Sean Aiken Visits SFU

On Wednesday, February 2, Sean Aiken came to SFU for the screening of his documentary, “1 Week Job”. After we watched the film, he offered advice and a bit of reflection on the making of the film, the lessons he learned, and the advice he wanted to share with us after his experience.

Sean graduated university with top marks – everyone told him he could become whatever he wanted. The problem was – he didn’t know what that was.

Finding the Right Career Path

In today’s world, there is an abundance of resources for steps we need to take to get the job of our dreams. Go to this college, take those courses… But how are we supposed to know what the job for us is, if we are so limited in what we get to try? Entry-level jobs available to young adults are generally in retail and the restaurant industry – with some careful planning, perhaps sports or dance coaching.

We are expected to prepare and study for what we want, without a great deal of career exploration. It’s a bit of a backwards approach. There are also many jobs off the beaten path we may never “see” ourselves working at – but they might be a perfect fit! So Sean decided to challenge the formula – he spent a year trying a new job every week.

The Movie

The film shows what actually happens in companies I know I’d probably never try working at. Sean spoke about the people he’d met who were happy in their work, and he explained that being part of a bigger picture is a key reason many people feel a high level of satisfaction. He worked in a dairy farm, for instance, and explained that it wasn’t exactly his cup of tea at first. The mornings began early, the work was difficult and often messy, but his supervisor seemed cheerful and happy to be there. Perplexed, he asked him why this was. “Because what I do feeds people,” he replied. When Sean worked at a daycare, he met another man deeply satisfied with his job. He explained that his position allowed him to experience the “first’s” in the children’s lives – their first time tying a shoelace, for instance. He considered himself lucky to be there to guide and experience those first’s.

Reflection

I came away with a few observations about the film.
1. A person needed substantial strength and physical fitness for at least half of the jobs Sean tried.
2. Without proper training and skill, some of the jobs could not be fully appreciated for what they offer to the right candidate. For instance, working at a tattoo parlour without appropriate training and artistic skill could not show him or the audience what the job can offer (luckily, Kat Von D’s reality show fills that niche).
3. The people one works with are often the most important thing about the job – baking pizzas for a living can be the most pleasant thing in the world or an absolute nightmare based on this.
5. Some of the happiest employees work in a job that fits into “the bigger picture” – it allows them to feel that they are helping make the world a better place.
6. Many of the people Sean met who were not fully satisfied with their job said their main mistake was not searching long enough.

Sean’s Tips

After the film, Sean shared the most important lessons he had learned. Most adults, even in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, are often still searching for their perfect job and what it is that makes them happy. He also explained that we don’t have to pick a career and think we’ll be doing that for the rest of our lives. In this era, most people switch careers 4-6 times, and that’s something we should embrace. Without being locked in to our profession, we can continue learning new skills, working in new environments, and experiencing different lifestyles.

Sean’s last piece of advice was to not be afraid. All the pressures and perceptions put into our minds by the people around us can really hurt our chances to live a life that makes us truly happy. Sean encouraged us to find our passion by asking ourselves, “If I could do anything, what would it be?”

If we all make our decisions based on fear and peer pressure, we may never fulfill our potential.

The film reminded me of just how much there is for myself and my peers to learn and experience in life. It seems common for students to have limited time to explore their passions due to schoolwork and work schedules, but volunteering offers so many learning opportunities. I feel grateful for being able to support SFU’s students volunteers in finding causes that bring satisfaction and fulfillment to their lives.

A big thank you to Sean Aiken for visiting SFU and sharing his experience with our community. If you’d like buy a copy of Sean Aiken’s DVD, you can order it here. For more information, visit his website.

By Sonya Reznitsky