First Job Lessons

5 Executives Share What They Learned from Their First Jobs


Savvy billionaire Warren Buffett started his career as a paper boy for The Washington Post. Multi-faceted entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey was once a clerk at a grocery store. From slinging burgers to running errands for lawyers, first jobs are usually a memorable time in a person’s professional life, and the lessons learned aren’t soon forgotten. Read on to discover what these five executives gleaned from their early career experiences.



Ryan Crimmins (Above)

President, Lawson Electric

My first job was working for my father, John Crimmins, at Mills & Lupton. He taught me some of the simplest and yet most important values and ideals that have served me well throughout my life. Among others, he taught me to be thankful for having a job, to be on time each and every day, work hard, be reliable, do your best, and offer solutions. He also taught me the importance of anticipating the end goal and what needed to be done to complete a job and then to have a plan in mind. All very simple and basic, but great advice.




Andy StockettAndy Stockett

Managing Director, Four Bridges Capital Advisers

After I earned my MBA, I was offered a Marketing Representative position working with bank executives. Little did I know that the path to working with these people began with cold calls. This “dialing and smiling” job was a very humbling experience that taught me without cold calls and sales calls, there is no business. It doesn’t matter how much education you have or whether you invented the widget—for most businesses, someone has to be out there willing to face rejection and keep dialing and smiling. Hats off to the Cold Callers!





Michael MathisMichael Mathis

Chattanooga City President and Executive Vice President, Regions Bank

My first real job was working at Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling where I worked 12 to 16 hour days during Riverbend Festival. The lessons I learned as a 19-year-old college student dressed in black work shoes, green pants, and a green pinstriped shirt with the Coca Cola logo on it will stick with me forever. It was simply hard to be “cool” while fighting my way through a Saturday night Riverbend crowd filled with high school friends and girls I was trying to impress while hauling canisters of Coke and bags of ice. The lessons of hard work, humility, and respect for co-workers left a permanent impression on my life.





Blake StricklandBlake Strickland

President and CEO, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

My first job out of college was at an advertising agency as an account representative, and during a downturn in the economy, the agency owner told me to cut back on my clients’ media placement while charging them the same amount. I told the owner it wasn’t the right thing to do, and when my position was reduced to part time because I wouldn’t go along with what they wanted me to do, I decided to leave. No matter where you work, it’s your personal reputation on the line, and you have to be true to your beliefs. If the place you work wants you to compromise your ethics, it’s simply not a place you need to be.





Bryce ThomasBryce Thomas

Managing Director, Northwestern Mutual

My first job was actually three combined in one. I was a baseball coach, I did landscaping, and I was a runner at a law firm. It allowed me to get experience in different things, meet people, and try out several careers. But long before those opportunities came along, my parents imparted great career guidance when they gave me the gift of high expectations. I knew that wherever I was led, if I did it to the best of my ability, things would work out.

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