From busboy to nanny: Here's what the top 2020 presidential candidates did as their first jobs

Donald Trump with boy mowing lawnReuters

  • The 2020 presidential election contenders worked in a wide variety of first jobs, including waitress, gardener and bottle collector - a far cry from the high profile political roles they have today.
  • In interviews over the years, many have spoken of how they still carry with them the lessons from their first jobs.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Being a presidential candidate involves non-stop travel, meeting people from all walks of life, regular media appearances and making speeches to thousands of people.

The pressure to win is enormous - and the prize the biggest in politics.

The hustle of the presidential race is a far cry from the humble jobs where many of the presidential candidates earnt their first dollars.

As such, Business Insider decided to take a look at the first jobs of some of the most prominent candidates for next year's elections.

From working as a busboy at a Chinese restaurant to nannying for rich families in New York, here's how the candidates started their careers.

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In Elizabeth Warren's family, money was tight. She started waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant, aged 13.

In Elizabeth Warren's family, money was tight. She started waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant, aged 13.

The restaurant was two hours away from her family home in Oklahoma City, and was owned by her aunt. Before this, she'd had jobs as a babysitter as she worked to help her family make ends meet.

Her father had a heart attack when she was 12, and the family struggled with medical bills after he lost his job.

Warren was academically brilliant, winning a college scholarship at only 16 and going on to work as a teacher and Harvard professor.

She was elected to the Senate to represent Massachussetts in 2012, and has pledged to enact sweeping economic reforms if elected to the presidency.

Warren has credited her experience growing up on the "ragged edge of the middle class" with her fight "to make our government and economy work for working people."

Sources: Encyclopedia Brittanica, HuffPost.

Joe Biden worked as a gardener part-time, to make money for his school fees.

Joe Biden worked as a gardener part-time, to make money for his school fees.

Biden attended the private Archmere Academy in Delaware. But when his parents struggled to make the fees, he took a job in the school gardens to help out financially.

"My working there, it paid part of my tuition," Biden said. "That was the first job I had."

He later went on to work as a truck driver and life guard, before going on to practise law after college. After four decades in the US Senate representing Delaware, he was appointed vice president by President Barack Obama in 2008.

If elected, Biden has pledged to expand the Obama presidency's policies and legacy.

Source: WUSA9

Pete Buttigieg spent summers working for his uncle's catering company while he was at high school.

Pete Buttigieg spent summers working for his uncle's catering company while he was at high school.

The South Bend mayor described his first job in an interview with the South Bend beat podcast.

"My uncle had kind of a catering operation," Buttigieg said. "So I worked at stands selling water and drinks at festivals over the summer."

A star student, after graduating Harvard Buttigieg served in Naval intelligence. He returned to his home town to be elected mayor aged only 29.

Little known outside his hometown at the outset of the race, he has surpised some with his strong showing so far.

Source: South Bend Beat Podcast

Bernie Sanders tried his hand at various trades before entering politics — including carpentry.

Bernie Sanders tried his hand at various trades before entering politics — including carpentry.

Sanders was a tireless political activist and campaigner who worked in various trades after graduating from the University of Chicago.

His jobs included stints in New York as an aide at a psychiatric hospital, teaching preschoolers for Head Start, researching property taxation for the Vermont Department of Taxes, registering people for food stamps for a nonprofit — and carpentry.

"He was a s**** carpenter," one friend told Politico in 2015.

"His carpentry," said another, "was not going to support him, and didn't."

His experience of poverty and job instability as a young man helped strengthen the socialist values which have inspired his political career.

His first steady job was reportedly when in a shock victory in 1981 he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

Source: Politico

Kamala Harris' first job was helping her cancer researcher mom in the lab, cleaning scientific tools.

Kamala Harris' first job was helping her cancer researcher mom in the lab, cleaning scientific tools.

Harris' mother was a scientist who researched treatments for breast cancer, and would bring her daughters to the lab to help out.

