Former NU coach’s mission: 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks

Christina Salter

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Like many ambitious college graduates searching for jobs, Daniel Seddiqui lists a résumé on his Web site, including qualifications and education.

Then there’s his work experience: everything from an agronomist in Iowa to a border patrol agent in Arizona, culminating so far in 23 different jobs in 23 different states.

Seddiqui, a former Northwestern assistant cross-country coach from 2006 to 2007, embarked on a mission to hold 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks on Aug. 30.

The project, called “Living the Map,” is meant to showcase all types of careers. He’s tried out jobs from blue-collar to white-collar to green-collar, including jobs often stereotyped as male or female, he said.

“You can really tell if you like a job in the first week,” Seddiqui said.

Wearing his “Living the Map” T-shirt underneath a blue down jacket, the 26-year-old said his clothes don’t always fit the mold of his various jobs.

Seddiqui is currently on job No. 24 in Chicago, working in customer service for the CTA and Metra at the Millennium and Union stations.

His idea has sparked international media attention, landing Seddiqui in papers and on broadcasts across the country and making him an overnight celebrity in South Korea, he said.

A Bay Area native, Seddiqui graduated from the University of Southern California in 2005 with a degree in economics. When he failed 40 job interviews for economics-related positions, he decided to pursue a career in college athletics.

After sending an e-mail to 18,000 coaches across the country, Seddiqui accepted a volunteer position at NU for the chance to live in Chicago. He said he loved Chicago and Evanston, but he decided to leave at the same time as the former head coach in 2007.

Several jobs later, and with his savings running out, Seddiqui formed the idea for a project that most of his friends and family thought was crazy.

“All my parents gave me was two cases of bottled water and said good luck,” he said. “They thought I was going to come back in three weeks. I guess that kind of kept me going, saying I was going to prove everything wrong.”

Seddiqui said he selects jobs that he feels are economically or culturally representative of each state. His first position was a humanitarian service worker at a Mormon church in Utah, followed by a hydrologist in Colorado.

Seddiqui is paid between $500 to $2,000 each week by the different employers, and setting up each position requires a lot of planning and persistence, he said. He usually stays with a co-worker in each state and is often given free meals and souvenirs.

Each job has varying degrees of difficulty, he said. Some require two days of training, especially when science-related, he said.

Working as a rodeo announcer put him far out of his comfort zone, but the most labor-intensive position was in a Wisconsin cheese factory.

“We started from scratch, brought the milk from the dairy farm, put it in the cups, cut the cheese, shoveled, mixed the salt and picked up 40 pound buckets about 60 times in 10 to 20 minutes,” he said.

NU cross-country runner and SESP junior Britta Helwig described Seddiqui as a “goofball” who always tried to make the team laugh.

Another runner, SESP junior Paulina Garcia, said her former coach was motivational and carefree. He sometimes talked about wanting to write a book, she said.

“What he’s doing right now is just very different and an out-of-the-box type of idea,” Garcia said. “It’s kind of amazing to see his progression.”

Seddiqui’s next job after Chicago will likely be with General Motors in Detroit.

When 50 weeks are up, Seddiqui has plans to write a book, make a movie and a TV show and speak at universities. He has already received many offers, including a possible job as a spokesman for Monster.com, he said.

Television crews have offered to follow him full time, but he would rather keep the experience “organic,” he said.

Seddiqui recommends that college students searching for the right career look for internships and always ask people questions about their jobs. Networking is also key, he said.

“As you can imagine, my network is pretty big now, and it’s really helped me,” he said.

Seddiqui is now looking forward to many of his future jobs, including one as a meteorologist in Ohio and another as a high school football coach in Alabama. He would eventually like to live in Chicago again.

The experience has helped him put his college days in perspective, Seddiqui said.

“Lectures and textbooks can only go so far compared to real life experience,” he said. “The world is not a scary place outside your comfort zone.”

c-salter@northwestern.edu

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