On the road to work

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

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 com- pletely 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 hu­mani- tar­ian ser­vices worker for the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter­day Saints; in South Dakota, a rodeo an­nouncer; in Ari­zona, a Tuc­son news­pa­per writer walk- ing 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 coowned 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.)

“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.

Al­bin Sadar, au­thor of “The Men’s Un­der­wear Re­pair Kit” (Run­ning Press, 2008), lives in New York City.

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