An Alaskan musician (who I’m sure has seen an uptick in her Twitter followers) asked the Twittersphere “What were your first 7 jobs?” and its hashtag #FirstSevenJobs blew up social media, as several celebrities and business moguls, including Lin-Manuel Miranda responded to the post.

So much of who we are today is shaped by the experiences of our past. When I think back to my own #first7jobs, I can see the blueprint of my career path taking shape.

#1: Scaturro Food Market, Cashier. I was a shy, gawky teenager and the summer before I started high school my mom gently suggested I look for a job to supplement expenses. I sat in the parking lot of the local Italian supermarket for hours, working up the nerve to go inside when one of their delivery drivers said hello. That hello led to a conversation that led to an introduction, and a trial run at being a cashier. My first success at networking.

#2: Brighton Beach Summer Camp, Counselor for Boys. I was in charge of two dozen mischievously, adorable 7-9-year-old boys. I spent the summer coaching them through softball, cornhole and potato bag races and corralling them on local outings to the New York Aquarium, Astroland and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. They kept me on my toes with real-time on-the-job problem-solving–foundational learning that has served me well throughout my career.

#3: Marist College, Leo Hall, Resident Assistant. Once in college, I accessed that quick problem-solving camp experience and applied it to the supervision of a floor of coeds. Age nineteen and nurturing women as they started their academic, social and personal growth. It was my responsibility to foster an inclusive and inspiring community that offered guidance and support to 48 young adults, most of whom were away from home for the first time. Being an RA helped develop my management and team building skills; it also forced me to find my footing and my voice.

#4: Varied Temp Agencies & Assignments. My mom started her secretarial career as a clerk at the library reference at CBS. (An experience that led to her first brush with celebrity when Katherine Hepburn stopped by to chat while researching for her role in Desk Set.) Temping provides an opportunity for a hands-on experience unlike any other: from data entry to project management, word processing, and legal proofreading. It was also a great way to meet new people. I temped every school break through graduation and during stretches of unemployment, where I soon learned temporary work isn’t always temporary. Two assignments led to permanent roles at NBC and Conde Nast.

#5: Marist College Campus Security, Overnight Dispatcher. The shifts varied and included the graveyard–that time of night where anything can happen. As the dispatcher, I recorded emergency calls in the logbook, monitored the fire alarm system, and issued parking permits. In emergency situations that involved local law enforcement, it was imperative to communicate events clearly and capture all details accurately. It also helped to have good penmanship.

#6: Abercrombie & Fitch, Customer Sales. The summer after graduation, I crossed over to the dark side, working my first-ever retail job. It was the late 90s, and it was practically a rites of passage for fresh college grads. At the time both The Limited Co. and The Gap were well-known for working their retail staff to the bone, and Abercrombie was no exception. It was a crash course in round-the-clock customer service, and my first foray into the global market: The flagship store at the South Street Seaport was a magnet for foreign tourists.

#7: Random House/Ballantine Books, Freelance Proofreader. Working retail was unfulfilling, and it wasn’t until I started taking classes toward a Book Publishing Certificate from NYU that I met Nancy Inglis. Nancy, Copy Chief for Ballantine, also taught a course in Copyediting & Proofreading. She later hired me as a freelancer for the imprint. Over the course of four years, I proofread mass-market/trade fiction and nonfiction manuscripts marking corrections, as well as correcting errors in type, format, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and adhering content to style guides. It was this role that led to my true calling toward a career path in storytelling, editing and writing, finally putting my B.A. in Creative Writing to good use.

What were your #First7Jobs, and how did they shape you? Share in the comments below.

Photo Credit: @HollywoodReporter.com

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