Bridging the Opportunity Divide

This College Graduate Is on A Cross-Country Mission to Work Hourly Jobs

November 17, 2014
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This College Graduate Is on A Cross-Country Mission to Work Hourly Jobs
Recent college grad Heath Padgett has worked as a janitor, server, guard and many other jobs during his cross-country "Hourly America" project. Chris Hondros/Getty Images
He wants to recognize a hardworking group of Americans that go unnoticed.

As more millennials leave college and enter into the workforce, they’re soon realizing that the office job at a computer may not be what they expected. That’s what 23-year-old Heath Padgett found when he graduated from Concordia University in Texas and began working for a software company.

Like many young people, Padgett wanted to find something more meaningful, which led him and his fiancee, Alyssa (who is now his wife), to come up with the idea of traveling across the country while working hourly jobs in each state. The goal, they hope, is to illuminate the nation’s 75.9 million hourly hardworking employees who go unnoticed.

With the help of Snagajob, an online network for hourly employment, Padgett and his wife kicked off Hourly America (and their honeymoon) on June 1, leaving their hometown of Austin, Texas, just one week after their wedding. The two have notched 38 states so far, traveling across the country in a 20-year-old refurbished motorhome.

“Through this journey,  I want to be able to create a stronger connection between hourly workers and their customers and help break certain stigmas that exist about the hourly employment industry,” Padgett says.

The couple are currently in Kentucky, working as janitors in a KOA campsite, according to Business Insider. Padgett said he works two or three various jobs each week, showing up to learn about the position and interviewing his coworkers about their work. The pair have experienced everything from lifeguards and paint mixers to line cooks and electricians.

“A lot of businesses have said yes before even taking a look at our website or media coverage,” Padgett tells Business Insider. “Some places think we are just crazy kids who are trying to do something meaningful with their lives, and they would be right.”

Padgett is planning to release a film on his experience in August 2015, but in the meantime, he contends there’s no one way to go about starting a career.

“Don’t let people tell you there is a set way to go about your career. I’ve found that the safe and normal way rarely yields the results of stepping outside of the box,” he says. “I had so many people tell me I was crazy for pursuing this 50-state-50-job quest, however, I’ve had more opportunities open up because of it then I would have ever had if I’d stayed in my office job back in Texas.”

MORE: When It Comes to Jobs, These Counties Are Booming

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