Media Mentions

Globe and Mail Interview Provokes A Reaction

globe Today, Sean's latest interview was published in The Globe And Mail: 52 Jobs In 52 Weeks.

And just like during the project, Sean's story tends to provoke a divided opinion. The comments on the interview range from positive:

"I think that what Sean did is very brave. How many of us are stuck in jobs for years and once we leave we realize that we were miserable?"

To the appreciative:

"Maybe Sean won't make a great Chartered Accountant but he is creative, well spoken, thinks outside the box and has an abundance of initiative - sounds like a great employee right now."

And the not so positive:

Nice resume Sean - I'm sure business will be astounded to have your varied experience and ratty hair-do.

And the downright mean:

"This guy is what is wrong with a lot of todays youth and the parents are to blame. He is utterly useless and will go on to lead a useless and meaningless life. Mommy and Daddy will pay for his fun and convince him he is a successful contributing member of society. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!

Now, we live in a free country, and it's perfectly fine for others to share their opinion of Sean's journey. Yet it's interesting to turn the scrutiny around and use One Week Job as a mirror to study our own life situation.

Ask yourself: what is my immediate reaction reading Sean's story? Then ask yourself: why?

What does that say about how you see careers and life in general?

Chances are, if you're the type of person who believes work should be meaningful, that life is about adventure and not "earning a living," then you'll likely support the project.

If you're the type of person that believes life is hard, that work isn't supposed to be "fun," then you might feel resentment towards the project.

Of course, there's no right or wrong answers.

But at the very least, before judging someone else, we owe it to ourselves to look inward and see what we find.

- Ian

A is for Aiken

A familiar face popped up in the latest issue of BC Bookworld. The caption reads:

"When Sean Aiken of Port Moody decided to take a myriad of jobs to figure out his career path, he kept a blog, along with video clips, resulting in publicity throughout North America. After stints as a veterinarian's assistant, a Hollywood Producer, a firefighter, and an astronomer, Aiken's memoir of his 52 one-week jobs is One Week Job."


My (near) Oprah Winfrey Show Appearance

093136-oprah-winfrey It was a lazy Saturday afternoon with friends. Our second annual Lord of the Rings Marathon was underway. As Frodo and Sam continued their epic journey through Middle Earth, Ian’s cell phone rang.

He jumped up and then left the room to take the call.

A moment later he returned and daringly pressed pause on the DVD player (you don’t press pause when you’re watching a 12 hour trilogy without getting some serious slack from the peanut gallery). Ian’s awe struck look kept our heckling to a dull grumble; we knew his bold action must come with good reason.

“That was Karen,” he announced. “She said she just received an email, from what appears to be a producer at the Oprah Winfrey Show. They’re trying to get in contact with Sean.”

(Karen registered so her email address was listed as the website administrator)

At this moment we’re thinking it must be a practical joke, something to chuckle at, quickly disregard and then rejoin the Fellowship.

“Karen seems to think it’s legit,” he added. “The producer’s email address is (Oprah’s company), and she googled the producer’s name and IMDb says she’s the real deal.”

Oprah Winfrey changes lives. In moments, books become bestsellers, previously unknown individuals become household names, illusive ideals become national movements… My mind raced at the possibility, the opportunity, and how an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show could change my life.

I nervously got off the couch. “I guess I should give her a call.”

When I spoke with the producer she told me that they were interested in having me on the show the following Friday.

For the next few days I was back and forth with the producers at the show - they asked me further questions about the One-Week Job project, what I'd learned, and how I’d fit within the particular segment. The segment was about CEO’s who went undercover within their own company; trying an entry-level position to give them a new perspective. Basically, how putting ourselves in another person’s shoes can make us a better person.

I did this 52 times in one year. I assure you the experience is humbling.

Upon request from the producers, Ian and I sent the latest cut of the documentary. Random House sent an advance copy of the book. And the producers prepared for my segment as if it was a go.

