Sean Aiken of OneWeekJob.com, uncertain about what career choice to make after graduating university, decided to take job hopping to the extreme by trying 52 one week jobs. He has since managed to parlay the first website outlining his intentions into a book deal, speaking engagements, a documentary and an on-going project helping recent graduates try different jobs. Those of you reading my IdeaEconomy.net blog will likely know that I love a great idea; by that measure Sean Aiken is pure brilliance! He has proved that a good idea, talent and hard work can accomplish amazing things. Sean offers some background details about his success with the project in this interview.
How did ‘One Week Job’ get started?
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. In my last year at Capilano University, 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 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 testing out different careers. 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 thinking was that if I could somehow try out different jobs then 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.
How did you find the first companies to work at?
I created the website with the help of my best friend 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 out 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!
How did you get so many companies interested in hiring you for a week?
I think the idea resonated with many people because it’s something that everyone can relate to, whether you recently graduated looking for your first job, or in an older generation looking for a career change, at some point in our lives we all must ask ourselves, “What do I want to do with my life?” I think many employers wanted to help out as they related to my circumstances, thought it was a unique idea, expected to receive exposure from the website, or some liked the aspect that all my wages were going to charity.
Was one week enough to really gain an understanding of what the jobs are like?
I think it’s a misconception that it takes several years to learn whether a job is right for you. A lot of information can be gathered quite quickly. Granted, yes, a job might become more rewarding with time — once you really learn the ins and outs and how you can contribute and be successful at it. But It wasn’t my goal to find the perfect job in one week. It would have been awesome if I had, but it was more about learning from other people and putting the pieces together — well, figuring out what the pieces were.
What were your most and least favorite jobs?
My most enjoyable jobs were the weeks where I was working with some great people. It was not necessarily the job I was doing but my coworkers that made the experience memorable. The ones that stand out are: Cancer Fundraiser (Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation), Pizza Maker, Fashion Buyer, Advertising Executive, Steam Whistle Brewery. The least enjoyable week was working in a swamp picking cat tails. It was plus 35, tonnes of bugs, smelled bad, and really long 12-hour days. All in all not too pleasant.
You finished the jobs in March of 2008, what have you been doing for the last two years?
Writing the book which was recently published, working on the documentary which will be out this spring (view the trailer at oneweekjob.com), and speaking to students/companies about my experiences and what I learned. We also just started the One Week Job program which grants others the opportunity to have a similar to experience to mine.
‘One Week Job’ really is a marketing phenomenon, how did you accomplish so much?
- First step was creating the website and outlining my goals, and why I was doing what I was doing.
- Second, I landed a sponsor at Week 5 to help pay with travel expenses as my wages were donated to charity.
- Third, Week 6, the first major media outlet covered the story.
- Fourth, the book deal happened around Week 37.
- Fifth, all of the small milestones in between with trying to find a new job, a new place to stay, and organize travel plans each week for an entire year.
How did the book come about?
I was extremely lucky in that when the New York Times picked up the story, I heard from several publishers directly asking if I’d thought about writing a book.
How did you get the great support for the book from all the famous authors?
I emailed them and asked real nice.
Please tell us about the people working on One Week Job?
Ian MacKenzie is my best friend, filmmaker, web editor, new media producer guy. He directed the upcoming documentary (view trailer on website). There were a few companies we worked with for the documentary.
How are you making money now?
The publishers provide an advance against royalties so that an author can live while they are writing the book. I make money by doing talks at conferences or schools.
Is the book going to make you rich? 🙂
Time will tell. Although I remember reading a quote from bestselling author Seth Godin – it was something to the effect of “those who write books to get rich are fooling themselves.”
Is One Week Job making you rich?
What comes next? What is the future for Sean Aiken?
The book about my experience is called The One-Week Job Project. Published by Penguin Books in Canada and Random House in the US. The book is a memoir of my year. It begins from graduation, and me struggling to find an answer to the question “what should I do with my life?” How this developed into the idea to start the One Week Job Project, the different jobs I had, all the advice I received from my employers on finding a career, and the story of my personal journey making the transition from school into the working world. We recently finished post-production on the documentary that will be available this spring. We just started the One Week Job Program that provides others the opportunity to have a similar experience to my original journey. We’re giving three individuals $3000 each over the course of two months this summer. They’ll perform eight different one-week jobs and blog from the website. Anyone interested can apply at oneweekjob.com. I’d like to help other people interested in starting the One Week Job project in their country. Currently there is interest in the UK and potentially in China. Also, I’m planning an extensive college campus tour around the country next fall to share my story and all that I learned in making the transition from school into the working world.