A Guide to Balancing School and Two Jobs

Last year when I started school here at UNT, I also got my very first job as a Research and Media Assistant at xREZ Art + Science Lab on campus. I had an interesting time adjusting, as I had never experienced a) actual college classes or b) balancing school and a job. I was very active within organizations at my high school, but that is not the same, and I was definitely not getting paid. As someone with an anxiety disorder, this was quite intimidating to take on, but eventually I got into my groove and everything generally worked out well for me. I worked 20 hours for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters. Because I want to work in media, I was also getting a lot of valuable experience.

However, despite the experience I gain, I only make $8 an hour there. Long story short, as I'm sure happened with a lot of others as well, my financial situation changed when the pandemic hit. I didn't lose my job at the lab since we were able to go remote, but my family did. I also got offered a lot less financial aid. Besides those situations, I also wanted to build my savings more for when I graduate. For these reasons and more, I decided to get a second job. I applied at my apartment complex and thankfully was offered the position. I make more so that helps me financially, and since I live there I get a discounted rate on rent as well.

I started this second job in the summer when I was taking summer classes and still working at the lab. My summer classes and two out of four of my fall classes have been online without Zoom meetings, so scheduling hasn't been too bad, thankfully. However, my life got so much busier, and I had to make a lot of adjustments. You really have to stay on top of things to succeed with this, and I'd like to share some advice on how I've been accomplishing this so far for anyone who might have to do the same thing. 

1. Planners and Spreadsheets

I've been a huge fan of planners for a long time even when I just had one job. But now that I have two, I can say that it is so much more critical to keep track of all of the shifts, meetings, classes, due dates, appointments, etc. happening in your life so you don't miss something or get mixed up.

I have two jobs, four classes, HerCampus, and of course personal things in my rare moments of free time. Everything that I have to be at and everything that I have to do is written down in a daily planner where I keep track of things by day, by week, and by month. Mine is the Clever Fox Daily Pro Planner which I have been using for all of 2020 so far and I swear by it. It also includes pages and sections for your goals, check-ins, and habits. However, you can use whatever works for you. I'd love to make a bullet journal or something more cute and creative, but I do not have the time or energy. If you do, go for it. 

I also have a spreadsheet that I made on google forms that lists every single assignment for every single class that I have this fall by the due date with checkboxes for completed items. Each class has a different color to help me visualize them better. This has helped me keep track of when everything I have this semester is going to be due and I know ahead of time when all of the tests, quizzes, projects, etc. will need to be done. It's also really satisfying to watch the list get smaller as I check things off. 

2. Communication

When you have two jobs and classes and orgs and personal events, things get complicated. Make sure you're always communicating with your supervisors, coworkers, org officers, friends, family, etc. to let them know when you are not going to be available and when you will be. Especially between the two jobs, it's important to make sure both supervisors know when you're going to be at the other job. This is a little bit easier for me since I set my own hours at the lab and keep those every week. If both of your jobs are shift-based and change weekly/monthly, etc. this is going to be even more important. 

This includes setting boundaries for when you need time to yourself. Don't let anyone guilt-trip you or manipulate you into doing more than you can handle. Always put your mental health and your academics ahead of work. If you need to say no, say no.

3. Class Scheduling

The one good thing about the pandemic this semester is that online classes have been so helpful when it comes to scheduling two jobs. I have class in the morning Monday through Thursday. I normally have shifts at my apartment complex on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday afternoons. I work at the lab on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings. Sometimes, I work on a weekend day instead of a weekday at my apartment complex. But, for the most part, I still get at least one day off on the weekend, and often, it's both. If you can set things up like this where you have class either in the morning or afternoon and work in the other it works out pretty well.

I also highly suggest registering for classes as soon as you possibly can so that you can secure the times you need to make your schedule run smoothly. 

4. Different Roles

At my apartment complex, I am at the front desk talking with residents and parents, giving tours, handling packages, etc. It's a lot of customer service which can be exhausting and difficult (although I like my job and for the most part it's a pleasant experience). At the lab, I sit at my own desk with my two monitors and create social media content or help with research. No dealing with other people except for when I collaborate with my coworkers or we have private presentations of our VR experiences. The differences in my roles really help when it comes to burning out. I'm not doing the same thing every day and it allows me to get a break from working with customers even though I'm still at a job working. 

I understand that this is not possible in a lot of cases and I'm very lucky in that regard. A lot of students work in customer service jobs and food service. If you're looking for a second job, often you don't have many options in anything else. However, if you can, I highly suggest getting jobs that are not going to be the same type of work. It will keep you from going insane. 

I hope that this is helpful to someone and as I continue to learn from my experiences in this situation, I'd love to write more and help others who have to take on the same burden! :)