Day Planners, Calendars, and Knowing What the Hell is Going On

Happy Friday everyone!

I’m on day 12 of a 12 day stretch of work, between the two jobs right now. My temp job ends next week, and I’m trying to pick up as many shifts at my awesome other job as I can. That means 50-60 hour weeks, no weekends off, 12 hour days (including my commutes, they’re 13+ hours), and no extra time to waste. Luckily, I’m super organized!

I have a wall calendar I got for $2 at Giant Tiger (came with coupons too!) that I track my work schedule on. I keep it somewhere that the boyfriend can easily see it. I also have the most amazingly awesome purple and gold day planner I take everywhere. In there, I can track my work schedule, To-Do Lists, the boyfriend’s schedule, and any other obligations I have (like my awesome Cousin Brunch tomorrow morning with my siblings, a few cousins, and a giant plate of bacon). When my schedule gets really crazy, I colour-code everything. It’s not as hard as it sounds: black ink for my day job, blue ink for my night job, red ink for social things, green ink for the boyfriend’s schedule, and purple for To-Do Lists and reminders.

On top of that, I always have Post-Its and To-Do Lists for the day and/or week. I’ll make a list when I get to work of all the things I need to get done that day, and start working my way through. And I keep a list of things to get done at home, like laundry or a manicure, and work through them one at a time.

The boyfriend can’t quite grasp this system, though. He can never remember to check the calendar to see if I’m working two jobs that day or just one. I have to constantly text-message him to remind him. And he can never remember to give me his schedule either. To him, all of this planning and scheduling is really not important. If something is that important, he’ll remember it.

But he doesn’t.

For Valentine’s Day, we had planned a nice day together. Costco for lunch, Applebee’s for dinner, and then a little wine and cheese at home where we could just relax together. Everything was set, and we set out to grab the last bit of wine and cheese on Friday night…….. when his sister texted to remind him that her bus was getting in the next night and she would be spending the night at our place. Oh, and he would have to drive out to the bus station to pick her up…… meaning no wine and cheese, and an early dinner for us.  Our night wasn’t totally ruined, but it wasn’t at all like we had planned. And why? Because he didn’t bother putting a reminder about his sister anywhere before we started planning!

This is becoming a regular occurrence with us. I tried to make plans for us to go to his old fraternity’s annual formal, to find out he’ll be out of town that whole weekend. I tried to make plans for us to spend a nice afternoon together running errands and relaxing, to be told he’s working out of town all weekend. It’s frustrating, and causes quite a few fights between us.

There is no one method to keeping your schedule straight. Some people need multiple calendars, day planners, lists, reminders in their phones, and an online calendar. Others just need a simple wall calendar. How you keep things together is up to you. But when you have others who may be impacted by your schedule (roommates, significant others, parents, kids, co-workers, etc…), you may have to step up your planning game just a bit.

Do You Have A Plan?

I mean beside, “Graduate, find a job, make money”.

So many students go into their post-secondary schooling without any sort of plan in place. It’s almost like they’re on autopilot. Going to college or university just seemed like the logical next step after graduating high school, or not finding their dream job after a few years.

There’s also the outside pressure from friends, family, and “experts” to get some sort of degree. It’s like people seem to think that getting some sort of piece of paper will make the job offers come flying in. I’ve even heard the “advice” that it doesn’t matter what your degree is in, as long as you have a degree.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Now, you don’t need to have a concrete plan, set in stone, laying out every educational and career move you plan to make in the next five years. You should have some sort of idea of what you’re getting yourself into. You can’t go into this whole “planning the rest of your life” thing blind.

Do you have an idea of what career you want after graduation? If so, that’s great! Make sure you’re on the right track to get there. (I’ll have a whole post next week about how to do this) Not so much? That’s ok too.  Not everyone knows exactly what they want out of life. The main things to focus on are to not panic, and to not pigeon hole yourself into such a small niche that you have no options to look to.

Do you have a major topic of study? Many students spend a year or two as an “undeclared” major, or in a “general arts/science” program. And that’s perfectly fine. If you’re not sure of what you want, then don’t rush into something you could totally regret. It’s perfectly fine to take a variety of courses in order to find out what it is that really gets you going. You may find that you have an undiscovered love of statistics, or geology, or quantitative research. Taking a little time to explore could help you discover your true passions.

