steaming coffee mug with latte

Morning Boosts: Healthy Alternatives to Coffee

Happy National Coffee Day! Not going to lie, I love my Grande Caramel Macchiato, Tall Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino and Tall Café Mocha from the Starbucks menu. Outside of those staples, I’m just not a big coffee fan though. Even my college filled all-nighters were fueled by snacks, not drinks. So, there’s that. Now I do understand that coffee is truly the lifeline to many people’s mornings and other people’s full days. Once you reach that point of no return, coffee can be detrimental to your health! Addicting properties, teeth stains, budget sucking…the list goes on. For those of us, who can avoid that, or want to get out of the cycle; there is still hope for an energy-filled morning.

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How to Successfully Have a Lazy/Productive Saturday

Whatever happened to the lazy/productive Saturday? The one that you look back on Sunday evening, and don’t regret how much time you wasted. I find myself often waking up earlier than I want, wasting time on social media or lounging around the house, and then heading out to run errands that seem to consume the better part of my day.

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7 Tips on Surviving College Freshman Year

7 Tips On Surviving College Freshman Year

So you want to go to college, huh? Well, that’s awesome! But I can guarantee you that it will be different from high school, very different. However, I am here to make that transition a lot easier.

Want to know the easiest ways to make it harder for yourself? Not being mentally prepared, and not having your priorities straight. So, let’s talk about the mental prep misconceptions of college and how to prioritize your life. I promise it’ll become a lot easier than you expect by implementing these small, yet crucial things.

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Playing Big Brother: Surviving Workplace Game Play

Big Brother, a summer series aired on CBS annually, is one of my favorite shows on TV. I almost always watch each season in anticipation of the new themes and game play twists. Although this is reality TV, there are some uncanny parallels to the real world. Further, there are many lessons to be learned from the players of the game and how it can further you in the workplace.

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Planning Your Passion: Why You Need A Passion Planner

Have you ever felt your life and all its responsibilities slipping out of your grasp? I know that’s pretty dramatic but times like that happen! You end up with random scraps of paper and Notes on your phone of things to do but no clear organization. Things started to fall apart for me when I finished graduate school and life no longer fit into neat little semesters and quarterly budgets. I got a full-time job that took up much of my day, and my broader reaching goals faded into the background. With the help of my new Passion Planner, I was able to hone in on my “purpose” and what to do on a daily basis to maintain consistent strides towards my goals.

The Passion Planner is a growing planner design, birthed from the mind of Angelia Trinidad. After much success with her Kickstarter campaign in 2013, her brand has expanded far beyond the United States.

Each Passion Planner begins with an introduction to the planner, welcome, and “Passion Roadmap”. The Passion Roadmap leads you through various activities (totally in about 10 minutes) to complete in order to identify your “Game Changer”. From there, throughout the planner, you revisit these topics and plan out your journey to success through meaningful steps outlined each week. For example, each monthly spread provides a section for you to map our your Game Changer and how you will move one step closer to the end goal. Weekly planning spreads additionally offer places to identify your weekly and daily focuses, celebrate good things that happened in the week, list priority tasks for the week, and lastly, a notes section.

Amazing or Naw?

Monthly Reflections

I am in love with the monthly reflection questions. Of course, the questions are something I could’ve found on Pinterest, but I didn’t. The planner walks you through the previous month and revisits notes taken throughout the weeks. I truly appreciate the small wins that were celebrated and lessons learned. Additionally, the layout simply encourages mental organization beyond immediate to-do lists. I am already thinking about major plans to prepare for in September (and that’s not just because my birthday is in the latter half of the month).

Passion Roadmapping

I assume that I’m not the only one who needs motivation from time to time in pursuing my passion. It’s possible to be “on fire” for a topic but sometimes that flame dims just a bit. Every now and then, I luck up on a quote, conversation, or brief interaction that pushes me to move forward. The Passion Planner provides that without the coincidental aspect. Mini challenges each week inspire me to reach passion goals and quotes remind me of the importance of intentional planning.

