“I wanted to accomplish great things, help others, make a difference. I wanted to do everything and be everywhere. I had big ambitions, but I was totally directionless. I’d been thrown ill prepared into a wide open landscape in which I could create anything. I thought this freedom was what I longed for – a chance to achieve my goals, to live up to this alleged potential many saw in me. But with no course schedules or professors to guide me, I experienced this freedom as a daunting reality rife with expectations. Now it was up to me to determine my path.”
- Sean Aiken
Anyone who has graduated college can relate to Sean Aiken’s words above. Until you leave school, you have a life that is planned out for you. Once you are out of school, reality sets in.
When pressed to figure out what to with his life, Sean Aiken came up with a plan to work 52 jobs in a year. He started a website where employers could offer him a job for a week anywhere within the U.S. and Canada.
“I liked answering the phone, especially with my phone number available to anyone on the website. Every caller was a surprise – kind of like opening up a magical present of infinite possibility.”
When I stumbled across Sean’s book, The One-Week Job Project, I wished I had thought of this when I left school. I loved this quirky idea and it appealed to the explorer in me. Plus, when you work 52 jobs in a year you have a much better understanding of what you want out of a career.
Sean decided he wasn’t doing this for money, but for the experience. He wanted to help others at the same time, so he decided to ask his employers to make a donation to ONE, a campaign that fights poverty. He would raise money for a campaign he believed in and the companies he worked for would get a tax receipt for their donation.
I do believe when we are in alignment, doors will open. A few weeks into the project, Sean received an email from NiceJob.ca, a job search engine. In exchange for a banner on Sean’s site and mention in media interviews, NiceJob would give him $1,000 per month toward travel expenses.
What is a real job?
As Sean works various jobs (Radio DJ, Film Festival Reporter, Bartender, Real Estate Agent, Winemaker, etc.), he meets many people that love their jobs, but they are not deemed “real jobs” in terms of society. He said people he met felt guilty because while they loved what they were doing, they seemed to be putting off the “real job” route.
“I’ve yet to figure out what makes one job any less “real” than another, but I have a strong suspicion that to be accepted as a real job, it has to be something you don’t enjoy. Furthermore, that it require formal attire and time spent sitting in traffic. To have a job that I love and at the same time make enough money to live the lifestyle I want would make me feel guilty-as if I’d somehow be cheating the system.”
You are choosing a lifestyle
When you decide on a position, you are not just working in that job, you are deciding your lifestyle. The job you choose will determine your salary, who you work with, the work environment, commute, vacation time, etc. While I realize this now, when I graduated, I don’t think I gave the “lifestyle” aspect to a job much thought. It is only when you start working in jobs, that you realize what is and isn’t going to work.
Our impact on others
One week, when Sean was a race director for a marathon, he was approached by a girl in her 20′s. She asked to take a photo for a project she was involved in and asked him some questions about his endeavor. It was in the midst of his busy work day and he hadn’t thought much about it at the time. A month later, he received an email from her with the piece she had written and a long email about how meeting him had affected her. He was surprised because he barely remembered the interaction.
“Every person who comes into our life, no matter how briefly, we have the ability to affect-through a kind word, a smile, a door held open. Each one of these simple interactions leaves us altered in some way-whether it’s positive or negative change is up to us to decide.”
What do I want to to do with my life?
Sean discovers that is not just people leaving school that are trying to figure this out, he meets people in their 30′s, 40′s and 50′s, that are still asking themselves, What do I want to do with my life? He was given the wise advice to volunteer to increase his self knowledge and to invest in himself early on, as opposed to going to work and getting shackled down with responsibilities (mortgage, marriage, kids) before figuring things out.
There is a point in the book where Sean realizes for years he has based his decisions on what other people thought. The fear of wasting his potential was the motivation behind many of his accomplishments. He fell into a trap of seeking validation from others on the success of the project.
While Sean was trying to discover his own passion, thousands of people were inspired by his journey and began to ask themselves the same question, What should I do with my life? Sean thought finding his passion was the key to happiness, but he learned several things contributed to joy at work; the people we work with and feeling that our work is significant or making a contribution. Our career is just the vehicle to fulfill our passion. Of course it is no surprise that that Sean discovered his passion is to explore.