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Self-Directed Challenges: Graphic Design and Networking

My reviews of and personal experiences with Canva and LinkedIn.

Photo retrieved from Canva's Facebook page



1. Canva

For this challenge, I chose to learn how to use graphic design software called Canva. I first heard about it through a friend in education management, who recently opened up her own tech/coding school and uses this software as part of her graphic design and photo editing workshops/explorer sessions. She recommended it to me if I wanted to get a head start in basic graphic design techniques, which are expected skills nowadays from digital and multimedia journalists.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to draft a logo for my journalistic alias Mimo le Singe, and so I made this my goal for the purpose of the challenge. The functions and features I wanted to learn about in order to do this were how to work with shapes, lines, illustrations and icons found in the elements section, and put these together in order to come up with my own, original designs. I also included headings using different sizes, fonts and colours.

There aren’t really any training resources; you’re just sort of able to dive into playing around with the software. I definitely had a positive experience learning to use the software, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to dip his or her toes into graphic design. It has an easy learning curve, as it starts you off by giving you options for design types (e.g. social media posts, documents, blogging, eBooks, marketing materials, email headers, events and ads), and from there, aside from the features I listed previously, you can browse and choose from an array of layouts and backgrounds. You’re able to manipulate them however you desire - everything is easily accessible and organized.

The only real frustration I felt was when I was lining up design aspects symmetrically; otherwise, I felt empowered as I was learning to use the software because it gave a non-artist such as myself the ability to still be creative by brainstorming my own ideas that reflect my vision for my brand using preexisting set pieces. On a larger scale, it made familiarizing readers with my brand through eye-catching, digestible, and family-friendly designs easier. It also gives me plenty of inspiration for if I ever want to physically create my own art from the ground up someday. 

2. LinkedIn

For this challenge, I chose to update my LinkedIn profile. I’d had it since 2012, when an old friend recommended I activate one to open up more doors for career and networking opportunities. Since then, I was constantly updating and refining it with more, but also career-focused experiences. The problem, however, was that I wasn’t being clear about my position at the places I’ve worked at. I’ve been freelancing as a writer, blogger and editor for over five years for many different publications, companies and agencies, but I was treating every single one of them like a separate, permanent job. I made it sound like I had many in-house jobs, and wasn’t doing on-demand assignments for clients, and it confused potential employers who wanted to hire me for permanent work. It made them think that I was trying to take on more than I’m able and was thus not prepared to commit to them.

So, what I finally did was clearly indicate that I am a freelancing entity and categorized my clients into “Current” and “Past” groups. I also uploaded a professional headshot of myself to indicate professionalism in my image. When it came to my job title, I tried to be more specific by using key words pertaining to my industry in light of recent developments, such as “digital, multimedia and brand journalist” in order to communicate my particular area of expertise to relevant recruiters. I did the same thing in my summary, while also personalizing it with witty, lighthearted wordplay to give myself a personality and also make myself stand out. I also began to actively communicate with my connections through messages, testimonials, endorsements, statuses and group sharing to show my support, ethic, and interest in further collaboration. Once I made these changes, I began to get more friend requests as well as calls for opportunities and interviews.

However, and rather unfortunately, I ended up deleting my profile, because the recent revamp of the site’s design (at the time of writing) was buggy and caused the site to constantly freeze up every second. I don’t believe it was a change anyone was asking for, and this is an example of a clear disconnect between consumer and producer. I’ve even had people tell me that they were using their profiles less and less, to the point of even forgetting about them. It was hindering peoples’ ability to tell their stories, whether as job seekers, job advisors, or innovators of change in the workforce. It looks like LinkedIn is on the decline; if they want users to stay, they need to make sure any changes they make are beta-tested, and that their site is navigable and easily accessible for all intended users. 

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