In an exclusive Q&A with Renée Ward, Mark Steines host of Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show and former host of Entertainment Tonight, shares his first job experiences and what he learned along the way. Born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, Steines says “walking” corn, that is, detasseling corn is a teenage rite of passage in rural areas of the Corn Belt of the Midwestern United States and he passed.
This is the ninth in a series of articles about the “first paying jobs” of successful people, their advice for today’s teens, and the value of work early in life.
Ward: How old were you when you landed your first paying job?
Steines: I started earning money mowing lawns for the neighbors and parking cars at a restaurant for wedding receptions, but I don’t really consider those my first job.
My first real job was walking corn. That is, detasseling corn, removing the tassels from the corn stalks.
Ward: What work did you do?
Steines: Nearly all detasseling is done in two steps. The field is first detasseled by machine and then detasseled manually. Detasseling machines typically remove 60 to 90 percent of the tassels in a seed corn field. Tassels have to be removed manually from corn stalks that the machine missed. This is done by having detasselers “walk “through the corn field to remove the tassels.
So there I was in the corn field removing the tassel from the tops of corn stalks.
Ward: How did you learn about this opportunity?
Steines: Every well fed Iowa boy is aware of this “opportunity”.
Ward: What qualities did you bring to the job? That is, why do you think you “earned” the job?
Steines: I got this job because of a strong work ethic and lots of stupidity!
Ward: Did you have a “mentor”? If so, how did that help you?
Steines: No mentoring required for a gig like this!
Ward: Did anything go wrong on the job? If so, how did you overcome the challenges?
Steines: Hot, sweaty, mosquito filled days were really the only thing that made a job like this even more miserable. But, I worked through it all.
Ward: What did you learn from this job that has prepared you for what you are doing now?
Steines: As I look back it was really a rite of passage. Lots of Iowa youth make this walk at some point in their life.
I carry a lot of pride to this day to be able to say I was able to suffer through a summer of this. The money made it worth it. I don’t recall the pay scale, but I was always taught that good things come to those who put in the time and work hard. It’s a wonderful life lesson and even today I consider it my “FIELD OF DREAMS.”
Ward: What advice do you have for teens and young adults today seeking their first jobs?
Steines: Never quit on yourself. When things get tough and you get knocked down, pick yourself up by the boot straps and get back in the game.
Click here to check out a corn detasseling video.
Not sure what you want to do or what kind of job to pursue? Take a look at the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) career clusters and take a Career Clusters Interest Survey. This may help give you focus and direction in your job hunting. The Career Clusters Interest Survey
For more resources for teens visit Teens4Hire.org