Nicolás Maduro's presidency is a controversial one, with his power being disputed by rival Juan Guaidó since the elections in 2018. In fact, the US and more recently the UK have recognised opposition leader Guaidó as the legitimate president, while Russia backs Maduro. But before he took the reins of his country, Maduro was a bus driver in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, for years. He worked his way up the ranks in trade unions before entering the inner circle of former president Hugo Chavez. When Chavez died in 2013, Maduro stepped into his shoes as leader.
Elected in 2016, Gambia’s president Adama Barrow formerly worked as a security guard at UK retail store Argos while studying for real estate qualifications. The 56-year-old leader was born in Gambia, but travelled to London to study and raise money to start his own business when he returned home. Barrow told French newspaper Le Monde about his stint as a security guard: "Life is a process, and the UK helped me to become the person I am today. Working 15 hours a day builds a man." In January 2020 there were protests in Gambia when Barrow didn't fulfil his campaign promise to step down that month, instead staying on to finish a five-year term. He has since launched the National People's Party (NPP), which he hopes will secure him another term as President following elections this December.
Prior to his time as prime minister of Russia between 2012 and 2020, Dmitry Medvedev hadn't always been responsible for such big things. Before entering politics, Medvedev spent time cleaning streets and claimed he made just 120 roubles ($1.53/£1.21) a month, including a bonus, for doing it.
Meanwhile, Albania’s tall prime minister was busy putting brush to paper. The son of a sculptor, Rama studied at Tirana's Art Academy as a teenager, before turning to basketball as a means to overcome Albania's travel ban, as professional sports people were exempt. This allowed him to visit galleries in other countries, such as Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Later he became a professor of painting at Tirana, before heading to the School of Fine Arts in Paris on a fellowship. He returned to Albania after he received a call from the then-prime minister, who was looking for a new culture minister, a move that started Rama's political career.
Moving from sports to politics isn’t the most obvious career change, but that was the case for former martial arts star and Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga. In the 1980s he competed in Sambo, a type of martial art favoured by the Soviet Red Army.
From writing about politics to being in the midst of it, Jens Stoltenberg used to work as a part-time journalist. He spent around two years working for newspaper Arbeiderbladet before he made the switch to politics, and started rising through the ranks of the Norwegian Labour Party.
Jimmy Morales, who was president of Guatemala until January this year, was previously a comedian starring in a weekly sketch show called Moralejas ("Morals" in Spanish) with his brother, which ran for 14 years. In one rather prophetic episode, Jimmy’s character accidentally runs for president of Guatemala – and wins.
Life imitated art for another comedian-turned-president Volodymyr Zelensky. After entering comedy at the age of 17, in 2015 he starred in a TV series called Servant of the People in which he played the role of the President of Ukraine. Four years later he assumed office as the actual president after winning the seat in a landslide victory in April 2019. No, we're not joking. But the Ukraine's president is not entirely ill-suited to the role, as he is also a trained lawyer.
Before becoming President of Croatia in 2010, Ivo Josipović had a successful career as a classical music composer with more than 50 published works. That’s not the only feather in his cap – he is also trained as a lawyer and helped save 180 Croatian prisoners of war from Serbian detention centres.
Boris Johnson's former role as a journalist has certainly sparked controversy in the past. The UK Prime Minister scooped a role at The Times after graduating from Oxford University, but was fired for making up a quote and falsely attributing it to his godfather, historian Colin Lucas. He later had a lucrative side hustle writing columns for The Daily Telegraph.
President Putin’s first job isn’t a secret, in fact it’s probably the most well-known on this list. He spent 17 years working for the KGB, which has since split into the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation (SVR RF), as a mid-level agent. Currently in power until 2024, the country voted on consitutional reforms at the beginning of July which saw nearly 78% vote in favour of changes that will allow Putin to serve another two six-year terms, and potentially remain in power until 2036. Either way he’s not due a career change anytime soon.
What is more of a surprise is he's admitted moonlighting as a private driver following the fall of the Soviet Union as he struggled to make ends meet. He drove a Volga car he brought back from East Germany, where he had been working for the KGB. "It’s not pleasant to speak about honestly, but unfortunately that is what happened.,” he says in a new documentary. He was then employed as an aide in Leningrad city council. The rest, as they say, is history...
The 46th POTUS famously had a career as a lawyer before his move into politics. But in order to get his education Biden, whose parents were a used car salesman and a housewife, had to work to pay for his fees to attend the prestigious Archmere Academy in Delaware. Taking on maintenance work such as washing the school windows and weeding the gardens, Biden was able to afford the school that he once described as "the object of my deepest desire, my Oz". He later studied history and political science at the University of Delaware, before attending Syracuse University Law School. The hard work certainly paid off in the long run.