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work one's way

Exert oneself to proceed in a particular direction; also, finance a project by working. For example, The painters are working their way from the top floor to the basement, or I'm trying to work my way into the publishing world, or She's working her way through college. [ Second half of 1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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