“It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure it’s something you’re passionate about”. Those are the words of Sean Aiken’s father and what propelled him to set out on a challenge unlike any other.
The now 29-year-old Sean Aiken had just graduated university and, like so many in his shoes, was uncertain about his future. He had finished his post-secondary degree in business and, before blindly delving into a career; he chose to try his hand at 52 different ones.
Aiken began a blog outlining his plan to work one job each week for a year, all in the hopes of finding his passion. Word spread quickly and soon thereafter he began to receive job offers from around North America. With limited funds and no solid plan, he took off.
“I knew right away that I just had to very comfortable with uncertainty,” he told the Straight at a coffee shop in East Vancouver.
The project grew and Aiken spent the year doing everything from working with the Canadian Air Force to taking on park ranger duties in Hawaii. Each paycheque he received went to the Make Poverty History charity and aside from a small amount of money from a sponsor for his travel budget, Aiken depended on the kindness of others to put him up under their roof.
Aiken acknowledges that the project had its challenges and isn’t for everyone but encourages everyone to push themselves to explore their own career options “in their own way”.
“You may not be sure just how it’s going to turn out,” he said, “but what’s most important is that you do take the leap, whatever that is for you.”
It was around week 18 of Aiken’s adventure when his lifelong friend Ian MacKenzie, decided to quit his job and join Aiken on the trip. As the camera man and production manager he captured the story of Aiken’s travel in One Week Job a documentary screening this Saturday (January 15) at 3 p.m.at the Pacific Cinémathí¨que (1131 Howe Street).
“I had just gotten married, quit my job, and did the only thing my wife had asked me not do—to not go on the road with Sean”. MacKenzie said.
Luckily his wife changed her mind about the leap that her new husband took, and even joined the boys for part of the travels. Sitting together at the coffee shop, MacKenzie and Aiken explained that they didn’t expect the project to become the phenomenon that it has.
“We didn’t want to portray it like Sean created this movement,” MacKenzie said, “he essentially tapped into an existing sentiment that a lot of people were feeling didn’t necessarily know how to articulate.”
Neither MacKenzie nor Aiken knew that the final project would be a documentary; in fact, they released short web series for 10 to 12 weeks during the trip, giving Aiken’s followers an idea of what life on the road was like. But their hectic and demanding schedule resulted in a “crazy amount of work” for MacKenzie to edit and shoot on the road. That’s when they decided to wait until the end and put together a documentary.
As the filmmaker, MacKenzie wasn’t sure what the final outcome would be, but explains that it mirrored the mythical hero journey that is often familiar in stories of self-discovery.
“The journey of him [Aiken] leaving home, meeting the wise people along they way, and the challenges that he faced, were very much what this movie is all about,” he said.
Now two years after the fact, has Aiken found his passion? In a word, yes. But the discovery wasn’t as clear cut as some might think.
“I thought that finding your passion needed to be a job title,” Aiken said, “but it’s merely a vehicle and one means of fulfilling our passions.”
Aiken hopes to expand this project and help set up a program that would allow anyone around the world to champion their own One Week Job initiative. This past summer, they started a program that allowed three people from Toronto, Texas, and Tennessee to experience eight one-week jobs, and blog about the experience.
“What inspires me is watching people push themselves and really tap into how precious life is,” he said, “at my core that’s really what drives me.”
Both Aiken and MacKenzie will participate in a Q&A session after the screening.