When I was in high school, I only missed one day in four years–my stepmother had just had her third child, my grandmother had a stroke and I had to stay home to babysit a half brother and sister. I already knew that being at school was better than being a stay-at-home babysitter.
At college, I did cut a few classes, but never enough to miss an assignment or a test.
Four years after graduation from college, I did take a break from working full time to attend library school, where I worked part time and attended school full time. Library school was two summers and one year; it was the last year before the University of Washington began its two-year Master of Librarianship program. I was married by this time and my husband supported my desire to become a librarian. Fortunately, his ship was sent to the shipyard in Seattle. We lived in government quarters and got in-state tuition (both helped make graduate school a debt-free experience).
After graduation, I worked a series of part time jobs as a substitute librarian for San Diego Public Library, a substitute library technician for San Diego County Library, and a substitute librarian/teacher for the San Diego Unified School District.
When we moved to Athens, GA, I was a substitute teacher for a teacher who had to unexpectedly take a temporary leave of absence because of a problem pregnancy.
Next, we moved to Norfolk, Virginia where I worked as a librarian for a Defense contractor before getting my first federal librarian job, first as a temporary and then in a permanent position. I got each of these jobs because I showed up every day and found ways to expand what the job could entail.
By developing a strong reputation for reliability, hard work and imagination I was fortunate to never have a break in service or experience a civil service downgrade when moving to a new city when my husband got orders. I was also active in professional library associations (both SLA and ALA).
The downside was that I was frequently tasked with other duties as assigned, which provided me an opportunity to show a willingness to work with others, flexibility when accomplishing tasks outside my area of expertise, and the probability of success when temporary promotion opportunities became available.
My goal was to run a post library, which I accomplished in five years. After that I transferred to the National Defense University which gave me experience in academic libraries. I was able to switch from running one type of library to becoming a systems librarian and eventually leading the section that oversaw both systems and technical services (cataloging, acquisitions, and serials management).
After retirement and relocation from Washington DC to San Diego, I was fortunate enough to become a volunteer for the USS Midway(CV-41) Research Library where I was once again able to create a niche for myself by combining what they needed with some ideas of my own.
Showing up and being flexible in what you are willing and/or able to do can be a winning combination. You never know what job skill or experience that you pick up may be the winning combination for a future opportunity.