For those of us who have been out of a job for a long time, even the idea of getting a hired starts to have something of a mythical, "fairy tale", aspect to it ... as though we've gotten to the point where, after knocking on several thousand doors, we've come to expect that none of them will ever open. Daniel Seddiqui must have been in pretty much that space after three years of frustration (although, I must admit, I was envious of the forty interviews he'd had in the process) following his graduation from USC with an economics degree in 2005.
Not only was he mired in a seemingly-endless cycle of pointless effort, his parents were turning on him (encouraging him to even get a dishwasher job, just to have work), and was in the midst of a fracturing long-distance relationship. In his desperation, he came up with a "crazy" idea: to find a job in each state of the country, and so started on the adventure which was to become 50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man's Journey of Discovery Across America.
His publisher, Berrett-Koehler (who had kindly provided me with a review copy of the book), recently put me in touch with him for one of these little "Job Stalker interviews":
Q: Briefly, what's your background?
A: I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in economics. I competed in Track and Field and was highly competitive at the collegiate level. I was born and raised in California.
Q: What gave you the idea of working 50 jobs in each of the 50 states?
A: Curiosity and desperation. I was struggling to find a job in my chosen field of study and felt that I couldn't limit myself after facing so many rejections. I wanted to find opportunities outside of the bubble I had been living for years. I had always wondered how our country is shaped in terms of cultures, careers, and environments. I wanted to walk in the shoes of the American worker by working and living right amongst them. I figured that I try working jobs that reflect the culture and economy of each state.
Q: It's hard enough to get ONE job, how did you manage to find your way into FIFTY?
A: Finding something worth doing, believing in yourself and just going for it. Deal with things as they come because life throws curve balls anyways. I was extremely persistent, adaptable, used networks, took huge risks, and endured any challenge and obstacle that came my way.
Q: If you had a single piece of advice for today's job searcher, what would that be?
A: Lots of opportunities out there, just don't limit yourself. You never know unless you try and not to fear rejection because it's a part of life. Just keep high spirits and keep believing that each rejection is one step closer to an acceptance.
Q: How do you see the job market in the next 3-6 months?
A: Depends on how creative people become. Jobs just don't magically appear, people have to show leadership and create. More entrepreneurs have come out of the recession than any other time in history, we just need to keep reinventing and be innovative.
Q: What do you feel makes your book unique?
A: Only person ever to work and live in all 50 states. The tales of the journey gives the reader an appreciation and understanding of the American worker, diverse cultures, and variety of industries that shape our country. It proves that anything can be done by believing in yourself and staying true to your mission.
Q: Aside from your book, what resources do you recommend?
A: Networks. Meet people, meet strangers, meet classmates.
Q: Any additional words of wisdom?
A: Lots to do and see in this country. Find something worth doing and if the "why" is strong enough, the "how" becomes easy.
Now, obviously, this is not an approach for everyone ... and, frankly, I still have a hard time figuring out how, if (in his original job search) he wasn't able to find even menial full-time jobs, he managed to "get hired" fifty times (for one-week gigs) in fifty different locations. The one main element here which is transferable to anybody's job hunt, however, is that of persistence, as Seddiqui had to make sometimes hundreds of contacts to just land a few days of (frequently un-paid) work. More info is, as usual, over in my review, including a list of all the jobs he held in those 50 weeks!