There was only one holdup before I’d pack my bags and hop on a plane to Chicago. Although they loved the one-week job project and felt it was a great fit for the show, they weren’t sure if they’d have enough time to include it.

Being on Pacific Time, every morning I woke up early so as to not miss a call from the producers who were two hours ahead at the Chicago studio. The team at Random House scurried to see if they'd be able to push up the publication date to coincide with the potential air date of the show. My lack of a cell phone kept me at home near the telephone - ready to hop on a plane at a moments notice. The producers continued to prepare for my segment while I anxiously awaited the call.

I checked in on Wednesday. They said that a decision had not been made but they were currently writing the transcripts and would know soon…

And, as the title of this blog post suggests, the show was a no go. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to include another segment.

So, how do I feel?

Relief It’s Oprah. The show is seen by an estimated 23 million viewers each week in the US, and is broadcast internationally in 107 countries. Needless to say I was a bit nervous.

Disappointment An appearance would have helped get the word out about the project and kick-start the launch of our upcoming One-Week Job Program (more to come in the next few weeks).

Grateful, Humbled, Honored… They loved the project. I’m grateful that they saw the merit in it. I’m now on their radar, so hopefully it will work out for a future episode.

It’s going to be a fun year - I hope you continue to join in the conversation and help spread the word!


Doc Interview On FreshFM In London, Ontario

Retro RadioIf you're from London, Ontario, you may have caught my interview with Jeff Kelly on FreshFM. We discuss how you can become a producer for the doc, and the project as a whole. Check it out in 3 parts below.

Part I [audio:ian_july_21.mp3]

Part II [audio:ian_pt_2_july_21.mp3]

Part III [audio:ian_pt_3_july_21.mp3]

What do you think of the interview? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Sean Featured In American Way Magazine

Photo: Sean the cut-out doll

American Way magazine published an excellent article on the One Week Job project. Here's a taste:

"This story is one Confucius could have written. A story whose end might be found in its beginning and whose beginning might lie at its end. One in which the search became the grail; the question, its own answer; the journey, the destination."

Aside from an awesome piece, they also created the coolest graphic portraying Sean as a cut-out doll with various job outfits.

Read the full article here.

My Globe and Mail Column - Article #4

GEN Y JOURNEY: ONE-WEEK JOB Finding the right career is a matter of constant reinvention

SEAN AIKEN September 7, 2007

There I was, knee-deep in sludge, the sun beating down, flies swarming and sweat dripping off my forehead.

The stench was unpleasant, as was the muddy swamp water that slowly penetrated my supposedly waterproof coveralls.

What was I doing in such circumstances?

It was all in a day's work in a small town an hour north of Montreal, where I was picking cattails for a distribution company that processes and sells them to high-end restaurants.

It was hard to believe that, just one week before, I had been sitting behind my own desk in the fifth-floor office of a headhunting firm in downtown Montreal.

Each day I went to work in a suit and tie, attended meetings with top executives and chatted with co-workers in the lunchroom.

Talk about job extremes.

Most people don't have the luxury of experiencing such a range of occupations in so short a time.

But since the end of February, when I began working at a different job each week in my quest to figure out what I ultimately want to do with my career, I have constantly had to reinvent myself.

And, whether you are part of my generation looking to enter the working world, or a baby boomer mulling a career change later in life, chances are, at some point in your working life, a reinvention will be required.

I've learned some tips over the past 25 weeks that continue to help me in the reinvention process.

By keeping them in mind, I have been able to ease the transition week to week and make the most out of the experience so far.

Here are some of them:

I must be willing to leave my comfort zone

Week seven in Edmonton, I had a job as a yoga instructor. Ten minutes after I arrived at work on Monday, I was told that, on Friday, I'd be teaching a class on my own.

I'd never even stepped foot inside a yoga studio before. So when I was told I'd be teaching, I immediately began to think of all the possible excuses of why I couldn't.

