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  • Personal Branding Interview: Sean Aiken

    Today, I spoke to Sean Aiken, who graduated college in 2005 and decided to embark on a grand journey, starting the one-week job project, where he had 52 jobs in a year. His journey is now captured in a brand new book called The One-Week Job Project: 1 Man, 1 Year, 52 Jobs.  In this interview, Sean talks about why it’s hard for a college student to choose a career upon graduation, which job was different than he had expected, what lessons he’s learned from his journey, talks about his media campaign, and his future.

    Why is it so hard for someone to choose the right career out of college?

    When we’re fresh out of college, we don’t have a ton of work experience. We open up the classifieds, search online job postings and see all of these important sounding job titles, but it’s difficult to know what the job will actually be like. For me personally, it was hard because I was scared at the thought of committing to a career path, 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 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 intention in starting The One-Week Job Project was that 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.

    I think another factor is that our generation has different expectations of the workplace. We’re looking for more than just a job; we’re looking for a career that we’re going to enjoy, a position in which we feel we’re making a meaningful contribution and that grants a balance between work life and social life. With little work experience, a hurting economy, and going up against an old paradigm that says, “You’re not supposed to enjoy work,” choosing the right career is not an easy task.

    Out of all the jobs you took on your adventure, which jobs weren’t what you thought they would be?

    Hollywood Producer – Typically when we think of the job description of a Hollywood producer, it’s all glitz, glamour, and red carpet premieres. I quickly found out that there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. The producer I worked with said that he receives 50-75 scripts a week. He was responsible for buying the script, deciding who is going to star in the film, who is going to direct the film, managing the budget…

    What lessons did you learn from your jobs that helped you decide more of your career path?

    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 our 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.

    Also, I 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. It mattered that they showed up to work each day because they contributed something valuable, and something was made better because of their work. For example, I worked on an organic dairy farm with a guy named George. The job demands long hours, very hard work, early mornings – after a couple of days I thought, “How can anyone enjoy this job?” 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.

    I also learned that it’s important to take a close look at our passion and see what are the different ways in which we can fulfill our passion. For Week 22, I was a Radio DJ. On my last day I sat down with the radio station’s program director, Scott. I asked Scott, “How did you get involved in Radio. Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?”

    He 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.”

    Even though Scott is not what he originally thought he wanted to be as a rock star, he loves his job. He still works in the same industry, deals with the same people, and is still able to cultivate his passion for music. We can’t all be rock stars, but it doesn’t mean we have to end up in a completely unrelated field. 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.

    How did you handle your media campaign?

    I didn’t have a formal media campaign. As word of The One-Week Job Project spread, media outlets from around the world started to cover the story: The New York Times, CNN, The Rachael Ray Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, CBC…

    At times it was overwhelming trying to manage everything. It felt like I was always working two different jobs; my job that particular week, and then finalizing plans for the following week – where I was working, where I was going to stay, and how I’d travel to the next city.

    What’s next for you?

    The book I wrote about my experience, The One-Week Job Project: 1 Man, 1 Year, 52 Jobs, will be published May 4 by Random House. It’s a memoir of my year, highlighting the different jobs I had, adventures from the road, and advice that I received from my employers on how to find the right career.

    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.

    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.

    Sean Aiken graduated from Capilano College with a degree in Business Administration in 2005. At the top of his class, with a 4.0 cumulative GPA, he was voted the class valedictorian. He started the One-Week Job project in February 2007, at age twenty-five, and finished his 52 weeks in March 2008.  He is the author the career book The One-Week Job Project: 1 Man, 1 Year, 52 Jobs.  The One-Week Job Project has been featured in numerous media around the world, including The Rachael Ray Show, The New York Times, CNN, Good Morning America, 20/20, CBC and countless others. Sean has been involved in sports his whole life and captained the men’s varsity volleyball team at college. He loves to go on adventures, meet new people, and bring some fun to whatever it is that he’s doing. Sean speaks English and French, and has backpacked throughout Europe, North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South East Asia.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Interview, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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