You meet someone for the first time. Here is part of the conversation:

You: “What do you do?”

New acquaintance: “I’m a salesperson.”

What passes through your mind when you hear this answer? I bet you don’t think to yourself: I’m talking to a future billionaire!

What you don’t know is that a job in sales was the most common first job of today’s billionaires.

This little tit-bit of information comes from a very interesting study by British recruitment agency Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment that looked into the history of the richest 100 people in the world to discover if there’s any correlation between their first career move and how wealthy they became.

You would expect that the majority of billionaires started off ahead of the pack with sizable inheritances or positions in existing successful family businesses.

But you’d be wrong. Only 30 of the 100 billionaires in the study fall in that category. More than half (53) was employed by an organization and 17 of them actually started their own businesses.

It would be informative to know how they started out. What were their first jobs?

The answer is surprising. The research found the first job that led to the most billionaires’ fortunes was a salesperson role. Of the 53 billionaires who started their career in an organization that wasn’t their own, ten started out in a sales position. Other top first positions were Stock trader (9), Software developer (5), Engineer (5) and Analyst (4).

Does holding a degree mean you’re more likely to become a billionaire?

Yes. The evidence from this small study shows an undeniable link between having a university qualification and becoming very wealthy. 75 of the study subjects had degrees.

The question is, which degrees?

Of the 75 billionaires with a degree, 22 received honours in engineering, 16 had business degrees, 11 were qualified in finance & economics, 5 had law degrees and 4 had a degree in computer science.

What’s the bottom line?

While it’s doubtful if someone will advise you to simply take on a sales position if you have hopes to become a billionaire, the ability to sell is an invaluable skill that can take the right person very far – as far as the dizzy heights of multi billionaire Warren Buffet who also was a salesperson early in his career.

As for what to study, an engineering subject was a good choice for many of the richest hundred people in the world. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably made your choices already, but it’s not too late to encourage your offspring to consider engineering or business as a career.

References: Business Insider