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‘Most traveled man in America’ visits Durango High School

Speaker shows students potential for other options after graduating high school
Durango High School guest speaker Daniel Seddiqui addresses students during his talk on Wednesday. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

The career pathway for each student is different.

Some students follow the standard: graduate high school, attend a four-year university and pursue a career. For others, they might take few detours before pursuing their career of interest.

For Daniel Seddiqui, it wasn’t always that easy.

Dubbed the “real life Where’s Waldo?” Seddiqui has worked 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks. This mission derived from his struggle to find a job after graduating from college.

He was even called “most rejected man” in the United States during a USA Today segment. As Durango High School’s guest speaker on Wednesday, he shared his experience with students as part of the school’s Career Speakers Series.

“We thought it would be great to have one that covers so many different types of careers and really reinforce our portrait of a graduate skills, which has to do with flexibility,” said Kricket Lewis, career in technical education coordinator.

Recently, it seems students are relating with Seddiqui’s struggle.

According to an article published by LinkedIn, 73% of 2020 college graduates surveyed by Monster took a job that did not fit their career goals. The UW data added that 53% of college graduates were unemployed or working a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Seddiqui’s message was that “only you can stop you” during the presentation. One of his biggest takeaways from his journey was to “embrace the no’s.”

After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in economics, Seddiqui felt stuck. He struck out in around 120 job interviews and says that he sent out 80,000 emails for volunteer positions.

These failures inspired him to endure a cross-country quest in 2008 during the height of the Great Recession.

He went from state to state, working a job in each state’s booming industry or what the state was known for.

Some of these included working as a pit crew member for an Indianapolis 500 race team, becoming a Border Patrol agent, delivering horses in Kentucky and even becoming a reverend who would officiate weddings in Las Vegas.

Other jobs included joining the rodeo as a steer wrestler in South Dakota and meatpacking in Kansas.

Seddiqui said “48 out of the 50 employers” ended up wanting to hire him.

“That should really tell you that passion outweighs everything,” he said.

He was even offered a position on the pit crew for the winning race team at the Indy 500.

He said he had to endure a lot of denial when searching for employers who would only hire him for a week.

“It really was about embracing the ‘no’s’ and finally getting a ‘yes,’” Seddiqui said.

Along the way, Seddiqui polled around 10,000 Americans about their career. He said 52% chose a career path based on the environment they grew up in.

“If you grew up in the farms of Nebraska, most likely you’re going to study agriculture,” he said.

But another 28% chose their career path based on what family members or parents wanted for them.

He used these numbers to show students why they should think about what they’re passionate about and pursue a career based on their interest, not exterior factors. He consistently referred back to his experience of not knowing what to do after graduating from college and wished that he had either gone into journalism or screenwriting.

Lewis said there are many students who attend high school who still don’t know what their career path is going to be, and that can create situations where students make decisions based on what their parents or what their environment is.

“We want to do in life what's going to make us happy,” Lewis said.

DHS sophomore Andre Craig, who attended the presentation, is enrolled in the school’s Career and Technical Education Pathways program and wants to pursue a career in business.

“He has had so many different experiences, and like he’s gotten jobs with no previous experience, and I think this was really valuable to learn how to talk to people and sell yourself, especially in business,” Craig said.

While Craig intends to take the traditional career path of attending college after graduating from high school, he said he sees the value in allowing students to envision more than one option after graduation.

Speakers were chosen for the school’s speaker series this year based on YouScience aptitude testing.

In 2022, students scored high in areas such as marketing, entrepreneurship, medical/health sciences, visual design and technology-engineering-computer science.


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