Successful entrepreneurs and CEOs might be at the pinnacle of their careers, but, for some, getting there was no cakewalk. Despite popular belief, many actually started in humble jobs, working their way gradually up the ladder.
Getting the most out of one’s first job is important, learning important lessons and setting the scene for further career advancement. Here are five inspiring stories about CEOs’ first jobs to motivate you as you start your own journey.
Michael Dell - Founder and CEO of Dell
Today, he has a net worth of almost US$25bn and is the CEO of one of the biggest tech companies in the world. The difference with his beginnings could not be more stark. Michael Dell started out as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant in the US at the tender age of 12. But he soon earned himself a promotion to busboy (the slightly more glamorous task of clearing tables).
Needless to say, he didn’t stay there. Still in his teens, he helped the newspaper Houston Post find new subscribers. That job enabled him to buy an Apple computer, which he took apart to see how it worked. The rest, as they say, is history. Dell’s story shows us that no matter where we start out in life, determination can carry us to the top .
Tim Cook - CEO of Apple
Long before heading one of the most successful companies in the world, Apple CEO Tim Cook worked as a part-time assistant in the same pharmacy as his mother. It’s unclear if his mom helped him to get the job, but it’s a prime example of not letting opportunities slide by.
Cook also held several other jobs at the same time, including working in a restaurant and delivering newspapers. It’s easy to see why he ended up where he did: a strong work ethic is one of the fundamentals of being successful in any business. Whether it’s handling several jobs at once or making sure the work actually gets done - success doesn’t come without breaking a sweat.
Check out these Singapore-based CEOs and discover their surprising first jobs.
Jack Ma - CEO of Alibaba
There is hardly anyone in the business world who doesn’t know Jack Ma. The CEO of the Alibaba Group is known for his hard work and productivity. Twenty years ago his situation was very different. The CEO famously said he was rejected from more than 30 jobs, including from a fast food chain. Today, he is not only a successful businessman, but also the richest man in China. His story is very inspiring on many levels, demonstrating that true grit and focus can’t be stopped - not even with multiple rejections.
Reed Hastings - CEO of Netflix
Having taken Netflix to the top of the entertainment industry, Reed Hastings is one of the most successful businessmen alive today. But before becoming the CEO of Netflix, his very first job was as a door-to-door salesman, selling vacuum cleaners. This and his subsequent philanthropic adventures set him up for success. Reed served as an officer in the Marine Corps, teaching high school maths in Swaziland. He credits his time in the Marine Corps as being the birth of his entrepreneurial spirit. Hastings was quoted saying that once you hitchhike across Africa with US$10 in your pocket, starting a business doesn’t seem so intimidating.
Warren Buffett - CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Buffett is the richest man in the world, having built the multinational conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway, which is still headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska. Although he has more money than he could possibly ever spend, he has never stopped being money-conscious.
His beginnings in the world of business started out on a similarly modest bent, delivering the local newspaper. However, that wasn’t all, as he also claimed his bicycle as a deduction on his first tax return. His story teaches us the most important business lesson: making money means spending it wisely, too.