PRSA, #SocialMedia and #PRjobs.

The documentary film and movement to change the representation of women and girls in the media, Miss Representation, created the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to call out sexist advertisements. That hashtag received many tweets during the Super Bowl and other large events. They’ve even created a #NotBuyingIt app for smart phones.

Another example is when animal shelters and rescue groups use hashtags like #AdoptDontShop. It’s easy to remember, cute and can be used to find homes for specific animals.

Consider “trending topics.” Many are silly but sometimes you can tie your cause, organization or company into a trending topic. If you are creative, you can use trending topics to gain more followers, many of whom might have never come across you.

5. Remember that Twitter is meant to be SOCIAL.

Always follow users back if they are not spammers and do seem to provide quality content. If you are representing a business or organizations, you should always follow other Twitter users to show. Your organization is not an exclusive club.

Develop relationships with others in the Twitter community. You cannot promote yourself or your organization if influencers do not follow you and retweet you. Who are influencers? They are the Twitter users who have a large amount of active followers that they can mobilize to action. If you want to develop a base of followers and have your content retweeted, you need these influencers to become your loyal supporters and advocates. If you are representing a nonprofit or a cause, make partnerships with relevant organizations or activists by retweeting them regularly.

Retweet any followers who are providing relevant information or interesting links and photos. While it makes sense to retweet users who are posting information about your product, service or organization; you always want to retweet those who are posting about anything relevant to your industry or cause. Even general interests stories and links may be quality retweets.

Ask questions. Answer others’ questions. This is a great and easy way to create interaction and build community. Thank others for when they retweet you. You need maker others feel appreciated.

6. Don’t forget about TweetChat!

If you don’t know what TweetChat is or haven’t used it yet, take advantage of it now. TweetChats are used to talk live with Twitter users from around the globe, about any particular topic of interest. It’s a great resource for many connections, finding followers and learning new information. Use Google to find a list of relevant TweetChats in your industry.

For public relations and marketing professionals, there are many relevant TweetChats such as #BlogChat every Sunday at 9 p.m.. Small Business Buzz (#Sbbuzz) is from 8 to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays. #JournChat is for journalists, publicists and other communications professionals and is held Mondays at 7 to 8 p.m. #PR20Chat is for PR professionals and is at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

7. Don’t use Twitter as a hard-sell.

No one gets on Twitter to be sold products or services. Yes, sometimes coupons or links to events are wanted. However, it makes you look like a spammer and many people will unfollow you if you never post other information. Instead, post links to newsworthy articles, whether it’s industry-relevant or a general news or human interest story that is trending. Retweet others’ content. Tweet pictures and videos. Even if you are representing a company or organization, show the human side. Let your personality and interests come through in your tweets.

For more social media tips, check out:

Friending, Tweeting, Pinning.

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Interview with a media professional: Ashanté Hill, filmmaker and video editor

In Career, College, Film, Interview with a media professional, Videography on March 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm

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Ashanté Shomari Hill is a 20-year-old filmmaker and video editor. He is currently a junior studying film, video art and Japanese at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He speaks to us today about promotional work, video editing, finding internships and following one’s passion.

Stephanie: Can you describe to us what you do for your job?

Ashanté: I go out and shoot the footage and I handle all the set equipment. Once that is done, I take it back to the computer lab and make the movie through computer software and that includes the soundtrack, the special effects and all of that.

Stephanie: Have you done any promotional work?

Ashanté: I haven’t done any promotional work yet but I am in the process of doing some with the women’s studies department at Ohio State University. Currently, I am doing a commercial that focuses on doing students what the major and minor are within the women’s studies department and what skills they can get from it and how it can benefit them intellectually.

Stephanie: Is promotional work something you would like to do in the future?

Ashanté: This is something I would definitely like to do in the future. It would be challenging. To do videos for other companies, it would require me to do research, to learn more about advertising, to think critically and learn how to best represent the message to get across to their audience.

Stephanie: Is this something you would like to formally study?

Ashanté: If I had time, I would definitely like to take courses in advertising and marketing. This is why I am currently taking a persuasion class, I would like to learn more about how advertising and marketing works and how to incorporate these theories into my promotional work.

Stephanie: Can you tell us about your major?

Ashanté: My major is in film studies which is the study of film history and film theory. But my concentration is in video production which can be the video production courses taken through the theater department. They focus on learning on to shoot video and edit video and on learning how to produce video, with the current standards of the equipment and software.

Stephanie: What is your favorite part of the film major?

