Friday, September 23, 2011

Fifty Jobs in Fifty States

I  just saw a very funny talk by a young man from Los Altos, California, who found himself in the painful predicament that only the scion of a privileged family could understand.

His graduation from USC unfortunately coincided with the serious downturn in our nation's economy. After three years of sending out resumes and facing chronic rejections--while enjoying the perfect environmental and intellectual climate of a hometown filled with professional families living in gracious homes--his father told him it was time--in the vernacular--to "get a life."

With that, Daniel Seddiqui devised a plan that turned his failure into success and taught him a great deal about the diversity and greatness of a nation that also includes those other states out there--beyond California.

He managed to borrow enough money to buy a Jeep Cherokee (so he could sleep in it, he said) and began traveling across America in an attempt to work at one job, for one week, in each of the fifty states  in the Union--for a year. What a plan!

In one of his first jobs--at a rodeo in Montana--a rancher asked him where he was going to spend the night. Eyeing the man's--to him--foreign outfit (cowboy hat, boots, big belt buckle)--he wondered if he ought to chance it. But he was broke, so he took up the offer and thus began the second part of his journey: staying with host families across America.

The rancher had a beautiful home and family (and pretty daughters by the way). He learned he could never predict by a man's clothes--how that man might live. And he found the diversity of America to be far richer, in its own way, than his hometown.

He spent his weekends driving between states and used the Internet, his host families, and networking to find his next gig. In the course of his journey, he turned into a canny publicity man for his adventure, and has been on all the major and minor networks across the nation, telling his tale of adventure.

Out of all this came offers from agents, offers for full-time jobs, and, his book: 50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man's Journey of Discovery Across America.

He's now 29 years old, working out what his next adventure in life will be.

We're in an economic time now where the sons and daughters of upper middle-class families cannot simply step into the kinds of jobs their fathers and mothers found three decades ago. Growing up with ski trips to Tahoe and Christmases in Hawaii led many young people in Daniel Seddiqui's peer group to expect they could easily top what their parents did.

And many likely will. But it is hard to start at the top, as this young man discovered.

However, with inventiveness and courage, and a good sense of fun, he tried a new road. This one was like a new Route 66 of discovery (he calls it "living the map") and it introduced him to Southern accents, Texas steaks, Massachusetts lobster boats, Oregon lumbermen, Amish farmers, and Mormon missionaries, among many, many others.

From an insular young man who felt rejected amidst his riches, he found new riches to be mined wherever he turned across an amazing nation. He also, by the way, found a new place to live.

Where did he settle? "Chicago," he told me. "It is the city I liked best of all."

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