living the dream
Aiming high and working hard can indeed land you the job of your dreams. Just take it from them.
by sara cronin
Working part-time at Starbucks fulfilling coffee orders was not necessarily how Eric Buckman pictured his future, so he quit his part-time job to pursue his ultimate dream career of becoming a full-time photographer.
A sports journalist by choice, Josh Croup landed a job immediately after college as a TV news reporter, but he harbors hope to use it to help him forge a career related to sports.
Becoming a writer was something Matt Petras wanted to accomplish since elementary school. After years of pairing his passion for hard work, Petras still is pursuing a job as a reporter.
Achieving a dream career is often thought of as something that is too far out of reach, almost unattainable, and usually never becomes anything more than what it is - a dream. However, through a combination of hard work, luck and networking, getting hired for your dream job, although difficult, is indeed possible.
“Sometimes it is timing, and sometimes it is luck, and sometimes you happen to meet the right people and it just works out,” Casey McGaw said. McGaw is currently working towards her ultimate dream career as a social media coordinator for a national sports team.
According to a survey conducted by the CEO of the employment-oriented site LinkedIn, only one in five Americans are working their dream career. This means that less than 20% of Americans are working in their dream job. The other 70% are working a career that may pay well or have substantial benefits, but does not ultimately satisfy their ultimate dream and aspirations. Pursuing a dream career is usually prevented by settling for a career that is more consistent and materialistically beneficial rather than having a career that satisfies a lifelong passion.
For Buckman, he can trace back to the first time when his interest in photography really started:
10 years ago. He remembers sorting through junk with his grandma at the age of 12 when he
found an old antique film camera. Buckman decided to keep the camera for himself, and
began using it to take images of his everyday life for his own enjoyment. From there, Buckman
continued to pursue his newfound interest.
“When I was 16 and got my first job, I spent my whole first paycheck on getting [my own]
cheap camera. So ever since then, I was really in love with photography,” Buckman said.
“When I was 18, I realized that’s what I wanted to do, and [now] at 22, I’m actually doing it.”
A self-taught photographer, Buckman quit his part-time job at a local Starbucks in October of
2019 to begin pursuing portrait, family, and wedding photography full-time in the new decade.
While the choice of quitting his job helped give him more time to focus on his work and
build his craft, it has also provided many obstacles for Buckman.
“Some nights I don’t sleep because I wonder where my next shoot is going to come from,”
Buckman said. “This is now my career. If I’m not successful, I’m not going to eat. I’m
incredibly stubborn in some ways. I [know] I’m not going to get another job to supplement
this; I’m going to [have] to do this.”
Achieving success in his ultimate dream career also comes with its own stress.
“There are so many things I can only attain by doing more of,” Buckman said.
“Getting enough sales, dealing with all of the competition, going to enough networking events,
having the proper equipment, being able to run ads on social media. I’m trying to maintain what
I’m doing now and go further at the same time so I can get to the next point.”
Buckman believes that others have a “weird” view when it comes to the true idea of success.
“I feel like success is a constant attitude where you’re pursuing to just become better,” Buckman said. “Success isn’t something you just get to, because if you just get to a certain point and you [choose] to settle for that, then that’s not really being successful.”
Besides the obstacles, the pressure, and his own personal struggles, Buckman still believes that choosing to pursue his dream career full-time was the right decision for himself, and believes that following a dream career is attainable for others.
“It’s possible, but not many people are going to do it,” Buckman said. “It requires a lot of discipline, motivation, and stubbornness. You have to be a little crazy to pursue what you really want to do because it won’t make sense at times.”
Croup, a recent Point Park graduate, wasn’t one of those people who chose not to follow his dream.
He is now working as the evening anchor for the CBS Fox affiliate WDTV in northern
West Virginia. Like Buckman, Croup recognized his dream at an early age, and it
became something he always wanted to pursue.
“We had a TV station in elementary school. It was just like morning announcements
and stuff like that,” Croup said. “But in fifth grade, the teacher recruited me to do the
morning announcements and I got really sucked into everything that went into putting
the shows together each morning.”
One thing led to another, and Croup continued to be an active broadcaster from
junior high to high school, and then up through his college career. With an extensive
and impressive portfolio by the end of his senior year of college, Croup applied to
over 40 stations, yet only heard back from one.
A news station director who worked at WDTV came up to Point Park since he knew one
of Croup’s professors at the time. He was invited to talk to Croup’s class and encouraged the students to reach out to him during Croup’s senior year.
After class, in a follow-up email, Croup explained how much he appreciated meeting him, and in the case that he would ever need someone to work for him in the future, Croup decided to include his resume reel.