Ashanté: There are not only film theory and film theory from an American perspective but you can also take film classes during other departments such as the German Department, French Department, East Asian Literature Department and even the Women’s Studies Department. My favorite part is to learn about it from different things opposed to having to learn film from one perceptive.

Stephanie: You are only a junior yet you’re already on your third internship. What would you recommend to other students to help them get on the right track?

Ashanté: I personally came into college thinking that I wanted to major in Japanese which is why I came to the Ohio State University in the first place. Upon taking these courses, I realized that it was something that I enjoyed but it was something that I was not passionate about. I think one of the things college teaches us is that it’s okay to be good at something but not passionate about something. And I think once you get to that point in your college career, you can actually focus on what you want to do. I definitely recommend getting to that point in your life as soon as possible. Then you can choose your major, choose your courses and start finding internships and networking to realize the professional goals that you have.

Stephanie: Would you recommend that people don’t go to college until then?

Ashanté: No, I recommend that I do go to college because higher learning gives a sense about what professional life is like; our courses will help us prepare for professional skills. Once you go to college and take courses in what you want to do, that is when you’ll realize if it’s something that you actually want to do. I don’t think it’s something you can know about unless you’ve tried it.

Stephanie: How did you find your internships?

Ashanté: I found my very first internship at age 18 through a program that was for underrepresented minorities. I got into this program and they helped me write up a resume and found me a job that pertained to my career goals. They found a job that pertained to experience I had, which is in graphic design. I found a job, which is as a graphic design intern.

After that internship ending, I did some research about local companies that had anything to do with art, film or videos. I came across the Wexner Center for the arts. I simply found their website and looked to see if they had any internships and they did so I applied and got accepted. Even though the internship that I actually got wasn’t the internship that I wanted to get into, it ended up being a lot more productive. I got to work personally a professional filmmaker.

From that internship, I actually found a flyer referencing an internship in digital media and it was actually accessible through the university’s website for internships and jobs. I didn’t even realize that the university had that website. I recommend college students find out if their university has a website like that because it’s very helpful and user friendly. I got that internship. My current internship is writing for a show called Writer’s Talk. This is a Youtube portion and a broadcasted talk show portion. We interview authors and bands that come to Columbus or OSU. My position is digital media assistant and what I do is that I go with them, I shoot the interviews then come back to the computer lab, edit the videos and we post them on the website. After that, we do an audio version for podcast broadcasting.

Stephanie: Can you tell me more about your internship from last summer?

Ashanté: For the Wexner Center, they did a community outreach program. They picked 10 artists between the ages of 16 and 21 and they brought them in for 2 weeks to each build a proposal in any way they could with the artistic skills that they have with professional architects who are building a youth project in the Wexner Center.

What I did is that I worked with their hired professional filmmaker and we shot the entire program, we interviewed the young artists, we interned the architects, we interviewed the entire staff. We put together a documentary covering the entire program. It turned out well. We got to have all the artists come back a few month later and they got to see the documentary as well as the head of the Wexner Center for the Arts, who is someone who is really interested in a youth perspective of the center that they planned on building.

Stephanie: What would you advise to people who want to follow your career path?

Ashanté: The first thing I advise is to see if you want to get a higher education or if you want to focus on gaining skills. If you want a higher education, don’t go to film school. It will only get you skills, not an education. Skills are something that you can learn without going to school. Nowadays, you can just hop on YouTube and learn about digital skills and what you may want to get into.

If you decide that school is not for, you need to start researching and saving to take up money to take classes in film and video editing at places like Adobe or Apple. Once you feel like you’ve gotten to the point where you feel like you can do video work, I would start applying to jobs and internships that pertain to your skills, as long as it’s something in your reach and doesn’t require more experience than you actually have.

If you decide that if you want to pursue a higher education, then you should take as many classes as you can manage. For the major, closest to your field. If you can’t find a major closest to your field at your school, then see if they have a personalized major where you can construct a plan that will help you move into your future profession. In addition to that, see if your school has any internships or part-time jobs pertaining to film or digital media. They may have a station or Youtube channel pertaining to students that you can use for your resume when you graduate.

Ashanté: I would like to add, for students, it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to major in or if you decide that what you do is not what you wanted to do. Because what you actually decide to do will be all the more rewarding.

Check out Ashante’s short film for the Wexner Center:

How to Dress for the Communications Industry

In Career, Marketing, Public Relations, Style on March 17, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Every wonder how to dress for PR, marketing or other communications field?

1. If you aren’t sure, just don’t go there.

Crenshaw Communications says that if you’re asking whether it’s “too big, too short or too shiny, it might be too much.” There’s many ways to express your personal style without seeming inappropriate, too bold or sexy. If you have any uncertainty, ask a friend or snap a picture of yourself. Sometimes, seeing a photo is all you need to erase any doubts.