The Passion Community

I admire the community that has formed around the Passion Planner. Through great branding, The Passion Planner social media outlets showcase how others use their planner and the awesome developments of the product. Getting inspiration too from other users keeps my own usage fresh. I can change up the way I use my weekly spread and find best practices for my own planning system with the same planner.

Free Resources & Expansion

One of the great aspects of the Planner Passion is access to digital components right away. All Passion Planner purchasers get access to the digital version immediately after purchase. There are a variety of page sizes and layouts. Having the digital version of the planner allows me to print a weekly, monthly, or planning spread one at a time for further brainstorming. Sometimes I find myself filling up my planner that I have little to no room to add any more notes. The digital copy provides more flexibility and room as needed. I also love the expansion worksheets. There are inserts such as water, calories, workout, finance, and habit trackers. There are other page inserts, but you’ll have to discover them after purchasing the planner!

So what are you waiting for? Get your new Passion Planner today!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Useful Skills For All Careers

Now you’ve landed the new job but you want to make sure that your outstanding resume meets the skills needed for your new positions. No matter the industry, some skills are standard and universally beneficial for anyone who wants to be successful at work. Whether you are working at a non-profit, tech startup, or even retail; these skills are sure to help you be more effective, productive, and stress less.
useful-skills-for-all-careers

People Skills

Although often overlooked, people skills can get you very far in the workplace, more so than any technical skills. We live in a collaborative world where you must juggle different projects with people of different personalities and perspectives of the project, which also means different interpretations. Having the ability to see the world through different lenses will allow you to work well with others. Of course, we all have typical personality types that we “gel” with, but the better you can communicate with someone who is “different” from you, the more you’ll be heavily relied on to get the job done.

How do you master “People Skills”? Here are a few guiding thoughts to get you started.

  • Stop and think how others may perceive a particular situation differently from you.
  • Ask how someone perceived a particular situation to determine the differences from your own perception.
  • Consider what is important to others in contrast to yourself. (ex. the project designer has different priorities from the project marketer or manager)

Databasing/Analysis

coding-skills

I remember putting together simple excel spreadsheets for experiment data in high school Chemistry lab. For a while, that was the extent of my experience, two columns/two rows and a bunch of numbers to create a chart. However, once I got to college I gathered how to filter data and use spreadsheets more efficiently to organize a budget or even a mailing list.

Basic skills as these are helpful in analyzing data and effortlessly navigating spreadsheets given to you by your supervisor. Learn these basic excel skills to feel confident in database and analysis competency:

  • Utilizing multiple sheets in a single workbook effectively
  • Creating and using basic formulas
  • Quickly copy data and create sequences down your spreadsheet
  • Freeze panes for easy viewing
  • Analyze with pivot tables

Mental Recall/Short-Term Memory

Have you found yourself talking to your boss and quickly trying to repeat ten commands in your head throughout the conversation? Random conversation can strike at any moment, prompting you to think fast, work efficiently, and rely on your short term memory to get the job done. At one time, I diligently kept a notebook in hand at all times in anticipation of these moments. But that’s an ideal situation, and rarely is every day at work ideal. Keeping your mind sharp will help with unexpected work. Download a mind game to your phone to exercise your brain muscles. My favorite game for this is Elevate.

Time Management

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“Time is money.” We all know the phrase but do we really understand the concept of properly using our time for productivity. There have been many studies to show, to the point of corporate adoption, that most jobs can be done in a 25-30 hour work week. This is contrary to our typical 40 hours. This means to me, that I have additional time to strategize, brush up on skills, and better plan out my projects.

We should all have a decent understanding of how our mind works and what promotes productivity for ourselves. Is it background music? Prioritizing items on a to-do list? Or how about taking short breaks every 30 minutes? Maybe it’s simply taking out time to organize your thoughts or tasks each afternoon following lunch.

Whatever it is, incorporate it into your daily routine to be more strategic and productive. You will find that this will lead to better time management. The key is not to count every minute or time each project, but to find the most productive approach and plan accordingly.

