Dream Job: Angela Smith, Marketing Manager -The Humane Society of Missouri

Meet Angela

angela smith

Marketing Manager for The Humane Society of Missouri

Do you love to solve problems? Where others are deflated or distracted by problems you feel energized to take action. You enjoy analyzing evidence, identifying key factors, and creating a solution. Your strength is being restorative and because of your intervention, you able to save and resuscitate the problems you see.

You can’t help but feel at ease when around Angela. Her sharp wit will make you laugh and her ability to make quick, informed decisions will leave you wondering why you hadn’t seen it all along. Her ability to think practically and feel empathetically is a powerful combo that allows her to share her rare point of view.

If fixing problems comes naturally to you, you may find a career in facing the hard issues highly rewarding. Read on to see how Angela found a career that suited her strategic thought process and her love for animals.

What does the phrase “Dream Job” mean to you. 

For me, a “dream job” is a place I feel good about spending 40+ hours a week. There’s creative freedom, passionate people, good leadership, and growth opportunities. The work I do also has to make a positive impact on the community, or I honestly cannot sleep at night.

The Humane Society of Missouri is that “dream job” for me. It’s been around for 146 years. That’s 1,022 dog years! We operate three animal shelters, three veterinary clinics, a ranch for abused horses and farm animals, and we have a statewide animal cruelty task force that is on call 24/7, 365. It’s a huge undertaking, and the people who work for the Humane Society put all of themselves into making a better life for animals in need.

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

Marketing Manager for the Humane Society of Missouri. This is my sixth year with the organization, which is the longest I’ve ever committed to anything in my life. As Marketing Manager, I help get the message out about the Humane Society of Missouri’s many incredible resources in St. Louis and beyond. It’s part account manager/digital strategist/copywriter/event coordinator/media spokesperson/kitten cuddler. That last part’s pretty great. Actually, it’s all pretty great.

angela with cat

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

After college, I interned and was hired on at Fleishman-Hillard, a global PR agency headquartered in St. Louis. It was an excellent first job, and I’m positive having Fleishman on my resume got me the interview at the Humane Society. Non-profits like to hire agency people, and with good reason. I was used to a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines and challenging projects, and I think the Humane Society saw that and knew I’d work hard for them and bring in some industry knowledge.

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

I have a distinct memory of being 7 years old, playing charades with my Girl Scout Troop. We were supposed to act out what we wanted to be when we grew up. All of the girls pretended to be moms or teachers. Both fine. It got to me, and everyone was stumped. I picked lawyer. The troop leader finally let me say “My client is not guilty, your honor!” so the other girls would get it. That was the day I broke charades. And the Girl Scout Glass Ceiling.

Going into college, I wanted to be a television writer. I’d done a high school program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and thought for sure that I’d be moving to Manhattan that fall to write the next Seinfeld. Maybe I would have, if NYU had accepted me for undergrad. That rejection made me rethink the whole “writing for a living” thing, and I stumbled through majors like biology and anthropology before finding a fit in public relations and advertising.

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

Working in animal welfare is fascinating and rewarding. The best part is being able to use my skill set to make a better life for homeless, abused and neglected animals. Some days, I can’t believe I get to pay my bills doing something that means so much to me. I’m very grateful. Also, I get to bring my dog to work every day. That’s a perk.

There’s a lot of variety to my job, and that’s one of the best parts, too. One day I might be at a hoarder house, documenting our Animal Cruelty Task Force rescuing 180 cats. The next, I’m on TV with a llama talking about a spring promotion. And sometimes, my “other duties as assigned” might have me warming newborn puppies under my shirt to get their internal body temperature stabilized, because we just rescued a litter of ten from an abandoned building and they need help.

