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For these commencement speakers, first jobs taught people skills

NEW YORK, June 6 (Reuters) - It's graduation season, and for the newly minted members of the country's workforce, it is a supremely scary moment: Time to get that very first job out of college.

As part of Reuters' continuing series, which accompanies the nation's monthly jobs reports, we asked some of the country's top achievers about their first gigs.

And not just anyone: we turned to this year's commencement speakers. In other words, those Americans distinguished enough to have been asked by universities to impart their wisdom to graduating classes.

Here's how they got started.

Name: Bob Schieffer

Anchor, CBS News' "Face the Nation"

First job: College-radio news reporter

Commencement speaker at Saint Anselm College

"I was a sophomore at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, and I was paid $1 an hour to work in the news department of the little radio station there. For the first hour of overtime you made 90 cents, and for the second you made 80 cents, so the joke was if you worked for 11 hours, you had to give them a dime.

"I actually started my journalism career as 'Bob Shafer,' because the station manager's wife couldn't pronounce 'Schieffer.' We would listen to police radios, and if there was a wreck or a robbery, we would race to the scene in a truck and do a live report. It was quite a technological achievement back then.

"I was only 20 at the time, and I remember there was once a shooting at a place in Fort Worth called The Penguin Club. Since you had be 21 to enter, the cop at the door wouldn't even let me in. I may have been the first reporter ever carded at a gangland murder.

"The police beat is the best possible training for anything. As a reporter you're walking in to the very worst moment in someone's life, with almost every story you cover. If you can ask a mother about losing her son in a car wreck, it's pretty easy to ask Washington politicians questions."

Name: Richard Blanco

Poet and storyteller

First job: Bodega worker

Commencement speaker at University of Rhode Island

"I was about 12 when I started working at my uncle's bodega in Miami, because my grandmother wanted me to lose weight and keep busy. She said she wanted to 'make a man out of me,' and put me to work.

"It was a really terrible job at first. Dealing with the dumpster, crushing boxes, stocking shelves, baking bread and making sausage. You name it, I learned how to do it. And it was all for around $50 a week. I guess child labor laws didn't apply back then.

"But it actually ended up being the most amazing experience. Since it was in the heart of the Cuban community, I basically learned how to be Cuban there. I had to interact with people, and get to the know all the regular customers, many of whom became great friends in my life.

"I worked there over the summer, through high school and the early days of college, all the way until age 21. So it became a big part of my childhood, and my upcoming memoir too. It was at that grocery store that I fell in love with my heritage and my culture."

Name: Rachel Martin

Host, National Public Radio

First job: Clothing saleswoman

Commencement speaker at University of Puget Sound

"I worked at a mall in Idaho Falls, Idaho, at a now-defunct older women's clothing store called Seifert's. I was only 16, but it said on my badge I was a 'fashion consultant,' and I thought that was really awesome.

"The Grand Teton Mall was brand new at the time, and it was a big deal. We'd never even had a mall before. I was by far the youngest person on staff, in a heavily Mormon community. I was definitely the exception to the rule.

"But I was pretty good at it, actually. I sold an awful lot of Pendleton plaid wool suits. I had a whole Rolodex full of ladies who were interested, and when the new line came in, I would call them up to tell them.

"Everybody should have to work in a job where they have to deal with public. At any moment, you don't know who is going to walk through the door and what mood they're going to be in. You have to learn how to navigate that, and get along with a lot of different personalities.

"To this day if I go into a store and the hangers are messy, I need to place them an inch apart from each other, and color-code them, too. If a clothing store is chaotic, it's very disturbing to me."

(Follow us zReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance Editing by Lauren Young and Jonathan Oatis)