I left Louisiana State University after two semesters to become general manager of a Popeye's chicken restaurant in Arkansas. I figured Louisiana didn't have a good enough economy for me to have a good future. After a year in the restaurant, I knew I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. My girlfriend at the time was from Kansas City, so I took a chance, quit the restaurant, and moved up there without having another job lined up. Thankfully, her family was gracious enough to keep us bums off the street :) Contrary to what my ego wanted me to do, I tried temp agencies so I could at least get a temporary office job to figure things out. I landed a temp job as an administrative assistance at a large engineering, design, and construction company that works in the energy/power, water, and telecom business. It was supposed to be for 8 weeks while some girl went on maternity leave. I made sure to do a good job in the hopes that I could find a permanent position there. She decided not to go back to work there and I was given the permanent position. As an admin asst I made sure to go beyond my role and try to learn what the consultants did. Within 6 months I was training my replacement so I could become an entry-level consultant for energy companies. They gave me an intern's compensation while I went back and finished my undergraduate in business, which was way better than an admin assistant's compensation. After I graduated they promoted me immediately and I've been doing great ever since. I moved from KC to Austin over a year ago to be closer to my girlfriend (now my fiance) and I work from home. I started pursuing an MBA that I'll finish in December, which they help pay for. I also received another promotion this month and I'll be preparing for project management.
I think a great way to improve yourself is to take some calculated risks and don't be afraid to pursue opportunities. Accepting the temp position 7 years ago paved the way for more opportunities than I can imagine. Maybe I would have figured out a way to be successful some way, but I'm thankful it's all worked out this way :)