Ultimately, what makes my job the “dream job” is my boss and the other people in my department. A good boss is everything. Mine gives us so much freedom to be creative, to try new things, to take risks – and they usually pay off. So many of our successful adoption promotions and event ideas were born from one of us barging into our boss’s office, rambling off something like “What if we took puppies around town to visit people on Valentine’s Day?? We could call it a Puppy Gram!” And then my boss will say “Ok. Talk to everyone who would be involved and troubleshoot it. Let’s see if we can make it happen.”    

cat magazine

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different? 

Seeing animal abuse up close. You never get used to it. I never want to get used to it. Some people tease me because to them, my job looks like it’s kittens and puppies and rainbows all day. The sad reality is, we respond to abuse calls constantly. Some are horrific and make you hate the world and everyone in it. I’ve had to photograph dogs that had boiling water thrown on them. Dogs that were dragged behind cars. Animals thrown away with the garbage, still very much alive. As a person with so much empathy for animals, it’s a nightmare for me. Unfortunately, animal protection laws in Missouri are weak, so the penalties for animal cruelty are nowhere near strong enough. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating. But I see our Animal Cruelty Task Force, our vet team, our animal care staff, all coming together to help these poor animals. They’re really the best of humanity, and animal abusers are the worst.

angela on camera with cats

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?  

I’m a writer and producer for Sketchpad Comedy – a monthly sketch comedy show happening right here in St. Louis. We also have a podcast, Welcome Thru Effingham, which I write and perform on. There’s a lot of great stuff happening in the St. Louis independent comedy scene, and I’m just happy to participate in its growth in some small way.

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

I definitely look up to my boss, and not just because I’d love to have her job someday (after she retires, which I’ve already begged her not to do. Ever.) She’s so good at managing her department, and she sets the example for us by being ready and willing to do whatever task is needed of her. I feel like she’s created a very positive and collaborative workplace culture.

I also look up to the President of our organization. She has made so much happen for the Humane Society of Missouri. Before her, there was no Longmeadow Rescue Ranch. There was no Chesterfield Valley location. So many more animals have been helped because of her vision. She continues to move the organization forward, and that’s one of the many reasons I’m proud to work here.

angela smith puppy bowl

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

Get really good at something that will benefit the organization you want to work for. People think that just because they love animals, that makes them qualified to work in animal welfare. It’s definitely a plus, but you have to offer more than that. If you’re able to get on somewhere, keep learning. Network with industry people. Stay on top of trends. Always try to add value to the organization.

Know that the job will break your heart a thousand times. Don’t ever let that make you care less. Compassion fatigue is very real in this sector, so have a support system in place to navigate the tough times. Don’t ever become one of those people who talks about how much they hate humans and animals are superior. It’s not that I haven’t thought that a few times, but people can be amazing. And you need those people to adopt the animals you’ve put so much of your heart into.

Any other passing words of advice or anything neat you have going on that you would like to share with us?

Spay or neuter your pets! It’s the only solution to ending pet overpopulation. Also, if you witness animal abuse or neglect, you can call 314-647-4400 or report abuse at hsmo.org/reportabuse. You can do it anonymously. It’s free. But we can’t help an animal that we don’t know about. Finally, we’re always in need of dedicated volunteers. You can learn more about those opportunities at hsmo.org/volunteer.

Work Theory is a website designed around the idea that humans should have access to jobs that they enjoy and can make a living doing. The Dream Job series gives us a glimpse into the lives of people who have managed to achieve consistent satisfaction and happiness in their career. The jobs they work are as diverse as the lives led by these individuals. “Like” Work Theory on Facebook to remain a part of the story.

If you, or someone you know is living their dream job and are interested in being interviewed, please contact Annie here.


Deconstructing Purpose


The Purpose Diagram

purpose diagram
Image shared from Marsha McCartney




The word’s meaning seems…big…complicated… nebulous.

It is much easier to process  words like “mission”, “profession”, “passion”, and “vocation.” Each of these words is slightly more specific. Each of these words provoke their own, unique, curiosity.

The graph above breaks it down for us.

Vocation or Mission? – The world needs it.

Passion or Mission? – You love it. 

Passion or Profession? – You are great at it. 

