From the Intern's Desk

thoughts, tools, tips, and tricks from the perpetual intern

Archive for the category “Tools”

Things I Don’t Do On Social Media (But Probably Should)

As a social media editor, Facebook page manager and tweeter extraordinaire for business accounts, student organizations and my own personal pages, I spend a lot of time browsing social media sites. It’s not just all fun and games for me (I’ve read countless posts on how to cut down your time on these types of sites and trust me, it’s never going to happen), but I’ve managed to get myself into a pretty regular routine of posting. However, my recent research into all the social media managing options out there seems to be telling me one thing: I’m doing it wrong. There are hundreds of applications, tools and tricks that claim to be the next best thing in social media. Twitter

How can I filter through all of those when I still have neglected some of the most basic rules of social media? These functions exist for a reason: to help make social media posting easier and more effective for the user. But for some reason, I just don’t make the time for them. I know why I don’t use some of these tools, but others are more elusively un-useful. Here’s the list of things that I’m just not doing:

1. Scheduling my updates. So many tools exist to make social media something I don’t have to think about all day long. Sometimes I convince myself that updating “when I get around to it” makes the post feel more natural and less canned, therefore getting more readers. However, my scheduled posts don’t have to sound scheduled if I just take some time in the beginning of my day to think with a fresh mind how I as a reader would want to see my post. To give myself some credit, I have started using ifttt for combining some of my Facebook page and Twitter updates, and thus far it has worked fantastically. It takes away some of the control on the Twitter end but I’ve found it to be worth it as far as timesaving goes.

2. Using lists. I have created multiple Twitter lists and even Facebook lists, but I don’t even come close to touching my Twitter lists and only check my Facebook “Close Friends” lists every so often. Why? The lists could cut down on so much of the clutter in my various newsfeeds. I attribute this to laziness on my part but also as a condition of the sites I use. Both Facebook and Twitter default to the main newsfeed, leaving me to scroll through the updates as it loads rather than clicking on a sidebar to find what I’m really looking for. I fear that someday, if I start using the lists, I’m going to miss out on an important update because the person isn’t on my list.

3. Using a social media client. With this I add a note of more often because I do use social media clients, just not every time. I like the TweetDeck for Google Chrome application, but I use it mostly for Twitter and find the original Facebook site to be more visually appealing. Call me old school, but I really like the Twitter website and have found the recent redesign to be intuitive and easy to manage. Social media clients often promote the usage of other tools such as scheduling, lists, hashtag monitoring, etc. because of the columns that are the main part of the design. Getting myself in the habit of checking a social media client (properly formatted with columns of lists, mentions and hashtags I’d like to follow) at least once daily would likely increase my productivity on these sites.

4. Monitoring shortened links. When I share posts or send updates via TweetDeck or ifttt, I usually make an effort to use my bitly account (even though I’ve heard does a better job – thoughts?) but I rarely go back into my account to see the number of times a link was clicked. I do use Facebook insights because they appear right below the post on the Facebook page, reminding me to click on the full insights page to see all the details. I avoid the bitly page often out of fear (this is becoming a common theme here and it’s scaring me) that no one has clicked on my posts.

I was ready to write example number five, but my self-confidence in my social media skills is already eroded enough, and let’s face it, if you’ve read this far down you should win a prize. But enough about me – what are some things you don’t do on social media that you should or (to mix it up) things you used to do that you don’t do anymore because they weren’t useful or worth the time? Instead of the next hottest trend in social media, I’m interested in finding our your habits. Share in the comments!


Best Types of Voice Recorders

A voice recorder is a great investment for an intern. A digital voice recorder will make it easier to conduct interviews and log information. The many benefits of a voice recorder include durability, ease of use, quality and an extended life. When you have a hand cramp from writing constantly in meetings with your awesome pen, maybe it’s time for a voice recorder.

Get a smaller voice recorder. It fits in a pocket or a purse and sits discreetly on a table during an interview. A quality recorder will have a hold switch that locks its keys. The hold switch is necessary when it’s in a pocket to prevent it from going off accidentally.

