We love presents!
As the bustle of Black Friday fades away — and the chaos of Cyber Monday approaches – it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of post-Thanksgiving consumerism. While finding the best deals can be enticing, the excitement of pre-holiday shopping often belies an important truth: The best things in life, as they say, are free. And while the holiday season is, at its core, all about giving, it’s also about self-improvement; think New Year’s resolutions and that ultimate act of Yuletide self-indulgence: the holiday wish list. This holiday season, take the time to download the iPhone application or make the social media profile on that website you’ve always been curious about. These four virtual presents are easy, useful and – best of all – free.
1. A better resume
Holiday break means relaxation, family and friends – but it also means time to work on those crucial internship applications for summer, and, in some cases, the spring semester. Though procrastination is tempting, a few pre-emptive steps can turn your summer job search from a chore to a breeze. USA TODAY College is full of resume tips (hint: Keep it simple.), as well as advice on networking, job applications and more.
Here, the best gift you can give yourself isn’t just reading resume tips, it’s time. If you’re not rushing to complete applications, you’ll produce your best work.
2. A LinkedIn account
Who says social media can’t help your career prospects, too? LinkedIn bills itself as the “world’s largest professional network,” and, with over 100 million members, the website has become a go-to resource for recruiters, job seekers and industry professionals of all stripes.
Building a virtual resume not only increases your visibility to potential employers, but it also places you in control of your online persona, enabling you to shape the way professionals perceive you if and when they subject your name to a routine Google search. And when it comes to your digital self-presentation, it’s better to be safe than sorry; 37% of employers admit to using social media as tool to screen potential hires.
Some current college students question whether they belong on LinkedIn, which counts established professionals and recent graduates among its target audience. These fears are unwarranted; in fact, since many college students are reluctant to use LinkedIn, having a well-maintained profile can help you stand out – even demonstrate your commitment to professionalism. Moreover, LinkedIn is actively courting college users. Last year, the website launched new profile features to cater to young adults. Now, some experts are saying that LinkedIn’s newest feature, called Endorsements, will be “particularly useful” for college students. And, most importantly, since LinkedIn is free, there’s no excuse not to try it – when it’s time to fill out those internship applications, you’ll thank yourself for this present.
3. An Instagram account
Go ahead, put that fancy camera at the top of your holiday wish list. But, Black Friday deals aside, professional-quality cameras can be heavy and expensive, so while they’re great for capturing special occasions and holiday events, you’ll need to be careful – if you’re not, subjecting your new SLR to next weekend’s rager could yield tragic consequences. For those situations – not to mention spontaneous bursts of artistic inspiration – there’s Instagram, the popular photo-sharing application that lets you apply vintage-y filters to your iPhone photos and then share them on the Web. Sure, it’s not museum-quality photography, but it’s fun to play with (just ask the Rich Kids of Instagram) and it’s absolutely free. Besides, you’ll be in good company; this Thanksgiving marked Instagram’s busiest day ever.
And if you’re an advanced Instagrammer looking for another photography-related application, try Snapchat, a photo-sharing service that lets users send each other photographs that disappear within seconds.
4. A Twitter handle
Don’t have a Twitter account yet? There’s really no excuse. Sure, you can read tweets from your favorite celebrities and politicians without registering for a free account, but signing up has its perks: aggregating your favorite feeds, making lists and following friends with private accounts. Not convinced? Twitter has friends in high places, including Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., who uses Twitter to compulsively keep in touch with his constituents, even planning a “food stamp challenge.”
What gifts are you getting for yourself this holiday season? Sound off in the comments below.
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