Last Updated Jul 23, 2009 2:55 PM EDT
- Carol Bartz of Yahoo!: Traveling banking-software salesperson (in go-go boots, apparently).
- Steve Ballmer of Microsoft: "Dessert machine" salesperson.
- Jeff Zucker of NBC: Researcher at NBC.
- Evan Williams of Twitter: Drifted between "various technology jobs."
- Sumner Redstone of Viacom: Spy. (OK, this one's impressive but so entertaining I had to include it.)
Forbes' CEOs' First Jobs. Highlight: McDonald's CEO James Skinner started out as a burger-flipping trainee.
NW Jobs' write-in column on first jobs. Highlight: Microsoft relocation director Peggy Smith bagged mail for RR Donnelley.
CareerBuilder's First Jobs of the Rich and Famous. Highlight: William Watkins, ex-CEO of Seagate Technology, once worked at a mental hospital restraining people.
So what's the takeaway for recent grads who feel like they're languishing in the backwaters of their company and worry that they'll never get anywhere? First and foremost, you're not the first nor the last to have a quarter-life crisis and fret furiously about your future. Second, there are several well-trodden paths from being a cubicle dwelling drone to the executive suite:
- Tough it out like Yahoo's Bartz.
- Create your own job like Williams and Bill Gates.
- Go home and build up the family business like Redstone. (For this route, it really helps to have a successful family firm to inherit. If not, see options 1 and 2.)