Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Idea

After taking a two-month long hiatus from blogging since graduating from b-school, I am definitely itching to get back to a little bit of writing, and here I am, finally! And writing something that isn't a wannabe marketing plan or cover letter.

It is so rare that I'm actually good enough to sit down and write, but when I do create something original and new during my day that I can feel good about (even if just in the creation of my own mind...)

I am nicer to my family, happier at work, hungrier at dinner. It's like those old Nike ads that said "Running will make you a better ______". Well, writing will make you a better ______!"

I'm currently in the thick of the whole job HUNT experience, and I find that even then-- especially then-- I need something of my own that keeps me creative and happy on the side. Like any good business student, I keep a little black notebook of ideas-- money-making or otherwise. (And in my head--does every business student go through this?-- I can hear, "Create value now, and monetize later!" from my business professor Marty Anderson... while, "Don't be an idiot, don't give anything away for free!" I can hear from Professor Bob Caspe). In my ambivalence to which argument I believe (maybe Groupon will solve that for me.. heh), I settle on the fact that money aside, I'm still always going to want to stay busy with something that makes me happy.

Where is this headed? To my latest idea, which I'm still fleshing out, but which I'm calling The Interview Project for now.

The idea came to me in the midst of doing an informational phone interview with a friend of a friend found on LinkedIn at a company I am interested in working for. What great information I get from talking to friends of friends who have business connections that I need! Yet, I've never even asked such in-depth questions of my friends, or my family. After the informational interview, I turned on NPR and listened to Terry Gross interview James Franco on FreshAir. What great questions, what amazing introspection and wisdom! Thanks to Terry Gross's therapeutic questions and perfect pauses, I feel like I know celebrities better than I know my own people. I turned off the radio and went back online to try to find candid information about the experience of working at the company I was interested in. My search yielded nothing meaningful-- press releases and quotes from What about real information from people who are battling it out in the trenches of career or life like you and me? What about the information that could only come out of an actual interview, of the kind that I had to take many steps to organize myself? Why isn't that information online? What about the stories of people who news magazines and radio shows don't care about, but people who are navigating their careers in mid-level positions, starting businesses, getting married, getting divorced, battling illnesses, keeping together their families, or running institutions-- and are all people like you and me.

My idea is for a website of interviews, recorded and then edited and transposed online into a searchable website of interviews of ordinary people, like you and me, on topics ranging from your rise to vice president of the bank, to your overcoming a traumatic accident, to your long-running marriage, to your fulfillment of a dream of starting your own bread-making business. It is like a memoir in a box.

Thanks to talking this out with my friend KT last night, she pointed out that StoryCorps does this in some respect-- encouraging people to interview their family members in their traveling booths. But StoryCorps asks you to make reservations at one of their traveling booths at certain geographies in the U.S., OR pay a $200 fee to rent out one of their digital recording kits for a week.

I envision The Interview Project to be more accessible and easier to contribute to-- kind of what Yelp has made for doing restaurant reviews, this would be for interviews. Everyone has a profile and can be an interviewer and contribute interviews. I also envision The Interview Project being searchable... if I am applying for a job at say, Yelp, I can search for Yelp employees and get information that I would only get through doing my own informational interviewing. If I am starting up a designer handbag company, I can find someone else who has gone through the same challenges I have. If I am going through mental illness, I can find an interview that perhaps brings me some comfort.

Okay, there are definitely issues about privacy and whether people will want to go on the record with their stories...

But, is this something you would use? appreciate? not?

There is a therapy to being asked questions and being given the space to pontificate... and there is also a therapeutic value to listening. It shouldn't be reserved only for people at the top of the world. As any job hunter right now knows, we all benefit when we interview and are interviewed...


Pankaj said...

As someone who, like many others, regularly searches discussion forums online for hard-to-find information and advice I would definitely find such a website to be a wonderful resource - a Google-of-sorts for not just data but human experience! Awesome idea, should go for it!

Pankaj said...

p.s. but like one of your professors would say, don't drop your day job over it! ;)