DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a college student and a part-time personal assistant for a couple. The couple I work for have offered me a full-time position as their personal assistant upon graduation. I enjoy working for them and the money is great, but I don’t see this as a career; it's more of a temporary job.
I graduate in May and need some help deciding what the next step should be. Do I continue working with the couple and earn enough money to support myself, or branch out with my college degree? -- Personal Assistant Looking to Leave, Chicago
DEAR PERSONAL ASSISTANT LOOKING TO LEAVE: Take some time to think about what you want to do in your career. Plot out a course with a timeline. Look for job opportunities in your area of interest, and interview for as many of them as you can. This is how you will know if you can find a job right away in your field. If you cannot find exactly what you want, consider volunteering part-time at a company that does what you are interested in. You can then ask your current employers if they would be willing to keep you on as a part-time employee. Explain that you enjoy working for them, but you need to stay true to your long-term dreams. Your solution enables you to keep working with them and cultivate your career goals.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I need some help on time management. I am a paralegal at a law firm, and I work a lot of overtime hours and sometimes on weekends. I have started to study for the LSAT, which is the exam required to get into law school. I’m not sure how I am going to juggle working and studying. They are both very important to me, and I want to be able to manage both tasks. Do you have any tips for a busy person like me on how to allocate time effectively? -- Juggling Future Lawyer, Philadelphia
DEAR JUGGLING FUTURE LAWYER: It’s time to talk to your boss. Let your company know that you are about to take the LSAT and need to carve out time to study. Ask for support during this critical time. Point out that you know how busy the firm is and you want to carry your own weight, but realistically, you need to devote a significant amount of time to your studies in order to get to the next step. You may run into some resistance, especially if you are an effective paralegal in a busy law office. Stand your ground. Make it clear that you absolutely must reduce your hours for a specific period so that you can get into law school.
If your manager isn’t listening to you, look around for a mentor. You can even go to HR to plead your case. Be sure to tell your story from the perspective of how you will better be able to support the firm as you build your skills. Of course this is for you, but it will also benefit them.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)