52 Jobs In 52 Weeks: Q&A With Sean Aiken Of The One-Week Job Project

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As young people entering the job market, we’re told the world is in our hands. That life is an open road.

Or that we have our whole lives ahead of us.

But really, the uncertainty of that road can either be a treasure of opportunities, or seem like an abyss filled with lions, tigers and bears.

So we smile, give thanks for the kind words, and casually say to ourselves, “Oh [expletive].”

“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.”
Sean Aiken

Not knowing where to find his passion, Sean Aiken began the One-Week Job project, a Gen Y epic that took him across Canada and the U.S. working a different job every week.

This spring, The One-Week Job Project: 1 Man, 1 Year, 52 Jobs was published by Penguin Books. Recently, post-production wrapped on a documentary of the project, and a college campus tour is in the works.

We caught up with the former mayor of Port Moody, B.C. (his last week: mayor of his hometown) and asked him for some candid job advice.

Q. During your year-long job hunt, what was your coolest job?
A. Working with the Canadian Air Force at CFB Trenton. I got to fly a Griffon helicopter, participate in training drops out of the back of a C-130 Hercules (a four-engine military transport aircraft close to 100 feet long and 40 feet high) cruising at 2000 feet, and blow up sticks of C-4. Good times!

Q. …the weirdest?
A. Picking cattails in a swamp outside of Montreal. 12-hour days in the scorching sun, smelly swamp water and annoying bugs. The cattails are cut down, peeled with a knife, and their softer inner white core is sold to high end restaurants in Montreal.

Q. Did any job move you personally; maybe even changed the way you see things?

A. Cancer Fundraiser at Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation—you’d think it’s kind of a downer talking about cancer all day, but it was incredibly inspiring to see how passionate the employees were about their jobs. They knew that the better job they do, the more money goes to cancer research, and the closer we become to finding a cure.

It made me realize how important it is…to connect our work with the bigger picture. I recognized that those who were most passionate about their jobs were the ones who carried this vision of how they were contributing to something greater than themselves.

Q. What job did you initially feel wasn’t for you but turned out to be pretty epic?
A. Fashion Buyer with Mercedes Gonzalez. I learned about upcoming fashion trends, worked with new designers, and even got to choose pieces and place an order for one of her stores.

Q. Which job earned the most money a year? Conversely, how did it compare to a job that didn’t really make too much per year?
A. Stock trader. I noticeably had a lot more energy this week. It was exciting to know you could make so much money (or lose it all) in a matter of seconds. I couldn’t do it full time though, as it’s quite stressful!

[On the other hand, a] cowboy. A very low paying job, and lots of work, but the cowboy I worked with, Chet . . . said, “I make enough money to get by, what more do I need?”

Q. What job made you really wish you were back in school so you could change your major?
A. Astronomer. Such an interesting career. I love how they are seeking the answers of the universe. A very humbling profession!

Q. Did any place employ a lot of people your age? Were they party animals?
A. Lake Louise Ski Resort, Steam Whistle Brewing . . . they were hard working party animals. [But they] never let it impact their work the next day.

Q. Any advice for young Canadians looking to start their careers?
A. [Focus] on the characteristics you need in a career, and the type of workplace situation you need to be happy before making the full commitment.

I also learned that it’s important to [see] the different ways in which we can fulfil our passion.

For Week 22, I was a radio DJ. On my last day, the station’s program director, Scott, 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.

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.

Photo credit: One-Week Job Project’s photostream on Flickr
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