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If you’re like me, your first job wasn’t anything special. Interestingly, many of the world’s richest and most powerful people started out in fairly mundane jobs as well. For instance, former President Barack Obama was an ice cream scooper at a Honolulu Baskin Robbins.
The Richest 100 People in the World
Recently, a study, conducted by the UK recruiting firm Aaron Wallis, analyzed the first jobs of the wealthiest 100 people in the world. They sought out to determine whether there were any connections between their education levels, their first jobs, and their wealth.
In the study, they found that 53 out of the top 100 billionaires started out working for another company. 30 of the billionaires became ultra-rich the old-fashioned way– they inherited their wealth. Finally, 17 of the billionaires started their own businesses.
Breakdown of the Forbes Top 10 List
Billionaire (Company): First job
- Bill Gates (Microsoft, founder): Computer software (entrepreneur)
- Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway, CEO): Investment salesman
- Jeff Bezos (Amazon, CEO): Software developer
- Amancio Ortega (Inditex, Founder): Shop hand for a shirtmaker (retail assistant)
- Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook CEO): Social media creator (entrepreneur)
- Carlos Slim Helu (América Móvil, Director): Stock trader
- Larry Ellison (Oracle, Executive Chairman): Software developer
- David Koch (Koch Industries, Executive Vice President): Technical services manager (inherited)
- Charles Koch (Koch Industries, CEO): Oil refining (inherited)
- Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg, CEO): Investment banking
Moving down the list, what do you think were the other jobs that the Forbes top 100 first held?
At the top of the list is Salesman. George Soros, the 29th wealthiest person in the world, started out as a traveling salesman for a toy wholesaler. Michael Dell, the founder of the computer company Dell, started out as a cold-call salesman for a newspaper. Clearly, many billionaires are gifted in sales!
The next most common first job for the Forbes top 100 list was Stock Trader. In many ways, Stock Trader is just a specific type of a sales job, since it requires excellent interpersonal skills to receive the best possible deal.
3, 4, and 5
Not surprisingly, Software Developer and Engineer came in next on the list. Finally, Account/Financial Role and Analyst tied for 5th on the list.
Below, you can see some of the other first jobs that the world’s richest people had starting out.
The researchers of this study, while acknowledging its small sample size, say, “Our results suggest that those starting in a sales role are more likely to become a billionaire… it could be that people who are familiar with business deals at an early point in their career will take this forward to be successful in the million and billion-pound deals that come later on in their life.”
This begs the question- do most of these billionaires have college degrees? It’s not like you need a college degree to be a competent salesman.
According to this study, 25% of the Forbes Top 100 list did not graduate from college. Those that did not graduate include luminaries such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Dell. They each attended college but dropped out to pursue their entrepreneurial endeavors.
For the 75% remaining that did graduate from college, what did they study?
At the top of the list was Engineering. 22 of the billionaires studied this major.
“There’s a clear trend between the people who studied an engineering subject and the richest 100 in the world,” the researchers shared. “Many of the entrepreneurs who made their money in technology studied engineering, for example Jeff Bezos of Amazon, or Larry Page of Google.”
The second most common degree was a Business degree. 15 of the billionaires studied Business, followed closely by Finance & Economics at 11 billionaires. Interestingly enough, only 4 of these billionaires studied Computer Science. Surprisingly, this does not include Bill Gates, who was a Pre-Law major while he attended school. Mark Zuckerberg also wasn’t a Computer Science major as one might assume, although he took many computer science classes. Instead, he was a Psychology major.
While I’ll probably never be a billionaire, it is interesting to find out what many billionaires started off doing and also the trends that exist between college degrees, first jobs, and billionaire status.