Got Degrees. Now What?

Just got home from work again. Seven days down, fourteen more to go until I get two whole, glorious days off. Then it’s on to the 6am shift for the rest of the year. The work BFF and I were talking about how great it will be to have days off again and to have afternoons to get things done. A bunch of us at work were talking the last few days about the strange hours and long stretches we’ve been having to work lately. It actually lead to a small mini-flip-out with the manager the other day, which is what started all of this talk.

I was chatting with the girls and the manager in the office while we grabbed promotional materials and organized for our holiday displays. Someone mentioned what they were going to do on their day off, and I jokingly said that I was counting down the days until I actually got a day off and that I can’t keep doing these long stretches much longer. The manager chimed in and said that the only reason I have any long stretches is because I sign up for them, taking people’s shifts on my days off. For the last long stretch, this was mostly true. I had offered to take a few shifts, switch a few shifts, and come in on days off to cover for people. I was supposed to get two days off one week, but those got taken away when a co-worker had to take a leave of absence. Since I already had that weekend booked off, I didn’t make a big fuss when my days off were taken away. This time, with the stretch I’m in the middle of, I didn’t take any extra shifts. The manager just scheduled me for 21 straight days. He tried to deny it, which is when I snapped a little.

All of our weekly schedules are on the magnetic board. I started pulling schedules down off the board, throwing them all down on the desk and laying out my schedule for him. I stood there and counted off the 21 days in a row that he scheduled me for. His response: Well, why don’t you just take a day off or call in sick one of those days?

The reason a lot of us have to take these stupid long stretches is because we can’t afford to just take a day off. Like I’ve said before, if I give away a shift or call in sick then I’m losing 5-8 hours of pay. If I give up a Tuesday night shift, the boss isn’t going to just add five more hours to my schedule later in the week. I have to hope that: a) it gets ridiculously busy and they need the extra help and have to call me in; b) a co-worker gets sick or injured and needs someone to cover their shift; c) a co-worker’s family member get sick or injured and they need someone to cover their shift so they can take care of them; or d) someone dies. The company is not in the business of just giving away money. When I give away those 5 hours, they’re given to someone else. Those hours aren’t banked somewhere for me to use at a later time.

The funny thing is, the work BFF and I both went to school so we could get jobs that are not in retail. We both worked towards careers where we were either salaried employees, or we would have set hours and wouldn’t be scrambling to pick up shifts all the damn time. Unfortunately, with the job market and economy being what they are in many fields, neither one of us has been able to achieve that. So what to do with those degrees I went into so much debt to earn?

I have two degrees a B.A. Honors in Criminology, and a B.A. in Psychology. I had a plan when I went into school to get these degrees. I had a career picked out, and was going to work towards a very specific goal. Unfortunately, a few different things derailed that plan, which lead me to where I am now. There is a huge part of me that still wishes I could have a dream career in some sort of criminological field. I read over true murder stories, keep up on certain crime statistics, I even have the outline I wrote for a Masters Thesis I wanted to do if I ever got the guts to go to grad school. Hell, maybe for fun I’ll work on some of that research! But what do I do with these damn degrees?

Of course, the Queen of the Internet Jenna Marbles has already tackled this problem herself. As another dual-degree holder working on something she didn’t go to school for, she had to find a way to use her degrees so they wouldn’t go to waste. Now, her ideas are a more hands-on approach to using the actual physical degrees than I’ve been looking at. I mean, I didn’t even get mine framed. Hell, I haven’t even picked up the second degree from the school yet! The first degree is still in the cardboard envelope they gave it to me in, sitting in a plastic shopping bag with my college certificate, wedged between a dresser and some shelves so they don’t bend. Someday I’ll frame them and hang them up. Today is not that day, so I really can’t go with any of Queen Marbles’ ideas here.

You see, I’ve been looking at some of the different things I can do now that I have two degrees. I mean, what the hell do you do with Criminology and Psychology? Unless you’re a sexy super genius in a TV crime show, being a criminal profiler is out (even though my goal was something close to that). My grades in psychology weren’t good enough for me to get into a Masters program in psych, so that destroys any dreams of being a counsellor or psychologist. So what other options do I have?

1. Just Be Content in the Job I Have

Ok, I get to play with the surveillance camera at work. And I get to write up the incident reports when we catch shoplifters. I mean, that’s got a bit of a crime-fighting edge, doesn’t it? And sometimes, when we catch a shoplifter and call the police, I get to talk to the cops. Today I got to chit-chat about criminals with a really Sweet constable (who was damn adorable and my girls couldn’t stop checking out).*

2. Go Back To School

Yes, this is something I’ve been thinking of at times. I was all ready to apply to grad school. I had a thesis proposal in the works, a research proposal for my applications, I even had academic references lined up. One of those references is a customer at my store.  It’s almost impossible to look her in the eye some days now. She was so sure I was going to get into grad school at the university I did my undergrad at. Then I would get immersed in some massively messed up crime research on school shootings, and mass shootings, and mass violent incidents, and crime statistics, and I would be so damn happy.

Instead, I chickened out. After getting my references all lined up, and working on proposals, I just didn’t apply. My boyfriend at the time was applying to grad school in his field, and I decided to just find work for the time being. The plan was to work for two years or so, pay off a good chunk of my student loans, pay off the credit cards, and then apply for school. Of course, that didn’t happen. I didn’t get the jobs I had applied to and took a very part-time job in retail. Over the years, I’ve been able to pick up more hours and make a bit more money. But I had to live on credit for a little while. And then kept using credit to keep my head above water and not starve for a while. And now I’m drowning in debt, and can’t even think about student loan payments without bursting out into tears. I know, it’s my own doing, and I’ll fix it all somehow.

But all of that debt threw my plans off, and now I’ve pretty much lost all confidence in myself academically. I’m like the Hiphopopotamus in a rap battle. I would love to go back to school, get a job in corrections and parole. And I’m still looking into that option, it just seems pretty far-fetched at the moment.

3. Go Back To School Online

Ok, this option is looking pretty damn good right now. The other day I made a post about all the different options available for online learning. I’m looking into a few different programs through Athabasca University right now. I’m also looking at just getting a little more education in a few areas that I’m lacking in. I mean, having two degrees is great, but what the hell is it doing for me right now? There’s obviously something I’m lacking in, so I may as well educate myself.

Maybe I’ll get a post-grad certificate in Addiction Counselling, or a diploma education counselling. Or maybe I’ll do something that has absolutely nothing to do with counselling.

Really, at this point, I have no clue what the hell to do with these degrees. I’ve been using the transferable skills I learned and trying to work with those, but it’s only gotten me so far. Maybe it’s time for me to get a new set of skills. Or maybe it’s time I just give up on the degrees and accept that I’ll be a lifer at my current job. What do you think I should do?

 

*he was NOT more adorable than the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend. Not by a long-shot.