“He didn’t respond to that email, so I didn’t think there was a chance,” Croup said. “But a couple of months later he said, ‘I was looking for somebody and remembered you, what do you think about setting up an interview?’”
The news director then came up from West Virginia to interview Croup on campus. While away at a conference in Las Vegas, Croup received a phone call and was offered the job to work as the weekend anchor.
“It blew me away; it was a no brainer,” Croup said. “Even though I sent out applications and reels all over the place, even though I didn’t hear back, all it takes is that one person to take a chance on you. That’s what makes it really difficult is just finding somebody and not quitting, to keep pushing to get somebody to take that chance on you.”
Even though he succeeded in attaining a job as a weekly news anchor, Croup still dreams about pursuing a broadcasting career in sports, which was what he was initially interested in pursuing while in college.
“I think about doing sports every day,” Croup said. “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish that I was working with a team or covering sports. But, I had multiple dreams growing up, which I think allowed me to kind of free myself and not tie myself down to one thing.”
Even though working in sports was Croup’s initial dream, he still doesn’t feel as if he settled for less than what he ultimately wanted to achieve.
“I loved working in sports and everything about it, but I also loved news and I loved doing real journalism,” Croup said. “There’s a satisfaction that comes with some of the things I do on a daily basis [that] I know I would never get to do if I didn’t pursue news. It’s not like I gave up one dream for another, it’s just a different type of dream.”
But working his dream career comes with its own set of challenges, and just because he was able to begin working a dream job immediately after college, doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in Croup’s world as a broadcaster.
“There are some days when things are just falling apart and not coming together; When I just sit in my news car after five interviews have been canceled on me and I’m getting extra assignments and I still have to hurry back to the station to anchor,” Croup said. “Those are the days where you find out who you really are and what you’re made of. Those are the days when you find out if you’re really cut out for this. There are a lot of those days where you tell yourself, ‘I don’t think this is it.’”
However, despite some of Croup’s own struggles, he explains that the most challenging days are the ones that test your limits and help you recognize your strength and passion.
“I’m sure there are people who are at the top of their game but still think ‘is this something I really want to do?’ It’s so taxing mentally and physically on some days. Those bad days are the ones where you almost figure out who you are the most and how to overcome those,” Croup said.
“It’s just a lot of self-doubt that you have to overcome,” said Croup. “It never truly goes away.”
I think this would make a good pull quote.
Matt Petras, a 2018 Point Park graduate, was also able to land his dream job as a writer immediately after college through his own personal combination of hard work and luck.
Now freelancing for publications like Public Source, the Mon Valley Independent, and the City Paper, Petras also works as a tutor at Point Park and has worked on several local journalism projects around the city.
Petras remembers one time on Twitter, there was a common trend about posting a tweet about what your dream jobs had been when you were a kid versus what it is now.
“My [tweet] said that in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. In middle school, I wanted to be a writer. In high school, I wanted to be a writer. In college I wanted to be an educator and a writer,” Petras said. “Now I’m an educator and a writer who wishes he made more, and I think that was the joke to the tweet.”
Despite not getting an excessive amount of income, Petras enjoys the kind of work that he does both in education and in journalism.
“I’m financially stable enough, that’s not a problem,” Petras said. “I can make fine money. It’s not anything amazing, but it’s enough.”
Petras hopes to save enough to move out of his parents’ home and get a place of his own to share with his girlfriend around the beginning of summer with the money he earns both from working his two dream careers in journalism and education.
“I’ve wanted to be a writer since middle school, and I’ve had thoughts throughout my life every now and then of being an educator,” Petras said. “If a full-time reporting position opened up that I really liked, I would probably take it, but I would still want to do education work in some way if I could or at the very least plan to do it later because I definitely like both.”
Petras remembers that when he was younger, his sixth grade English teacher would always remark seeing him with a book in his hand and that he was always reading something. His small interest in English and writing had only grown and expanded from there.
“In my classes, I always did well in English. It was just something that I happened to be good at,” Petras said. “As you get older you expand on those things. I’ve always had a lot of thoughts and I want to share them with journalism. There’s just something interesting and fun about learning new things, and finding unique and interesting ways to express them.”
Even though Petras is now working a career that he had always wanted at a younger age and throughout the majority of his life when people ask about Petras’ career, he never refers to it as his “dream” job.
“Personally, I never say that I am doing my dream job. I don’t really phrase it that way. I think it's because that just sounds so lofty,” Petras said. “I just think that people shouldn’t put unrealistic expectations on themselves. You’re always going to be disciplining yourself for not having what you want.”
Just because Petras doesn’t consider himself working his “dream” job doesn’t mean that he deems himself as unsuccessful.
