What’s the most important thing you learned at your first job?

You have to start somewhere. Here’s some wisdom that business leaders picked up in their first jobs.

All business leaders have to start somewhere, and many of them take the lessons they’ve learned at earlier jobs with them on their rise to the top. Here’s some wisdom that business leaders picked up in their first jobs.

The first job Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, had was painting houses in college. “I learned very quickly I started out painting then took on the additional responsibility of managing small teams of my fellow painters in our town. I learned very quickly that motivating and managing people is not as easy as it appears. In fact, one of my friends used to take smoke breaks twice an hour. It turns out that standing on a ladder while holding a bucket, brush, and cig is quite hard!”

Halligan says the experience he got from painting informs his management style today. “First and foremost, our team at HubSpot is unreasonably picky about our peers. Because I learned first hand how much effort it takes to motivate people who might not want to be there, we spend a lot of energy finding the right people who are passionate about our space and a great culture fit.”

Janet Van Huysse is head of leadership development and inclusion at Twitter. Her first job was as a teacher, and she describes it as a “great first job. I landed myself on a team with 10 extremely innovative teachers who were really pushing the envelope in both how they taught students and how they worked together.”

She says she picked up several lessons in her first job, including: Good ideas can turn into great ideas when brought to a team. Bring your passion to work. Don’t subscribe to the adage “It’s only a job.” Subscribe to “love it or leave it.” If your intentions are good and you are honest, don’t ever stay silent, and doing what’s right rarely means doing what’s easy.”

Alan Klapmeier, CEO of Cirrus Aircraft, is still working for his first employer. “I graduated from college in December of 1983 and started this company in 1984,” he says of the company, which is the first and leading manufacturer of personal aircraft with recovery parachutes.

“In those early years, obviously, there’s a lot of work, and you have to be ready to do that type of work,” he says. “Starting a company is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week job no matter what, and even when you’re not in your office or on your job, you’re thinking about it all the time.”

Klapmeier says he’s often asked to speak to classes of businesses students at universities. “The biggest piece of advice I give to kids is that you don’t take a job for the money. Do a job that you want to do and do it the best you can, and the money will follow. If you do a job because of the money, you won’t do it will enough or enjoy it, and the money won’t come. It won’t give you the satisfaction you’re truly after.

“Do what you want to do because you want to do it, not because you think you’ll make money from it.”

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  • http://albatross.org/ Albatross

    I learned not to be the odd man out. My first job was at a Cindy’s, a (literally) sister restaurant to Wendy’s by the same corporation. As I was the only person from my high school in this rival town, I got all the scut-work. For example, whenever a burger was mis-made or doubled up, the left-over burgers would be tossed in a cardboard box on the floor below the order window. My job at the end of the day was to go through those burgers and crumble the patties into the next day’s chili. I’ve never eaten fast food chili since then.