Some of the CEOs we know were born into rich families, and all they had to do was inherit their family fortune. Then there are those CEOs who weren’t lucky enough to be born into rich families but knew from an early age that they would be rich and successful.
These CEOs have certain traits that distinguish them from the rest, traits were quite clear from when they were young. They were hard working, innovative and they methodically plodded their way up the ladder.
When starting out, some of these CEOs did some things that were completely different from what they do today. Some started out selling newspapers and others began their careers by selling illegal software to help people hack telephone systems. Some CEOs, however, knew what they would one day become, and they have stuck to it until today.
Take Bill Gates for example. When he was in 8th grade, he took an interest in programming and wrote his first computer program on a machine bought with proceeds from the Mother’s Club at his school.
He spent a lot of time around computers and his current job today still involves computers. So let’s take a look at some of the weird jobs famous CEOs had before they became successful.
11 Reed Hastings
Current Job: CEO Netflix
Weird Job: Door-to-Door Salesman
Can you believe Hastings worked as a door-to-door salesman after high school selling vacuum cleaners? And the funny thing is he loved the job. So much, in fact, that he decided to defer his enrollment to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine for a whole year just so that he could continue selling vacuum cleaners.
Well, Hastings clearly didn’t think selling vacuums was his destiny because he later founded Pure Software, a company that produced products to troubleshoot software. He left the company six years later and founded the now popular Netflix.
10 Kat Cole
Current Job: CEO of Cinnabon
Weird Job: Hooters Girl
Cole had dreams of becoming a corporate lawyer, so at 17 she became a hostess at a local Hooters to start saving up money for college.
As soon as she turned 18, she became a Hooters girl. But she was an outstanding employee and a go-getter, so by the time she turned 19 they were already asking her to travel to different countries to help the company penetrate the foreign market.
By the time she turned 23, she was already in charge of global training for employees and managers.
9 Richard Branson
Current Job: Founder and Chairman of Virgin Group
Weird Job: Hit Record Producer
In an interview with Business Insider, Branson said his first entrepreneurial venture came about when he opened a recording studio at 22 years of age.
He managed to bring in singer Mike Oldfield and together they recorded their first single “Tubular Bells” which stayed on the U.K. charts for close to five years. He went on to sign controversial bands like the Sex Pistols.
Unfortunately, in 1992, he had to sell the recording company in order to keep his airline business going.
8 Mark Cuban
Current Job: Chairman and CEO of AXS TV, Co-owner of Wagner/Cuban Companies, Owner of Dallas Mavericks.
Weird Job: Disco Dancing Instructor
You’ve probably seen him on the popular TV show Shark Tank. Cuban made his first dollar when he was just 12 years old. He sold garbage bags to buy himself a pair of expensive basketball shoes.
When he was in high school, he held a variety of jobs including a party promoter, a disco dancing instructor and a bartender. While he was in college, he started many business ventures including a chain letter, disco lessons and he even opened a pub.
Cuban graduated from Kelley School of Business in 1981 and in 1982 he moved to Dallas, Texas where he was first employed as a bartender. He then got another job as a salesperson at Business Software.
The company let him go less than a year later when he met with a new client to discuss starting a new business venture instead of opening the store.
7 Steve Jobs
Position: Late CEO, Apple
Weird Job: Selling Illegal Telephone Hacking Equipment
Phone systems in the 1970s were way different than what we have today. For example, for long distance dialing, they used tone signals.
Steve Jobs and his pal, Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), created their first business venture together selling blue boxes. These blue boxes allowed people to break into the phone systems and make free calls.
In an interview, Jobs said that if he hadn’t thought about the whole Blue Boxes idea, he wouldn’t have invented Apple. In fact, he said that’s when and how he learned how to work with Wozniak and believed that together, they would come up with a great idea.
6 Michael Dell
Current Position: Founder and CEO of Dell Inc.
Weird Job: Dishwasher
At only 12 years old, Michael Dell got a job washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant. They later promoted him to become a bus boy but he soon got a better offer at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Here’s a weird fact…Dell once owned an Apple computer. Yes, that’s right. He owned an Apple II when he was 15 years old. He disassembled it just to see how it works. And when he was in high school, he once made $18,000…earning more than his history and economics teacher did.
He made that cash while selling subscriptions of the Houston Post in the summer. While making cold calls to potential customers, he noticed a pattern. All prospects who bought subscriptions were either in the process of establishing a social presence or a geographical presence. So he decided to make these people his target demographic by collecting their names from mortgage and marriage applications.
5 Marissa Mayer
Current Job: President and CEO of Yahoo
Weird Job: Grocery Clerk
When Marissa Mayer was in high school, she worked as a grocery clerk. That’s where she learned that in order to be great at her job, she needed to learn how to work fast…as fast as scanning 40 items a minute.
She credits her participation in ballet and piano lessons for teaching her poise, confidence, criticism and discipline.
She attended Stanford University in 1999 and when she graduated, she received 14 job offers. She joined Google and became the company’s first female engineer.
Her attention to detail and hard work saw her rise in the ranks to become Google’s Vice President of Product Research. But in 2011, she was demoted.
In 2012, she was appointed President and CEO of Yahoo!
4 Warren Buffett
Current Job: Chairman, CEO and Largest Shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway
Weird Job: Paperboy
At only 13 years old, Warren Buffett started delivering newspapers on his bike for the Omaha World-Herald. He was so smart that on his first tax return, he claimed his bike as a deduction.
By the time he was graduating from high school in 1947, he’d earned $5,000, which at that time was equal to $54,000 today.
Buffett became interested in business at a very young age. The things he did to earn money included selling chewing gum, weekly magazines and Coca-Cola bottles. While he was in high school, he made money detailing cars, selling stamps and golf balls and delivering newspapers.
Can you believe that he bought his first shares when he was just 11 years old? Yep, he bought three shares of Cities Services and three others for his sister.
3 Jeff Bezos
Current Job: Founder and CEO of Amazon
Weird Job: Camp leader
Jeff Bezos with his former girlfriend, Ursula Werner, created his own first job. They launched an educational summer camp for 4th, 5th and 6th graders called Dream Institute. It was a ten day course that taught everything from how electric currents work to Gulliver’s Travels.
After graduating from Princeton, he worked several jobs before he finally decided to start his own venture, Amazon.com, in 1994. He is particularly known for his attention to detail and his micromanaging character.
Word is he always wants to know what goes on in his business from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in Amazon press releases.
2 Leslie Moonves
Current Job: President and CEO of CBS Corporation
Weird Job: Actor
Moonves began as a struggling actor in New York. In an interview with Fortune, he described his acting skills as mediocre so he figured it was better if he got into the production end of the business.
Before he gave up on acting, he played a few tough guy roles in series like Cannon and Six Million Dollar Man before he gave it all up.
He first worked at 20th Century Fox Television before joining Lorimar Television in 1985. He later became CEO of Warner Bros. Television and in July 1995 he joined CBS. 7 years later, he was promoted to Chairman and CEO of CBS.
1 Terry Lundgren
Current Job: CEO, Chairman of the Board, President and Director at Macy’s Inc.
Weird Job: Oyster Shucker
Terry Lundgren’s dream was to become a vet. His dad worked two jobs to put him through college but due to his poor grades, his father decided to stop paying his tuition.
So to put himself through college, Lundgren switched to a business major and started shucking oysters at a local restaurant to help pay his tuition. He was eventually promoted to become the restaurant’s manager but he moved to retail after he graduated from college.