First jobs are powerful: The wide-reaching appeal of #FirstSevenJobs

August 16, 2016

It started with a question: What were your #firstsevenjobs?

Over the past two weeks, that simple question has triggered a landslide of responses across social media, including some famous names like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sheryl Sandberg, and Buzz Aldrin. Some of the first jobs were surprising, humorous, and enlightening. One 5-year-old even went ahead and prospectively named his #firstsevenjobs of choice.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and other Influencers even got into the fun:

   

What it revealed is that people love hearing how careers begin. Part of it is the novelty of a catchy hashtag, but more deeply it points to our desire to understand how people got to where they are today. We are looking for career lessons from those initial, often unglamorous jobs that established the foundation of a person’s professional life and work habits.

That was the impetus behind LinkedIn’s own “My First Job” series from February. It featured some of the biggest names in business and beyond talking about their first job, what they learned, and how it helped get them to where they are today.

First jobs are often those menial tasks we take on before we really have an idea of what we want to be “when we grow up.” Things like babysitting, ice cream scooping, and busing tables. While these aren’t the CEO-track positions, they’re the roles that teach the basics of work ethic and how to handle new responsibilities before we’re ready for office life.

“As a teenager working behind the counter at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu, I was less interested in what the job meant for my future and more concerned about what it meant for my jump shot,” wrote President Barack Obama about his first gig. “My first summer job wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it taught me some valuable lessons. Responsibility. Hard work. Balancing a job with friends, family, and school.”

It was the first step in a career path that would ultimately lead him to become president of the United States.

Where people start is often a long way from where they land. Reading through the variety of #firstsevenjobs, it’s a great reminder that each job is simply one step of many along the way. No one job ultimately leads to the perfect role. They build on one another, and sometimes radically change how we see ourselves. Chelsea Handler credits picking up waitressing shifts in her early 20’s for providing the constancy she’d need to become a successful comedian:

“Later in life, my habit for reliability bled into my stand-up vocation. I kept showing up. When there were only two people in the audience at the Comedy Store at the 9 p.m. show, I showed up and did 10 minutes of material every time I got the 9 p.m. slot. (It turns out that if you can make two people laugh, then you can make two thousand people laugh).”

First jobs are powerful. Not because they are impressive or necessarily enjoyable, but because they equip us to make that next play: Oprah credits her first job for launching her entire broadcast career; Suze Orman improbably had the gumption to parlay her first job waitressing into a career in finance; and Bernard Tyson grew from a student intern at Kaiser Permanente to become the CEO.

We want to hear more from you! Where has your career taken you since that all-important first job? Join the conversation on LinkedIn using the hashtag #6wordresume.