We Asked, You Answered: What Was Your First Job?

Most people’s first taste of independence came with their first job, so in honor of Independence Day, we asked readers to share their first gigs. From corn detasseling to frosting donuts, see what jobs people held before they joined the association world.

These stories of first jobs really make the case that association professionals come from wide and varied backgrounds, and that in many cases, the lessons they learned then still apply to their jobs today. Read on to see where a few association execs got their professional start.

Carol Brubaker

Manager, Professional Affairs, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry

I worked as a “froster/filler” and rack and counter server at our local donut shop. My parents paid for my private education but told me I’d need a job to pay for textbooks. I remember well the indecisiveness of some customers when trying to select their dozen—it definitely taught me patience. I’m sure in addition to the textbooks, I bought a nice outfit or two with the money I earned. To this day, whenever I travel for work or pleasure, I make sure to hit up one local donut shop in every city I visit.

Danny Langfield

CEO, National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association

Detasseling corn in Iowa when I was 15. I worked like an absolute dog for three to four weeks, then bought my first bass guitar amp: a Peavey TKO 65. That was big because I no longer had to share an amp with the guitar player.

Kakoli Dutta

Membership and Education Coordinator, Conference of Consulting Actuaries

I was a mining geologist. One cool thing I bought was an annual rail pass to go anywhere in the country, first class.

Timothy Wilson

Executive Director, Western Arts Alliance

My first job was as a “box boy” for Foodland Supermarket in Juneau, Alaska. I was 14. The title was a bit of a misnomer. My job was to clean the shelves—all the shelves in the store. Working after school and on weekends, it took me about eight months to accomplish. I wouldn’t say I liked the job, but by saving up my $1.80 hourly wage, I was able to buy a Canon 814 Super 8 movie camera. After graduating high school, I went on to University of Southern California Film School.

Kimberly Bailey

Vice President, Customized Member Services, National Association of Home Builders

My first job was staffing the IKEA ball room [play area], where I was checking kids in and out and essentially babysitting while parents shopped at the store. With my first check, I bought a new Sony Walkman that I’m pretty sure I still have today.

George Gogola, CAE


I worked the assembly line at a small sheet metal factory near my home during the summer, riveting or screwing pieces together to create product displays, toolboxes, and other items. I worked 10 hours my first day on the job (a Wednesday) and was anticipating my overtime pay when my dad burst my bubble: no overtime until after working 40 hours in the week. Lesson learned. By season’s end, I was able to afford a wilderness canoe trip with a coworker friend to the Superior National Forest/Boundary Waters area of Minnesota.

Christie Maillet

Program Manager, Strategic Messaging, American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

My first job was front-of-house/cashier at the Black Cat Café in the suburbs of New York City. One cool thing I bought with my earnings was concert tickets to see Third Eye Blind, who were playing in NYC.


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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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