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More Praise for the Internet

Sorry lovelies, but today my head is just a giant pile of mush. I had a few glasses of red last night and the got assaulted with cuddles all morning by the surprisingly loving Bowser Kitten. It’s already after 11am, and I have done exactly nothing all day. I played a game on my phone, checked my Twitter, messaged my mum to see how dad is doing (she’s supposed to be at work, so I can’t just call), and have been hiding in my room from roommates all morning. Even the super snuggly Bowser Kitten is in a mood, burrowed into the blankets on the bed with only his little head poking out.

I just can’t wrap my head around anything today. I’m going over to-do lists, trying to get things done, but no one else around here gets anything done so I get side-tracked. This morning, I got up to make coffee around 9:30. Instead of my usual “put the coffee on, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, go grab coffee” routine I do most mornings, I had to wash a sink full of dishes, scrub old macaroni and some sort of brown sauce off the counters, and clean off the stove. My 10 minutes routine was more than half an hour thanks to that! And I seem to be doing everything in super slow motion today, too.

I think part of this is because I spent so much time looking at my schedule for work. They decided to open our store later on Sundays for the holidays, and the first night of this is the night of our Christmas Party. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I are supposed to head out to the party around 6:30 with the work BFF and her fiance, but I am scheduled until 8:15pm. So I have to do a little finagling of the schedule, perhaps a little bribery to switch some things around and get an earlier shift. That’s my only 8-hour shift that week, so I can’t afford to just give it up. Actually, it’s one of the few 8-hour shifts I have in the 21 straight days I’ve been scheduled. Yes, after working a 30-day stretch and getting hell from my manager for working that many days, I take two whole days off just to be thrown into a 21-day stretch. If I hadn’t taken this past weekend off, then I would be working 53 straight days.

There are a few really crappy things that come with this. First off, in our collective agreement it states that we can only be scheduled 6 days a week unless we agree to pick up hours on that 7th day. I could totally go to management and tell them I can’t do all these days in a row, and they’d just give away a shift a week. But they don’t have to make up those hours anywhere on the schedule for me. That means I would be losing 5-8 hours a week just to have a day off. Another crappy thing is that I’m working 7 days a week, and still not being scheduled for 40 hours. In the past, I’ve had weeks where I’ve worked 7 days and not even gotten 30 hours! If I want to pay the bills, then I have to work all of these shifts somehow.

The weird thing is, my managers just gave me hell for doing a 30-day stretch! True, part of the streak was my own doing. When people needed shifts covered, or we knew in advance that we would be short on certain days, I volunteered to pick up hours. But I also did that with the assumption that the days off I was already scheduled for later in the schedule would remain as days off for me. I’d plan for a 14-day stretch, only to have my day off on day 15 rescheduled as a closing shift, give me 20+ days. Even at the very tail end of my streak, I was supposed to get days 27 and 28 off, but the manager tweaked that and gave me shifts instead! On day 30, when I made it known that I had survived yet another 30-day stretch, my manager said I can’t do long stretches anymore and have to take days off. Then he turns around two days later and schedules a 21-day stretch!

All of this scheduling, re-scheduling, and long stretches makes having a life outside of work nearly impossible. It’s already hard to schedule around my job since my shifts change so often. I can be scheduled to close at 4:15, just to get a call at 8am to come in at noon instead. Or I can get a highly coveted morning shift with the expectation to be out of there by 3pm, only to get extended until 6pm. And we just found out recently that the company as started to log everything you do regarding the schedule, possibly to use against you. Every time you request a day off, call in sick, refuse to switch shifts or come in early or pick up an extra shift…….. this all goes in a report they add to your annual review. They even log the reasons why you turn down shifts!  This makes scheduling anything else in my life damn near impossible!

Take, for instance, doctor’s appointments. It’s time for my full physical, something that I simply cannot ignore. We have a history of cancer in my family, and cervical cancer is one of them. I’ve had to have cryosurgery before, to get rid of pre-cancerous cell growth that was caught before it became full-blown cancer. It’s uncomfortable enough for me to make an appointment like this already, but my doctor left his practice and was replaced by a brand new doctor. My down-under exam will be my first time meeting this doctor! I have been trying to find the time to schedule this appointment for almost a month now, and it looks like it will be another few weeks before I know for sure I can have the time to do so without penalizing myself at work. I have a physical to book, moles that need to be checked, I haven’t had my eyes checked in 6 years and need to get new glasses, and I should probably see a dentist someday to check on that wisdom tooth that started coming in a little over a year ago.

What really gets to me, though, is that one of the only ways to really advance in this company is to learn French. Actually, not being bilingual is one of the things that has really been holding me back from getting a government position in my field. There are places around here where I could learn French, but it’s impossible to both afford this and take the time to make it to these classes with the way schedules are done. The work BFF has it in her file that she is only available until 7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. There are 8 different shifts that the manager has given out on the current schedules that she could possibly work on these days. Still, since she’s not available to close, he doesn’t schedule her at all most weeks. Taking even a few hours off of my availability each week to take French classes could mean giving up 10-16 hours of paid work each week! I really can’t afford to do that.

That’s where the third great love of my life comes in (the first two obviously being AAB and currently hiding Bowser Kitten): the internet. Ever check out Duolingo? It’s free online language lessons! I haven’t been able to keep up with mine much lately, but I’ve been chipping away at them bit by bit. As you learn, you have the option to strengthen your skills and go over things you’ve previously learned. They even have a TinyCards page with little flashcards to help you keep up with your skills. Also, they have an app that lets you learn on the go. And it’s not just French you can learn on there. There are 27 different courses for English speakers to help them learn other languages!

Duolingo isn’t the only free online resource for learning, either. Go do a Google search for free online classes. There are a tonne of resources out there! One of my personal favourites (even though I have a hard time finishing courses sometimes) is Coursera. They have a tonne of courses that you can either take for free (just to gain the knowledge and upgrade your skills), or you can pay to take them to get official credits from schools around the world. You can specialize in things from every area of knowledge in their catalog, from marketing to teaching English as a second language.

Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for on there? Well, try out Open2Study, an Australian-based website that follows the same model. What I love about this site is that it features a lot of self-paced courses. The problem I have when taking online courses is that I’ll start one, get all excited about it, and can only go so far at a time. You have to do a little bit each week, which kind of kills my motivation. With my constantly changing schedule, and putting my writing before anything else online right now, I tend to just drop courses after the third week. With self-paced courses, you can do as little or as much as you want at a time. Have a day off? Laying in bed sick all day? Don’t feel like watching reruns of Friends on Netflix yet again after a long day? You can throw on a lecture video, pull up some online notes, and do just as much work as you’re feeling up to at the time.

