Thursday, October 28th, 2010

52 Jobs in 52 Weeks

One Week Job Project

Sean Aiken wasn't sure what career he wanted, so he decided to try everything.

Sean Aiken wasn’t sure what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he decided to do a little bit of everything.

Like so many other young Canadians, Sean graduated with his degree and had no idea what to do next. Instead of wandering aimlessly, he decided to wander with an aim. He worked 52 jobs in 52 weeks and filmed his entire journey.

“I came up with the idea to start the One Week Job project as a way of trying out different jobs, seeing what I like and what I don’t like, learning from an older generation about how they got to where they are in their careers,” says Sean.

Over the next year, Sean travelled across North America and dipped his toe in as many career pools as he could. His job title changed weekly from cowboy to yoga instructor, to air force pilot, to mascot, to tattoo parlour assistant to realtor, and everything in between.

“How I chose the different careers was [I picked] ones that I’d be interested in, or something that I could learn something new from, or maybe I had never tried it before and it sounded really interesting,” says Sean.

As if being the “new guy” at work every week for a year isn’t daunting enough. Sean also had to deal with travelling on a very tight budget, while never really knowing where he would be the next week. Sean says that he booked jobs on a week-to-week basis and sometimes had to move at the last minute.

“I can remember one time I was in Atlanta on Sunday, I had this interview, it was the CNN one, and she said ‘Ok, Sean, tomorrow’s a work day, where are you working?’ And I was like ‘I don’t know.'”

My job fell through at the last minute, so I didn’t have one. I was like ‘I think I’m going to Miami, but I’m not sure.’ Sure enough a few hours later, I’d received emails from different job offers. A few hours later I was on a plane, paid for by this guy who contacted me, down to Miami, and I started the next morning as an exterminator.”

In reflecting on his journey, Sean says he was surprised by a lot of his jobs, particularly after spending a week as a Hollywood producer. “There’s actually a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes. You know, the red carpet premiers, they’re all really few and far between. The guy that I was working with, he did the latest Rambo film. We did actually get to go to the premier of Rambo, in Vegas, which was pretty cool.”

Sean says he was also surprised by his temporary role as a cowboy. Prior to trying it, he didn’t know cowboy was an actual job, but soon discovered how real the work was, while he gained a refreshing perspective from the man he was working with.

“He loved what he was doing but he got paid, you know, peanuts… you hear often, do what you love and the money will come. But in this instance, this guy is doing what he loves, but the money will never come. But he’s totally OK with that, because he’s doing what he loves. That’s just what’s more important to him.”

Sean values the lessons he learned at each new stop, and each new career. However, there were certain jobs that he was glad were only a week long. “There was this one job, I was working just outside Montreal. It was a swamp, picking ‘cat tails’ also known as bulrush… The job consisted of 12 hour days, in the swamp; it was probably 35-degree heat, bugs and skunk. I was pretty happy when the week was over.”

Sean picked up a lot along the way, but he said the most eye-opening thing he learned was the true meaning of job satisfaction. “Here I was thinking, well I needed to find the perfect job, and that one dream job, and find what I’m passionate about and that’s what’s going to make me happy in a career. But I’ve realized that you don’t have to be in your dream job to be happy and there [are] many things that contribute to our job satisfaction.

I always asked my coworkers what they liked most about their jobs and the most common answer I heard was the people they worked with. It didn’t really matter so much about the day-to-day activities of the job, what brought them back was that they were doing it with their friends, and the relationships that they developed.”

When asked if he has any advice for students who are unsure of what they want to do with their lives, he says doing anything is better than sitting idle.

“If you do have an idea of what that dream job is, keep it in mind. But just get into the workforce, because then you can start to learn about the things that you’re good at, and that you like to do. And at the same time, you become more valuable to future employers.”

As for his own future, Sean is still weighing his options and leaning towards a career in real estate, teaching, or the not-for-profit sector. In the meantime, he’s helping students figure out their futures with the One-Week Job Summer program. It’s designed to let students experience part of Sean’s original journey by working jobs for one week, while blogging about it. He’s also poured his experiences into a book, also called The One-Week Job Project.

When asked about how future employers may react to seeing 52 jobs on his resume, Sean jokes, “I think I might just have to sum it up, rather than put it on 2 different pages.”

Ryan Leclaire
Author: Ryan Leclaire
Ryan has been writing for 7 years and has been featured in Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Cottage life.
Post a comment
  1. Laura Alamery Says:


    Thank you for your nice article on .Like many other Canadians, Sean graduated with his degree and had
    no idea what to do next, so he decided to do a little bit of everything.
    I like it. It will help me for my research.



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