Hillary Clinton's "Unglamorous" First Jobs

“[R]unning for President is like the world’s longest, most important job interview,” Hillary Clinton writes in a new essay. But though she’s running for the most prominent job in the nation, Hillary Clinton’s first jobs were anything but prestigious. In fact, one if them was a lot slimier — yes, physically slimier — than you might expect of a presidential nominee.

In an article for Glassdoor, a jobs and recruitment site, Clinton discusses how her early job experiences impacted her life and the approach she takes to her work. She describes how, when she was a child, her father ran a drapery printing business, and she was called upon to help. “When I was tall enough, I would stand over silk screens on big, long tables, and pour in the paint,” she recalls, “then we’d move the squeegee from left to right, then move on to the next table and start all over again.” She remembers how her father took responsibility for his business, and never expected others to fix his problems. “Even now, on days when things don’t go as planned or I want to just throw up my hands,” Clinton writes, “I think about how hard my dad worked — and I take a deep breath, and keep pushing forward.”

The most surprising part of the article is the second job that Clinton writes about: After she finished college, she got a summer job in Alaska sliming salmon. (If, like me, your first thought is “What does ‘sliming salmon’ even mean?”, it turns out that to “slime” a fish is to remove slime from it. The more you know!) Clinton remembers, “When I showed up on my first day, I was given boots, an apron, and a spoon to clean out the insides of the fish. If I didn’t slime fast enough, the supervisors would yell at me to speed up. It was not glamorous work, by any stretch of the imagination!”

She writes that she eventually noticed that the fish she was working on “didn’t look right.” They were “purple and black, and sort of gooey.” (Um, ew.) When she started asking questions about it, she was fired — and when she came by the next day to get her last paycheck, “the entire operation was gone.” Sounds like a pretty fishy situation, right? (#sorrynotsorry). The experience was educational: “I learned to trust my gut — and that sometimes, doing what’s right means standing up to people in powerful positions,” Clinton writes.

Clinton writes about a third job experience, one that had a deep impact on her devotion to public service. After hearing a lecture from civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman — a speech Clinton describes as one that “forever changed the course of my life” — Clinton secured a grant to allow her to work for Edelman for a summer. Eventually she took a job at with Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund. It was “one of the best decisions of my life,” she writes. “It taught me that few things are as fulfilling as work that provides a chance to serve others and make a difference. Finding a job that spoke to my heart motivated me more than a paycheck or prestige ever could.”

Clinton’s early jobs show that, for her, it’s been a long, fascinating road to Election Day. “While I don’t think I’ll be screen printing or sliming fish again any time soon, I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without these experiences,” she writes. “These three jobs and these three lessons — to work hard, to stand up for what’s right, and to strive to make a difference for others — have guided my life. And they will guide me in the future.” Will that future include the White House? We’ll have to see what tomorrow(!) holds.