Even very successful people have to start somewhere.
And for a lot of them, “somewhere” was a summer job.
For some, those high school and college gigs were obvious steps toward incredible careers. For others, the path from summer job to success was a little more winding.
Regardless of the job done, these successful people prove summer jobs are universal in that they usually teach the value of hard work and responsibility.
We combed through interviews with business leaders, political leaders, artists, and tech stars to figure out what some of America’s most successful people did over their summer vacations when they were younger.
Rachel Sugar contributed to an earlier version of this article.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates served as a Congressional page
Already an accomplished computer programmer — he’d started at 13 — a young Bill Gates spent the summer of 1972 working in Washington, DC, as a Congressional page, according to CNN’s timeline.
At Inc., Bill Murphy, Jr. speculates that this might have shaped Gates more than one might guess. “It wouldn’t seem to have much to do with starting Microsoft,” he says, but “it could have sparked an interest in public policy that led him to launch the Gates Foundation.”
Hillary Clinton had a brief career gutting fish.
On summer break from Yale Law School, the former New York Senator and current presidential hopeful got a job at an Alaskan fish-processing plant scooping out fish guts.
“They were purple and black and yucky looking,” she told the New York Times. She had a lot of questions about the condition of the fish — too many, according the plant’s owner, who fired her within a week.
She was undaunted by the experience. “I found another job,” she said.
President Barack Obama scooped ice cream
Even the leader of the free world once had an unglamorous summer job.
As a teenager growing up in Honolulu, Obama got his first gig working the counter at Baskin-Robbins, Time reports.
“Scooping ice cream is tougher than it looks,” Obama wrote on LinkedIn. “Rows and rows of rock-hard ice cream can be brutal on the wrists.”
Though he admitted he was “less interested in what the job meant for my future and more concerned about what it meant for my jump shot” at the time, Obama said the job ultimately taught him valuable lessons about responsibility, hard work, and how to balance a job with friends, family, and school.