Consider several different options when buying a voice recorder:

  1. Price – Ranging from $30 to over $100. Buying a cheap one is easy, though unlikely to last past your internship. A quality recorder will cost closer to $50. Google Products allows you to compare prices of voice recorders on websites such as Amazon, Walmart, and other office supply stores.
  2. Features – For example, connectivity. Can you plug it into your computer via USB? USB connection saves the data on your computer, usually as an MP3. Saving work is important with a recorder so you don’t accidentally record over your last interview. Plan on primarily conducting interviews? A microphone jack may be necessary to get high-quality sound. A less common feature, make sure to do your research before purchasing to see if your choice has a jack.
  3. Storage – Another important feature – storage. How much data can the recorder hold? If you can transfer the data to your computer, that may not be important. Recording long meetings can suck up space. The recorder should have 1GB at least of storage space.


Sony ICD-PX820 Digital Voice Recorder w/ 2GB Flash Memory and Dictation Correction (available at Walmart, click photo)
-includes USB connection, reasonably priced

Sony ICD-PX820 Digital Voice Recorder w/ 2GB Flash Memory and Dictation Correction

Panasonic RR-US571 2GB IC Recorder Built-In Zoom Microphone Noise Cut (Google products link, click photo)
-feature-packed, worth the investment

Best Types of Pens

Bic, Paper-Mate, Uni-ball, Pilot — all kinds of pens serve the intern well. Pens are better than pencils for taking notes because they don’t break, write darker and more fluidly and make a business-like clicking noise. Clicking noises say it’s business time.

Pens are the first thing an intern needs to have in his or her toolkit. Lots of them. Pens are cheap and easy to carry around. They also tend to disappear. Having a multitude of pens in colors such as black, blue, red and even purple diversify your notes and make them easy to scan for important information. Plus, someone always wants to borrow a pen. Just having more than one in your possession will make you the favorite intern. Multiple colors? Bonus points!

Of all the pens you can get at any office supply store, there are a few that easily outperform the others in the aisle. They can also be a really great deal. Bargain plus quality equals the list of my top five basic pens. After rigorous testing, I’ve finally come to some conclusions on the best types of pens.

And the winners are…

  1. Paper-Mate Profile – With a thicker point and smoother writing than an average pen, this pen has never let me down. I’ve been through countless of these pens in my school note-taking career. I can only imagine how many I’ll go through as a working adult. The grip goes almost to the tip of the pen for maximum comfort. The click is loud but not too loud, just loud enough to be satisfying. The near-perfect pen.
  2. Bic Round Stic Grip – A pen with wonderful writing quality but comes in second because it’s not retractable. Fluid, dark ink and extremely cheap. The added grip greatly improves this version over the classic Round Stic. A lighter pen that’s suited for taking notes. Keep a bunch in your bag.
  3. Sharpie Pen – This could almost be the perfect pen if it weren’t on the expensive side. This pen has its own website. It honestly deserves it. It meets all of a good pen’s qualifications: it doesn’t bleed through paper, it’s smear-resistant and it writes smoothly. The felt tip leaves an extra dark mark and allows the ink to flow smoothly. A solid investment. Also not retractable.
  4. Pentel R.S.V.P. RT Colors – These pens have been a stand-by for me for a long time due to their superb ink. Hard to describe but difficult to put down. Accessioning books was easy for my librarian mother with these pens. Writing for hours seemed effortless. I finally saw a retractable version in Staples. Of course I bought them. You should, too.
  5. Uni-ball Roller Grip – For the more traditional intern. The scratching noise these pens make on paper is irresistible. The ink is more like a liquid than an average pen. The body also has more heft. It feels expensive. Looking professional was never this easy.

One pen, though, is the cream of the crop. It’s my favorite pen by far. It’s significantly more of an investment than the Sharpie pen. But for serious interns, this is ideal to put on your wishlist. My favorite pen ever is a Cross black and chrome ballpoint. It’s an older model, but has served me well over the years. I used to save it for writing thank you notes and in my diary. Now it works well for signing important documents and writing down assignments. I won’t just take this pen anywhere though in fear of losing it. This is one of those pens that stays on my desk.

The Cross pen sitting on my desk where it belongs

It doesn’t matter what pen you end up choosing. Every pen suits a different owner. Use them with confidence. Learn to love your mistakes! Pens are always permanent. Internships are not. Write and work fearlessly. Stay tuned for the next post about what’s in your toolkit, and feel free to share your favorite pens in the comments below.

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