After family and health, career events have the biggest impact on people’s lives. And rightfully so—our career decisions and daily career-related activities can significantly influence our stress, happiness and overall perceptions of ourselves.
Talent professionals are often responsible for helping people through moments of career change by introducing them to new jobs or bringing them into a new role. Empathy is an asset for recruiters in these moments, and hearing people’s stories is a great way to develop that kind of empathy.
Brandon Stanton, photographer and blogger for Humans of New York, uncovers these types of stories through interviews and street portraits of New Yorkers. He started the blog in 2010 and has since documented thousands of short stories and photographs of strangers in New York City. Many of his subjects’ narratives are focused on work and careers, like these:
“My mom grew up in a poor village in Nigeria. Her parents sent her to live with her aunt, who basically treated her like a maid. She said that every day she would pray for her children to be great. Growing up, she’d always address me with the word ‘great.’ When I wanted to be a computer scientist, she’d refer to me as her ‘great computer scientist.’ When I decided I’d rather be an engineer, she called me her ‘great engineer.’ Then, ‘my great CEO.’” Source
“I’m the lead designer for Stetson hats. I’ve never met someone as crazy about hats as me. My goal in life is for everyone to understand that there is a hat out there for them. I’m not even selling hats. I’m selling romance.” Source
With his gift for creating impactful moments out of everyday encounters, we invited Brandon to Indeed Interactive to share the most memorable stories he’s uncovered about careers and pursuing your life’s work, including his own.
Brandon’s story isn’t just about a man who started a photography blog that eventually morphed into a #1 New York Times best-selling book. It’s about his quest to connect with himself, his work and the people who’ve inspired him along the way. The story he shared at Indeed Interactive is applicable to anyone who has searched for happiness in their work, and provides valuable insights for talent professionals on how to share meaningful interactions with total strangers.
Here are two lessons about pursuing your life’s work from the man behind Humans of New York:
“Anything great that you want to do, you have to start before you’re ready.”
Before starting Humans of New York, Brandon decided to pursue a career in photography. He taught himself how to take photographs and committed to the process of working as a photographer, even though he had to teach himself the tricks of the trade. But the idea to photograph New Yorkers and share their stories didn’t come initially—“If I waited until I had the idea for Humans of New York before I decided to be a photographer, I wouldn’t be here today.”
For people who are career planning or investigating new opportunities, Brandon’s experience is a great example of taking actions to explore a dream, even if you’re not 100% sure about where it will lead.
“There are so many people out there planning or sketching their dreams in notebooks and it’s such a safe place to be. Because when you’re planning, you can’t fail. Instead of writing the first 400 pages of that great novel, you’re writing four pages of plot outlines and character sketches because it’s so scary to start. Anything great that you want to do, you have to start before you’re ready and you have to trust that you’ll become who you need to be on the way.”
“Follow your curiosity.”
As part of his process, Brandon interviews his subjects by asking intimate questions about their lives, careers, fears and dreams. To help people feel comfortable answering such questions, he makes the experience as informal as possible and evokes a calm curiosity to uncover the most human and honest answers from his subjects.
“Even in the interview process, as I transition from just photographing people to interviewing them, I’m trying to figure out what can I learn from this person that’s different than the other 10,000 people that I’ve talked to. The more I’m able to bring that out in the interview process, the faster the blog grows and the more it succeeds.”
One of Brandon’s secrets to great interviews is to make them as informal as possible. This puts people at ease and leads to unscripted answers and stories—another lesson we can easily apply to the candidate interview process.