Do you have no idea whatsoever what you want to do, but you’re in school anyway because it’s what you’re supposed to do? Then maybe you need to take a little time out here. So many people get pushed into university by well-meaning people and advice, when what they would benefit most from is going into a skilled trade. Or they rush into getting a degree when what they really want is to be a chef. Or they get a job with a company, and would love to just work their way up the chain there, but are pressured to give that up to go to school.

Not everyone needs to run out and get a degree! If you really have no clue what you want to do, or you have a career goal that some seem to see as non-traditional, then maybe you need to take a little time off to figure things out. Some people travel, or take time to explore different career options. I’ve known people who took time off and worked for cruise lines, department stores, garages, fast food restaurants. Some of them found a career path they loved. Others found something they thought they would love, and instead hated with the fiery passion of a thousand supernova-ing suns. Either way, they found something about themselves, and were able to either create or narrow-down their career path.

So do you have a plan? If so, congrats! You’re ahead of myself, and about 3/4 of the people I know. You don’t? That’s ok too. Just make sure not to pigeon hole yourself out of options.

Do I REALLY need a portfolio?

In one of my job search seminars (I attend a whole lot of those lately), it was suggested that we each create a portfolio and bring a copy of it to every interview we go to. We were told tales of the people who had done that and were then hired on the spot, with employers impressed by their readiness. After talking with a lot of professionals in different fields through personal contacts and LinkedIn, this seemed a little wonky to me. Is a portfolio really needed?

The long and short answer is: kinda. You should definitely create a master portfolio for yourself, with both an electronic and a printed copy, with the originals put somewhere safe (a fire-proof safe or lock box is ALWAYS a good idea for anyone to have, and the perfect place for original documents). It is always a good idea to have all your documents and proofs in one convenient location, in case you need them.

So what is actually in your portfolio? To start with, put a copy of the resume you applied with. If at all possible, also include the cover letter you used to apply with, even just for your own reference. You should scan copies of any educational documents (high school diploma, GED, degrees, diplomas) and print copies. Any certificates, transcripts, letters of reference, or other documents that prove that you have knowledge are a good idea too. Basically, your portfolio is a presentation of the very best of you (in a professional manner).

But do you need to bring this to every interview? From what I’ve been told, no! Not every employer is going to need or be impressed by this. There will be jobs you apply for that are not interested in everything you have to offer.

So how do you know when to bring it? Easy: check the job ad! Most job ads list the required education, skills, and knowledge needed for a position. Do you have documented proof of these? Then bring copies! If you are up for a creative job, bring examples of your prior creative works! But you don’t need to have copies of EVERYTHING for every job.

Basically, you NEED a portfolio in order to have one file for yourself , even just for your own piece of mind, that shows all of your accomplishments. At the same time, you need to tailor your portfolio to each job you bring it to. A job involving spreadsheets and data entry may not be excited about your experience creating magazine covers for your Creative Media courses, but would love to know that you have certification in Word and Excel. At the same point, a photojournalism job may not require an advanced knowledge of Microsoft Access, but sure as hell needs proven knowledge of photo-editing software.

So yes, you do need a portfolio, even if it’s just for you. You do not, however, need to bring then entire thing to every job interview you go to. Just like your resume and cover letter, you need to tailor it to each specific job.

I Wasn’t Prepared for My Preparedness Post………… Oooops!

Ironically, I was going to prepare a post for today about how you should always be prepared for anything. I was going to go into the basics of planning ahead, because life happens all around us.

Well, then life happened to me.

I’m writing this post on a borrowed iPad while sitting next to my grandma’s bed in the hospice. I didn’t take my own advice and plan ahead for this. While I did have a few weeks of posts scheduled before this, I didn’t have anything for this week.

Learn from my error.

Once we’re a little more settled here, I will be preparing for emergencies like this. How? I could do things like save drafts of posts that can be posted at any time during the year. This could be anything from horror stories from roommate experiences past, to tips for studying and writing papers. I could also keep notes with me for simple posts that can be done of hone go. And, of course, I could always make sure I have a few weeks of posts scheduled ahead of time to make sure things like this don’t happen again.

So keep checking in for more posts. Soon I will be talking more about organizing, scheduling, and planning. I am researching a series on effective study and writing habits. Also, I hope to start up my Roommate Horrors series. Stay tuned for the Tale of Too Much Protein, Where is my Freakin Cheese, and Why I Was Allergic to My Own Kitchen. These stories are all based either on my own personal experiences in university, or stories from my friends’ time at school.

So check back here in the coming weeks for a little more of the usual, and a little less of this “typing from a hospice recliner”.