Sesame_Street_signYou may have caught wind of a Twitter topic, “First 7 Jobs,” where celebrities and entrepreneurs have been sharing the list of … obviously … their first 7 jobs. What struck me about the lists I saw is that people didn’t seem to have as many “starter” jobs as I did. Buzz Aldrin’s third job was as a fighter pilot, and by his 4th job he was already an astronaut!

I wonder if the following list shows a lack of focus on my part? Or perhaps on the bright side, a sense of curiosity? It’s possible that I started with my moment of fame and am only now rising back up to a position that meets my capabilities!

Here’s the list:

1. Sesame Street

My parents took my sister and me to audition for Sesame Street when I was 6 years old or so, and we both got the job. I learned that Oscar and Big Bird are the same person, and how to say Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers many times fast. I learned how to put my checks in the bank and start saving. I also learned that I was not very good at voice over reports on what animals were doing. It’s harder than it looks!

2. Baby Sitting

How a mother would trust the safety of a 2-year-old or 7-year-old to me still baffles me. Thankfully there were no mishaps that I can remember. I learned to keep emergency numbers on the fridge, and not to argue when someone wanted to give me extra money. I discovered that I like kids and am pretty good with them, in small doses.

3. Helping out at my dad’s real estate management office

At my dad’s office, I learned how to file, collate, and copy. These paper-focused skills are, well, not as useful as they once were–but sometimes I am still the one to figure out how to clear a paper jam. I’ve always been great in an office environment.

4. Cashier at Carrot Top Bakery

I got this job because my dad was friends with the owner, and was introduced to the world of bulk baking. I learned that even though I can do math in my head, I need to punch the actual numbers into the cash register so the business has a record of what was purchased (see my blog, How I Messed Up On My First Job—and What You Can Learn From My Mistakes!). When the phone company across the street went on strike, I learned that when you depend on one client for most of your business, you are at great risk. Perhaps this insight sowed the seeds of my entrepreneurial bent.

5. Counselor, Lifeguard and Swim Instructor at a summer camp

To explore my “crunchy granola” side, I went back to my old, favorite summer camp as a counselor. I learned that the place was just as magical as a counselor as it was as a camper. And how to stay out all night without my 12-year-old bunk of campers finding out. Later in life, I used my lifeguarding skills to get free gym memberships when my salary didn’t support that luxury. Later, I shifted to a preference for monthly payments and more free time.

6. Assistant to a Director at the Yale Alumni Association

This was a pretty great part-time job when I was in college. I learned how to suck up, and that when you have a position of power, no one will bat an eyelash when you can ask your student employee to run to get your dry cleaning. I also learned how to pick up dry cleaning. This trick of squeezing personal tasks into the workday has served me well as an entrepreneur.

7. Naturalist at Glacier National Park

I volunteered for a summer after my sophomore year of college with the Student Conservation Association. In the remote mountains of Montana, I learned that not everyone appreciates my New York attitude. More practically, I gained skills in how to tie food high up in a tree and  make a lot of noise in the woods to warn the bears; and let’s not forget the upside-down map tours of the park from behind the visitor center desk. I learned what crampons are. I also learned how to survive for a summer on the food available in a Montana corner store. I liked this outdoorsy type of job, and it led to my 8th job as an environmental education instructor.

After that I went back to office jobs.

What do you think my first seven jobs say about me? What do yours say about you? I’m curious to hear!


  1. OK here goes!
    #1 – paper route – I learned that I could earn money to buy cool stuff, like a pool pass to the neighborhood pool
    #2 – page at our school library – I learned that “higher level skills” commanded a much higher pay rate
    #3 – life guard – all about the tan… fun, and easy money. Great way to spend the summer outdoors
    #4 – temp at Allen Bradley in Cleveland – learned that I enjoy people, can do admin work and that I could always have a temp job there during school break
    #5 – business owner! software start up in Dallas. Learned how hard it is to sell without sales training
    #6 – marketing manager – National Association of College Stores. Learned how hard it is to manage and lead people without leadership training
    #7 – marketing manager – SeaLand Technology. Fell in love with manufacturing

  2. Brenda, I LOVED this piece you wrote! It was a reminder that nothing is insignificant on the journey to who we are.

    Since I make my living listening to and helping others access the living wisdom, brightness and beauty in their personal and professional stories in the role of coach and teacher, I was struck by how the confluence of success in our work must relate to everything that came before it. Fruit from bloom, bloom from rise, rise from germination, germination from seed.

    Here are my first 9 jobs, three of which remain current, with a space for the best yet to come:

    1. Bakery attendant – developed a taste for the sweet and decorative
    2. Dean’s Office Assistant – had confidential access to all student body historical records.
    3. College Cafeteria server – fed all student bodies.
    4. Kelly Girl Temporary Services – learned to adapt in diverse environments; procured non-attachment.
    5. Assistant Director of a university supported, architectural design non-profit – coordinated the beautification of
    urban midwestern communities using the skills of young, talented, “inexperienced” designers;
    6. Executive Director of human service non-profit organization – discovered where the buck really stops.
    7. Yoga teacher – support self and others to stretch into greater flexibility, strength, balance and presence, on
    and off the mat
    8. Mediator – being the force that brings two worlds together
    9. Contemporary Shamanic Coach and Teacher: help others to reveal the living wisdom in their personal and
    professional stories to themselves and the world. See all of the above!

    Thanks for this great read.

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