PR Daily says to never become “that person” whose outfits are always the topic of workplace conversation. You want to be seen as stylish but always professional and never over-the-top with your outfits. Try expressing your personal style through subtle patterns or accessories, not through anything too bold or inappropriate.

2. Never doubt the power of cute flats.Image

Why cause yourself unnecessary pain? Find cute, comfortable flats that you can run all over town in. If you, like me, have small heels or feet, choose heel inserts to prevent chaffing. Heels might seem more professional but it won’t be cute when you’re feet are blistering or you are stumbling around the office. You might try keeping a pair of heels under your desk or changing into flats if you need to run work errands. On the opposite spectrum, you shouldn’t be wearing flip flops, casual sandals or Toms to work, in almost any workplace environment. A noted exception is Google or another extremely casual tech company.

3. Never doubt how amazing a blazer can make you look.

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Have you ever seen anyone look unprofessional in a blazer? A blazer can dress up anything: jeans, t-shirt, even a tank top. To get the most use out of a blazer, choose one that is not too tight in the shoulders, waist or hips and doesn’t pull when you stretch or move around. Pick a high-quality fabric that will work for any season. I have a basic grey blazer but I always own ones in cobalt blue, white and black stripes and other colors. It’s a great way to dress up any look or to add color to something monochromatic.

4. You can never go wrong with a dress.

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I have yet to see anyone look unprofessional in a well-made, nicely-cut dress. I prefer dresses with short sleeves or no sleeves, a natural waist and a slight flair. Dress it up with a skinny belt at the waist. I think a vintage cut always looks classy and flatters every body type. Black dresses are always in style but a beautiful color or quirky pattern work well in creative industries. Just make sure that it’s close to the knee and never low-cut or tight all over. Pair it with a quality pair of tights in the winter. If sleeveless, pair it with an appropriate cardigan or blazer.

5. Great button-ups are always necessary.

It doesn’t matter if it’s white, black, striped, polka dot, cotton or silky. Button-ups (or as some people say, button-downs) always look classy and professional. The one rule to remember is to choose shirts that are never too tight. If it pulls at the chest or waist, choose one size up, even it seems to big. A loose look is more trendy, but you can always tuck it in, belt it or tie it if it seems too loose. Never forget the power of a good tailor. While a classic white button-up should be in every closet, I like to spruce up with various colors and patterns. Pair your button-up shirt or blouse with a pencil skirt, slacks or even dark skinny jeans on a casual Friday.

6. Find a way to express your style, no matter your office’s image.

Personally, I love polka dots and floral prints. If I worked for a conservative office, I could still express my style by choosing a dress with a subtle floral print or pairing a conservative black dress with polka dot flats. There’s always a way to express your style without seeming inappropriate. Many consider jewelry or scarves to be an easy way to incorporate style into your work clothes.

7. If all else fails, throw on a cardigan.

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I’ve never understood why so many people don’t wear cardigans. They are comfortable, always weather-appropriate depending on the materials, affordable and an easy way to change your look. I have cardigans in red, white with black striping, navy, black and other colors. It may give you extra style cred if your cardigan is in a cute but appropriate pattern or a basic striped style. I think cardigans look great over dresses, button-ups, t-shirts and essentially anything.

8. Make sure you have a great pair of jeans.

Like PR Diva recommends, a great pair of jeans is part of the “publicist’s uniform.” It doesn’t necessarily matter how much you paid for them, although a more expensive part is likely to last longer. What does matter is that they are professional: no holes, no tears, no fading. Choose something that is style but not overtly trending, well-made, nicely fitted and dark wash. Pair it with a great shirt, blazer and flats.

9. Finally, if in doubt, throw on some red lipstick.

If paired with simple or minimal makeup, it’s impossible not to look both professional and glamorous in a coat of red lipstick. If you wear it every day, it might just become part of your personal style.

Five Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

In Blogging, Career, College, Journalism on March 13, 2013 at 3:46 am

How to be professional, create better content and attract readers

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Now’s the best time to start!

1. Take writing courses.

If you are serious about becoming a professional blogger or writer, take courses in journalism, public relations, business writing and creative writing. If you are not in college or have graduated, consider classes at the local community college. Many are very affordable and open to the community. Just one basic journalism or media writing course will substantially improve your writing.

