BEFORE POLITICS: What Europe's Leaders Did As Their First Job

putin KGB yearsPutin: The Early(ish) Years

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Not all politicians looked destined to lead a country when they were younger.Granted, some of them had ambition and used their early jobs to enhance their political careers. But, among Europe’s senior political elite, there are some curious and interesting backgrounds.

We haven’t included everyone here. There are a lot of politicians who took a very traditional (to be read “boring”) route to power. If you don’t see your favourite, don’t dismay, assume they qualified as a lawyer, held a career in academia or were political animals from day one.

So, whose early career was the furthest away from politics?

David Cameron, UK

Cameron's first job after graduating from Oxford University was in the research department of Britain's Conservative Party.

However, prior to attending university, Cameron took a year off to work for a Conservative MP and at a Hong Kong shipping Company where he did a three month stint.

Nicolas Sarkozy, France

Sarkozy was required to take part in military service while he was growing up and did so in 1978.

Apparently Sarkozy worked as a cleaner for the French Air Force in Paris. Later, at the age of 26, he went on to work as a lawyer for two decades, gradually getting more and more involved in politics.

Traian Basescu, Romania

Basescu was all at sea in the early years of his career.

The Romanian leader graduated from a naval academy before becoming a marine officer on board an oil tanker in 1976. He later became captain of that ship before moving in to politics.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia

Ilves was at one time the Estonian ambassador to the U.S. He was in a good position to have such a job, having been educated on American soil.

The Estonian president's first job, came during his education when he was a research assistant at Columbia University in the Department of Psychology.

Boiko Borisov, Bulgaria

The burly Bulgarian started off a long way from politics as a firefighter.

He later worked as a bodyguard and founded his own private security company before making the switch to politics after the fall of Communism in Europe.

Recep Erdogan, Turkey

Erdogan grew up in a poor town and moved to Istanbul as a young teenager with his family in search of a more prosperous life.

In order to raise money, Erdogan reportedly sold lemonade and simit (sesame buns) on the streets while he was still at school.

Jens Stoltenberg, Norway

Stoltenberg began his professional life as a part-time journalist for the publication Arbeiderbladet.

He spent two years working for the paper before making the switch to politics and rising through the ranks of the Norwegian Labour Party.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir graduated from the Commercial College of Iceland in 1960 before beginning a career as a flight attendant in 1962.

She spent nine years working for Loftleiðir Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandair.

Heinz Fischer, Austria

Austria's leader decided to volunteer after graduating from university and worked on a Kibbutz in Israel.

The experience was recently said to aid Fischer's ability to forge positive relations in the Middle East.

Angela Merkel, Germany

After studying physics at Leipzig University, Merkel began a career at Academy of Sciences in East Berlin which was brought to a halt after the Berlin Wall was torn down.

Following the removal of the Iron Curtain, Merkel turned to politics and joined a coalition of pro-democracy parties.

Donald Tusk, Poland

There were few private occupations available to Tusk under Communism but he chose one which kick-started his belief in the free market.

Tusk was chimney painter but he says he had an interest in politics since the age of 13 when he saw riot police fire on striking workers.

Anibal Cavaco Silva, Portugal

Cavaco Silva was not the best student and failed out of school when he was 13-years-old.

His grandfather, as a punishment for the young president-to-be, made him work on his farmland. That taught him a lesson.

Ivo Josipovic, Croatia

Before becoming a leading politician and leading legal expert, Josipovic was a composer.

Graduating from music school, he has recorded over 45 musical compositions to date as well as writing over 85 legal papers.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy

Berlusconi has long said that his first ever job was actually as a cruise ship compere and crooner.

He says it's how he learned how to work a crowd. Quite what he meant by that is anyone's guess.

Pal Schmitt, Hungary

Schmitt was a great athlete in his youth and had a prosperous career as a fencer, representing the Hungarian national team at the sport.

He won team gold medals at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics.

Klaus Tschütscher, Liechtenstein

Another politician who began his career in academics.

Tschütscher was a research associate at the University of St. Gallen before he took an internship with Liechtenstein court of justice.

Andris Berzins, Latvia

Berzins graduated from Riga Polytechnic Insitute in 1971 with a radio engineering degree.

With such qualification it is no surprise that he was a radio engineer before turning towards economics and politics.

Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania

Another leader with a musical background.

Lithuania's president took a job at the state Philharmonic as a staff inspector when she was 19-years-old. A year later she began her studies at Leningrad University, focusing on political economy.

Gjorge Ivanov, Macedonia

Prior to politics, Ivanov was a national broadcaster with network 'Macedonian Television.'

He rose through the ranks at the network and was eventually promoted to the position of editor.

Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine

Yanukovych's early career was disrupted by prison time that he served for robbery and minor assault.

He did however, take a job as a gas-fitter in the Yenakiyevo metallurgical plant in 1969.

Mark Rutte, Netherlands

After he graduated from college, Rutte worked for Anglo-Dutch corporation Unilever.

He was in charge of staff training and several reorganizations within the company.

Boris Tadić, Serbia

Another athlete, as a young man Tadić played water polo for Serbian team VK Partizan. He was, however, forced to quit playing due to injury.

He still had time to pursue another career before politics, becoming a clinical psychologist before he caught the political bug.

And finally...Vladimir Putin, Russia

Putin's first job after he graduated from university is well known.

He was recruited by the KGB and spent 17 years working as a mid-level agent, stationed for a long time in East Germany before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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