513: One Week’s Employment

What job would you like to try out for a week?


Full episode script

Around 2007 and 2008, there were two separate sets of stories that both had a focus on a very specific idea — one week of work. I have no idea if one of these ideas influenced the other, but either way it’s an example of synchronicity of ideas.

The first is a project by then-recent college graduate Sean Aiken, who started a project called the One Week Job. As he explains it, quote:

How it worked: Anyone, anywhere, could offer Sean a job for one week. Any money he earned for the work, he asked the employer to donate towards the ONE / Make Poverty History campaign. On his quest, Sean trekked more than 55,000 miles, slept on 55 couches, and tried every job he could: Bungee Instructor, Dairy Farmer, Advertising Executive, Baker, Stock Trader, Firefighter, and more.

Around the same time, then then-small web company Weebly was trying out something very similar. As they explained to CNBC in 2016, quote:

“We were hiring our first person. We knew it was a critical hire and we couldn’t make up our minds,” Rusenko, CEO of the web publishing start-up, tells CNBC. “So we thought, well why don’t we bring them in for a week and work with them? We’ll pay them and just see whether it works.” It ended up being “one of the best things we ever did,” the CEO says, and this process evolved into what Weebly now calls its “trial week.”

“You do real work,” Rusenko says of the trial week, which every prospective employee gets paid to complete before getting an offer. “You get in and hit the ground running. It’s an opportunity for people to show their work and show the quality of their work.” At the end of the trial week, the candidates present their work to three to five employees.

“Usually there’s a project, so you have the opportunity to show your work and the progress you were able to make on the project,” Rusenko explains. “That day, we would follow up with an offer or not. … There’s a 75 percent pass rate.”

It’s a pretty big idea for sure — to try out something for a week instead of dedicating yourself to something that you may or may not have a good feel for before you agree.

As British author Roman Krznaric puts it in Salon,

instead of pondering your ideal occupation long and hard, just pick something. Nearly anything will do. “We need to act first and think afterwards,” he said. Once you’ve tried something, you’re in a much better position to decide whether you like it or not.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.