One thing I’ve been meaning to look into more is learning a bit of web development online. I learned some very basic HTML way back in my MySpace days, but pretty much stopped there. Having some basic development tools is essential for a lot of jobs out there now. Web development is becoming the new “proficient in Microsoft Office” in resumes. There are a tonne of resources out there, which I haven’t really evaluated for you guys at all. Like I said, this is something I’m looking into, not something I’ve actually thrown myself into yet. Still, I’ve been going over the sites listed here in this article. I’ve heard of a few of them before, like Khan and Code Academy. Maybe one of you out there has a little more insight into which online sites would be best for someone looking to learn online, and would like to leave a comment for us.

It’s actually mind-blowing how much there is that you can learn online. Did you know Yale has free classes online? University of Toronto? MIT? I mean, how great would that look on a resume? “While employed with [XXX], I independently upgraded my skills by taking online courses through both MIT and Yale”. I mean, it just sounds cool. Like, I live in the little border town, working my little retail job, working on my homework for MIT. Need an excuse to get out of a social situation? “Sorry, I can’t make it to your Silly Sock Social and Spritzer Mixer. I have to finish a paper for that class I’m taking at Yale.”

And for anyone who doesn’t think that any of this free online learning is “official” enough for them (I’ve heard that complaint from a lot of people, actually), or you specialized education like a Masters Degree or a few university classes to finish your major, there’s something out there for you too. Almost every single university out there now offers some sort of online learning. All through my two degrees, I took at least two online classes a year, usually during the summer months. I was a Teaching Assistant for an online Sociology class for three years. For us Canadians, there is even an entire university dedicated to online learning: Athabasca University. This online school is a collection of majors, courses, degrees, and certificates from universities all over Canada. Most Canadian universities will allow you to substitute online classes from Athabasca for courses you’re unable to take physically at your school for whatever reason. It’s just a matter of filling out some paperwork and using the online classes kind of like transfer credits. You can pick up a few classes here, or do a full degree. I’ve looked into a few certificates recently that would go great with my degrees, and really add something to my resume!

I don’t know, I’m in one of those moods where I feel like my entire life is falling apart, and I need to do something to get out of here. Like I said, my schedule doesn’t allow me to take the time off to upgrade my education, so I’ve been looking into all of this online learning a lot lately. These classes are perfect for anyone who needs to do a bit of learning but doesn’t have the time to dedicate the same time each week to physically going to a class.

I do have some words of warning, though. Like I said, I took quite a few online classes at my university and was the Teaching Assistant for one course. I know how easy it is to blow off work for these classes. When I had to physically go into class and participate in lectures, go to labs, hand in work, then that pressure to keep up was the motivating factor in me getting anything done sometimes. With my online classes, I could put off doing any reading at all until just before an assignment or paper was due. I once took a course and didn’t even take the plastic wrapping off the textbook until more than halfway through the semester! Unless there is some sort of schedule to the class that makes you hand things in, or take tests and quizzes, and all of this is at regular intervals, then it is ridiculously easy to dig yourself an academic hole that is stupid crazy hard to climb out of.

So, is there anything out there that you need to learn? Always wanted to learn a little bit about Ancient Rome? High school Spanish teacher always tell you that you’d never be able to learn more than a few words of Spanish, and you want to prove him wrong? There is something out there for everyone online. You just need to know where to look for it.*

*Google. Google is where you look for it. Type it into the damn search and look for it.

Meyers Briggs Tests….

Today is already just one of those days. I work the closing shift tonight and have to go in a bit early to check out all the schedule changes for the next week at least. One of my co-workers is leaving for a few weeks but was still on the schedule, so everything is all messed up. I knew this was coming and didn’t even bother updating my calendar. Besides, while my manager is great at a lot of things, schedules is not always one of them. He gave me a “requested off” Sunday when I didn’t take one, which cuts 7 hours from my schedule for the week. So I need to get that all straightened out.

The super cuddly Bowser Kitten did not want me to get out of bed today. Just before the alarm went off, he snuggled himself in right on top of my feet and slowly started cuddling his way up to my belly every time I moved. But this morning has been one of those “look at everything wrong with my life and analyze every mistake I’ve ever made and think about how much better my life could’ve been if only I did [X] at some point” kind of mornings. It’s one of those days where I’m overanalyzing everything, including myself.

So I thought this would be the perfect day to take that Myers-Briggs personality test and analyze that!

Ok, so here’s a very quick Psych lesson taken from some old Psych notes I had on my external drive from like 8 years ago in an intro psych class I took.

Jung said a whole lot of important stuff, but it’s hard to understand if you don’t like really study him. So Briggs-Meyers and her mother Briggs took what he said about personality and ran with it.

Everything is based on what they call preferences, and leads to 16 basic personality types. These are all based on four pairs of preferences. It’s possible for you to like both preferences in a pair, but you will always lean even a little bit more towards one than the other. That’s how they pick the letter for the personality types. The four pairs are:

Extroversion (you like the world around you) and Introversion (you like the little world inside your head)

Sensing (using your senses to take in basic info around you) and iNtuition (reading between the lines, going with your gut)

Thinking (using logic) and Feeling (using your emotions)

Judging (making your judgement and sticking to it) and Perceiving (being open to new things and ideas)

The test helps you figure out which one from each pair you are, and that makes a four-letter personality type for you

Ok, so basically, they give you a bunch of questions with two answers on a scale. You slide your little bar (or put a mark on your paper) where you think you fall on that scale. Sometimes It’s just a plain bar with a little sliding dot. Other time it’s on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being purely one answer and 10 being purely the other.

Now, I’ve had this test administered to me by a professional before. I did a lot of personality tests, psych tests, and tests that “What Colour is your Parachute” book recommends you need to take in order to find your dream career. I did classes where we studied the difference between having this test administered properly, taking it on a website run by testers, and taking it on a random website. Obviously, if you’re really interested in your results you would go to a professional. Your second best, if you’re willing to be totally honest while sitting at your computer, is to go to a website run by the institution that administers these tests. In this case, I’m looking at the website for The Myers-Briggs Foundation. If you’re just looking into these tests for fun, then go on any damn website you please. I picked a random one off of a Google search called 16Personalities, which gives you free testing.

I figured, if I’m going to over-analyze myself today, I may as well have fun with it. So I’m going to take both tests right now and go over the results with you right here on my blog!

[30 minutes later]

Ok, quick change of plans. The Myers-Briggs Foundation links you to a website that charges $49.95 for the tests (with a whole lot of other tests with it though). With Christmas coming, I don’t have that kind of money, so I chose three sites in total to work with, one of which was mentioned in the online version of an old psych textbook I have.

Test #1

I used a site that specializes in HR testing based on the Jung personalities, called the Jung Typology Test. It’s the same damn test, different name. This one gives a question with five possible answers on a scale: YES, yes, uncertain, no, and NO. A few of the questions include:

You often contemplate the complexity of life

You frequently and easily express your feelings and emotions

Often you prefer to read a book than go to a party

Deadlines seem to you to be of relative rather than absolute importance

In all, the test had 64 questions on it. Took me a few minutes to answer, and I answered everything totally honestly, as well as I could. It’s best not to use neutral/uncertain answers, or use them as little as possible. Maybe it was the wording of the questions, but this was pretty hard to do at times. Either that or I was over-analyzing the questions. After all, it is one of those days. And my results for this test were…..