If you are a current college student, consider adding a major or minor in journalism, PR, communications or professional writing. Although an English major or minor can also lead to great writing ability, it’s best to take courses that teach AP style and media writing techniques. It’s not enough for your only writing samples to be literary essays and poems. I don’t regret majoring in strategic communications.

Even for those not planning to work in PR or journalism, writing skills can be applied to any career. In fact, many professionals lack writing skills and clear communication. Use that to your advantage. Learning AP style is a must. Purchase the AP Stylebook and in the meantime, learn basic AP style through the Purdue Owl. Aside from blogging, it is helpful to practice writing news, feature, online and magazine articles.

2. Use Images, videos and links.

Images, like photos and infographics, add visual interest and attract attention. Humans are visual creatures. We love looking at photos, sharing funny memes and watching videos. Because many writers are natural readers, we forget that most other people are more visual-types. Memes and infographics are some of the most shared items on social media.

Videos are another way to add visual interest and draw in your readers’ attention. YouTube is one of the most popular websites worldwide. What’s the universal appeal? We seem to be both easily entertained and informed by short, user-friendly videos.

Links are great for many reasons. They establish the credibility of your blog, create access to more information and make your blog more likely to appear in search results. Research search engine optimization to make sure that others find your blog.

3. Use a simple format and clear style.

Write shorter, clearer sentences. Keep paragraphs short and single spaced; online readers are more likely than print readers to scan. Don’t use too many types of fonts or sizes. Finally, try to use an active voice and cut down on excessive adjectives and adverbs. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points or lists to help make online reading easier.

In regards to formatting, choose a template that is simple and clean. Black or dark fonts are easiest to read, particularly on a white background. White words on a black background or colors on a colorful background are much more difficult to read. Serif fonts such as Times News Roman or Courier are easier to read, while Sans Serif fonts like Arial are best for titles and headings.

4. Become part of the online community.

Consider sharing your blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, making use of appropriate hashtags. Retweet or share others’ great works on your favorite social media sites. Also, make sure to comment with useful information or even words of encourage on your favorite blogs’ posts. By being an active reader of relevant blogs, you will only benefit yourself and make others more likely to read your own blog. Do not simply comment to spam or try to trick people into reading your posts.

If you are an active participant on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other social media sites, make use of these networks to become involved in the online community. Twitter has a Tweetchat called #blogchat every Sunday night. By participating, you can learn more about blogging while also promoting your own efforts. Finally, if your blog posts are well-written, professional and related to your industry, consider posting a link to them under LinkedIn’s “publications” section.

5. Never stop reading!

The best writers are frequent readers. Read everything you can get your hands on. This includes: newspapers, magazines, online magazines, blogs, novels and nonfiction books. Read frequently in your industry and in your blog’s subject matter. To gain new ideas and to understand what readers want to follow, read blogs in your industry or topic every day.

Furthermore, reading general interest articles, news stories and articles on new topics will increase your knowledge and worldview while giving you interesting ideas. Follow a variety of media, industry publications and thought leaders on Twitter. Without exception, all good writers are avid readers. To not read frequently is to limit yourself professionally and intellectually.

Now get to blogging!

What Women Want in Life and Career

In Career, Multitasking, Public Relations, Women's Issues on March 12, 2013 at 5:35 am

Can we really have it all?

Rosie-the-Riveter

If Rosie the Riveter could do it, can we do it too?

Work and life balance seems to be a huge issue among modern women. LinkedIn recently published a blog post called “What Do Women Want? At Work, That Is. . .” The findings were released to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. The study found that two-thirds of women worldwide believe that finding work-life balance is the ticket to success. This is a marked difference from results 10 years ago in which women chose “salary,” “interesting job” and “responsibility” as their top choices.

Fortunately, 74% of women believe that they can “have it all” while 57% do not plan on sacrificing their career after becoming parents. The majority of women polled said that they would like a flexible work environment for the present or future, after having children. Only 14% of women did not feel it was necessary to have job flexibility. Fortunately for young women planning to enter the communications field, jobs can now be made more flexible through part-time telecommuting or even working from a coffee shop one day per week.

What’s changed? Some argue that perhaps the global economic crisis has inspired women (and men) to start prioritizing personal life and family over career. After all, career is certainly important but jobs can be lost at any time. Also, childcare is very expensive, particularly in large urban areas. Many couples want to cut back on the cost of childcare and dining out by working fewer hours. This also may be related to the emergence of urban gardening, crafting, sewing, knitting and cooking seen in many hip neighborhoods.

With my educational background in Strategic Communication and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, this topic is of particular interest to me. Do women experience less discrimination in public relations? Although most PR professionals are women, women in PR make less money on average and are less likely to fill upper-level positions.

