After failing to get a single job offer after 40+ interviews and following the traditional advice for job-seeking, USC economics grad Daniel Seddiqui figured there had to be a better way. Sure enough—by being creative, resourceful, and determined – he found ways to get 50 jobs, in 50 states, in 50 weeks.
His resume now includes stints as a photographer in Alaska, a hydrologist in Colorado, a rodeo announcer in South Dakota, a coal miner in West Virginia, an Amish woodworker in Pennsylvania, a theme park entertainer in Florida, a cheese maker in Wisconsin, a seafood restaurant cook in Maryland, a model and modeling agent in North Carolina, an Internet marketing specialist in New York, and an auto mechanic in Michigan.
Many creative pros use personal projects to help them land the type of opportunities they want. But if you aren’t convinced it’s possible to create your own career opportunities, read Daniel Seddiqui’s book “50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man’s Journey of Discovery Across America.”
While the book is geared toward college grads who feel uncertain about how to jump-start their careers started, “50 Jobs in 50 States” is a fascinating, inspiring read for anyone who wants to redirect their career in a more satisfying direction. In each chapter, Seddiqui describes the highs and lows of his experience in each state.
What makes the story so compelling is the raw honesty with which Seddiqui tells it. He talks about the pressure he felt from his parents, the self-doubt created by his inability to get a job right out of college, and some of the 5,000 rejections ( and laughter!) he heard as he tried to convince people to hire him for just a week. When he embarked on his quest, he only had a 10 jobs lined up. But he resolved to do whatever it took to line up the other jobs as he went.
Because he hadn’t been able to get sponsors to help fund his adventure, he had very little money when he set out from his parents home in California.
So sometimes he slept in his car and showered at the local YMCA. On many weekends, he drove 800 to 1,000 miles to get from one gig to the next. He struggled through exhaustion, difficult working conditions, and illness.
As with any well-written story, this one features a strong and determined protagonist who overcomes a series of conflicts and obstacles to get what he wants. The journey proves to be an eye-opening, life-changing experience – with a happy ending.
By the time he completed his journey, Seddiqui had received offers of full-time jobs from 48 of the employers he had worked. (He also met the woman he would become his wife.)
In a speech Seddiqui presented in Cincinnati, he talked about the five factors that helped him succeed in his quest: adaptability, perseverence, endurance, risk-taking, and networking. He urged job-seekers not to limit themselves by applying only for jobs in their majors or in fields recommended by friends or family.
Here are four key points that struck me as I read the book, interviewed Seddiqui and watched his speech in Cincinnati:
A college degree doesn’t entitle you to great job.
Although college marketing campaigns might lead you to believe otherwise, a degree is not a golden ticket to secure, well-paying job. “But if you have faith in yourself and your mission, good things can come your way,” said Seddiqui. He advises students to graduate with a positive attitude and show your willingness to work and be trained.
You don’t need a professional publicist to get national and international press coverage.
When Seddiqui called his local newspaper to tell them about his project, the editors put the story on the front page and it soon hit the news wires.
Media organizations that covered parts of his journey included ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Time, NPR, The Today Show, the Chicago Sun Times, Fox News, and the Los Angeles Times.
Over time, Seddiqui used his ability to attract media coverage to his advantage. In some cities, the prospect of attracting media attention made it easier to persuade targeted employers to hire him for just a week.
Having an open mind is important.
“You won’t realize new opportunities unless you’re adaptable to changing circumstances,” said Seddiqui. Throughout his journey, he experienced different lifestyles, religions, foods, and hobbies He also accepted the living arrangements of the employers or families who hosted him. While working as a park ranger In Wyoming, he lived in a trailer. As golf caddie In South Carolina, he lived in a posh resort on Kiawah Island.
After finishing the 50-week trip, Seddiqui realized he had learned about 50 different ways of life and how much America has to offer. He was amazed to see how much the local environment shape who we are and how we spend our time
Networking is incredibly powerful.
Everywhere he went, Seddiqui met people who were willing to help him achieve his mission. “I quickly learned that if you prove yourself and your capabilities to people, they will remember you and connect you to others.”
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory started following Daniel Seddiqui on Facebook after seeing him featured on the Today Show. They met at en event in Washington, DC, and the Mayor invited Seddiqui to speak at an August 26 forum at Cincinnati’s Museum Center.
Since publishing the book “50 Jobs in 50 States,” Seddiqui has been “Lecturing the Map,” sharing what he has learned with other young people. (See this speaker promotional video below.) He has also developed a semester-long program to expose college students to a wider range of career possibilities and industries.
For his next book project, Seddiqui has been traveling to some of the struggling or secluded communities throughout the U.S. to get an up-close view of what might be required to initiate social change. He has visited immigrant camps in the San Joachim Valley of California, an Indian reservation in South Dakota, and small towns in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
Seddiqui tells college students and recent grads that failing those first 40 job interviews was the best thing that ever happened to him. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have started on his journey and discovered opportunities that better fit his personality.
Most importantly, he learned not to fear failure. Despite all the hardships and setbacks he faced along the way, Seddiqui says, “I was optimistic about the journey and focused on the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Seddiqui. “I learned that each rejection moved me closer to an acceptance.”
In the book, Seddiqui concludes that “Even if people walk away from you, ignore you, tell you no, or shoot your dream down, the power lies within you to create an opportunity for yourself.”