BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Hey, I'd settle for ONE!

Since I've been writing my The Job Stalker blog over on the Tribune's “ChicagoNow” site, and featuring reviews from here, I've begun to have several publishers keeping me at least on their query list for new titles in the “jobs” area. This one is courtesy Berrett-Koehler … and is something of a doozy, being the adventures of one guy who got it in his head to work in each of the 50 states (for at least a few days) in some job that he felt typified that state.

Daniel Seddiqui had graduated from USC in 2005 with a degree in economics, and had set out to get a job in his field. Forty non-productive job interviews (and how I envy him getting that many interviews!) later, he was still not employed and was losing the support of his parents (one of the more poignant bits here, from one long-term-unemployed person to another, was how his family was seemingly unsympathetic to the lack of success in his job search … it really sucks to be putting in 12-18 hours a day trying to find a job, and be treated like you're lounging on the couch popping bon-bons). On top of this, he was having difficulties with a long-distance relationship, and so was in a rather bad place.

Somewhere in these struggles the idea popped into his head to go find a job in each state of the country that would be representative of that state. If there was one “cognitive disconnect” for me in the book, it's how he went from not even being able to land a dishwasher job back home to venturing off to find fifty jobs in locales he'd never been. I guess this is a testimony to the place he was mentally at that point, with the project being a desperate lurch “out of the box”. This eventually became 50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man's Journey of Discovery Across America which chronicles his 2009 journey across the country.

Seddiqui appears to be a rather persistent fellow, having, for almost every job, done massive campaigns to find somebody in a particular industry in each state who would hire him. Again, I still have a hard time imagining reaching out to this many people to just get a temp job for a week, but that is evidently what he did to make this work. He did set up a blog to track his progress, and was media savvy enough to make himself available to local press, but it took getting the attention of some Asian TV crews to start building a buzz, and once that started, some folks evidently hired him to be an “attraction”.

While he did not “jump around” too much, he also didn't exactly take the most direct route to many states. The book is broken up into medium-sized sections of 3-7 states each, following as he moves around the country. He obtained a used jeep to serve as his main source of transportation, and in several cases, this served as his lodging as well. Anyway, to get a sense of what he got into in his year on the road, here's the list of state, city, occupation and employer for each:
Utah: Salt Lake City - "Humanitarian Services" with the Mormons; Colorado: Denver - "Hydrologist" with the United States Geological Survey; South Dakota: Sioux Falls - "Rodeo Announcer" with the South Dakota Rodeo Association; North Dakota: Fargo - "Engineer Cartographer" with the Ulteig company; Minnesota: Elk River - "Medical Device Machinist" with Metal Craft Medical Manufacturing; Iowa: Ames - "Agronomist" with Iowa State University; Nebraska: Lincoln - "Corn Farmer" with the Nebraska Corn Board Association; Wyoming: Heulett - "National Park Service Ranger" at Devil’s Tower National Park; Montana: Fishtail - "General Store Clerk" at Fishtail General Store; Idaho: Boise - "Real Estate Agent" with Re-Max Real Estate; Washington: Seattle - "Biologist" with People for Puget Sound Marine; Oregon: Medford - "Logger" with HM Inc.; Nevada: Las Vegas - "Wedding Coordinator" at Vegas Weddings; Arizona: Tucson - "Patrol Agent" with the US Border Patrol; New Mexico: Albuquerque - "Landscape Architect" with Hilltop Landscaping; Kansas: Topeka - "Meatpacker" with Fairview Farms; Missouri: Kansas City - "Boilermaker" with Boilermakers Local 83; Arkansas: Fayetteville - "Archeologist" with the Arkansas Archeological Survey; Oklahoma: Ringwood - "Roustabout" with A&T Roustabout; Texas: Houston - "Petroleum Engineer" with Chevron; Louisiana: New Orleans - "Bartender" at The Funky Pirate; Mississippi: Jackson - "Dietician" at Jackson Nutrition Clinic; Wisconsin: Theresa - "Cheesemaker" at Widmer’s Cheese Sellers; Illinois: Chicago - "Transit Ticket Agent" at Metra; Michigan: Detroit - "Auto Mechanic" at Speedy Mechanics; Ohio: Cleveland - "Meteorologist" with Local NBC Affiliate; Indiana: Indianapolis - "Pit Crew Worker" with Panther Racing; Vermont: Cabot - "Sugarmaker" at Cabot Hills Maple; Kentucky: Versailles - "Horseman" at Three Chimneys Horse Farm; Tennessee: Nashville - "Studio Technician" at The Sound Kitchen; Alabama: Birmingham - "High School Football Coach" at Pelham High School; Georgia: Blakely - "Peanut Sheller" at Birdsong Peanuts; Florida: Orlando - "Park Entertainer" at Universal Orlando; South Carolina: Kiawah Island - "Golf Caddie" at Kiawah Island Resort; North Carolina: Greensboro - "Modeling Agent" with Directions, USA; West Virginia: Cambells Creek - "Coal Miner" at Selah, Inc.; Virginia: Charlottesville - "Gardens and Grounds" at Monticello; Maryland: Baltimore - "Cook" at Phillip’s Seafood; Delaware: Wilmington - "Incorporating Specialist" at Corporations & Companies; Pennsylvania: Lancaster County - "Furniture Builder" at Paduch Country; New Jersey: Jersey City - "Child Counselor" at Boys and Girls Club; New York: New York - "Marketing Specialist" with Blueliner Marketing; Rhode Island: Newport - "Ambassador of Tourism" at Newport Visitor Center; Connecticut: Orange - "Insurance Broker" with Amity Insurance; Massachussetts: Brockton - "Baseball Scout" for the Brockton Rox; New Hampshire: Concord - "Political Party Worker" for the Democratic Party; Maine: Thomaston - "Lobsterman" at Branch Brook Farm; Alaska: Anchorage - "Photographer" with Clark Mishler Photography; Hawaii: Maui - "Surf Instructor" at Maui Wave Riders; California: Napa - "Cellar Master" at Domaine Carneros Winery.
Obviously, from even a cursory glance at the list, there's no way that Seddiqui was “qualified” for most of these, and jumped into many with virtually no training (for example, he took one day's worth of surf instruction before starting to teach surfing!). You really have to wonder what the folks who hired him were thinking, as his role at the vast majority of these wasn't even as involved as an intern, and he must have been, to most of the people working with him, more of a distraction than anything. In fact, he “walked away” from something like a half a dozen of these because he couldn't handle the working conditions, and you can imagine how happy his co-workers were to have him around!

I guess if there's one take-away here it's that “persistence pays” as, in nearly every case, the author was offering only the slimmest value to his employers (and in a couple of cases screwed things up badly), but he was able to badger, cajole, brow-beat, beg, and wheedle his way into 50 jobs in 50 weeks. Of course, one has to wonder, if these were going to be for more than a handful of maybe-paid days, whether he would have been as successful lining things up. I have a number of other quibbles with assorted things in the book, but they're more stylistic and editorial in nature, so I'll let them be rather than nit-pick.

50 Jobs in 50 States just came out this month, so it should be available in your local brick-and-mortar book seller, but both Amazon and have it for around a third off, so that might be your best bet if this sounds like something you want to delve into. It certainly is interesting in scope, but I'm not sure (short of the “persistence” factor) there's much to learn here as the venture was so particular to the author.

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Tags: book review
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