But then I realized that the process of reinvention requires shedding past habits and leaping mental barriers. So if I was going to do what the job required, I'd have to set aside my trepidation and commit to the experience. And by committing, I allowed myself to immediately start learning what would be required to successfully teach a class.

Based on the fact that nobody asked for their money back, I like to think of it as a successful re-invention.

I must be willing to learn new skills

Before I spent a week in April as a florist, I couldn't have told you the difference between a stargazing lily and a Gerber daisy. But I can now. And I could arrange them, too.

I hadn't previously realized how much skill went into creating an arrangement of flowers. I certainly didn't master the art in one week, but whatever new skill I acquired will continue to benefit me for many Mother's Days to come.

And on my career hunt. For I realized how much I enjoyed learning a new skill, the feeling of reward that came with seeing my skills develop, and the realization that, the more I acquire, the more career doors that will open. And whatever career I settle on will no doubt require the continual development of new skills.

I must be willing to keep an open mind

I do not have any tattoos, nor have I met many heavily tattooed people. So it really was a new world for me when I walked into the tattoo parlour where I worked four weeks ago and was greeted by people covered in body art.

It was for me a bit intimidating. I admit that I held preconceived notions about those with numerous tattoos and piercings, and was worried I would have difficulty making connections.

I could easily have put up a barrier, refused to look past our differences and denied the possibility of developing any meaningful relationships.

But by reminding myself to keep an open mind, I met some great people and learned I mustn't allow any preconceived ideas of a particular profession to influence my choice of careers. I also realized that a closed mind might close doors that I'd rather keep open.

I must identify my strengths and weaknesses

At the tattoo parlour, I tried to sketch a potential design for a client. What I came up with could have been equally matched in talent by a seven-year-old. I quickly realized I do not possess enough artistic ability to be a tattooist and, therefore, would not be too successful if I decided to pursue it as a profession.

However, that same week I recognized a strength in dealing with people. It can be somewhat nerve-wracking for clients awaiting a piercing. By spending time speaking with them in the waiting room, I found I was able to calm nerves, and make clients feel more at ease and comfortable about the whole experience.

Week after week. I am placed in unfamiliar situations that challenge me and require new skills. As a result, I am beginning to recognize areas in which I stood strong and those where I was weaker. Clearly, I will be happiest and most successful in a workplace situation that puts my strengths to good use.

I must be willing to try, try again

While working with the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation two weeks ago, I visited downtown Toronto stores and asked to post promotional material for an upcoming fundraising event. The first few queries, I faced rejection - and had to keep reminding myself that it was important not to get discouraged and to simply try again at the next store.

By pounding on enough doors, I scored sufficient success - and will keep in mind that I would not have gotten very far if I'd given up after hearing a few nos.

This relates to anything we do: We must be resilient if we are going to achieve our goals.

I set out 25 weeks ago to find a career that I would love doing. I will not find the ideal situation simply by deciding this is what I want; I must continue to try, try again each week. Every time I do, I get closer to my goal and learn more about the characteristics that are required for me to be happy in my career.

Keeping these reinvention themes in mind throughout my experience has enriched my journey. They have allowed me to take the most out of each week, to develop new skills, meet new people, and come to personal realizations about myself and what I am looking for in a career. Sean Aiken writes occasionally about his career-discovery journey as he takes on a new job a week across Canada. He is blogging about his experience (and taking offers) at

Globe and Mail - Article 3

GEN Y JOURNEY: ONE WEEK JOB 18 jobs, 18 bosses: insights into a great employer


July 20, 2007

Last week, I was the race director for a triathlon in the Northern Ontario town of Marathon. Essentially, I helped co-ordinate the logistics of the event and made sure everything ran smoothly. The week before, I was in Ottawa serving breakfast and cleaning rooms at a bed and breakfast. Before that, in Montreal, I was working with a distribution company in which we picked wild plant products, processed them and then sold them to high-end restaurants in town. Before that, it was helping to match people and employers at a recruiting agency ...