By nature, PR professionals must be great at multitasking and stereotypically, women are also claimed to be great at this skill. However, public relations executive was recently named the seventh most stressful job – more stressful than journalism or working as a police officer! It makes sense that PR is so stressful: you must be constantly multitasking, planning, representing an entire organization, handling multiple jobs and preparing for crisis communications. It doesn’t seem easy to balance such a stressful job with family and personal life.

As a university senior and a young 20-something professional, I don’t have children, pets or other family obligations. My worries center around my classes, projects, essays, personal life, internship, commuting keeping my apartment clean and cooking healthy meals. College holds enough stress; however, I’m already planning for the days in the next decade or so when I will have to balance career, family and life.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced difficulty balancing your career and life? Did it become more difficult after marriage, children and other responsibilities? What advice do you offer to young women on this topic?

Friending, Tweeting, Pinning

In Branding, Marketing, Social Media on March 7, 2013 at 4:46 am

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What social media networking sites can benefit you?

Twitter
As the second most popular social media site in the world, Twitter is also one of the fastest growing. Twitter is an excellent social media site for any organization trying to reach an audience in their teens, twenties or thirties. It’s also a necessary tool for any communications student or young PR professional that wants to market their own brand. Twitter is a great tool for creating a personal brand or image if used effectively.

To make the most out of Twitter, choose an appropriate and memorable handle that your followers will remember. Tweet many links and photos, both of which are more likely to be retweeted. Choose a well-rounded selection of accounts to follow, including many news organizations, favorite brands, charities and other professionals.

Retweet any interesting tweets and make sure to thank your followers when they retweet you. Make use of Tweet Chats to connect with other followers and learn new information. What’s important is to remember that Twitter is a type of social media, so use the website fully to make connections, network and promote your brand.

Facebook

Facebook is an important social media site for practically any organization. With Facebook, you can post pictures and videos, link to articles, share updates, create public pages or private groups and ask for direct feedback from your audience.

Another benefit to Facebook is that it draws in a very wide demographic. As the most popular social media website, you can reach an audience ranging from teens to older adults of all ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders and interests. Unfortunately for organizations hoping to target a younger audience, Facebook seems to be losing some ground with young adults.

Post pictures. Regardless of whether they are funny memes, infographics or simply cute photos, pictures receive the most shares and likes on Facebook. It’s also helpful to include links. Instead of simply linking to your organization’s products and services, try linking to stories about current events, pop culture or anything else that your target audience may want to read about.

Make sure that all photos and links you share are noncontroversial and do not take a political stance. If you’re not representing an organization that lobbies or promotes a political cause, candidate or religion, don’t go there. Exceptions are promoting a noncontroversial cause or organization that seemingly everyone supports such as cancer awareness or disaster relief.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a great tool for many companies and organizations yet is surprisingly underused. If your target audience is women, ranging in age from teens to middle age, you need to start using this valuable resource. Pinterest is also worth using if you are a college student or young professional who hopes to enter the fashion, beauty, crafting or food industry.

On the other hand, if your target demographic is men, younger kids or older adults, Pinterest may not not the right social media site for you. You would be be better off focusing your energy elsewhere. Pinterest is also not right for companies or organizations that don’t have a visual product or service. Pinterest is great for showing off retail products or images with quick advice or facts.

To effectively use Pinterest requires the ability to select interesting photographs or infographics that link to a website with useful information. Don’t use Pinterest just to blatantly promote your brand. If you’re doing the social media for a fashion company, make sure to also pin images from other brands and include links to general interest fashion stories. No Pinterest user wants to be slapped with blatant advertising.

LinkedIn

If your company has more than ten employees, it needs a LinkedIn page. It can be used to recruit the best employees and to promote your organization. If you are a student or professional, you also should create a LinkedIn page. LinkedIn is where your personal branding begins.

To get the most out of LinkedIn as a student or young professional, you should aim to find at least fifty connections. This should not be difficult if you search for past coworkers, classmates and others that you meet at networking events. Include a brief summary that highlights your personal qualities, career or educational history and information that makes your stand out from others in your field. Make sure that your work history only includes relevant jobs and contains bullet points with useful descriptions.

LinkedIn has features that allow you to sections showcasing projects you have worked on, articles you have written, personal certifications, awards, course descriptions, interests and career highlights. Try to incorporate as much relevant information as you can onto your LinkedIn page. Consider it to be an extended version of your resume that includes portfolio work and a reflection of who you are as possible. Lastly, use LinkedIn to join professional groups and to follow companies that you may hope to work for in the future.

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