The Quick 10: The Unbelievable Early Jobs of 10 Successful People

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As the saying goes, "Everybody's gotta start somewhere," but during these trying times, many people are simply looking to start. It's comforting, then, to hear about the unusual first jobs of people who went on to bigger and better and more lucrative things.

1. Michael Dell

The founder and CEO of Dell Computers began working at the age of 12 as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant in Houston, Texas, earning $2.30 an hour. He used this money to fund another hobby – trading on the stock market. Because what else was there to do before the Internet besides manage your investments?

2. Sylvester Stallone

Known internationally for acting like he could take a punch – and looking the part – Stallone had a fairly, ahem, Rocky road to stardom. Struggling to find work in New York City, he took on any menial job that would keep him from living in the local bus station, like cleaning the lion cages at the Central Park Zoo. Eventually he landed his first acting role in a softcore porn flick called "The Party at Kitty and Stud's" (later re-cut and released as "The Italian Stallion" to capitalize on Stallone's success) and was paid $200 for two days work. You might be sensing a theme here – breaking into the acting business before the advent of reality television was hard work. Speaking of which...

3. Mark Burnett

Yes, even the infamous producer of "Survivor" and godfather of reality television had a strange path to stardom. Born in London's east end, Burnett joined the British Army when he was 17, saw action in Northern Ireland and the Falklands, and left the armed services in 1982 a decorated war hero. At the behest of a friend, he moved to Los Angeles and became the nanny for a wealthy Malibu family, which is probably where he got the idea to strand a bunch of spoiled brats on an island surrounded by cameras for our amusement.

4. Vic Armstrong

Though his name might not be as well-known as others on this list, Armstrong is an Oscar-winning stunt double, director and pioneer of many currently used stunt techniques. His first job was helping his father, a blacksmith and farrier (horseshoe) for the British Olympic team from 1948 to 1964, in the family business. He eventually won small stunt roles on movies during the '60s and '70s thanks to his horsemanship, but it wasn't until he began work on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" – when everyone, including the directors, continued to mistake him for Harrison Ford – that he hit the big time, becoming Ford's personal stunt double.

5. Mick Jagger

Before he began a music career that would span five decades, Jagger shared a flat with his friend Keith Richards in a Chelsea, England, suburb while taking business classes at the London School of Economics. He made a living working as a porter at the Bexley Mental Hospital in Kent before quitting in the fall of 1963 to focus full-time on the Rolling Stones, presumably after dealing with one last "19th Nervous Breakdown."

6. Harrison Ford

Every "Star Wars" fanboy and girl knows that Ford got his big break in Hollywood when he was "discovered" building cabinets for the home of director George Lucas in the early 1970s. But the Chicago native had actually moved to Los Angeles ten years earlier to try his hand at acting, landing bit parts in TV shows like "Gunsmoke" and "Mod Squad" before taking up carpentry to support his wife and two sons. His claims to fame as a self-taught carpenter include building a sun deck for actress Sally Kellerman ("M.A.S.H.") and a recording studio for musician Sérgio Mendes.

7. Madeleine Albright

The former U.S. Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, Albright sold bras at a local department store in Denver, Colorado.

8. George Steinbrenner

Though he was the son of a wealthy shipping magnate, the late New York Yankees owner's father didn't believe in the concept of "allowances" for his children. In order to learn the value of hard work and make a quick buck, the future Boss began selling his family's chicken and their eggs to neighbors in their Bay Village, Ohio, area when he was 10.

9. Stephen King

Quite possibly one of the creepiest novelists out there (oh, and his stories are pretty scary, too), King had difficulty finding an outlet for his writing after graduating from the University of Maine in 1970. To support his wife and young daughter, he worked the night shift at an industrial laundromat, and then as a janitor, before finding a job as an English teacher at a local high school.

10. Barack Obama

As a teenager in Hawaii, President Obama spent time scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. Because of this experience, he's said he can't stand the stuff. This evidence might satisfy some, but I won't believe it until I see his work certificate.

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June 10, 2011 - 8:29am
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