Profession or Vocation? – You are paid to do it. 

Therefore, a purpose is something that the world needs, that you love doing, that you are great at, AND, that you get paid to do. 

That feels big. Too big.

By breaking down the outer circles of the diagram, we find there are actionable items. These actions include:

  1. Doing something one enjoys
  2. Practicing a skill
  3. Giving gifts
  4. Receiving gifts

What does is take to pursue your purpose? It starts with making a choice to accomplish one of the action items listed above. And fortunately, choices become easier to make the more we practice making them.

Unfortunately, pursuing your purpose doesn’t shield you from systems of inequalities, hardships, or the adverse effects of choosing.


But, many times, purpose can be discovered in the difficulties we face.

Purpose may seem like a big, complicated, and confusing idea – but that is the nature of ideas. Purpose can be broken down into actionable items. Actions are literally the things that we do. Achieving satisfying, and meaningful work starts with making a choice.

Not sure where to begin making choices? It starts and ends with knowing yourself. Click this link to learn the actionable ways in which to find what you love. 





34 Talent Themes to Get You to a Satisfying Career

34 Talent Themes to Get You to a Satisfying Career


As humans, we like to group ideas together. It helps us organize our lives to make day to day living easier in a vastly complex world. In the science world we see nomenclature, the system of names, make its contribution through helping us put into words connections and boundaries that exist in life and the environment around us. For example, humans may seem very different from the sea creatures that flip, have fins, and live in the water, but because of researched criteria, our organizational system shows us the connection humans have with dolphins – we’re both mammals.  In a very basic way, it helps us understand our likenesses and differences. When we can do that, we are best able to understand how to utilize our abilities together as a functioning system (aka society). I attended Neil De Grasse Tyson’s presentation on the Cosmos. A memorable idea he passed on was that humans are not special because an individual is more unique than another, but because we are all connected.

Work Theory likes to utilize the talent themes researched and identified by Gallup, Inc. because it is an organizational structure that focuses on connectedness and understanding of a complete set of themes.The theory behind Gallup’s Strengthsfinder is that all humans encompass 34 talent themes. In particular, we naturally identify in a stronger way to 5 of the 34 talent themes. We have the ability to practice innate talents and turn them into strengths. It also emphasizes that we focus on our top 5 talents, instead of hustling to improve our weaker talents. Through this system, we find that some strengths can pair with others to create greater outcomes as a team, and therefore on an individual level as well. There is no one talent better than another. They simply describe an approach one takes to arrive at ideas, behaviors, and solutions.


Below is the list and brief descriptions of each of the 34 talent themes as outlined in Gallup’s reference card. Feel free to click on the linked talent themes to view a Dream Job interview of someone who identifies with that talent.

Achiever® People strong in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

Activator® People strong in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.

Adaptability® People strong in the Adaptability theme prefer to “go with the flow.” They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

Analytical® People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.

Arranger® People strong in the Arranger theme can organize, but they also have a flexibility that complements this ability. They like to figure out how all of the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

Belief®  People strong in the Belief theme have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for their life.

Command® People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

Communication® People strong in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.

Competition® People strong in the Competition theme measure their progress against the performance of others. They strive to win first place and revel in contests.

Connectedness®  People strong in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

Consistency®  People strong in the Consistency theme (also called Fairness in the first StrengthsFinder assessment) are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same. They try to treat everyone in the world fairly by setting up clear rules and adhering to them.

Context® People strong in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

Deliberative® People strong in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate the obstacles.

Developer® People strong in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.

Discipline® People strong in the Discipline theme enjoy routine and structure. Their world is best described by the order they create.

Empathy® People strong in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

Focus®  People strong in the Focus theme can take a direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.

Futuristic® People strong in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future.

Harmony® People strong in the Harmony theme look for consensus. They don’t enjoy conflict; rather, they seek areas of agreement.

Ideation® People strong in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Includer® People strong in the Inclusiveness theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.

