One of the questions asked most frequently during the transition from youth to adulthood is: What do you want to do with your life?
Five years ago, Sean Aiken didn’t know how to answer the question.
The Port Moody native was valedictorian of his high school before graduating from Capilano University with a business degree and a 4.0 GPA. His family suggested job possibilities he should consider, but Aiken wasn’t ready to follow just one path.
So instead, he followed 52.
The result was The One Week Job Project: A journey that allowed Aiken to try out 52 different jobs throughout North America in 52 weeks.
Some of those jobs included being a bungee jump instructor in Victoria, a mascot for the Washington Capitals, a fashion buyer in New York and a cowboy in Wyoming.
His favourite occupations included working as a park ranger in Hawaii and as a pilot for the Air Force. His least favourite job was picking cattails in a swamp outside Montreal for 12 to 14 hours per day.
The whole purpose of the adventure was for Aiken to find his passion. He learned he loves working with kids and speaking in front of groups; therefore, a career in teaching will probably suit him well.
The One Week Job Project has been widely covered since 2008 by international media outlets including: CNN, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Time and 20/20.
Aiken donated 100 per cent of his earnings from the project—over $20,000—to the One/Make Poverty History campaign.
A documentary film was shot and a book was written about the concept and now the idea is branching out. A 24-year-old man is currently on week 43 of Australia’s version of The One Week Job Project.
Aiken was at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary in West Kelowna Thursday to share how he found his passion and reassure students that it’s OK if they’re not sure what they want to do with their lives just yet.
“We focus from a very young age on this question of what you want to be when you grow up. For me, that takes a young person out of their present moment in terms of exploring what they like to do then and what they are good at,” said Aiken.
“It almost implies that you have to be something different. For me, it’s not about becoming something or someone else, it’s about discovering who you are.”
Aiken is in the process of visiting eight different secondary and middle schools throughout the Central Okanagan this week to share his message and answer questions.
“Coming from a different angle, I find that my story, because it’s a unique story, captures the attention of the students,” said Aiken.
That was part of the reason Chris Ovelson, a career life programs consultant with School District 23, worked to bring Aiken to the area.
“We felt he has an incredible message for the students,” said Ovelson.
“We hear so much that it’s important to follow your passion. For a lot of students that are leaving high school, a lot of them don’t know what their passion is. His message is more: How do you discover your passion?”
Ovelson said the school district has programs available to help students figure out what they like and what they don’t like.
“We have opportunities where they can go and see their career councillors and get set up with job shadows.
“We encourage kids to get out there and do as many of those as they can before they leave high school.”