Last year, Sean Aiken from Vancouver, Canada, graduated from college with a business degree and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. Like a lot of us of all ages, Sean had a good work ethic, but was uncomfortable with being locked into a career that offered little variety. Sean was also a bit of an adventurer, so he decided to do something different for his first year of full-time employment.
Instead of working only one job, Sean would work 52 jobs—a different one every week for a full year.
After getting the first few jobs set up, Sean headed out to get started. Every weekday, Sean would work at a new job, then spend the evening arranging logistics for the next week’s job while also hanging out with new friends and hosts he met along the way.
Most of Sean’s jobs were in Canada, but at mid-point in the job journey, he picked up a few jobs in the U.S. as well. Along the way, Sean raised funds for a campaign to combat domestic poverty in both countries.
Interview with Sean
I caught up with Sean recently to learn more about the 52 jobs experience, which will soon be chronicled in a book.
*At the beginning of the project, you had a crazy idea to go out and work 52 jobs. Once you were underway, you received a great deal of media coverage. What were the most important steps in between?
“The most important step was to keep taking it one step at a time, as cliché as that sounds. I had the idea, I thought that it was a good one and I thought it would work, though I was scared to actually go through with it. I created the website with my best friend, Ian Mackenzie who is a web developer. If people were going to offer me jobs they would have to hear about the project. So, I emailed all my friends and family and told them to pass it along. Also, I emailed all major papers and news networks to tell them what I was doing. A few picked it up right off the bat and away I went.”
*Do you have any regrets of disappointments about the experience?
“Nope, it was an awesome experience. I had a lot of great offers and wish I could have done many of them, though 52 was enough for one year.”
*How has your worldview changed as a result of the project?
“I have always had a very positive world view, though this re-enforced my belief that the majority of people in this world are good. The kindness of people to so willingly open up their homes and lives is what truly made this experience memorable.”
*A lot of people ask me what my favorite country is, and I never know how to respond since I like so many and each experience is different. What is your standard answer when people ask if you had a favorite job during your 52 weeks?
“My answer usually changes every time, though some of the memorable ones were: Air Force, Firefighter, Brewery (Steam Whistle Brewery), and Volcano Park Ranger.”
*What was the hardest thing about the year?
“Constantly being on the road was tiring. Also, organizing all the logistics was tough. I was always trying to figure out week to week where my next job was, how we were going to get there, and where we were going to stay once there.”
*Not everyone can work 52 jobs in a year. What would you say to someone finishing their education who is not excited about the prospects of traditional employment?
“I think a mistake many people make when deciding what they want to do for a living is to focus on an title and ignore the characteristics that a particular career and its lifestyle would entail. “I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher …” After having then gained the knowledge or expertise to get there, we might come to realize this is not what we are truly looking for.
Focus on learning more about yourself, the more you do this the better understanding you will have of what you need in a career to be happy. Perhaps go traveling. Make a promise to yourself that you will be in a job that you love doing. Once you make that promise to yourself, with every decision that comes your way, you will be asking yourself whether this will still keep you on the path to making this situation become a reality.
I would also say, relax. There is no rush. Most adults still don’t know what they want to do. Enjoy the ride!”
*What are you most grateful for?
“I am most grateful of all the people who so willingly got involved, offered me jobs, a place to stay, rides to other towns, sent emails of encouragement… the project would not have been possible without them.”
*Lastly, what’s next?
“I am writing a book about my experience and all that I learned over the past year making the transition from school into the professional world. It will be published in Spring 2009 in the U.S. by Random House and in Canada by Penguin Books. We are also working on the documentary and are going to be pitching the reality show.”
I appreciated Sean’s advice about alternative approaches to work. As noted above, most of us probably can’t work 52 jobs in one year, but I do believe that all of us should strive to find work we enjoy that also makes a difference in the lives of others.
By being willing to immerse himself in so many different environments in such a short time, Sean had an excellent, crazy experience over the past year that will help him do anything else he wants to in the future. Look for his book early next year!
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