Confused about which career suits you the best, then how about trying a new one every week? That’s what Sean Aiken did from February 2007 to March 2008 working in 52 jobs in 52 weeks. So how did it work: Anyone, anywhere, could offer Sean a job for one week. Any money he earned for the work, he asked his employer of the week to donate towards the ONE / Make Poverty History campaign. Total earnings over the year was $20,401.60.
This unusual and probably one of its kind project in the world has now been turned into a book and film. YourStory spoke to Sean about this unique project and what made him embark on this journey.
Tell us more about yourselves and One Week Job Project
I graduated from Capilano University with a degree in Business Administration. At the top of my class, with a 4.0 cumulative GPA, I was voted the class valedictorian. I started the One-Week Job project in February 2007, at age twenty-five, and finished the 52 weeks in March 2008. My book, The One-Week Job Project: 1 Man. 1 Year. 52 Jobs, was published in May 2010 by Random House USA, and Penguin Books, Canada.
The One-Week Job Project began as my search to find a career I was passionate about.
We created the website, www.oneweekjob.com, with the help of filmmaker and web developer Ian MacKenzie. On the website I wrote that anyone, anywhere in the world could offer me a job for one week. I explained my motivations behind the project, my background information, how to offer me a job, and then I sent an email to all my friends and family and asked for help to pass it along. It slowly picked up momentum and the offers began to come in; however I rarely knew where I was working a week in advance – it was always last minute!
Why did you want to take up One Week Job Project?
In my last year of college, my dad gave me some advice on finding a career, he said, “Sean, it doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure it is something you are passionate about. I've been alive nearly 60 years and I've yet to find something I'm passionate about besides your mother.” It made me realize how many people are in similar situations - doing the same job for the past 20-30 years and not necessarily enjoying what they are doing. I promised myself that night that I would take the time to find something that I was passionate about and that would make me happy. I thought the One Week Job project would be a great way of trying out different careers.
How did you document all of this?
I blogged about the experience through the OneWeekJob.com website, and included photo and video updates. Ian MacKenzie filmed the journey and interviews with my employers about the experience which is now a feature length documentary. The trailer can be viewed at: www.oneweekjob.com
What did you set out to achieve/get out of this project?
My goal was to gain a better understanding of what a fulfilling career for me would look like and inspire the many others of my generation in similar situations to commit to going after their passions.
I think a mistake that many people make when deciding on a career is to focus on the title and ignore the characteristics of the particular career and it’s associated lifestyle. We may spend a bunch of time and money on school or required designations only to show up at the workplace and find out it’s not for us. My intention in starting The One-Week Job Project was that I’d be able to learn about the characteristics I wanted in a career, and the type of workplace situation I’d need to be happy before making the full commitment.
Through the experience, I learned that I don't necessarily need to have my “dream job” in order to be happy at work. There are many other factors that contribute to our job satisfaction. When I asked my coworkers what they liked most about their job, the common answer I heard was the people they worked with.
Any insights from this journey you would like to share?
I recognized that those who were most passionate about their jobs were the ones who had a vision of how they were contributing to something greater than themselves. It mattered that they showed up to work each day because they contributed something valuable, and something was made better because of their work. For example, I worked on an organic dairy farm with a guy named George. The job demands long hours, very hard work, early mornings – after a couple of days I thought, “How can anyone enjoy this job?” But George seemed to love it. To George, he was providing food for thousands of people while contributing to the environment with his organic farming practices. He understood the significance of his job and that's where he derived his job satisfaction.
I also learned that it’s important to take a close look at our passion and see what are the different ways in which we can fulfill our passion. For Week 22, I was a Radio DJ. On my last day I sat down with the radio station’s program director, Scott. I asked Scott, “How did you get involved in Radio. Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?”
He said, “If you ask most people in radio where they started out, we’re all kind of failed musicians really. Truthfully we’d rather be the people making the music, but to be involved in music in some way, that’s where the passion lies.”
Even though Scott is not what he originally thought he wanted to be as a rock star, he loves his job. He still works in the same industry, deals with the same people, and is still able to cultivate his passion for music. We can’t all be rock stars, but it doesn’t mean we have to end up in a completely unrelated field. It made me realize that even if I can’t be the rock star, maybe I’d be just as happy being the person who hands the rock star their guitar.