10 Lessons Learned From the First Jobs of Successful Entrepreneurs

elo1Chances are, you’ve heard the saying, “Everyone’s gotta’ start somewhere.”

And as cliché as it may be, it certainly applies to young professionals just starting to carve out a great career. Sure, we hear stories of recent grads jumping into six-figure jobs right out of school. But chances are those dream jobs aren’t their first jobs!

To help put this point into perspective, we asked ten very successful members of the Young Entrepreneur Council this question:

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

Here are there insightful answers!


1. Landscaper

Anthony-PezzottiMy first job was working for a landscaping company during high school. The work took on many forms, from basic lawn maintenance to complex design projects. I learned if you are able to retain customers, you have to know what they want from your company. This taught me the basic importance of customer service and how client retention can transform a small business into a large company.

Anthony Pezzotti, Knowzo.com


2. Frozen Sno Ball Maker

Darrah-BrusteinMy first job as a teenager was working in a little shed that sold thousands of finely shaved sugar ice, better known as Sno Balls. Outside of learning how to wash sugar water off of my arms and face, I learned how to be friendly, patient and helpful with customers in often hectic moments. It was a great experience in face-to-face sales and customer service.

Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids


3. Car Wash Attendant

Heather-McGoughI am so grateful to have had multiple unsexy jobs as a young person: car wash attendant, cashier, waitress, bartender and nonprofit employee. These jobs made me appreciate the difficulty of physical labor, taught me how to interact variety of people, and to value every dollar earned. I am a more compassionate human and better leader for having had these life experiences.

Heather McGough, Lean Startup Company


4. Radio Station Mascot

Brittany-HodakMy first job was as a radio station mascot in Arkansas at age 17. I dressed as “Sting the Bee” at live remotes, carnivals, concerts, etc. It was an amazing first job that taught me you have to ask for what you want. Once I proved my dependability and asked for more responsibility, I was quickly able to add other, non-costumed tasks — like blogging and even having my own on-air shifts.

Brittany Hodak, ZinePak


5. Library Shelving Assistant

Yair-RiemerIn high school, I worked at my local town library as a Page. Primarily, I was responsible for returning books to their proper places on shelves. I learned the importance of responsibility and commitment — that “on time” meant five minutes early, and that even little things like shelving books can have a major impact within a larger organization.

Yair Riemer, CareerArc


6. Seafood Prep Cook

Alan-CarniolDuring my high school years, I worked in a busy restaurant kitchen during the summers. Every day, I prepped hundreds of orders ranging from flounder to every kind of shellfish. I was initially treated like I was useless (which, as it turned out, I was!), but I learned that I had to earn the respect and trust of my teammates by working hard and delivering results day after day.

Alan Carniol, Interview Success Formula


7. Newspaper Boy

Stephen-GillWhen I was 10, I started a newspaper route in my hometown in New Jersey. The experience taught me how to be persistent, how to make a sale, and follow up with great customer service. Waking up before sunrise every day to organize and deliver the papers gave me discipline, foundational business skills, and the sense of responsibility that I apply to my professional outlook today.

Stephen Gill, Tiller


8. IT Assistant

Jeff-JahnMy first “business” consisted of me setting up networks and building computers for small businesses. I learned how to show value as a kid, how to navigate startup pains (too young to drive, no direct phone line) and how to market myself to others. Most importantly, the experience left me with a sense that I could do anything I worked hard for, and could create the job I wanted to be in.

Jeff Jahn, DynamiX


9. Radio Jockey

Shilpi-SharmaWhen I was 14, I started working as a radio jockey at a local radio station to host a weekly live show where I used to play my favorite songs weaved into a nice story. I had to be funny, engaging and informative, and the show was live. As a radio jockey, one can’t afford to have inhibitions. I learned how to be good storyteller while making content appealing to all generations.

Shilpi Sharma, Kvantum Inc.


10. Door-To-Door Salesman

Jesse LearMy first full-time job was selling cable TV services door-to-door. Growing up, I was a very shy kid — the type who would run to his bedroom and shut the door when company came over. So this job was quite a shock. I remember driving home crying at least once, But it was so worth it. I did it for two years, and it not only freed me of my social fears, but it also funded the launch of my company.

Jesse Lear, V.I.P. Waste Services, LLC




Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.



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