Jung Personality Test

Test #2

I took this second test from Owlcation, which publishes academic-type articles online. This is weird because it’s an article with the test kinda shoved in there in four different parts. It explains what the four different pairs are, and the test for each pair is right there with the explanation. In all, there are 84 questions to this test, with 21 for each pair. The questions are worded and graded differently than the last test. The first found questions on the screen are:

How do you feel when you have to go to a party and meet new people?
  •  Nervous about meeting new people.
  •  Excited to meet new people.
Do you often times experience doubt?
  •  Yes
  •  No
Which of these results are more important to you?
  •  A Fair Judgement
  •  Showing Compassion
What does your work area look like?
  •  Organized
  •  Disorganized

This test gave me a letter after each of the four quizzes within the article. This one says that I am an INFP.

Test #3

Ok, so this 16Personalities test doesn’t say how many pages it is, and the questions aren’t numbered. There’s just a bunch of questions on a page with circles underneath for a scale ranging from “agree” to “disagree”. Some of the questions on this test include:

You try to respond to your e-mails as soon as possible and cannot stand a messy inbox.

Your home and work environments are quite tidy.

Your work style is closer to random energy spikes than to a methodical and organized approach

Your dreams tend to focus on the real world and its events.

If your friend is sad about something, you are more likely to offer emotional support than suggest ways to deal with the problem.

And results are in from that one as well.

INFP

And this last test threw the fifth letter in there just to throw me off completely! Hooray!

The Results and Their Meanings

Well, most of the results were the same: INF, Introverted Intuitive Feeling. The last two tests say that my personality type is called the Mediator Personality. Only 4% of the population fall into this specific personality type, and they more often than not feel misunderstood. Bjork, Lisa Kudrow, Frodo Baggins, Fox Mulder, and JRR Tolkien are all INFP, apparently. In the basic overview of this personality type, it basically says that I’m a thinker and a feeler.

No shit Sherlock.

Now, the Owlcation article breaks down each letter and explains what it means. My Introverted status means that I’m a shy, quiet person who can’t let loose unless they are with close friends. Introverts have few friends, but they are especially close to those few friends. Introverts are quiet, thoughtful, and don’t like to just show up somewhere unexpectedly.

This is totally me. Back in university, my roommate would always want to just drop by the frat house all the time. I knew we were always welcome there, and could stop in any time. I couldn’t bring myself to just show up there unless I had a reason to be there: either someone invited me, or I had plans to meet someone there. Even the few times I did just show up unannounced, it was with my roommate who was always doing that. I have a small social group but would do anything for the few people I call a real friend. I may come off as hyper and bouncy and loud at work, but that’s only because it’s a place where I feel comfortable enough to be like that. My good friends are there, and I’m in a safe place where I can let loose. When I have filled in at other stores, I’m basically just a very large paperweight standing behind the counter.

Now on to my Intuitive side! This basically says that an Intuitive person lives in their own head. They spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the future, not the right here right now. A big picture person, they have a lot of doubts about their future. They enjoy trying new things, creative things, and like theory or practical usage.

Ok, remember the beginning of this post, where I said today is one of those days where I think about all my past mistakes? I do that a lot actually. I kind of live in this strange fantasy fog sometimes, with these messed up daydreams about the past and the future. I can’t sit down and picture three weeks from now, or a year from now. But I can imagine 15 years ago, and what I could’ve done differently, or some strange future me with all totally different life choices than I’m making now. I’m weird like that.

And finally, the Feeling part of the personality. Basically, a person who scored high in the Feeling portion of this…….. wait for it…… likes feelings. They want to bake a cake full of rainbows and smiles so everyone can eat and be happy. They are interested in their own emotions, in the emotions of others, and their emotions sort of take over at times.

Again, totally me. I’m constantly trapped in a glass case of emotions. A simple chat with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend can turn me into a weepy, sobbing mess. When co-workers have problems, I’m more likely to offer them a shoulder to cry on and an ear to vent to than to sit down and try and fix things for them.

And now for that fourth part of the test, which gave me different results in one test. Or did it? This throws a little mustard int he milkshake. I clicked the link to read a more detailed description of my overall results and this pops up at the bottom:

INFJ-P

Since on this test it showed almost no preference between the Judging and the Perceiving, I could basically go either way. While still an INFP, I could pass as an INFJ if I wanted to.  After reading the description for Perceiving on the Owlcation test I took, I’m going to have to say I am more P than J:

You will often act impulsively in any given situation and are okay with acting without preparation. It’s possible that you have many projects started and many of them are left unfinished. You are the type of person who enjoys freedom and hates to be held back by obligations. You are a curious person who probably has a unique view on things. At times you are not the most productive person since your mood will often determine how productive you are.

Do you have any idea how many half-finished notebooks I have around here? The piles of research for projects I started but never finished. There are balls of yarn under the bed, knitting needles in my desk, a crochet hook in the office, and mounds of books piled everywhere in this house that I’ve been meaning to get around to. I’m strange, impulsive, and my productivity is almost entirely dependant on the mood I’m in that day.

And now that last letter thrown on the last test there: T for Turbulent. Apparently, that means that I am not an assertive person. I am someone who is lacking in confidence in my choices and abilities. And yes, that is all true too.

Looking at the letters individually gives you a bit of insight into me. Some of the overall profiles the other two sites give me are scary accurate though.

The Hummanetrics results give me a lot of info about the INFJ, and some of it pretty damn accurate. It tells me to look into careers in counselling, paralegal, and education, which are all things I’ve seriously considered lately. It also says I gravitate towards activist roles. When I was in university, I volunteered with an organization that did a lot of activist work. I worked petitions, staffed booths, went to protests. I even got a small piece published in an activist newspaper on campus once. A lot of times, I miss doing all of that. I feel somewhat empty without it. Seeing that on there just gave me chills, to be honest.

While the Hummanetrics results are really good, the results I got from 16Personalities are just plain scary. They break everything down into categories (strengths and weaknesses, relationships, friendships, parenthood, career, and workplace habits), and explain each one pretty clearly.

Right off the bat, I can see creativity, open-mindedness, and idealistic-ness as three of my main strengths. People have been telling me this for a very long time. I’ve always been a creative person, and try to be as open-minded as possible. While being idealistic is one of my biggest strengths, my biggest weakness is that I can be too idealistic. I also take things way too personally sometimes and feel guilty because I think selfish because I can’t do as much for others as other people can. You can ask AAB, sometimes I can take the dumbest stuff personally and it can elevate a fight to a whole new level. And I seriously lie awake at night wondering how to do more when I know I physically or financially can’t.

Moving on to the relationship portion, it’s scary accurate yet again.

Mediators share a sincere belief in the idea of relationships – that two people can come together and make each other better and happier than they were alone, and they will take great efforts to show support and affection in order to make this ideal a reality.

