All kinds of different roads can lead to the White House.
As President’s Day rolls around, it’s time to think about our Commander in Chief. If you think your job is difficult, well, it’s not —- at least not compared to what the President of the United States has to deal with on a daily basis. Combating terrorism, dealing with lobbyists, trying to maintain (or fix) the American economy, and a plethora of public appearances make it arguably the most difficult job in the world.
At least the pay is amazing, right? The annual salary for our President is $400,000 dollars annually with another $169,000 for expenses, travel, and leisure accounts. So, $569,000 each year for the most stressful job in the country. In comparison, the league minimum for the National Hockey League is $550,000. That means if you’re good enough to warm the bench in the NHL, you’d be making presidential money.
So what work history qualifies a person to take on this job? There are many paths to the White House and, in truth, our former presidents have come from varied backgrounds. Here’s a peek at some of the most interesting jobs that show up on former U.S. presidents’ resumes.
Abraham Lincoln: Postmaster
As a 24-year-old, Lincoln was appointed Postmaster of New Salem, Illinois. He sorted the mail and even hand delivered letters that were not picked up at the post office. How did he carry them? In his hat. Seriously!
Presidential experience gained: delivering bad news. A president, much like a postmaster, sometimes must deliver some not-so-pleasant information to the people he serves.
Teddy Roosevelt: Rancher
Roosevelt fell in love with the western lifestyle of the late 1800s and purchased a cattle ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota. Mother Nature, however, was not kind. In the winter of 1886 –1887, nearly 80 percent of his cattle were wiped out by severe winter storms and cold. He decided to get out of the ranching business and instead focus on writing and politics.
Presidential experience gained: cutting losses. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. It’s important to know when to get over your pride and get out while you can.
Harry S. Truman: Haberdasher
No one on this list had a more fun title. Truman was a man of many interests and talents. He was an excellent piano player and considered pursuing a career as a concert pianist. He also was a military man. But once he was out of the military, he opened a haberdashery with his friend, Eddie Jacobson. The store sold men’s clothing and accessories and helped him stay in touch with old military buddies as well as establish himself as a person of influence in the local community.
Presidential experience gained: schmoozing. The haberdashery was not a big success, but Truman used it as a platform to gain political influence in the town and connect with other important people. Everyone wears socks it seems.
John F. Kennedy: Journalist
After his time in the Navy, J.F.K. worked as a special reporter for Hearst Newspapers. His father landed him the gig to keep him in the public eye after his military heroics in the South Pacific, hoping it would lead to a political career. He didn’t have to wait long. J.F.K. only worked as a journalist for a few months before landing a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Presidential experience gained: world politics. During his short time as a journalist, J.F.K. actually covered the Potsdam Conference where Stalin, Churchill, and Truman negotiated the end of WWII.
Related: Applying for the Presidency
Jimmy Carter: Peanut farmer
Carter was the son of a peanut farmer, and when the family farm was struggling, he left the Navy to take over. After some bad years, he brought the farm back from the brink of bankruptcy and made it successful again. Even after his presidency, Carter still claimed to grow peanuts on his farm.
Presidential experience gained: getting his hands dirty. In politics, as in farming, sometimes you have to jump in and get your hands dirty, not just sit back and wait.
Ronald Reagan: Actor
Before he became America’s leading man in 1980, Ronald Reagan had carved out a long and successful career on the big screen. Playing in movies like “Knute Rockne, All American” and “King’s Row,” he was a likable actor best known for playing secondary roles.
Presidential experience gained: public speaking. An actor must memorize his lines and give a meaningful dialogue to the camera. The best presidents can do more than read off a speech — they can deliver a heartfelt dialogue to the people. Reagan was a natural.
George W. Bush: Sports team owner
George W. Bush is an avid baseball fan and jumped at the opportunity to head up an investment group to buy the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989. He left the ownership group in 1994 for political reasons, but not before pushing through a new stadium bill that used eminent domain to claim 14 acres of land from local residents. Eventually, the team had to pony up money to the rightful landowners, but they got their stadium and the space they needed for parking lots.
Presidential experience gained: political maneuvering. Even though the Rangers didn’t make the playoffs during Bush’s stint as owner, he was able to push through the stadium bill and get the land he needed. It even included a tax increase.
Just because you work in human resources or even as a truck driver doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for that fancy chair in the oval office. Presidents are people too, and many of them have held interesting jobs long before taking office (though none are quite as fun to say as “haberdasher”).
As you look at your own resume, pay attention to how you got to where you are in your career. Even that job as a grocery store cashier in high school taught you certain things that helped you find your path. If you need a little help making that path stand out on your resume, getting help is easier than ever. If Jimmy Carter can go from peanut farmer to President of the United States, you can find your way to your dream job, too.
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