Dan Nainan, a professional comedian who has performed for President Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and many others to rave reviews, shares his first job story in an exclusive Q&A with Renée Ward to provide advice to today’s teens seeking their first job.
This is the third interview of a successful person in this on-going “My First Job” series.
Ward: How old were you when you landed your first paying job?
Nainan: I was 14 years old at the time.
Ward: What work did you do?
Nainan: My job was pretty basic – take books that had been returned to the library and put them back on the shelves in the correct places.
Ward: How did you learn about this opportunity?
Nainan: I was a frequent customer of the library and saw a sign that they were hiring.
Ward: What qualities did you bring to the job at that time? That is, why do you think you “earned” the job?
Nainan: You know, now that's a funny story. I had to go to the county office and take a test. The test involved putting a bunch of cards in correct alphabetical/numerical order. Funny thing is, the cards were already in the correct order anyhow! I thought I would tell the tester but I thought better of it. :-)
Ward: Did you have a “mentor”? If so, how did that help you?
Nainan: I sort of had a mentor, an older girl who had been doing the job for quite some time. Although to be quite truthful, it wasn't exactly the most challenging job in the world.
Ward: Did anything go wrong on the job? If so, how did you overcome the challenges?
Nainan: I had a couple of my coworkers make fun of me because I got a really low score on the SAT. Fortunately, I studied really hard (using a couple of books from the library no less) and I got a much higher score the next time.
Ward: What did you learn from this job that has prepared you for what you are doing now?
Nainan: I learned about teamwork, working with others, and being as professional as possible.
Ward: What advice do you have for teens and young adults today seeking their first jobs?
Nainan: First of all, in this environment, where jobs are scarce, it pays to be really, really persistent.
You might get turned down for five or ten jobs or even more but don't get discouraged; keep going and eventually you will land something. I think Thomas Edison tried 900 times before he got his light bulb to work. Colonel Sanders approached over 1000 stores before he was finally able to sell KFC to one of them.
Also, the perception is that many young people just don't have a good work ethic, don't dress professionally, have too many tattoos/piercings, can't write a clear sentence in English without grammatical or spelling errors, and other horrors.
By being as professional as possible, by showing up on time (or better yet, 15 minutes early for your interview), by dressing the part and being able to write clearly, you can set yourself apart from the crowd.
As far as tattoos and piercings, don't be in such a hurry to get them just because everybody else is getting them. Your money is better spent investing in your education, or in stocks, and you can always get them later.
I perform for young people all the time and they look up to me because I'm an entertainer.
A frequent question I get is that they want to be a movie director, dancer, musician, comedian, artist, whatever, but their parents want them to be a doctor, lawyer, or some other moneymaking and safe profession.
I always tell them that it's really important to get a job to support themselves first, and to pursue their passions in the evening, when everyone else is watching TV, and on the weekends, when everyone else is getting drunk.