How do you master time management:

  • Prioritize your tasks. You will feel productive and time efficient if the most important tasks are completed first.
  • Find a routine that will keep you up to date with all your recurring projects that somehow fall through the cracks.
  • If you’re still having problems, log your projects and the time it takes to complete each. Analyze your results and consider ways to cut time off particular projects.
  • Also, log achievements and list what made you successful. Try to duplicate that process.

budget worksheet and calculator

Budget 101: My Golden Rules

Happy payday (someone’s getting paid today)! Whether you’re paid bi-weekly, semi-monthly, monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. there is a routine that you should adopt in order to keep your finances organized. Each week of payday, I follow a routine that keeps me up to date with my bills and on track with my budget. Hopefully, my routine will motivate you to make some adjustments to your financial routine for the better.

Create and Revise Budget

make-that-budget

I always take the time to write out my budget before payday. If you are not salaried, a great way to track your hourly pay is through Paycheck City. I love using their tool because the expected taxed income is always accurate. With that, I list all of my bills and budget areas that I plan to cover that check. Most importantly, I compare my budget categories to plans I have coming up in that pay period. This way, I am prepared to cover any expenses associated with them well in advance. After the initial budget draft, I am always revising it until payday.

Check Bank Account 

The morning of each payday, I check my account. I know this seems very thirsty, but there’s a method to my madness. I’ve had a few occasions where payroll was not setup properly for my direct deposit. Consequently, my paycheck was not deposited into my account. Also, with paydays being on Friday, I could not expect any money into my account until Monday morning. You can believe I paid a visit to my job for an asap manual check, whether I was off or not.

So, the first step is to verify that the money is there! I also check my paycheck stub to make sure the numbers match. Especially in my job where I earned commissions, I wanted to see where extra funds came from. Once these things are verified, I take a final glance at my budget and adjust accordingly. One great financial tip that I try to stick to is making sure all my funds are accounted for. Allocating all of your funds discourages any deviation from the budget in fear of overdraft.

Allocating all of your funds discourages any deviation from the planned budget. #chicadvice #bchicu Click To Tweet

Manually Post Payments

After verifying my funds and solidifying my budget, it’s time to pay off these bills! Despite the conveniences, I opt out of automatic payments for a few reasons.

  1. There are fluctuations in my monthly bills.
  2. Varying pay dates each month are too inconsistent to safely automate.
  3. I want to closely track money in and out of my account.

Manually posting bills gives me complete control over the bill pay process. I still receive paperless bills and complete the same steps online. However, I avoid all automation. The only automatic bills I have are small subscriptions and I keep them on my credit card. I keep these separate because the bill amount is consistent each month and I know what to expect.

Set Aside Savings

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Savings is such a crucial part of financial health, not to mention all the things it provides for long-term planning and security. I try to save around 10% of my income per check, but the key is saving something. There are times I’ll cut back but still put money away. I made a point to make this its own step because I am learning the true benefits of saving. Being able to take trips, buy a car, and move between states within a few short months were all possible due to my saving habits (and good timing). I place my savings into a separate account and make sure to track this before allocating any spending money to myself.

Set Aside Spending

Lastly, I set aside my spending money. As I said earlier, all money is accounted for in the budget. So at this point, I should balance out to $0 in my account (not including the carry over personal money that I did not spend from last month). I track my frivolous spending weekly to ensure I am within budget. Sometimes, I adjust my budget further to make sense of the money I have left (including that extra from the last paycheck). The goal is to stay within budget.

Track Payments

Since most of my bills are paid on Friday, none of the payments show up in my checking account until Monday or Tuesday of the next week. Again, in an attempt to prevent fraudulent activity and to track my own activity, I check my account once on Monday and Tuesday mornings for the automatic withdraws. These payments were made manually, but on the bank’s end, they are still considered automatic.

Another reason to double check deposits and withdraws are to double check your own errors. I have had instances in which I set the wrong payment date. This threw off my budget and more specifically, my spending money. Sometimes checking for that human error will save a headache in the future.