In the past 18 weeks, I have held 18 jobs, and, along the way, have had to work for 18 different bosses.

In my search for an ideal career, I continue to discover characteristics of a work environment that I believe will help make me happy. Obviously, one of these characteristics is a great employer.

I am sure at some point we have all had bosses who, for whatever reason, just didn't click with us. Maybe they didn't communicate effectively, did not share the same outlook, or perhaps they were simply not that nice.

So what makes a good boss? Reflecting on the past 18 weeks, I have been able to identify key traits that I found consistently apparent in the employers I have had the opportunity to work with.

Mentorship A good boss shouldn't horde the knowledge from the rest of the employees. He or she should be passing along their experiences to others. This is quite important to me as I am continually presented with a different work environment each week. I have found that I learn the most when I have been in a situation where my employer took a mentorship approach; openly sharing their knowledge and expertise of the particular position or industry with me. I have noticed that a boss who is constantly challenging and educating staff earns the respect of myself and others.

Provide direction When I show up for a new job every Monday morning, I have no idea what is expected of me or how I can effectively contribute to the organization. It is difficult to be successful in a situation if expectations are not clearly defined. Simply by providing proper direction, this frustration can be avoided.

As such, a boss needs to be a leader. While he or she should not have to micromanage every employee's tasks, it is important to provide overall direction for reaching the organization's goals.

I want to be in a situation in which I feel like what I am doing is contributing to a greater good; that a particular task I have been asked to do will make a difference in helping the organization achieve its goals. I believe a good boss will always explain the reasoning behind why he or she needs something done and relate it to the company realizing its vision. Without knowing where they're going, staff will feel that their tasks lack impact.

Grace under fire A boss needs to remain cool and calm under all conditions. He or she needs to be a source of strength for employees, especially for those whose find their job conditions stressful, or have personal problems to deal with.

Last weekend, in the hour leading up to and during the triathlon in Marathon, things were quite chaotic: volunteers were unsure what was expected of them; some barriers were not where they should have been; the mandatory lifeguard was a no-show - the situation easily could have spiralled out of control.

All members of our event team, including myself, looked to the other race director as if to gauge the severity of the situation and how we should interpret it.

Although I am sure he felt quite stressed on the inside, he managed to stay calm under the pressure. This allowed his team members to follow suit and think rationally about what needed to be done.

There's nothing that saps motivation more than a boss who cracks under pressure.

After all, if the boss can't handle the working environment, how can he or she expect the employees to.

Inspire others A boss always should be striving to point out the positive qualities and accomplishments of employees. This doesn't mean that he or she should gloss over their faults - but the priority should be inspiring employees to do their best work.

One of the most important roles of an employer is to identify the strengths of each employee and place them in a situation in which they can employ these skills and be successful.

Trust employees I am constantly in a new environment that requires a willingness to learn - and make mistakes. I have found that if I know I have the trust of my employer, I am more confident and open to try something new without the associated fear of a negative consequence.

This sense of trust is an essential quality to a great employer and will elicit a higher level of performance from the employee as a result.

A boss should have faith in their employees that they'll do the job they were hired to do. If the boss trusts someone's abilities enough to hire the person, then that person should have the opportunity to develop ideas without the boss hanging over their shoulder.

There will come a time when I will be looking for a job that will last a lot longer than one week. I can only hope that my future boss(es) will have some of these characteristics.

Sean Aiken will write occasionally about his career-discovery journey as he takes on a new job a week across Canada. He is blogging about his experience (and taking job offers) at

One Week Job Special On 'CareersTV'

A television show called "Careers TV" out of Edmonton, Alberta followed me around for about a month to film a segment for their show. They even came to Vancouver to interview my family. When they were finished, I thought to myself - I have no idea how they are going to be able to put all that footage into a five minute segment. Yet, somehow they managed to do it, and they did a really great job too! Here it is: