17 Tech Tips Every Student Should Know
Tech tips, if you’re like us, are always welcome. Anything that adds productivity and saves time is right up our alley. But when you’re a student, the world is filled with distraction, and there are special skills you need to master.
In the following article, we’ll be talking about some of these skills, and yes, these translate into other walks of life and will serve you well as you enter the workforce. So, without further ado, let’s begin with…
Tech Tips No. 1: How to Search
There may be some overlap here with other tech tips, but how you work and research online often owes much to your search ability. Doing an effective search is about more than feeding a keyword or two into Google.
You also should know how to narrow your search with more specific keyword strings as well as connectors like “+,” “-,” “OR,” and “AND.” For example, let’s say that you want to learn more about how to create comic books.
Searching “comic books” in Google would result in around 6.94 million search results (at present). Clearly you need to be more specific! So think about your purpose — “How to create comic books.” That limits you to around 1.64 million results. This is still way more than you could ever read on your own.
What would be your next logical step? Do you want to learn how to write comic books, draw them, pencil, ink, color, letter? What are you going for?
Let’s say “writing for comics”+”how to” instead since searching “how to write for comic books” might be too specific (less so nowadays thanks to Google’s algorithms getting smarter, but our suggestion insures a greater likelihood of exact phrase matches, which will be more relevant to your purposes).
The new search limits us to 37,800 results. STILL probably more than you’ll have the time to read, but you’re guaranteed to get a focused, relevant result out of that search.
For more information on how to get more out of your Internet searches, we recommend checking out this read from TechRepublic.
No. 2: How to Distinguish Sources
Nowadays we are inundated with news from a variety of biased sources. You can’t even read a mainstream news outlet without some kind of bias entering into how they report or frame the story/headline. CNN, Fox News, Politico, the Washington Post, and New York Times — most of them have a lean that unfortunately escapes the op-ed page.
Again, sometimes the bias isn’t immediately apparent. Often there are facts included in the bias, but there are details they conveniently leave out or coverage angles they don’t report on altogether for fear of giving their targets some form of relief.
One good recent example: the homophobic comments made by MSNBC news personality Joy Reid. The comments were recently unearthed on her blog. She tried for a time to skirt responsibility until it was discovered that there had been no evidence of hacking or tampering. Finally, after being exposed, Reid faced the music (in her way).
With what would clearly be a job-ending faux pas for a conservative who did the same thing, Reid is still employed and has even won the support of other like-minded journalists, including some at CNN.
On the other side, President Donald Trump — who’s certainly had his own problems saying crass, off-color remarks — considers Fox News a “friend” because of the favorable coverage they often give him, choosing not to talk about the times he’s been caught in a lie or contradiction.
The lesson: you cannot blindly trust either “side” in the media war. Another President once said, “Trust, but verify.” These days, you can’t afford to trust any of them. You just have to verify. But how do you do that?
In short, go into every news story asking yourself one basic question: how would the other side spin this in their favor? Then, read both biased sources and realize the truth usually falls somewhere in the middle of their cherry-picked details and cleverly packaged presentations.
And if you need further help distinguishing reputable sources, MarketWatch has a listing of the most and least trusted news sources available. Word of warning, though. Even the trusted sources can publish some real opinionated crap, so always be skeptical of what you’re reading. If that sounds cynical and depressing, we admit that it is. It also happens to be true.
No. 3: How to Put Away Devices
A March 2017 report from TechCrunch reports that Americans today spend around five hours per day on connected devices. Considering that if you sleep eight hours per day, you’ve only got 16 left, that’s one-third of your day! Now, grant it, many of us use our phones or other devices for work, but it’s still an awful lot of time to be putting in in front of a backlit screen.
We suggest learning how to do a technological cleanse, whether for an entire day or for a set time every day. One good suggestion: do as much of your planning and prep work as possible on a piece of paper with pen-in-hand. By organizing offline, you can really get your goals and objectives in line before picking up the phone or tablet to begin work.
From that point, don’t let your mind wander. Work intently until you’ve completed your objectives. Only then should you give yourself the “treat” of catching up on texts, emails, and whatever the app du jour is that has you obsessed.
Also, make more time for face-to-face interactions. When you do go to hang out with a group of friends, spend more time talking to one another and enjoying each other’s company by leaving your phone in the car or another location where it isn’t readily available. Also, limiting your data use to only WiFi-connected networks will help you shave off some time.
No. 4: How to Curb Use of Social Media
If we could waive a magic wand and have you follow just one of the tech tips on this list, it would be this one. Why? Because many of the problems that technology is now causing our society stem from the use of social media.
Half the country hates the other half. We have a very difficult time even agreeing on heroes. Some see cops as systemic abusers of racial groups while others view them as selfless contributors to the order of society. It’s a microcosm of how we feel about each other.
There are very extreme views in play toward those who disagree with us. And we leave no room whatsoever for the other person’s humanity. Is that social media’s fault? You could make a strong case that it is.
It’s far easier to attack someone from behind a keyboard than it is to do it to their faces, and social media has facilitated that ability like nothing else. Furthermore, we have trusted sites like Facebook with our private information only to have them exploit it for profitable gain or make it available to others for even more nefarious purposes.
The fact that many of you came to this article from a social media post might seem hypocritical, but it only goes to highlight the problem these platforms have created in our country. They’ve gotten people dependent on them for their businesses, and then have, with a complete lack of transparency, used their technologies to exploit us for their own purposes.
These hard truths are why many people have deactivated their accounts and are privatizing their online interactions more with text message strings and more privacy-friendly applications.
No. 5: How to Safeguard Identity
Safeguarding your identity online should not be as hard as it is, but it’s easy to get lazy when coming up with passwords for all the different websites that we encounter — at least the ones that require us to open an account. In an age where it’s no longer safe to establish accounts through our social media profiles, the odds of password reuse will only go up.
This is a mistake.
Tech-savvy individuals have built programs that can crack a simple password in a matter of minutes. If you use the same password for all your accounts and you bank online or pay any kind of bill online, that can leave your data incredibly vulnerable for misuse.
To safeguard your identity and maintain control over all your accounts, you should use complex passwords for every site where opening an account is a prerequisite. Additionally, you should use something called two-factor authentication so that any access to an account requires another form of verification through a device that you keep on your person.
With two-factor authentication, it becomes much more difficult for hackers and identity thieves to do their thing, and most won’t even bother because they realize there are easier targets more worthy of the time expenditure.
Additional tips to safeguard your identity:
- Don’t let people look over your shoulder when entering a PIN number at the point-of-sale in a brick-and-mortar store.
- Never click a link sent to you through an email.
- Never open a file if you’re not sure of where the source comes from.
- Limit access others have to your computers and devices.
- Shred all documents that have an account number or social security number.
No. 6: How to Protect Reputation
See No. 4.
In all seriousness, what you put out there on social media and in blog posts or any other form of publication — online or otherwise — is a reflection on yourself, your family, and, if part of the workforce, your company. While you’d like to think there could be some division there, just say something inflammatory and see how long it takes your employer to fire you for it.
Right or wrong, it happens, and you just have to realize that once something about you becomes part of the Internet, it’s there forever, for better and worse.
Before you ever make a post that can be easily traced back to your identity, try to view it through the eyes of a future employer. Would they want to hire me after reading this? That’s the question you should be asking. It may mean that you have to be a sanitized-for-your-protection version of yourself online. Oh well. Welcome to the party. It’s a rule we all have to play by unless we’re uber-rich and no one can touch us. Anybody?
No. 7: How to Investigate Backgrounds
You should be as protective of your time online as you are your data, privacy, and money. That means knowing when and when not to engage. If someone reaches out to you on LinkedIn with a friend request, for example, check out their profile to see if you can decipher some idea of why they are trying to make that connection.
If it’s hard to tell why, and they haven’t provided any kind of explanatory note showing why they could possibly want to contact you, consider declining the request. By being open to anyone and everyone, you open yourself up to spammers and scammers.
So, do take the time to see what people are about. Follow those digital bread crumbs until you either have a clear understanding or until you’ve determined there is no clear understanding. Investigative skills also can keep you from pursuing job or educational opportunities that clearly aren’t worth your time.
No. 8: How to Build a LinkedIn Profile That Draws the Right Kind of Attention
LinkedIn has emerged in recent years as the most valuable social network of all because most everyone is there for the same purpose — to connect with others who can genuinely add value to their lives. But here’s the thing about adding value. Most people on LinkedIn understand that to get value you have to give value.
That means showing the community how you can give of yourself. To do that, you’ll need to know how to create a compelling LinkedIn profile. Use a just-the-facts approach when detailing your work history. Don’t embellish. Just show people who you are and what you do through the places you’ve previously worked.
Similarly, establish the main thrust of your education in that particular section. Potential employers or mutually beneficial contacts don’t want to read novels here. They want to know why they should be connecting with you. You can always demonstrate more of your personality in the bio section.
As for the description, we recommend thinking about some of the jobs that you would want to do that fit in line with why you’re on LinkedIn. Build a concise description of who you are and what you do that people can understand at a glimpse. If you’re a writer who specializes in journalism, SEO, feature writing, and other forms of content, look up job descriptions to see how businesses are searching for those skill sets.
Your description could be something like, “Content writer, SEO focus, news reporters.” In six words, you’ve painted a pretty vivid picture of what you do for those potential employers.
Also, whenever you can get someone to add an endorsement, do it. But don’t get too hung up on it to the point that you become a spammer. And when you do any kind of outreach to others, do it with one purpose: to show them how your skills can be of service to their business.
Don’t play the numbers game here. Pursue relationships that make sense, and your LinkedIn presence will pick up steam on its own and place you in front of the people who can add value to your world.
No. 9: How to Respond to Critics
If you voice any kind of opinion online, you’re going to put yourself in the sights of someone who disagrees with you, sometimes passionately so. With the ease of response online, it can be tempting to really let ’em have it, particularly if you have a personal animus towards them.
But refrain from showing your ugly side.
One trick we swear by when tensions start to arise: write out exactly what you would say to that person (expletives and all) if reputation didn’t matter. But before hitting send — or typing it out — get rid of everything. Then, either respond to the person civilly or don’t respond at all.
The act of removing all the venom from your system will put you in a better position to present a counterargument that respects the dignity of the other person, and, more importantly, protects your reputation.
Most of the time we opt for option two, though. Not responding at all, particularly when there is a sense that things can go no other way but heated.
No. 10: How to Respond to Unpopular Opinions
At other times, someone will share something online that is so wrong-headed, it makes you want to come back at them with both barrels. Don’t do it. If you do feel the need to say something hateful, instead go through the other comments and see if anyone else has beaten you to it.
With Yahoo articles in particular, we’ve found that a large gathering of angry commenters will sort out all the unhealthy thoughts that are raging through our brains. If something is still left unsaid that needs to be said, then you have a lot less ground to cover.
When covering that ground, refer back to No. 9. Do a test run the way you would like to respond, and then publish a more toned down, civil response or ignore the matter altogether. The act of doing this will train you to change your thinking on what does and doesn’t deserve a response. It also will help you approach arguments from a more zen-like state.
No. 11: How to Avoid Scams
This is an easy one. Don’t open attachments from unknown sources. When opening attachments from known sources, make sure they’re technologically competent contacts and not your Aunt Martha who’s just going to send you those made-up Internet scare-facts about hated political personality of her choice.
Also, we’ve said it before but it bears repeating: don’t click links sent through email.
No. 12: How to Research Colleges
Getting to go to the college of your choice is a luxury in the United States, but it’s one that should be utilized responsibly. Don’t just pick a location based on geography. For starters, it might have a horrible track record with academics, and it might be exorbitantly priced, especially when you are factoring in possible out-of-state tuition.
Temper your college search with a healthy dose of reality. Start close to home if you don’t have a scholarship. See which schools offer the programs you want to specialize in, and really do a pros and cons weigh-in of which school does it better.
Furthermore, don’t nitpick until you’re through the four-year degree. Where school prestige really matters are the graduate and doctorate programs. And to help you with the deep dive, we recommend checking out the annual report from US News and World Report on the best colleges in America. You can find the 2018 version here.
Always judge a school based on whether it’s right for your field of study. Don’t think in broad strokes.
No. 13: How to Make Extra Money
Who hasn’t struggled to make ends meet at college? For most of us, scholarships are not all-inclusive, but rather a benefit that pays for a piece of the pie. The remaining pieces can still be considerable, and the cost of education isn’t getting any smaller with each passing year.
To make some extra money, we recommend these possibilities:
Job shadow: there is no guarantee of money on the front end of this one, but it’s a good idea to reach out to local business leaders and ask if you can shadow them for a day or two with the understanding that you’re trying to make yourself more marketable. If you show genuine interest in what they do, they’ll likely know some other business leader in the community who could use some (paid) part-time help.