Individualization® People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.

Input®  People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Intellection® People strong in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Learner®  People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

Maximizer®  People strong in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.

Positivity®  People strong in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.

Relator® People who are strong in the Relator theme enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

Responsibility® People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.

Restorative®  People strong in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.

Self-Assurance® People strong in the Self-assurance theme feel confident in their ability to manage their own lives. They possess an inner compass that gives them confidence that their decisions are right.

Significance®  People strong in the Significance theme want to be very important in the eyes of others. They are independent and want to be recognized.

Strategic®  People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

Woo®  People strong in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.

Work Theory is not associated, endorsed, or sponsored by Gallup, Inc. in any way. We simply admire their work and hope to add to their conversation. Visit https://www.gallupstrengthscenter.com/ for more information on the science of talent themes. 


Dream Job: Jason Dent, International Professional Rodeo Entertainer

Meet Jason

jason face

International Professional Rodeo Entertainer

Are you someone who lives in the moment? Perhaps you have plans but you expect unforeseen detours. Are you comfortable discovering your future one choice at a time? You may be someone with the talent of Adaptability. Someone with an Adaptability talent may avoid roles that demand structure and predictability because they are a flexible person that is able to remain productive even while being pulled in many directions at once. This person treasures their independence, spontaneity, and is able to produce when the pressure is on.

When speaking with Jason, his vibrant personality is immediately disarming. His humor and warm heart makes you feel like you’re with an old friend. Jason doesn’t fear being the entertainer and happily puts himself out there to make others feel welcomed. He holds strong convictions from lessons he has learned in life and is eager to pass them on to others to lend a helping hand.  Jason genuinely cares for others well-being and is willing to let go of his inhibitions to show them that he cares.

I was fortunate to interview Jason over the phone and transcribe that conversation to bring you the life of an International Professional Rodeo Entertainer, as told by Jason.

What does the phrase “Dream Job” mean to you?

A dream job is something that you’re happy and comfortable doing and it never wears out. It’s what you would do in your spare time… but you do it full time. It’s something that you’re in control of enough that it doesn’t become politics to where all the sudden it becomes a job.

It is something that you can continually have pride in to where you don’t let the politics over take you.  People always tell me I need to stay in the arena more. “Stay in your barrel!” they say. That’s not my idea of all that rodeo clowns do. I was a bull rider. When I became a rodeo clown I knew what I didn’t like in the clowns so I removed all of it. I got a lot of opposition in the beginning for it from a lot of contractors, but I just stayed true to what I wanted to do and to the outcome I wanted for the rodeo.

A dream job is when you have fun at your job and you sleep good at night because you’re doing right by everybody that’s in the whole field and you still want to wake up and do it again. You know, that’s total freedom. If you’re constantly wishing you had things that other people have,  you can’t focus on what you’re doing.

jason in makeup 2

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

International Professional Rodeo Entertainer.

In the rodeo you have a guy in face paint and baggies. He’s got suspenders, handkerchiefs, wild colors, and is around the arena the whole time. He’s there during the bull riding and he intertwines with the crowd. That’s what I do. I don’t bull fight and I’m not the two guys that come out that try to protect the bull rider while he’s riding. I mean, I have to protect the cowboy and I have to be trained in bull fighting to do that, but as back-up. I’m there specifically for the crowd. I get to go into the crowd. I get to talk with the announcer. Ask ‘em questions. If someone in the crowd has a question, I can go over there and use my mic and let their voice be heard. It kind of marries the crowd to the rodeo.

jason running from bull

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

I was a bull rider for 12 years. And I mean I loved it! I love everything about rodeo. I trained horses. I have a bull that I broke to ride that’s part of my show and my act. I live on a farm. I raise horses. It’s just something that’s kind of in me. When I quit riding bulls, I didn’t want to quit rodeo and I didn’t want to rope. I didn’t want to be a roper, but I wanted to continue something in the rodeo. I was always in the speech classes, drama classes, the school plays, and the community plays. And one of my contractors asked, “Why don’t you be my clown?”

