Too Busy to Start Over?

Too Busy to Start Over?

Alexandra Levit

The Wall Street Journal/Career Journal
It's a typical dilemma. You don't love what you're doing for a living, but because you work by day and attend to the home front by night, you don't have time to make a change. Or do you?

While some might argue that transitioning to a new career is very difficult if you can't leave your job in favor of a new degree or an internship, it is possible to place tasks related to your new dream career alongside your other priorities.

Fresia Rodriguez, 32 years old, decided to pursue a new vocation as a fashion designer while her husband, a U.S. Marines staff sergeant, was deployed in Iraq.

While working full time at a magazine geared toward retirees, Ms. Rodriguez applied to art school and subsequently launched a plus-size clothing line.

"I learned quickly to maximize my time," she says. "On the train home from work, I'd be sketching the next collection. In the shower, I'd be going down my to-do list."

Build in Stages

Ms. Rodriguez went full throttle, at times spending close to 20 hours a day working or in class. If you're a prospective entrepreneur and such a grueling schedule isn't practical, you can also try to develop a business in stages.

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"You can, for example, start by selling your products on eBay instead of opening a brick and mortar store," says Laurence Shatkin, a jobs expert in New Jersey and the author of "Great Jobs in the President's Stimulus Plan." "Or, if you're launching a service, start with just one or two clients."

Whether your goal is to work for yourself or in an organization in a different field, it's helpful to use your time at your current job wisely.

Look for opportunities to expand your skill set and ask for assignments related to the work you eventually want to do. Take advantage of coursework and training offered by your company, even if it isn't in your current field.

And set aside specific windows during the day for email and networking so that you can devote your lunch hour or break time to your new career.

Enlist the Kids

Parents looking for time to start their careers anew shouldn't be afraid to ask for help – or keep the kids in the loop. "Explain to your kids that you're taking a class and that you have homework, because kids understand the rules of school," says Mr. Shatkin. "Get them to help out with household chores, accepting that things won't be done exactly to your standards."

Mr. Shatkin says it's OK to let some things go. "Save your peak mental energy for the things that are really important," he says.

When you're pressed for time and every hour in your day is accounted for, it's easy to put your passion on the back burner. I felt this way when I was working a stressful job as a public-relations manager and simultaneously trying to publish my first book.

But the key is to set small, short-term goals for your new calling. After all, a to-do item like "attend networking event" sounds so much less daunting than "change my career."

Alexandra Levit. This article is reprinted by permission from, © Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

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