Write articles: article writing jobs are plentiful these days, and many of them pay horribly, but if you can crank out two or three competent articles in an hour, it changes the dynamic. For some of us who got our starts this way, the going rate was 1 cent per word. But most publishers understand that’s a low rate, and so they don’t expect super quality. They just hope to have something they can work with. If you can give them something competent on a first effort, they’ll be more likely to send work your way, and you could end up making anywhere from $15-$25 per hour. Not bad money for a college student!
Do social media for a local business: Lots of local business leaders know they have to be on social media, but they either don’t understand it or don’t have the time to do it effectively. Furthermore, they assume that your generation knows a lot more about how to do it effectively than they do (and they’re probably right). As a college student, it’s easy to promote yourself to these businesses and find an hourly part-time job somewhere.
Get a part-time job: if you’d like to make a little extra money the traditional way, just start putting in applications for a part-time job in your area. Keep in mind though that the rules of tech etiquette apply, and whether they should or shouldn’t, the employer will be looking you up online to see if you’d make an honest, respectful employee.
See if your school has a work-study program you might qualify for: lots of colleges offer simple jobs like sitting behind a desk in a department or at the dorm lobby, making sure that sign-in sheets are filled out by those coming and going. Work-study jobs are designed in a way that pays you to focus more on studying than any kind of set task. While there may be some duties that you have to perform, they’ll be very low-level, leaving more time for you to prepare for that next exam.
No. 14: How to Be More Discerning
When you discern, you use your sense and sensibility to distinguish certain meanings. You perceive. You recognize. These days, lots of discernment is required because you have people trying to manipulate you from every direction — right, left, up, down, wrong, right — they’ve all got their reasons why you need to think the same way they do.
That’s not how a free society survives.
You need to use your knowledge and understanding to figure out when people are trying to manipulate you. It’s fine to agree with others, but make sure you’re doing so because of a conclusion you’ve drawn for yourself. It’s also fine to disagree with others, by the way. Disagreements do not have to end with condemnation.
No. 15: How to Avoid Cliques
There are lots of ways that you can fall into the trap of forming cliques, both online and off. When it comes to technology, we group together based on our ideas or political views or even our device preferences.
A good way to avoid cliques is to be intentional about trying something new.
We aren’t big fans of being an “Apple” company or a “Microsoft” company, for instance. We use a variety of technologies in a practice that we like referring to as tech agnosticism. We’re not sure who’s the best because they’re all better at certain things.
Avoiding cliques also ensures that you maintain more control of your life, your presence, and your reputation. Just think about all the online publishers who made the mistake of throwing all their eggs in the Facebook basket. When Mark Zuckerberg pulled the rug out from under them a few months ago, it upended whole business models.
It all goes back to the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” If the basket falls, you’re going to get a whole ton of smashed eggs.
No. 16: How to Research Careers
Some careers are better than others. Skills that used to matter no longer matter as much (or at all), while others that didn’t exist several years ago are now at the core of everything we do. It’s vital that you learn how to do a deep dive to see how useful it will be in the years ahead.
One of the best sources for accomplishing this: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. To give you an idea of how useful this site is, let’s pick out a couple of different jobs: construction managers and high school teachers.
Construction Managers Job Outlook
Most of the vital information on any career or profession is in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here’s the CM entry for job outlook:
“Employment of construction managers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Construction managers are expected to be needed to oversee the anticipated increase in construction activity over the coming decade. Those with a bachelor’s degree in construction science, construction management, or civil engineering, coupled with construction experience, will have the best job prospects.
High School Teachers
“Employment of high school teachers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising student enrollment should increase demand for high school teachers, but employment growth will vary by region.”
More information on CMs is available here and on teachers, here. Each page provides raw numbers for amount of individuals working in that specific job function as well as average salaries by region. You can tell whether something is worth your time today, and what the future prospects are for it. Gravitate toward jobs that have a healthier outlook, and you’ll likely never be unemployable.
No. 17: How to Live Offline
How does learning how to live offline make a list of tech tips? On the surface, the two may seem unrelated; but when you expand your horizons and learn how to function without a phone attached to your hip, it becomes easier to reconnect with nature and each other. The act of doing so puts tech in the right perspective, and it will likely ensure that our forays into technology produce better long-term results that are useful instead of mindlessly addictive.
We hope that you’ve found something you can use in this list of tech tips. Now it’s your turn. What are some of the most beneficial uses of technology that we didn’t include here but should have? Sound off in the comments section with your picks and suggestions.
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]