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BOOK REVIEW: On the road to work
Question of the Day
50 JOBS IN 50 STATES: ONE MAN’S JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY ACROSS AMERICA
By Daniel Seddiqui
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $15.95, 288 pages
Those graduating in the next few weeks may have some well-warranted concerns about their employment future. That’s where “50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man’s Journey of Discovery Across America,” by Daniel Seddiqui, may provide some thoughtful and intriguing insight.
Before fully unraveling his ambitious adventure in employment - spending one year working 50 different jobs in all 50 states - Mr. Seddiqui had truly felt the pangs of un- and underemployment.
Weeks before the jobs journey begins, we discover Mr. Seddiqui in a rented car just outside a California Macy’s parking lot. He has just returned a nice suit he purchased for an important job interview (the interview was canceled) and now he is at life’s bottom. As he describes it, “I completely broke down. Slumped over the steering wheel, I sobbed until I was out of breath.”
He had tried a number of jobs, scraped by in a dozen low-paying positions and was still unable to begin a career. He knew he would be returning to once-again-disappointed parents, doomed to attempt living at home in what had become for him a “fortress of failure.”
Mr. Seddiqui had graduated a few years earlier with a bachelor of arts degree in economics from the University of Southern California. However, that particular piece of parchment had failed to attract attention in these tough economic times. Creating his own break, he put into motion a singular plan he had developed while in Florida taking a “spring break … from life.” He called his concept “Living the Map.”
Mr. Seddiqui would experience the unique employment opportunities offered by every state in America, working at each occupation in each state for just one week before immediately moving on to the next state. In his very first job, in Utah, Mr. Seddiqui became a humanitarian services worker for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; in South Dakota, a rodeo announcer; in Arizona, a Tucson newspaper writer walking with a Border Patrol agent; in Michigan, an auto mechanic; and in West Virginia, a coal miner. Week after week, state after state, the author was offered job after job, each unique in some way to the region.
Most surprising - and one of the more satisfying accounts in the book - was his modern-day George Plimpton role as a baseball scout in Brockton, Mass., for the Brockton Rox (part of the Canadian-American baseball league) a team co-owned by actor-comedian Bill Murray. At first Mr. Seddiqui admits, “I didn’t like baseball; I didn’t enjoy the sport, especially watching it.” But this illustrated to the author an important lesson from America: adapting to and attempting challenging - even somewhat off-putting - opportunities can produce enlightening and rewarding results.
The least surprising reaction to a job and a town was the author’s work in New York City. Because of recent layoffs, Wall Street firms were not willing to hire Mr. Seddiqui, so he worked on Plan B, finding work as an Internet marketing specialist. The job suited him well; however, after living in the city environs for just one week, the author lamented: “I was worn out … mentally and physically. I didn’t think I would have a chance to fully recover.” He discussed how the stress of life infused the city “everywhere - from the office to restaurants, on the street, in the subway. I had never heard so much cursing in public.”
Most personally gratifying was Mr. Seddiqui’s employment at a New Jersey Boys and Girls Club. His love for and desire to encourage young people made this particular assignment a real and natural joy.
An easygoing fellow who had not secured every job from the plan’s outset, Mr. Seddiqui made networking connections along the way that helped smooth transitions to jobs down the pike. There were scores of bumps, literally and figuratively, in the road, as well. Many nights he slept in the back of his used Jeep Cherokee because of financial considerations. (Motel accommodations can eat into meager salaries.)
Rooming with friends or families of friends did not always work out, either. For example, when Mr. Seddiqui inadvertently insulted West Virginians in a post on his website, one of his hosts chased him from his house with a golf club.
The sections and chapters describing jobs, fellow employees and bosses are like journal entries, the brevity of which precludes the reader’s empathizing with many of the people Mr. Seddiqui meets. However, a thread of romance - love of the unrequited variety - permeates the cellphone, text and email messages Mr. Seddiqui compulsively exchanges with a young lady he left behind in Atlanta.
Many nights, as Mr. Seddiqui struggles to grasp the physical and emotional strain of a new work challenge, his stomach is in knots over, to put it bluntly, “some girl.” This romantic sidebar provides an interesting life lesson to the work lessons that the author learns by adventure’s end.
“50 Jobs in 50 States” may be just what our uncertain economic times demands. It is an informative read that will unveil new employment vistas - all over the map of America.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
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