January 5, 2017 / 2:09 PM / 2 years ago

Podcasting precursors: Hay baling, chopping onions and waiting tables

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It might not make a lot of sense to our grandparents, but today’s media superstars are not necessarily big-screen actors or anchors of the evening news.

Journalist Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the books Freakanomics and SuperFreakonomics, speaks during the SkyBridge Alternatives (SALT) Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Just as likely, they are podcasters on iTunes.

More than a third of Americans have listened to podcasts, according to Edison Research, a figure that has more than tripled in the last decade.

For the latest in Reuters “First Jobs” series, we talked to some popular podcasters about the gigs that got them started.

Guy Raz

Host, "TED Radio Hour" (here) and "How I Built This" (here)

First job: Mini-mart staffer

“It was at an ampm mini-market in Northridge, California, at the corner of Corbin Ave. and Plummer St. I had just turned 13, and I am pretty sure I didn’t even have a work permit. My job was basically to do everything.

“I worked the cashier, I put hot dogs on heat rollers, I cleaned gas tanks with rags, I refilled soda machines, I chopped onions, I stocked beer. I even checked the IDs of people trying to buy cigarettes, and then had to climb a little step-ladder to get them their Marlboro Lights.

“I also had to make horchata, which is a cinnamony rice-based drink popular in Mexico. I took a giant plastic bucket, dumped in powder, whisked it together with water, and then poured it into machines. For a short, scrawny 13-year-old, that was a lot of work.

“I did all that for $3.25 an hour - which was a lot of money back then - and spent most of it on baseball cards. I think about that job a lot, actually. I am grateful for the opportunity to have become an independent little kid, riding my bike alone all around the San Fernando Valley. We live in a different world now.”

Farnoosh Torabi

Host, "So Money" (podcast.farnoosh.tv/)

First job: Waitress

“It was at an old-school 1950’s-themed chain called Ruby’s Diner, whose slogan was ‘Shooby Dooby.’ For a young kid the idea of making money was really exciting, so as soon as I could get my worker’s permit at age 15, I applied and started as a hostess.

“I thought it would be fun, but it was really a comedy of errors, and I had a lot of clumsy moments. I spilled a fair number of shakes on people. It was pretty disappointing in terms of pay: We even had a ‘uniform fee,’ because we had to wear white skirts and pink shirts, and that came out of our paycheck.

“I also had a manager who was sexually inappropriate, and would flirt with the girls. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in the freezer with him, let’s put it that way.

“I almost got fired once: Kids under 10 used to get free sundaes, and instead of using small bowls, I would give them really big bowls of ice cream with lots of toppings. One day the manager saw me and pulled me aside. After that I was put on high surveillance.”

Stephen Dubner

Host, "Freakonomics Radio" (freakonomics.com/archive/) and "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" (freakonomics.com/tmsidk/)

First job: Hay baler

“I grew up in rural upstate New York and had a lot of jobs when I was a kid, starting around age 11 or 12. Baling hay, painting houses, shoveling out barns. I was scrawny and impatient, and therefore not very good at any of them.

Host Farnoosh Torabi from "Follow the Leader," participates in a CNBC Primetime panel during the Television Critics Association (TCA) Cable Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, California, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

“Then I tried selling stuff door-to-door: Flower seeds, Grit subscriptions, gold-plated Social Security cards. I failed at all these, too.

“I finally landed a job at the local general store, stocking shelves and mopping floors, every morning before school. I’d hitchhike there in the dark. On weekends, I got a job inserting advertising circulars into newspapers at The Schenectady Gazette.

“Every one of these jobs was physically hard, mentally tiring, low-paying. In combination, they persuaded me to make sure I went to college, so I would have an opportunity for a job that was a better fit.”

Editing by Beth Pinsker and Dan Grebler

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