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THE QUESTION

I work full-time at a fast-food restaurant. Although it helps me earn enough money to live comfortably right now, I feel that I'm not advancing in my career goals. I'm going to be stuck here until I can pick a college program.

I have many interests, from performance arts to computer programming to writing. My question is, how do I look for college options when I work five days a week?

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THE ANSWER

Many, if not most, people must manage their career transitions, either to a new job or new career, while already working full-time. Not only that, many people are also taking care of family, doing volunteer work, getting exercise, running errands – and so much more.

Welcome to the busy intersection of work and life – where most people seem to reside these days.

Your situation right now represents an important opportunity to figure out your potential career path – and also to hone crucial skills that you will need now and throughout your life, such as learning how to manage your time, balance your priorities, and find ways to accomplish the goals that are important to you.

I'm sure you've heard of the old adage, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." Being productive and advancing in one's goals often has little to do with how much time a person has. But it has everything to do with how focused, committed, organized and prepared they are.

Here are some suggestions:

Challenge your assumptions: You are quite right that you need to devote time to reflect on your options – to do research, to talk to people, to network, to apply, to reflect and more. But you seem confounded as to how to do this when you work five days a week.

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Have you thought about taking time before or after your shifts? What about the two days you aren't working? I bet there are ample windows of time to devote in your off hours, and for those times where you do need time off – to visit a school, to talk to a contact – I imagine there would be opportunity to swap shifts with a co-worker.

Manage your time: Managing your time will be a life-long skill and you had best start honing this skill now. Keep in mind that successful people aren't successful because they had enough time to do the things they needed to do. They are successful because learned how to prioritize, plan and manage their time. So get organized. Prioritize what you need to do. If pursuing a college education and a more meaningful career path is truly important to you, you will commit to making the time.

Set goals: If choosing a career feels daunting and big – try breaking down your goals into smaller bites. Start with one area that interests you and set some specific goals, such as exploring college programs, or talking to people already in that business. You might also consider finding some support to help guide you in your career exploration.

Get unstuck by doing what you can do: You used the word "stuck" when describing your situation. Often, when we feel we don't have enough time, it can put us in a limited frame of mind and narrow our resourcefulness. Instead of thinking there's "not enough time" – reframe your thinking:

"Do what you can do" is a great phrase that I often use and attribute to Kim George from Springfield, Mass., founder of The Abundance Institute. Adopting such a mindset can shift our thinking away from "not enough" toward one that knows that there's always something we can do.

Whether you have little or lots of time available, the key is to commit to your goals. Break down the tasks, make plans (for the week, month, year), and bit by bit, you will experience momentum that brings you closer to the college and career path of your choice.

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Eileen Chadnick (@Chadnick) is a work-life and leadership coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto. She is the author of Ease, a book offering strategies to cope in times of "crazy busy."

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