“I think people trip themselves up and they say ‘if I’m not a nationally-read author, then I’ve failed.’ That’s a bad way to look at it,” Petras said. “It’d be awesome if I wrote in national publications one day, but I don’t feel like I’m a failure [because I’m not]. I think that there’s a specific type of value in writing for a local publication.”
Just because Petras doesn’t feel like a failure for not achieving the top of his career’s requirements doesn’t mean that he still has nightmares of failure.
After graduating from college, one of Petras’ greatest challenges was quitting his part-time job at Giant Eagle, where he had been working since he was 16. Petras was freelancing wherever he could, and slowly, little by little was working less and less hours at Giant Eagle.
Petras was discussing what time he needed off with his manager when he realized that it kept getting more difficult to fit in his availability with his freelancing work. His manager asked him why he even bothered to still work there, and in realizing that his manager was right, Petras decided to quit.
“I was really nervous about it, and I still to this day have nightmares about going back,” Petras said. “It’s not because Giant Eagle is the worst, most horrible job. For me, leaving there was me starting to do what I wanted to do in my professional career.”
Petras went on to explain that there is nothing shameful about working at a job like he was at Giant Eagle, but for him, having to resort to going back there for a job would prove that he was unsuccessful in pursuing his professional career.
“Finally carving [Giant Eagle] off was a big gamble, and so for me, if I had to go back there, it would feel like I failed,” Petras said. “That fear doesn’t go away for me at least, it’s still there. You just have to keep working hard and cross your fingers. I do think that you hit a point, and I think I’ve hit this point, where things are good and unless I really screw things up, I’m fine.”
Although Petras explains that there is no harm in setting large goals and dreams for yourself, sometimes it’s more beneficial to look and plan from where you might be in your own life now.
“I think for the most part it’s more valuable to look at where we will want to be next month instead of where we will want to be in 10 years,” Petras said. “Sometimes you have to do long-term planning because you have to decide whether you want to pay for a four-year degree, for example. If you don’t have to for obvious financial reasons like that, just [take it] one step at a time, trying to be better than the person you were yesterday.”
For McGaw, taking it one step at a time and improving the person she was yesterday has continuously helped her as she continues to work towards her ultimate dream of running social media for a national and professional sports team.
In college, McGaw worked numerous internships for local sports teams,
including the Pittsburgh Penguins, where she fell in love with working for a
national hockey team. Now currently working as the Social Media Coordinator
for the Indianapolis Indians baseball team in Indiana, McGaw is determined
to continue to work hard in her current position in order to pursue her
McGaw explained that if it hadn’t been the work and determination she put in
while in college, she wouldn’t have been even close to where she is now.
“I feel like you can’t have luck if you don’t work hard,” McGaw said. “A spot
opened up for the Penguins after I already had this job, and then some other
girl got it because she was at the right place at the right time. If that had
been me and I had not worked hard, I wouldn’t have had the right people
vouch for me. If I was at the right place at the right time, but I hadn’t worked
hard before that, nobody would have stuck their necks out for me.”
However, as McGaw works towards her ultimate dream of working for a national team in social media, her hard work comes with its own disadvantages.
“I often feel a lot of anxiety about turning my phone off and not being around it because you’re just on 24/7,” McGaw said.
McGaw’s week as a social media coordinator presents its own challenges with trying to come up with new and creative content, to keep its fans and audiences engaged during the off-season and planning each particular post before its audience views it.
However, social media is something that she fell in love with during college and believes that she can continue to pursue her dream with the work that she’s already put in towards exceeding in her career.
“There are so many talented, talented people with big teams with millions of followers, and it’s like, how do I feel successful compared to all these people, so it’s a double- edged sword,” McGaw said. “Personally, I think I’m a big fish in a little pond, but when I look at the grand scheme of sports social, I’m nowhere near the top, and that’s always something to keep striving for.”
Finding your dream job can be possible, but comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles leading up to finally succeeding and achieving it, and even once you have achieved your job.
“You can make your dream whatever you want it to be. The higher you set your goals, the better chance you have of achieving them,” Croup said.
Keywords: Dream, Job, Career, Working, College, Pursue, Journalism, Media
Sara Cronin is a senior photojournalism major at Point Park University.
Eric Buckman, a self -taught wedding photographer, quit his job at Starbucks to pursue his dream career full-time
Josh Croup knew from a young age he wanted to work in broadcasting
Josh Croup now works as a news anchor for WDTV, a news station in northern West Virginia
Casey McGaw is the social media coordinator for the Indianapolis Indians baseball team
McGaw hopes to one day work for a national sports team