The main reason I’ve always said AAB and I are so great together is because we make each other better. I have been a huge help to him in overcoming his addiction and helping him develop himself into a person he is proud to be. I help him find new hobbies and rediscover new ones. Recently he started playing with Photoshop again, trying to get the hang of it so he can get back into taking pictures. He also found out that he’s an amazing cook, and actually loves doing simple things like having sauteed veggies ready for me to eat with my leftovers at night.

Moving on to the friendship portion, there’s a bit of truth to what’s being said there. While most of the closest people to me have no clue some of the things that I’m really going through, I am pretty much an open book for a lot of stuff, contrary to what is written in my results. True, I keep the truly personal stuff to myself and to one close friend (aside from AAB). But roommate drama, work drama, family drama….. hell, I write a blog about all of that! Everyone knows my business! One thing that is super true in all of this is what they say about networking though. I hate networking. Networking is painful and takes up too much time, and a friend of a friend of a friend isn’t going to know if I’m right for something. I like to get things on my own merit, and don’t want to be seen as using my friendships for something as trivial as networking.

Since I have no kids, unless you count the non-human Bowser Kitten, I’m skipping over the parenthood portion of the results for now.

The careers portion just made me spit out my coffee, it was so accurate. Basically, Mediators wanted to be authors when they were kids. It flat out says that. That was my goal for many, many years before I realized I didn’t want to write a novel. They then mostly wind up in careers that are not what they envisioned but pay the bills. I’m pretty sure that a peddler of the devil’s brew would be included in that category. They need to find a way to make their own way….. such as blogging. Like I’m doing right now. Like you’re reading right this second.  Taking a hobby like that can lead to feeling more fulfilled, or to a new career. *swooning at prospects of being a professional blogger*

All in all, this was pretty scary accurate. The INFP profile fits me to a T for the most part, and even some of the INFJ stuff was pretty close. I found that the 16Personalities website was a lot easier to understand, and it broke things down a lot more. The info they gave was still accurate, according to the Myers-Briggs Foundation and my old textbooks. They just explained it in a way that made it easy for anyone to understand.

But was it accurate?

As I said in the beginning, I have been administered this test twice by professionals. Once was part of a psychology class, and the other was part of a psychological assessment while job hunting. Both of those times, I got the same result. And both of those times, I had my results explained to me. Based on all of that, I do have to say that the 16Personalities test was the best one of the three I tried, as long as you are completely honest with yourself and with the test.

When I was professionally tested, I was told both times that I am an INFP. The second time I was tested, they actually told me that this could be why I have such a hard time finding a meaningful career, but I seem to love my current job as a customer service representative where I am very close friends to some of my co-workers.

If you want to try these tests out, take them with a grain of salt. These are supposed to be guides, not the be-all end-all of your existence. No one will ever fit perfectly into a pre-described personality. Like I said, there were some things in there that were just meh when it came to accuracy with me. There were a lot of things that were so accurate it was shocking, too. If you want to take one of these tests, don’t let it be the basis for your life choices. You still have to be you, no matter what a test tells you you are.

Back To School Anxiety: The Financial Side

Ok, so every year (even though I’ve long graduated, but still live near campus) I check out my old university’s Welcome Week. I volunteered with it for a few years, and know how much free food and stuff gets tossed out because no one takes it. So, I make it my mission to take stuff every year, to help decrease surplus waste.

And every fucking year they’re giving away copies of the same book: The Debt-Free Graduate. Yes, I know that they say every year is the new ~revised~ version with all the new tax and RESP law stuff in there, but 99% of the book is still the same. I have owned 7 copies of this book over the years. There is on my bookshelf, and the other 6 have gone to GoodWill. I figure it’s doing more good there than on a free table on a university campus.

The DEbt Free Graduate

Why?

Because a bunch of the tips have to do with stuff you have to do BEFORE you start school. RESPs, applying for scholarships in high school, getting summer jobs all through out high school and college/university, applying for loans and bursaries as a high school student. Seriously, they should give this out freshman year orientation of high school so that kids can start preparing themselves. Everything else in the book is just common sense tips that you can find online. And again, most of this shit would be most useful to you before you start classes for your first year of higher education.

Now, there are hundreds of sites out there saying the have fantastic advice on how to save money on life while you’re a student. I’d say a good 75% of these articles in some way, shape, or form mention Ikea as a decorating option. Now, I went to my local Goodwill today (it was my day off, so I thought I’d treat myself to some $2 books and $4 slippers), and they have a shit-tonne of old sturdy wooden desks there. The most expensive one I saw there was $35, plus $15 for delivery if you didn’t have a friend with a truck to grab it for you. Even still, $50 for a super solid desk is really not bad for someone who will spend a good 60% of their life at their desk for the next 4-6 years. And that’s on the pricey side of what I’ve seen! The desk I use now came with the room I rent. At my old apartment, I got a desk off the side of the road when some students were moving out and just discarding furniture. That being said, a lot of these “money saving” articles for students think that something like this is a good deal. For those of you who don’t want to click on random links, that a desk for students at the super bargain price of more than $400!!!

Ok, so I know that for a lot of us, $400 seems like nothing once those student loans roll in. But a $400 desk to save money? Even with that fresh cash in your bank, you don’t need to be throwing down big bucks for the basics. Like I said, paying $50 for the purchase and delivery of some old-school super sturdy wooden desk build back when people wanted their shit to last 500 years is a bargain for me. I’ve also used desks pulled off the side of the road when I didn’t have that $50 to spare.

So if you haven’t been saving for college or university since you started high school, don’t have a metric shit-tonne of scholarships to help you out, have very little or no don’t have RESP or any sort of educational savings from your family to help you, what the hell are you going to do. I mean, if you’re “lucky enough” to qualify for student loans, then you have those to fall back on. Or do you?

Basically, here’s a bunch of shit to remember when you’re trying to navigate financially in your post-high school education.

#1: They’re loans. It’s not free money.

PowerBall Winnings Student Loan Debt

I have seen student loan money blown on the craziest shit. I had a friend who needed a new mattress, and instead of getting something basic to last her through her degree (since she would be moving back home probably once she graduated while she looked for a job), she spent $1700 on a damn good mattress. Her rent was late at the end of the semester while she shoveled driveways to make up for the $300 she was short.

I once went to a fraternity cocktail party at a bar the beginning of winter semester. Three guys each had bar tabs in excess of $800, with two of them using their student loans to pay them off. Most of their tab was buying shots and rounds for their friends all night.

Another friend bought a car. Nothing fancy. Hell, not even something reliable. The tailpipe had to be rig-welded together with soda cans because she couldn’t afford repairs. Bought it in her first year, the damn thing barely made it half-way through the second year.