Check the Budget Again

With all necessities covered, I am able to look ahead. I tend to forget there is a whole two-week time span between pay periods and I be living this lavish life over the weekend after payday. Then I remember I have gas, food and events/activities the next week that I need to hold money onto for. So at the beginning of the next week, I will estimate how much spending money to allocate for the following week. By further itemizing my money, there is less likeliness that I will overspend in one week and fall into the vicious “living paycheck to paycheck” cycle.

Start Again

and-repeat-budget

Going into the second week, I begin to plan my next budget and we start all over! I have found these small details to be helpful and really keep me on track with my budget, keeping up with bills and maintaining a decent balance in my account at all times. Other things I do to stay organized are keeping folders in my email for all statements and payment confirmations, periodic debt tracker worksheets to get a snapshot of my bills, use the Qapital to boost my savings and use the Mint budget app to monitor my credit score.

Let me know if any of these tips help you out. I sure hope so!

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Job Hunting Strategies

In my last job hunting post, we discussed surefire strategies in developing the perfect resume, cover letter, and interview presentation. Now it’s time to delve deep into the actual job hunt. Looking for a new career these days can be exhausting. I remember hearing horror stories about needing to apply to 50 positions in order to hear back from 10…and most of those 10 are interview declinations! However, this process can be a lot less stressful with a bit of organization. In today’s post, we’ll go over those key strategies. And I promise they’re simple.

job-hunting-strategies

Identify your niche

The most important factors in my own job search were the type of position and company. Of course, I wanted a job, but I wanted to best fit, a good potential long-term career move. With that in mind, I narrowed down my location, company types and position title keywords.

You want to do the same when identifying how to go about your job search. Identify your location, company types (think industry), and 5-10 keywords that would appear in the position. This does not include words like a manager, coordinator, assistant, etc. You want to use words that relate to your skills such as marketing, digital, counseling, etc.

Choose Your Search Engines

Find just a handful of trustworthy job searching sites and create accounts with them, as well as signing up for email notifications. You will become inundated with tons of emails but these will do some of the heavy lifting for you. The key part is that you only use about 3-5 sites. I’ve found in my own research that many sites have the same listings and other not so reputable ones will spam your email with less desirable positions. I recommend using LinkedIn Premium (use the trial and then cancel), Glassdoor, and Indeed. There are also local listing sites. I used milwaukeejobs.com for my job search in Milwaukee, WI of course.

Consistency is Key

The most effective way to gather postings of your liking will be to check in on a consistent basis. I did an active search weekly. This allows you to be consistent with your job search, enough time for new postings to populate, and time to tweak your resume. The goal is to find at least 5 promising positions, per week, and tailor your resume and cover letter to each. This takes quite some time, so a week should do. Keep track of all of your findings and notes in this Job Tracker form.

Details Matter

With every application that you submit, there must be special attention paid to the details. Your cover letter must be specific to the position, and so should your resume. Contrary to popular belief, your resume should always be tweaked and tailored to where you apply. Hiring managers are looking for key characteristics and buzz words that match their open position. If you think that you’re a match but the details in your resume do not line up, you need to go back to the drawing board. Present yourself in every document that you submit as the perfect candidate for that job! This step takes time, so that’s why you have the whole week to complete your applications.

Follow Up

In a few cases, I decided to follow up with the hiring manager/job posting contact regarding their selection process. However, this should not be considered common place. This is only for instances in which you’ve been in contact with them before or a posting that you are very very interested in and you have received no correspondence (including a simple confirmation email) for weeks. I found that jobs can wait up to 4 weeks (!) just to get back to you for an interview (and even a generic declination). However, if you do receive positive responses, feel free to follow up weekly in between responses to keep the process moving.

Trust the Process

Landing an interview, finding a job, and starting a new career is a stressful and tedious process. It can take weeks and even months to land a solid job. However, keeping track of your progress and efforts will assist you in the process as you await those coveted responses. Follow the advice from this post if you want to be more strategic and intentional about landing a good job. Stay tuned for my next post about key skills to have at your new job!

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Set Goals, Crush Milestones Part II: Plans Change

This post was originally published on Columbia College Chicago’s Graduate Blog, Marginalia.


