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Even famous business leaders have cruddy first jobs, what was yours?

Even famous business leaders are not immune to the cruddy first job. Don’t believe us? Take a look at these leaders’ stories and see what you think.

mark cuban first job

We all have a first job story

Most of us have stories about our first low-level jobs–the places where we spent our summers flipping burgers, babysitting kids, washing dishes, selling coffee. It’s difficult to imagine that successful CEOs and influencers could relate to these stories; when you look at their polished and well-off images, it seems as if they began their careers with a nameplate, a desk, and a microphone. (Can you imagine Oprah being anything but…Oprah?!)

Of course this isn’t the case, many of these powerhouses have humble beginnings. The queen of media herself, Ms. Winfrey, once worked at a corner grocery store. (Side note: I bet that she had so many customers spilling their life secrets to her while she bagged their goods.)

Oprah wasn’t the only one who started out small. The following successful people, worth a collective gazillion dollars, once had to sweat to earn their pennies, too.

Marissa Ann Meyer

Like Oprah, Marissa Ann Mayer took a summer job as a grocery store clerk. The current president and CEO of Yahoo said that it was there that she saw the first-hand value of work ethic. She told Fortune, “I also learned a lot about family economics, how people make trade-offs, and how people make decisions on something fundamental, like how to eat.”

Mark Cuban

The entrepreneur, Shark Tank star, and Dallas Mavericks owner was selling garbage bags door-to-door at age 12. In order to make his first big purchase, a pair of new tennis shoes, Cuban marked up the bags and sold them for three dollars more than he paid for them. Did I mention that he is an entrepreneur?

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Kat Cole

Kat Cole knows how to hustle. At age 17 she began at Hooters as a hostess, and worked there for 15 years; she was promoted to vice president by the time she was 26. She’s now the president of Cinnabon.

Michael Dell

As founder and CEO of Dell Inc., Dell is worth an estimated $18.7 billion. But before he helped make PCs mainstream, he was washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant–his first job at age 12.

Madeline Albright

Known for her badassedness, power suits, and brooches, the former Secretary of State started out selling a different kind of women’s wear: bras. After arriving in the US as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia, she got her first job at a department store in Denver.

Donald Trump

Trump, the real estate mogul and media personality/presidential candidate grew up wealthy. That said, his dad wanted him to learn the value of money, so he took him to construction sites to pick up empty soda bottles to redeem for cash. Trump told Forbes that he didn’t make much (perhaps compared to selling condos and highrises) but it taught him to work for his money, and he’s done the same with his own children.

Warren Buffett

Buffet, one of the world’s wealthiest people, is famous for making and saving money. The chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway has been that way since he was a kid. At age 13, Buffet was a paperboy, spending his mornings delivering The Washington Post.

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Apparently, that same year, he invested $1,200 of his earnings into 40 acres of farmland. Which might distinguish Buffett from the rest of us. He started out meager like regular people, yes, but I don’t think that most of us regulars were investing as teenagers. Unless you count time and money spent at the local mall, then yes, we invested from our grubby jobs, often and early.

What about you?

Tell us in the comments or on your favorite social network – what was your first job?


Written By

Amy Orazio received her MFA in Creative Writing at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. She lives in Portland now, where she is enjoying the cross section of finishing her poetry manuscript and writing for The American Genius.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mike McCann

    October 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Currently I am owner of my own appraisal company. First jobs were also essentially self-employed, starting about age 8 selling garden seeds and Christmas cards door to door, then on to newspaper delivery routes and mowing lawns and shoveling snow (adapting to the seasonal work), then on to working at a dry cleaner, dish-washing and selling shoes.
    Then I took harder jobs; labor on construction sites, etc….all before graduating high school.

    Granted those jobs did not pay $15/hr. or otherwise have “equality” with positions that required more education, training or years of experience, but they formed a solid foundation for adult endeavors, and proved to me that if I was willing to work I could make money. How much was related to the value of my work in the “market”.

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