Kitchen Table Economics

First Job Fridays: Reed Hastings

Netflix is a household name. With more than 47 million members in the United States alone, the online entertainment company has now expanded into film and television production—reaching viewers in over 190 countries. The company’s success can be traced to its founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, who launched Netflix as a DVD delivery service in 1998.

But Hastings was anything but a technology guru at a young age. In this month’s First Job Friday feature on Information Station, we’re focusing on his first job as a door-to-door salesman. What did Hastings sell? Vacuum cleaners. That’s right: After high school, Netflix’s CEO started peddling vacuum cleaners to interested buyers in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. And he thoroughly enjoyed it—so much so that he deferred his freshman year of college at Bowdoin College to keep working. In Hastings’ own words: “I loved it, strange as that might sound. You get to meet a lot of different people.”

His interest in socializing through sales helped Hastings understand the types of goods and services that people want—and what they don’t want. But, most of all, the experience taught him to find passion in work regardless of the job at hand. As Hastings explains, “Mine was a path of serendipity but it was a path of just being passionate about whatever I was doing at that time.”

Even though there’s no real connection between vacuum cleaners and online streaming, living in the moment—and learning from it—is applicable whatever the job. And, if you apply it, you too can go from selling vacuum cleaners to revolutionizing online entertainment.