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Living the Map: 50 Jobs in 50 States

April 7, 2010 at 10:43 am
By Margaret Taylor '10

Can’t get a job?  You’re not the only one.

Daniel Seddiqui, last week’s convo speaker, opened his talk with an anecdote about standing in line to return a suit to Macy’s.  He had never intended to buy the suit permanently because he couldn’t afford one.  So he “rented” it just long enough to go to yet another job interview, which he failed.  For the fortieth time.  He was a USC graduate with a degree in economics and he couldn’t find work anywhere.

“This is as rock-bottom as you can get for somebody who’s been sober their whole life,” he says.  The experience made him question the direction his entire life was going.  Did he really want to be stuck in the business world forever?

Seddiqui’s solution to this early-life crisis was wilder than any of us would ever contemplate.  Using borrowed money to buy a car, he drove all over the country working for one week at fifty different jobs, one for each state (he used an airplane to get to Alaska and Hawaii).  “I chose the stereotypical job of each state,” he says, so that meant he worked for a Mormon church in Utah, border patrol in Arizona, a coal mine in West Virginia, and the Democratic party in New Hampshire.

He arranged all these week-long jobs by making a flurry of cell phone calls.  Seddiqui estimates that it took 4-5,000 rejections in order to set up a job for every state.  Doing the work wasn’t easy, either.  He had to drive all weekend to get to his next location, then show up for work on Monday and leap in.  “An average employee had 2-3 weeks of training.  I got 2-3 hours.”

But the experience, he says, has been incredibly rewarding.  He grew up in the Bay Area, in a self-described “California bubble.”  The “Living the Map” project gave him the opportunity to learn about a variety of different places and walks of life that make up this country.  He worked at jobs that he would otherwise have never been exposed to.  The project broke down stereotypes: he discovered, for example, that people in Nebraska are in fact well-informed about the outside world.

Most importantly, he got the chance to do career exploration that he wished he could have done before feeling pressured to get a degree in economics.  Now that the project is finished, “I know what I do and what I don’t want to do.”

Most of us, if we can’t find a job, can just up and take a cross-country tour of fifty jobs in fifty different states.  But Seddiqui says that many of the things he learned can be applied to our own career searches.  The most important qualities, in his opinion, for launching a career are adaptability, networking, endurance, and perseverance.  He also advocates the benefits of exposure.  The more young people learn about a variety of workplaces, preferably while they’re in high school, the better informed decisions they can make about their futures.

You can learn more about the "Living the Map" project at