Things never go as planned. Somehow, things still pan out how they are supposed to. I don’t think I achieved a single goal that I discussed in my first blog post on Marginalia (and on B Chic), and I do not feel bad about it. I’ve gained so many valuable experiences in this last year at Columbia College Chicago that would replace every plan I had. You’ll see that all of my achievements reflect an experience that relates to my goal even if it did not help me achieve it specifically.

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Leaving a Legacy: Successful Leadership Tranisiton

Leaving A Legacy: Successful Leadership Transition

I graduated this weekend with my Masters in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago. I’m still letting that sink in. What an exciting time to be at a crossroads, going from full-time student to full-time employee. Not everything went as planned, but plans unfold the way they do for a reason and in its own season. One thing I did have control over though, was my legacy. Before leaving Columbia, I saw the need for my contirbutions and impact to continue past my graduation. How does one do that? How can you make this work for your own legacy, at school or on the job?

Leaving A Legacy Title Photo

Build Relationships

The most productive way to ensure long-term impact is by developing meaningful relationships. No, I’m not asking you to cross the workplace relationship line, but showing a general interest in someone can go a long way.

Communication is….you guessed it…key! Probably one of the hardest parts when it comes to working with a group, yet most productive when done correctly. Most people (including me) want to be heard but hardly wants to listen. Everyone takes a look at the world from their perspective but hardly takes the time to view it from other’s eyes. When you’re able to see what others do and identify their strengths, you can work more effectively together.

Relationships = Legacy Building

How does this all tie into leaving a legacy? The best way to impact change is by impacting people. I love the quote, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Developing strong relationships with others, while bringing out their best, will resonate with them forever.

The best way to impact change is by impacting people. Click To Tweet

Here are a few practical implications for ensuring a smooth transition. Although making connections is key, there are key logistical things you can do to ensure seamless communication from you to the next person. The advice is applicable for job positions, organization leadership, or general group transition where you would like your ideas to be carried on.

Leave Great Notes

In my first organization position as secretary, I developed a leadership guide. I was the first to provide this and it was literally detailed notes of everything I did in my role. By simply providing contact information, general timelines, and our roster the next year kicked off without a hitch. Passing along notes can make the biggest difference in the world. For early organizations that are still establishing processes, this is a great first step.

Establish A Shared Drive

As an executive board member of my sorority at the collegiate level, I had the opportunity to operate within an organization that followed Roberts Rules of Order. Through that organization, I understood the importance of proper note taking and organizing documents in a shared file. We used Yahoo Files at the time, but that system is a bit dated. I recommend any project management system such as Google Drive, Asana, Trello, Slack, Basecamp, etc. Providing a “home base” for files that can be accessed by varying people throughout the years can be invaluable. I was able to access files for reference in 2013 from members who transitioned in 2010. If you operate in a role or team that naturally manages lots of membership turnover, this is the best option.

Create A Constitution & Bylaws

Certain organizations just need a general structure of procedures outlined. The new leadership will reference it to run general activities in their own way. Through Student Government at Lewis University, I was able to develop a Constitution and Bylaws that served as guiding documents for the next group. Although these vague and hyper-generalized, it provides a framework for the next person taking over your responsibilities. For groups that face many external factors that may change general operations drastically (such as an external overseeing body), broad guiding documents such as these will be applicable.

Provide An Implementation Guide

Lastly, at Columbia College Chicago, my team developed an Implementation Guide for the upcoming leadership team of Startup Weekend Chicago Creative. We saw the need to share our best practices, contacts, and general timeline information to assist the next team. Something like this with more detail and guidance is perfect for a group taking on a complex project as newcomers.

Do This Too!

Lastly, here are a few applicable points for all of these scenarios:

  • Have a meeting or remote conference call to officially transfer responsibilities and answer questions
  • Provide open communication for a set time after the transition has happened to answer any other questions
  • Keep in touch as a professional contact, you never know what your relationship can offer down the line.

Want more information on organizing leadership transition or leaving a legacy in your position? Check out our webinars page.

Do you have any helpful tips on transitioning roles? Leaving a legacy? Post it in the comments!