We all do stupid shit with our student loans. Hell, I know there are a bunch of things I spent way too much on over the years that I’m still trying to pay off now (flannel shirts, cheap boots, booze, and pizza are the big ones here). Loans are meant to be spent on tuition (which in my province, is automatically taken out by the school before you receive your loan), your rent, your books, food, and little important things like your phone bill. They’re not throwing a tonne of cash at you to go on a shopping spree, buying beds and cars and booze. You are getting the bare basics plus a little bit to live with.

And this money is NOT free.

If my friend had taken his $800 he spent on booze and just put it in savings, that’s an $800 payment he could’ve made on his student loan. Believe me, every tiny bit counts when it comes to your student loan repayment so that $800 could’ve covered interest for close to a year depending on how long he went to school.

The $1700 my friend spent on one mattress she had to abandon when she left the city after her degree is worth more than 6 months worth of her current student loan payments. Imagine not buying something extravagant, and being more than 6 months ahead of your friends in being debt free.

In the end, this is all being paid back. And having a ridiculous amount of student debt is a major stressor on most people. Ever wonder what triggers my insomnia-inducing anxiety more often than not? It’s debt, with the vast majority of it coming from student loans.

If you want to spend big bucks on something for yourself, mow some lawns or shovel driveways. Get a babysitting gig or something. Earn the extra coin to pay for it, or else it’s just being added to the debt that will be hanging over your head for years to come.

This is NOT your money to go out and spend! Yes, it’s in your account. But it’s a loan. A LOAN! Someone is lending you that money to use, and then pay back later WITH INTEREST!!! It is NOT free money like so many of us (myself included) spent it as.

#2: Why the hell are you buying your textbooks already?

Textbook Meme

Iknow you want to get a jump on things. It’s not easy keeping up with readings and assignments and getting a head start is better than nothing. Your professor sends out the syllabus a week or two in advance, so you can do this.

But do you really need to buy all the textbooks?

From what I’ve heard from friends from all over both Canada and the USA, most profs put a copy or two of their current textbooks in the library. Want to start reading early? Go check out a damn book! I found there is always a damn good chance that the prof with either only uses one of the 7 books they assigned, or only sporadically make you read from the main text. You have your syllabus in front of you. Why not go the library a week ahead of time, take out that textbook, read and make all your notes, and be done with it? It sure as hell beats spending $150+ on a damn book you’ll need a handful of times in a semester.

If you absolutely must have your textbooks, for the love of all things sacred, follow the advice of pretty much every “how to save money as a student” article out there: buy them used. At my old university, students could sell back certain textbooks at a greatly reduced rate, to be resold as used books to new students. I mean, I paid $100 for a book I used three times, and the used book store wanted to buy it for $20. Mind you, they were reselling it for $50.

If you need a textbook, check out used textbook websites. Just type in your college or university named followed by “used” on Facebook, and you’ll find pages for used books, furniture, clothes, everything. Pick up books for less than half price. If you have old books, get a bit of money back for them. If only one prof uses that book, and you took very careful notes and highlights, you could possibly get into a bidding war (had it happen a few times one year) to get your very coveted used text.

Don’t want a bunch of used books cluttering up your shelves? Think about renting them. There are a bunch of websites that will let you rent books from them. You can’t mark them up with highlighters, but you can take notes from them, read them all you want, and then return them at the end of the semester so they’re not cluttering up your bookshelves (or taking up room boxed up in your meager storage space, like mine are). Hell, your own school may even have a rental program set up for books!

#3: Know yourself when buying school supplies

 

*quick note: my school supplies have NEVER been as pretty, coordinated, or themed as the ones I see on Pinterest.

I don’t know why, but I can’t start the semester with old notebooks. Doesn’t matter if I’m taking notes in them or not. Hell, I probably have more than two dozen half used notebooks in my room right now, I could never use them for school. I always needed a fresh notebook to start the class off with, with a nice pen to write with.

So right there I know that I can go to any dollar store and buy notebooks. I’m not overly particular about them, just as long as they have paper in them. Some people are a bit pickier than that. They need the notebooks that are divided into different subjects, with pocket dividers and removable bookmarks. Others use binders, anything from a plain three-ring to one of those giant monstrosities I have for my old writing, full of pockets and accordion files and little zippered compartments.

I know that I can cheap out on notebooks at the dollar store, but I need good pens. Some people are fine with cheap pencils but need the organization and flexibility of one of those fancy huge binders.  You need to figure out what is most important to you when it comes to your note-taking, your organization, and your budget. To this day, I still buy my notebooks at dollar stores. I save every free pen I can find (**tip: free pens are usually really good quality, and last quite a while. Stock up on them anytime you can. Check campus tables, welcome week events, anything with a table and pamphlets really.), and grab a two-pack of nice pens every few months from the drug store. But even though I can get one for free on campus (they’re always over-stocked, so I take what they would throw out), or get one cheap at the dollar store, every Christmas I treat myself to a new day planner from the calendar stand at the mall. It’s $30+ (nowhere near as expensive as the Kate Spade ones some of my friends get, or the leather one my dad always swore by), it has stickers (I’m big on stickers for colour-coding), and has things like to-do lists and shopping lists at the back. I know that this is essential for me, whereas a notebook with compartments and pockets isn’t.

Basically, know what you need. Don’t go out buying the Kate Spade planner if the free one from campus works for you. Don’t buy a $14 pen if you lose pens constantly.

#4: Get your ass to the financial aid office NOW

Financial Aid Jar.jpg

I don’t care if you’re paying with loans, or scholarships, or your parents are paying your way. Go to the financial aid office, see what they offer. I know at my school, they had a wall of scholarships you could apply for. Going to their website brought up even more. I found out that just by receiving student loans, I qualified for Work Study (120 hours a year at an on-campus job at $12 an hour), plus I was eligible for more than half a dozen bursaries. Some of these bursaries weren’t awarded until part-way through the semester when my tuition was already paid up. That meant the financial aid office would just cut me a cheque for whatever I had gotten, and send me on my way.

There were a few semesters where I got an $800+ cheque more than halfway through the semester. Now, I know I should’ve taken at least half of that and applied to towards debt, but I was a stupid student and probably treated myself to sushi once or twice, went out for a girls night a few more times than usual, and bought more books before saving the rest for a rainy day.

It’s not just your financial aid office that can help you, either. Just go and Google things like “Scholarships + [your major]” and see what comes up. Sign up for scholarship websites. They have you fill out huge profiles and questionnaires, leading you to so many things you may not have realized could get you money. Then, Google “Scholarships + [that thing]” and see what comes up. I’ve had scholarships come up because I have family members who have worked for certain companies, or have been part of certain organizations. I had one come up because I did a lot of charity work with a Greek organization, without being a member of any Greek organization. I’ve had LGBTQ+, harmonica players, writers, cat owners, sufferers of anxiety and depression, and mature student scholarships pop up.

