Alumni Q&A: Sean Aiken

Photo credit Melissa Renwick

Sean Aiken embarked on an unusual journey to figure out his passions: work 52 different jobs in 52 weeks.

Portrait of Sean Aiken standing on a beach

What are you passionate about? Sean Aiken struggled with this question after graduation. Knowing he didn’t want to settle for the status quo, he set off on a journey to find his passion by starting The One-Week Job Project and working 52 jobs in 52 weeks.

What he found were his passion to explore all of life’s possibilities and a voice to help others in their own pursuits.

CapU is proud to honour Sean Aiken at the upcoming 2021 Alumni Awards of Excellence. Aiken’s interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Can you tell us a bit about the One Week Job Project?

The One Week Job Project was an idea I had a couple of years after I graduated from CapU’s School of Business. I was struggling with what direction I wanted to take with my life, and I made a promise to find something I was passionate about. I created the website oneweekjob.com and set out to work 52 jobs in 52 weeks throughout North America to discover my passion and learn from others.

Do you feel there has been a lasting impact from the project?

I hear from people who continue to be inspired by the project or are learning about it for the first time. Many schools use the documentary in classes and my story appears in ESL course books throughout Europe. It’s been amazing to see how a single idea can travel so far.

What job did you learn the most from?

During Week 22, I was a radio DJ and on my last day, I sat down with the radio station’s program director Scott and asked him, “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 (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. 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 wearing headphones speaking on radio On air at Dave FM 107.5 in Kitchener, Ont. Photo supplied.

How did you feel after you completed the One Week Job Project?

When the project was completed, I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride knowing that I set out to work 52 jobs in 52 weeks and that I did it. I was also exhausted and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

In your journey you met people who are passionate about their jobs, and also people who are passionate about the lifestyle their job provides. Where do you feel you fall on this spectrum?

I love both the lifestyle and work I’m currently doing. I’m able to work from anywhere and spend quality time with my family. I would enjoy working more in-person with a team though and that is the trade-off.

The One Week Job Project was made possible by the willingness of others to help and hire you. What did you learn the most about people during this experience?

I learned that most people are willing to, and want to, help you on your way. We like to help others and yet oftentimes, we find it challenging to ask for help and let ourselves be supported. I learned that asking for help is not only a gift to myself but also to the person I am asking.

Sean Aiken throwing pizza dough Making pizza in Osterville, Mass. Photo supplied.

What is it like knowing you’re the first person to think of working 52 jobs in 52 weeks?

It’s very cool to think that I was the first one in the world to have this idea. Or, if I wasn’t the first, then I was at least the first to act on it.

Sometimes we become possessive of ideas and thoughts, but all our ideas are inspired by something that already exists. Once we create something and put it out into the world, it’s no longer ours — everyone can use it and expand it.

What advice would you give to someone who is afraid to put themselves out there in fear of failure?

Everyone is afraid. It’s not something you need to overcome but rather, you need to befriend it; fear is your companion. Its presence means that you care and that you are doing something worthwhile.

The bottom line is that at some point in your life you must wholeheartedly pursue what you truly want. The alternative is regret. And regret sucks.

Sean Aiken working as a fashion designer, posing next to rack of clothes Working as a fashion buyer in New York City, N.Y. (Photo supplied)

Where do you see your next adventure taking you?

I recently signed with a literary agent at the Writers House and have loved writing children’s books. I’ve written one called The Unlikely Story of You which my agent will be pitching in the coming weeks.

What piece of advice have you received that stood out to you the most and what advice do you notice you give others the most?

Love fiercely. Because this all ends.