Blogger becomes a Jack of all trades
Like a lot of recent college graduates, Sean Aiken was completely clueless about how to translate 20 years of schooling into a meaningful career. The drought of regimented daily rituals — classes, homework, deadlines, repeat — had an almost paralyzing effect on the then 25-year-old Capilano College Business Administration major. Living in his parents’ basement, he faced the question every post-grad dreads: What are you going to do with your life?
Five years later, it seems, “Write a book!” was the long-awaited answer to that query. Aiken is the author of The One-Week Job Project, a book based on his 2006-2007 blog of the same name, detailing his year-long adventure trying out 52 different jobs over 52 weeks. The often-humorous collection details Aiken’s career smorgasbord (exterminator, tattoo artist, cowboy), falling in love on the road, and a few offers he flat-out refused (gay porn). In an interview with WE, Aiken talks about finding a career and the future of the One-Week Job Project.
WE: You graduated with a degree in business administration, but you ended up with a book deal. Had you always been interested in writing?
Aiken: Growing up, I wasn’t too interested in formal writing, but I always enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. Most often it would transpire into short poems or rants about life.
How did you arrive at the idea for a series of one-week jobs?
When I was looking for a job, I saw all of these important-sounding job titles, but I had no idea what the job would actually be like. I was scared at the thought of committing to one, not liking it, and then feeling trapped in the position. 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 its associated lifestyle.
The fiscal feasibility of something like the One-Week Job Project seems daunting, particularly since you donated your work earnings to charity. Did you have savings to help you embark on a year of constant travel?
I had a few hundred dollars in savings to get me started, but I had no clue how I was going to keep it up for a year. For the first five weeks I stayed in the Vancouver area, so I was able to live at home [in my parents’ basement]. Once the project started, I wrote a post on my website, OneWeekJob.com, to try and find a sponsor to help with travel expenses. Luckily, NiceJob.ca contacted me in Week 5 and agreed to give me $1,000 a month. If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been able to continue. During the entire year, I didn’t have to pay for accommodations once. I stayed with my employers, with people who contacted me through the website, or used [home-stay website] CouchSurfing.org. I also kept costs down by taking the bus, hitchhiking, or using Craigslist ride-share whenever possible.
How did the project impact you?
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 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. I also 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. For example, I worked on an organic dairy farm with a guy named George. The job demands long hours, very hard work, and early mornings. After a couple of days I thought, “How can anyone enjoy this?” 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.
What are your next steps?
Currently, we’re finishing post-production on the documentary that will be available at the same time as the book. Also, I just started the One-Week Job Program, which will allow others to have a similar experience. We’re providing three individuals $3,000 each over the course of two months. They’ll perform eight different one-week jobs and blog from the website. Anyone interested can apply at OneWeekJob.com.
The One-Week Job Project will be available across Canada beginning April 17 from Penguin Books.