After that, look for contests. Your school’s financial aid might be able to help with that. I entered contests through my bank (they totally bastardized a story I wrote, which made me lose horribly because I was too ashamed to attach my name to it to promote it), writing contests, a stop smoking challenge, and two read-a-thons for money. You would not believe what some people will give you money for when you’re a student!

#5: Use what you fucking paid for!

I am the first to admit that I was the absolute worst for this, and I totally regret it right now. As a student, you pay student fees, which pays for a shit-tonne of things for you. As a student, I had prescription coverage, dental coverage, optical coverage, a free gym membership, access to academic counseling, access to psychological counseling, and a bunch of free stuff through student organizations through my major. I took advantage of almost none of this.

As a working somewhat grown-up right now, what do I miss most about school? The dental plan (my first wisdom tooth started coming in a little over a year ago, and needs to be monitored, which can get pricey in the long run). The optical plan (I can afford an eye exam during the busy season at work. It’s the glasses and contacts, which I desperately need in order to see, that I can’t afford. Even using websites like Clearly Contacts, which is so much more affordable than getting my glasses through my eye doctor, is way too expensive at this time due to my prescription).

Do you have any idea how expensive this stuff is once you’re out of school? My glasses are like $800 a pair! I can spend a good $250 easy on contact lenses, and that’s with me stretching it out until my eyes hurt! My mouth is in pain randomly because of my wisdom tooth, so I spend a ridiculous amount on bubble gum (the only gum that seems to relieve the pressure) as sort of a band-aid for the time being. Really, I should just get my eyes and teeth checked. But I have no insurance at all. Neither do a whole tonne of my friends at the moment. The worst part is, I didn’t use up all my benefits the last year I was qualified for them. I could’ve gotten my teeth cleaned, get x-rays done, saw what my wisdom teeth were o and made a plan. If I had gotten my eyes checked, I would know what fucking prescription to get for myself, and been pretty ok right now.

Have a meal plan?Make sure you use up as much of that damn things as possible! I never lived in campus residence, so I didn’t get a meal plan while I was in school. My brother was in school the same time as me and worked in residence, so he HAD to get a meal plan. There were so many students who, at the end of the year, had a bunch of money left to spend on their plan and just left. Have some money left over the last few weeks of school and know you won’t spend it? I saw some students buy meals for others who didn’t have a plan, for cash of course. My brother went to the school variety store at the end of the school year. They had a clearance on stuff they couldn’t keep for the summer months (mainly junk food and ramen), and he stocked up. You should’ve seen the look on my grandma’s face when he walked in the door with a whole CASE of Snickers for her, that he paid like $5 for. He’d stock up with whatever money he had left, and that way he’d save money over the summer by not buying this crap. Ramen is cheap enough, 3 for $1 at the dollar store. I saw people buying a case of 24 for $3 at the end of the year. What student living on their own doesn’t need cheap ramen?

Check out your school’s websites, see what your student fees buy you. If you get a free transit pass, use the fuck out of it. Explore your town, even if you grew up there. Learn where each and every bus route goes, in case you ever need to know. Check out exactly what your health plan gets you, and use it up as much as possible. Go to all the workshops, presentations, talks, extra classes, and hit the gym from time to time at least. Get the absolute most out of what you’re paying for tuition, to help unfuck your future.

 

Well, this is it for now, Sunshine. I’ve got a tonne more back to school advice coming up. My computer is just acting all laggy and crazy riught now, and it’s a real fucking pisser to try and type anymore.

Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

I know people have been asking you this since you squeaked out your first words, and you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, but what do you want to be when you grow up? Any idea?

I wanted to do two things, Sunshine: I wanted to write, and I wanted to work in criminal profiling and research violent crimes.  They both seemed like the ideal career paths for me. I mean, I wrote all through my teens and early 20s (and then just gave up hope on everything for a good 10 years before trying to give it another go). And I’ve been reading true murder novels ever since I stole my first one from my mother’s bedside table in the 5th grade.

So, in my mid-20s I decided to go back to school and start working towards that whole profiling and research career. I studied Criminology (got my BA.H in that one) and Psychology (my second degree, just a BA), worked as a research assistant for a while, and obsessively read books and papers on murderers. I talked to a professor who was a former RCMP officer (those police officers in Canada that the rest of the world seems to think rides horses all day while they wear bright red jackets and doofy hats), and he told me all the steps I needed to get into the RCMP for a research position.

Dumbest fucking move ever.

You see, he hadn’t been an RCMP officer for a while now. Things change over time, like the qualifications for different positions. He told me I just needed my BA.H in a social science, preferably something where I studied crime (hence the Criminology), and a background in research. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

One simple Google search would’ve shut that down real freakin fast!

You see, in order to get the position I wanted, now you have to first BECOME an RCMP officer. Not only do I have no want or desire to do so, but my eyesight is bad enough that it disqualifies me from the position. Like, it is impossible for me to ever get this job, ever.

If I had realized this while I was still in school, there is a metric crapload of stuff I would’ve done differently. For starters, I would’ve done a little bit more research into what jobs my damn degree qualified me for. I would’ve gone for more career counseling, volunteered with different organizations, looked into addition certificates and courses to help me out. I would’ve switched to a double major in something else, got a minor or two to fall back on. Maybe even got a part-time job to fall back on once I was out of school (but that’s a whole other post).

As it stands, I have two degrees I got specifically to get me a job I can never have. They don’t qualify me for much specifically in the town I live in. I work customer service in a ‘spirits dispensary’ who would prefer I don’t name them in blog postings. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from those degrees, plus credit card bills falling out my ass crack from trying to live on 4 hours work a week for months without falling behind in my rent and other bills. And I have to pay this all off with the CSR wages I’m making now, NOT the profiling and research job and salary I had been working towards.

And this was all totally preventable if I had just sucked it up and done a bit more research.

So, as I say way too much to be healthy for my self-esteem, don’t wind up like me. Do a little work towards the work you want to do.

Check Out the Education Qualifications

If you have a job or career in mind, know what you need to get in order to get hired. You wouldn’t expect to just show up on a movie set one day and say, “I’ve never acted, written, produced, or directed in my life, and I have a degree in forensic science. Let me direct your next big budget movie”, and to actually get the job. Some places or careers require schooling, while others prefer you get experience for yourself.

Want to be a teacher? Find out how much schooling you need for that, what courses and majors you need, how many years you’ll be in school. Want to write? You could go to school for creative writing, or you could just write constantly. Neither one is wrong, but they’ll both take you down different paths. Same goes for other creative pursuits. You may be better off just creating content than getting formal school sometimes, while in some situations an education might give you that little something extra that could land you a position.

Have a Company or Position in Mind?

Study and use LinkedIn like it’s your lover: learn it inside and out, make it the best it can be, make it feel appreciated and wanted. LinkedIn can help you get an in with a company, meet people working there, find out more about the company’s culture.

Most businesses have a website these days too. Ever think to look at it? You can learn a shit-tonne from half an hour browsing a company’s website. Find out what they do, their mission statement, who works in positions you’re interested in, who is in charge of hiring.

