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It is probably hard to imagine Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson babysitting, or James Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase cooking French fries.
While neither one of those men ever held those particular jobs, many of the wealthiest and most powerful CEOs in the world earned their first paychecks by delivering newspapers, mowing lawns or waiting tables. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
Click ahead to see the first jobs held by some of today’s most powerful CEOs.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 31 May 2011
Doug McMillon is the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Wal-Mart was his first employer, and they’ve remained his one and only ever since he started working at their Arkansas warehouse at age 17 for $6 an hour.
Today, McMillon sits high atop Wal-Mart’s corporate ladder. However, he claims that he learned skills at his first job that he still applies today at the highest level of power.
“Teamwork wins and hard work pays off,” he said.“If you don't take care of the basics like showing up on time and striving to exceed the expectations of your leadership, your career doesn't move.”
Dell, Inc. is a Texas-based information technology company named after its founder and CEO, Michael Dell. In 2011 Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at almost $15 billion, making him one of the world’s richest people. His company is ranked at number 41 on the Fortune 500 list. Dell was founded in 1984 in Austin, Texas.
Michael Dell started working at age 12, taking a dishwashing job at a Chinese restaurant for $2.30 an hour. He was promoted to bus boy but before he could further ascend the power structure, he was lured away by a Mexican restaurant. He eventually left the restaurant industry entirely and took a job at a rare stamp and coin store, then sold newspaper subscriptions by phone, all by the time he was 16 years old.
ASTAR Air Cargo is a Miami-based cargo airline that serves over 40 airports and offers freight service to the US Department of Defense. The company’s CEO is John Dasburg, who displayed uncanny business acumen from the time of his very first job.
At the age of 10, Dasburg decided to earn money by mowing his neighbors’ lawns. However, he took on too many jobs, and he realized that there was no way he could do it all himself. He dealt with the situation by farming out some of the territories to his friends, and taking a cut of their payments.
T. Boone Pickens is the CEO of BP Capital Management. According to Forbes magazine, his net worth is $1.4 billion. However, when he took his first job at age 12, it was as a paperboy in Holdenville, Oklahoma, earning 28 cents a day.
Pickens credits the job with giving him a feeling of independence for the first time.“From then on I never wanted my parents to give me money, I wanted to earn it for myself.”
He said that trying to collect from customers who didn’t want to pay him taught him a valuable lesson. “You have to be persistent if you want to achieve your goals. You never know what the job you’re doing each day will lead to, so you have to put your all into everything you do,” Pickens says.
Terry Lundgren is the CEO of Macy's, Inc. His career began after college, when he went to work for Federated Department Stores. However, as an undergraduate, he was less certain about what he wanted to do with his life. He had originally intended to study pre-veterinary medicine, but after one year of study and a job shucking oysters, he changed his major to business.
Lundgren joined Federated in 1975 and went to work for its Bullocks Wilshire division in Los Angeles. By the time he was 35, he was running it. In 2005 he coordinated the merger of Federated and May Department Stores, Inc., and from 2007 on, the new entity was known as Macy’s Inc. It remains one of the largest retailers in the world today.
Clarence Otis, Jr. is the CEO of Darden Restaurants, a Florida-based company that operates such casual dining establishments as the Olive Garden and Red Lobster. In 2010, the Orlando Sentinel named Otis the 11th most powerful person in Central Florida, and with good reason — he oversees 1,800 restaurants and employs over 180,000 people.
When Otis joined the company in 1995 as treasurer, he already had food service experience under his belt. At the age of 17, he took his first job as a server in a Los Angeles Airport restaurant, earning $3.50 an hour. He said that serving a large number of people from all walks of life taught him how to approach every situation with a fresh attitude and a positive mindset.
Wendy's International, Inc. is the parent company of Wendy's, the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain. Jack Schuessler has worked for the company in one capacity or another for 30 years, and from 2000 until 2006 he served as its CEO.
Schuessler’s first job was loading boxes in a St. Louis factory for $2.45 an hour. He claimed that the repetitive nature of the job was a morale killer that made it difficult for him to stay motivated for an entire 8-hour day.
Despite not enjoying the job very much, he claims that it taught himone very important lesson: Show up. “If you don't show up, you won't get paid!”
Seagate Technology is the world's largest manufacturer of hard disk drives. Bill Watkins joined the company in 1996 and rose through the ranks to become president and chief operating officer. By 2004, he was the CEO, and he held that position until his retirement in 2009.
Watkins had an unconventional journey to the top. After graduating from high school in 1971, he joined the US Army and served as a medic on a Missouri base. After leaving the armed forces, he worked the night shift at a mental hospital, with responsibilities that included restraining patients when they got out of hand.
He left it all behind and hitchhiked to California, where he ended up working at the Silicon Valley floppy disk manufacturer Xidex. He has worked in the technology sector ever since.
Michael Morris is the CEO of American Electric Power, one of the largest generators of electricity in the US. It serves 10% of the Eastern Interconnection, the source of power for 38 of the United States and part of eastern Canada.
Morris began his working career at the age of 11 as a paperboy for Ohio’s Toledo Blade, earning $5 a day. He believes that the job taught him the value of a good attitude and an industrious nature. Today, he looks for those qualities in his employees and promotes them accordingly.
Gulf Power Company is an electric utility based in Florida. They serve 400,000 customers in a 7,000 square mile area that stretches from northwest Florida through Alabama and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Their president and CEO is Susan Story, whose first job was as the Society Page writer for The Sand Mountain Reporter, an Alabama newspaper with a circulation of about 20,000. Story first took the job at the age of 17, earning $2.85 an hour.
Her job entailed writing announcements for bridal showers, engagements and weddings. She says that the job allowed her the opportunity to look outside of the responsibilities outlined in her job description.