"My mother had two goals in her life — to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer," harris said said at a recent event on education.

"She would take us to the lab with her, you know, after school and on weekends. Little known fact … my first job ever was cleaning pipettes."

She has credited her mother as a key inspiration and influence.

After graduating, Harris worked as a prosecutor and quickly rose to become California's district attorney. She entered politics with a successful run for the US Senate in 2016.

Source: Las Vegas Sun

Andrew Yang has spoken on the campaign trail about the tough lessons he learnt in his first job — working as a bus boy in a Chinese restaurant.

Andrew Yang has spoken on the campaign trail about the tough lessons he learnt in his first job — working as a bus boy in a Chinese restaurant.

"I was a busboy at a Chinese restaurant as a teenager. You never forget that. The heated washer burned my hands.

"The other workers scoffed at me because they'd gotten used to it years ago. I still tip well to this day," he tweeted in August.

Yang worked as an entrepreneur and in startups before launching his run for the presidency.

He has based his pitch to voters on his business experience, advocating a national "living wage" to be paid to all Americans to offset job losses to automation.

Amy Klobuchar took a job as a carhop at a local A&W root beer stand as a teenager — where her job was washing mugs.

Amy Klobuchar took a job as a carhop at a local A&W root beer stand as a teenager — where her job was washing mugs.

"They made me wear a T-shirt that said take home a jug of fun," she told Elle magazine years later.

A star student, Klobuchar later worked as a prosecuting lawyer in her home state of Minnesota before becoming Hennepin County attorney in 1998, overseeing public prosecutions in Minnesota's largest county.

She was elected to the US Senate in 2006, and in her pitch for the presidency has stressed her credentials as a pragmatist who gets things done.

Source: Elle Magazine

After graduating from Ivy League college Yale, Booker took his first job with an inner city legal rights center in New York.

After graduating from Ivy League college Yale, Booker took his first job with an inner city legal rights center in New York.

He later moved to a deprived area in Newark, New Jersey, where he built a career as an attorney, city councillor, mayor and then senator.

He says living in a low income neighborhood has fired his political mission.

"You can't live in a community like this and not live with a sense of urgency," Booker told Politico. "And this is not the exception in America. This is the reality."

Source: Politico

Beto O'Rourke drifted after college, and worked for a while as a live-in nanny for a family in New York.

Beto O'Rourke drifted after college, and worked for a while as a live-in nanny for a family in New York.

While working in the job watching the two kids in Manhattan, he lived in a spare room with a futon. He had ambitions of becoming a musician. Later, he got a job moving art and struggled to get a foothold in the publishing industry.

Eventually, he returned to his home town of El Paso, started a business, and got involved in local politics. He was elected mayor in 2005.

Years later he parallelled his time drifting in New York with the soul searching he did after narrowly losing the Texas Senate election against Ted Cruz in 2018 and weighing a bid for the presidency.

"I just didn't ever want to feel like that or be in that place or that position again," O'Rourke told The New York Times.

"So that lately has felt kind of strange, maybe with some echoes."

Source: The New York Times

President Donald Trump's first job was picking up empty soda bottles at one of his property magnate father's sites to redeem for cash.

President Donald Trump's first job was picking up empty soda bottles at one of his property magnate father's sites to redeem for cash.

In an interview with Forbes back in 2006, when Trump was still best known as a reality star and real estate mogul, he said that his father, Fred Trump, made him take the job to teach him the value of hard work.

"I accompanied my father to his sites and would collect soda bottles with my brother for the deposit money. That was my first income. Later, I went around with the rent collectors to see how that worked. I learned to stand out of the doorway to avoid the possibility of being shot," said Trump.

Trump went on to study at Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, and after a brief stint at his father's company launched his own real estate firm, which grew into a multibillion dollar hospitality and property empire.

Trump claims he is best placed to ensure America's economic prosperity.

Source: Forbes

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