Find Out Every Step Needed to Get That Job

I knew I needed to get that honours degree. I had no idea I needed to become an actual RCMP officer, which I physically can’t do. A lot of people see that you need to become an officer before moving on to a different job and give up altogether. They’d rather not spend 5 years working in a remote northern community, far from home and everything they love, dealing with criminals and violence and such, to get a desk job doing research. Hell, even if my eyesight didn’t disqualify me from the job, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the officer position anyway. I was just over 30 years old (and still am, btw) competing with people in their early 20s for a physically demanding position, which I am in no physical shape to hold. I’m a desk job person, not chasing perps through vacant lots and hopping tall fences kind of gal.

There are a gazillion different things that a job could require from you that could wind up being a dealbreaker. Believe me, it’s better to know what these are before you throw down $60,000 in borrowed money for a degree that is going to do you no good once you’ve realized you can never get the job you were getting that degree for.

Basically, you need to go and power up The Googles, as my mother calls it. Start researching shit. Look into the jobs you want, the companies you want to work for, the schooling you’re doing, the people you admire. See if what you want is even feasible, and see if it’s something you can definitely be in for the long-haul.

Don’t wind up like me, Sunshine. I kinda love-hate my job most days. It would be great if not for the crushing debt of the schooling and living I did over the last 10 years. I could make a living off of it if I didn’t have all these damn bills.  Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as me, Sunshine. Do your damn research. Plan shit for the future.

Why My Credit Sucks, But Not Totally

Ok so when I talk about my credit, I don’t even include the student loans I have. Thanks to laws and bills here, I don’t have to pay back anything until I make over $25,000 a year.  Sadly, I make well under that, even in gross pay right now. This also means I’m safe from huge payments, and can chip away at my loans slowly for now. this is a big plus for me right now.

A huge negative is my credit cards. You see, while I was looking for work, I still needed to live. I managed to work enough odd jobs and get enough benefits to cover my rent. But things like food, clothes for interviews (all second-hand stuff, mind you), and transportation (busses for the most part) still needed to be taken care of. Then, after I found work, I found out that my hours drop DRASTICALLY in the new year (from 40 hours a week plus Sunday overtime, to zero hours scheduled for two weeks straight). If I scrimp and save my paychecks, I can pay my rent and credit card minimums. But there’s no money left for food (unless I get called in for shifts, which look pretty likely this year!). In the past, I took a temp job at the University, but the last few months there hasn’t been anything available for me.

So, I put things on credit. It’s not like I’m out buying Gucci handbags and Fendi wallets. I’m buying on sale Mr. Noodle and some “priced to sell TODAY” veggies to throw in with them. I’m buying “Buy tonight, cook tomorrow” meats at a huge discount. Basically, I’m buying bargain groceries. This stuff adds up over time though. And there’s always a little something else you need to get. New interview pants because yours ripped or you lost some weight (from not being able to afford food). A bottle of the cheapest wine you can find to give to a friend for her birthday. A package of bus tickets you try to stretch as long as possible.  And this just adds up even more.

So, I’ve dug myself a pretty sizeable hole. Between 4 credit card and a line of credit, I’m looking at hitting the $30,000 mark this year if I don’t do something about it.

My biggest problem is the interest. I’ve read all the books, I’ve watched the shows (Gail Vaz-Oxlade you are my Queen!!!), I know that interest is a what kills you in the end. I really had no idea how bad it was until recently.

On my largest credit card balance, I owe a minimum of around $250 a month. Of that, $240 is just the interest accrued that month. That means I’m only paying off $10 of my debt each month!

So, I spoke to a financial advisor. At my job, I’m only classified as part-time, which is not a good thing when you’re looking to borrow money. Actually, that is the kiss of death for most people. But in my case, she is hopeful that we can at least get a large chunk of my debt consolidated into one payment with a lower interest rate. Why?

1. I MAKE PAYMENTS ON-TIME

The last time I was late on a payment was 8 years ago. Even then, I notified my bank that there was a problem with my paycheck and my credit card payment would be a week late. I’ve only ever missed one phone bill payment, which I paid in full the moment I I realized it and talked to my phone company about as soon as I could (my mother was in the hospital, the doctor told her she was going to die, and I was more than a little pre-occupied at the time). My point? I made my payments! And the rare time I didn’t make them on time? I made sure to apologize, explain myself, and beg for mercy. A lender doesn’t HAVE to keep lending you money. Legally (and laws vary depending on state/province, so be sure to know yours) you can miss or be late on X amount of payments before you suffer any true consequences.

I make sure to have my payments in on-time each and every month. And the credit companies take note of that.

2. I PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM

No, I’m not paying my balance in full, like all the experts tell me to. But if my payment is $50 for the month, I’m throwing down at least $75-$100 on there. Not only does that free up more credit if I need it later in the month, but it also shows commitment. My lending companies know that I want to pay things off, and I’m not going to just sit around doing the bare minimum to do it.

When I spoke to a financial advisor this week, on thing she emphasised was that I was paying a good $100 more a month than the minimum on my largest debt, in an effort to make it go away. This is a huge factor in determining what I CAN pay and what I WILL pay if my debts are consolidated, which affects the amount they are willing to lend me to do this.

3. I STOPPED SPENDING WHEN I DIDN’T NEED TO

Coming up closer to Christmas, my online spending increases (hello Amazon deals, you saved me TONNES for Christmas). BUT, what I spend on other credit cards decreases (I have on card dedicated to online purchases). I didn’t touch two of my cards for a month and a half! And this is huge for your credit score!

To bump up your credit score, on thing you need to do is show that you don’t need to spend your available credit. I tried to do my in-person spending (clothes, shoes, things someone needs to try on or physically test before they buy) in the warmer months. Then, when I know I’ll be spending money online in the colder months, I put away the cards in my wallet. Now, if I don’t have the cash, I don’t buy it. Yes, it sucks. Big time. I went hungry more than a few times, had to live on ramen noodles again at times. But giving those cards a break shows that I’m not dependant on them. This is huge when it comes to determining your credit score.

Basically Sunshine, I’ve messed up my finances pretty damn bad. Once, when I was really drunk, I ordered 60 pairs of false eyelashes from China. Thankfully that only set me back like $20, but that’s the kind of stupid thing we all do from time to time. I’ve tried to show, especially in the last few years, that while I’ve been entirely stupid with my credit, I get it. I need to pay it back, I want to pay it back, and I’ve put some effort into paying back.

As I said, I have multiple cards. Sometimes, just paying off one card (while keeping up payments on the others) is enough to put a huge boost in your credit score. And your credit score determines a lot. Right now, my score is low enough that i can get a mortgage, but at a horrible rate. My goal is to bring that up to a decent rate by the end of the year, and be looking to buy a home just after next Christmas.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things you can do to help your credit score, but it’s a start. Talk to a financial advisor if you’re in a bind. Trust me, Sunshine, it helps.