Talent Acquisition

Some of the World’s Leaders First Jobs

Whatever your career ambitions, at the very start you need to just get your foot on the ladder and start earning some money. This is the case for everyone, no matter where they ended up, and that includes the men and women who are currently the most powerful people in the world. They may sit in big offices and get driven around in limousines today but that wasn’t always the case and their jobs were once much more humble.

So here’s what every world leader did as their first job:

North America

As the son of a real estate tycoon who made his own name in that trade before TV and the White House came calling, it’s no surprise that Donald Trump’s first proper job was working in real estate to further the Trump name. Justin Trudeau’s father was also a big shot – Canadian Prime Minister indeed – but he started out working as a math teacher, while other leaders in the region had jobs as diverse as a comedian (Guatemala’s Jimmy Morales) and soldier (Nicaragua’s Muhammadu Buhari).

South America

It stands to reason that a good leader of a country should be someone who has been able to get to know what life is really like out there, which isn’t always possible for some of the more high-born leaders. It certainly was for Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro who drove around Caracas as a bus driver. Meanwhile, Uruguay’s Tabaré Vázquez also had an unusual route to the top, having started out as an oncologist.


You might have seen headlines about Volodymyr Zelensky, the new president of Ukraine, who had previously played a president on TV, and like Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, he started out as a comedian. Another new leader who made a name for himself on TV, the UK’s Boris Johnson began as a management consultant, while Sweden Stefan Lofven began his career as a welder and Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania worked in a factory.


No-one in Liberia or any football fan of a certain age will need reminding of what President George Weah started out doing in his career. The general picture in Africa is a mixture of former soldiers and former teachers being in power while Libya’s Fayez al-Sarraj was an architect and Saadeddine Othmani of Morocco was a psychiatrist and Gabon’s Ali Bongo Ondimba was a musician.


In the past, one of the marks of a strong leader was their ability to literally fight off their enemies, which isn’t the case (at least in most countries) today. However, if it ever comes to it for Mongolia’s Battulga Khaltmaa, his first job as a wrestler should stand him in good stead, while Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was a professional footballer at first. China’s Xi Jinping had a suitably humble start before taking charge of the most populous country in the world, as he was a manual laborer, similar to Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, who started out as a pulp mill worker.


The heads of the two biggest countries in Oceania were clearly set on a life in politics from the start as both Jacinda Arden and Scott Morrison worked for political parties or in policy jobs. Baron Waqa of Nauru had a slightly different start to his career, as he was a composer before opting to switch to the political world from the musical one.

So, whatever your first job was, there’s no reason to give up hope that you too could rise to the top. If it worked out for a wrestler, some footballers and a couple of comedians, why not you?

About the author: John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specializing in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans.

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