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WFAE's 'Work It' Podcast: Finding The Depth Behind The Small Talk

Work It

What do a carpet installer, a day trader and a burlesque dancer have in common? They're all featured on WFAE's Work It podcast. The first episode debuts Friday. The podcast explores people's relationship with their jobs and how it shapes their view of the world. The hosts are Stephanie Hale and Jill Bjers, who pitched their idea through WFAE's Queen City PodQuest last year and won a chance to work with WFAE to develop the podcast. They join us.

Lisa Worf: Good morning.

Jill Bjers: Good morning.

Stephanie Hale: Good morning.

Worf: So first, what is it about a person's job that's so revealing?

Work It Hosts
Jill Bjers (left) and Stephanie Hale won WFAE's Queen City PodQuest last year for their idea for the podcast Work It.

Hale: So in my experience of just talking to people about their jobs all the time, even before the podcast, what I find really interesting is that people really see the world from a unique perspective by virtue of their job. And what I always find interesting is that they also see themselves -- like who they are in the world -- by that seat they sit in for their jobs.

One of the things that I hope people connect with is that these are regular people. And I think one of the things that comes up a lot when you look at podcasts about work is, like, genius entrepreneurs, millionaires. Major success stories. And I think that's one of the key differences of the Work It podcast, is we're interviewing ordinary people, working ordinary jobs, but their experiences are really interesting and meaningful.

Worf: Now, when you were finding people to interview, what came first -- the job or the particular person and how they might respond to their job?

Hale: The job.

Bjers: The job.

Hale: What was interesting is we didn't pick these people because they were incredible. We picked them because they had this job and then found out they were incredible as we were talking to them.

Worf: What kind of surprising moments came up in these interviews that have really stuck with you?

Bjers: The level of just like vulnerability and openness that they gave us was amazing. How do you describe Cindy and Lindsay? Like, yeah ... talk about transformation and acceptance and watching that transformation from not really being comfortable in your own skin to taking charge of your life and your body and your future. It was super hard to not fangirl during the interview the whole time.

Worf: And are you talking about, one of those women -- is that the piercer in the first episode?

Bjers: Yes. She talks about reclaiming your body and like all of the deeper meanings that piercing has.

Cindy: You know, sometimes you have clients who just literally will look at their new piercing in the mirror and just burst into tears. And, you know, a lot of it's an emotional catharsis sometimes because they're experiencing, they're letting go of grief and experiencing joy and finally feeling like, you know, they look the way they want to look and reclaiming their body. And that's really important to me.

Worf: And that was part of an episode that looked at people in different jobs dealing with pain. It also included a lawyer who dealt with employment cases -- people going through a lot of pain there, and a doula who dealt with women going through labor.

Did all of the people you spoke with see that their job was a crucial part of their life story, a life-defining? Or did that take some talking through when you approached them?

Bjers: Not all of them thought of their job as life-defining. I feel like all of them were really excited that somebody was interested in talking to them about their job, though. While often the "what do you do" question is so much part of our small talk, the actually listening to it and wanting to hear more and being curious about what somebody else does for a living isn't necessarily part of that small talk. That idea that we wanted to know more was really well-received by everybody that we interviewed.

Worf: That's Jill Bjers and Stephanie Hale, hosts of WFAE's Work It podcast. Thanks so much.

Hale and Bjers: Thanks for having us.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.