After finishing university, Sean Aiken embarked on a tour of North America working one job per week for 52 weeks. The One Week Job Project describes his journey over that year and what it’s like to work at 52 different companies. I heard Sean speak a few weeks ago, and loved his stories and ideas. You can learn more about his project here. It’s a great read, and subtly brings us back to the question all of us–leaders and followers–face at some point in our lives: what will my job mean in the end?
This book encapsulates Millennials more than any other book I have read. It describes a typical Millennial’s life journey and overt desire to find our passion, no matter what that passion pays us. It is like an anthem of this generation. Not that all Millennials will work one job a week like Aiken did, but they will strive for meaning in what they do choose to do. Bruce Tulgan uses the term “tapestry” to describe the Millennials career paths, where they want to paint a picture, or create a beautiful work of art with their lives, rather than just climb a corporate ladder to nowhere. Aikens’s book describes that journey, but also previews an intriguing twist with the Millennials: they might actually inspire other generations to question “why” and give up pointless quests for status amidst the rat race as well.
From a leadership perspective, this book is a great reminder that the people I lead have dreams and ambitions. We easily lose sight of that as leaders. In a perfect world, those dreams coincide with their job. But many times, they don’t. Why should I be surprised if they leave my leadership if I don’t care about that meaning? Aiken also gives us numerous examples of how new employees often get treated by companies. If you are an HR leader, this is an especially great book to read to help you understand the mindset of a new employee starting at your company. The little things do matter.
Our followers will not be content with mundane and pointless jobs with no meaning or direction. They see life as being too short to put up with ridiculous demands by leaders. Those domineering leaders will eventually run out of followers willing to put up with them, and they will not be able to compensate for their leadership ineptitude by throwing money at people. 21st century followers will laugh and quit when that happens, rather than stay and be miserable. That will change our workplaces substantially.
I loved this book. Aiken’s writing style reminds me a lot of Donald Miller, and he does a great job of telling the story of his 52 week adventure. Through these stories, he becomes an inadvertent leadership philosopher. It may be a stretch to add it to your leadership bookshelf, but I loved it, and would highly recommend it to anyone feeling a bit restless in your current job. You will soon realize that you are not alone, and many people feel that restlessness. Few of us will create an adventure like Aiken did, but you might be inspired by Aiken’s adventure. As leaders, we might also inspire our followers to find their passion too.
Note: I have no connection to the author or publisher. I did hear Sean speak in person in March 2012. All attendees at this event were given a free copy of the book.