Profession: CEO, Higher Ground Education Consulting, New York, N.Y.
Her First Gig: Nneka Fritz began her work experience at 9 years old as an assistant to her grandmother who sold clothes to women in their church and community. Fritz’s exposure to her grandmother’s entrepreneurial drive peeked her interest in starting her own business. In the 4th grade, she was introduced to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and realized that, like her grandmother, she too had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Still a student in elementary school, she started her first business, Nneka’s Candy Corner, which was more successful than she could have ever imagined. “I remember making $200 in one day selling sour power.” She continued her candy business, and in high school transitioned into selling baked goods.
Pros & Cons: Fritz landed her first job on someone else’s payroll when she was 15 working as an Office Assistant with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. After high school, she joined Inroads, an organization committed to preparing and placing underserved youth in corporate and community opportunities. This led to her first job out of high school with Prudential, where she worked until her senior year at Georgetown University. “[That experience] gave me good exposure and taught me about the world of business and business etiquette. I met the CEO my first week on the job,” she says.
Fritz insists that working early taught her the importance of consistency and being on time. One challenge often faced by teen workers is that they aren’t taken seriously. Fritz advises that the best way to combat this stereotype is to ask questions and be a sponge for information. Employers appreciate it when young staff are eager to learn, she adds.
As an expert in college recruitment and admissions, Fritz shares three tips for teen and young adult professionals:
Stay off the Internet while you’re at work. Today’s world of social media consumes much of a teenager’s time and energy. Fritz urges young workers to avoid making the terrible mistake of spending time online rather than doing the job they’re being paid to do.
Seek out mentors & advisers. This is a great way to establish relationships and connect with key people.
Be open. Be willing to try different things. It’s okay if you don’t like something. At least you had that experience early on.