And I thought, “Hmm. I spent a lot of time being a bad ass bull rider.”Having that image, I didn’t want to go out there and act like a jackass and ruin it all. And he’s like “Oh, I’ll pay ya” and I thought, “Well, I guess I’ll give it a try.”

It turns out I was like a duck in water and I felt like, dude I should’ve been doing this my whole life.

…how did you initially get into bull riding?

I was really into horses. Nobody did it where I grew up. Nobody in my family. My grandpa showed a lot of cattle. He was a cowboy and I always thought my grandpa was bad ass. My brother rode some bulls for a while when he was in college and had a bunch of buddies that were rodeo guys. He’s ten years older than me so he’d let me go with him every once in a while. He just did it for a short period of time but I got to experience a couple of those with him and it just never left me.

jason staanding on horse

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

I always wanted to be a veterinarian. But I don’t like people who don’t have actual experience trying to tell me how to learn and what to do. There’s these professors that write books and they know a lot of stuff but they’ve never actually done it. So I used to want to be a veterinarian until I got to the spot where it needed to happen and I just thought, “Man, I can’t stand these people telling me, that have no idea.” I’ve been around this stuff my whole life and it just really got under my skin.  I always wanted to be a vet as it turns out, I’m just a cowboy.

At 25, I was still riding bulls, bar fighting, and just being a complete rebel. I was just a rebel outlaw. In my twenties I was thinking about dying. I thought when I’m dead, I want everyone to be like, “That’s a crazy-bad-mother-bull-riding-machine.” And my theory, I don’t know why, for some reason I got on this deal of making decade goals. The goal for the decade of my twenties was that I wanted to be a bad ass cowboy, that was it.

I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew what I wanted people to say about me. So, I acted that way and I would write letters to Kevin Costner, and send letters to Hollywood. I would send videos to all of the reality TV shows, trying to get on all the shows. In my 20’s, I was just like, I’m going to be a bad ass and hope somebody is going to pick me up. They never did. I got a lot of opposition from everybody within my family, like “God, bull riding is dumb. All you’re doing is wasting money. You lose your license all the time. You’re always in jail.” It was never malice. It was what I wanted to do. I was making those choices so that people would think that I’m a bull riding machine. In my mind that’s what I was doing even though it was costing me. When I turned 30, it was all about making money and knocking down opportunities.

jason blowing whistle

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is knowing the impact that I have on young people. Yeah, the money’s awesome, the interviews, the TV, and all that. The celebrity type part of that is awesome. But I will guarantee you, for me it’s knowing the impact I’m having on the people that are there watching. You never ever know the full depth of what you’re doing but it is doing it.

There are old people and young people alike that are impacted by something that I did. They are impacted by something that I’ve done and I love hearing about it. I know that’s happening even if I feel like I did a bad job. There will be 1 or 2 percent of the people that say that it’s the coolest thing they ever did. And I’m a hugger -touchy feely, smiley. I would put myself in harm just to help somebody else. I don’t give a shit if I’m having a bad day. I don’t breed it into other people. A lot of times men and women alike will be like “Hey, that was awesome,” and I’ll give em a big ol’ hug. They say, “Man I guess I’ve never really been hugged before and but I really felt like you meant it.” And I think, “Weird – I did mean it”.

I’m very genuine because I know the impact that I have on people. It is a big deal. Some kid out there from the city had no idea what the rodeo was, what clowning was, or anything. Now he wants to be a rodeo clown, to be funny, to touch people, and do what I did. And I like it.

jason holding baby

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different? 

That’s a tough one. I don’t like politics at all. It hasn’t really affected me, but once you hit being an international professional, it gets to the point where they’ll try to dictate some of my act, and I’m not going to allow it to happen. You start making the big bucks and they think they have power over you because they’re paying you lot of money. I think I’m going to struggle with that.

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?

I weld metal art, I auctioneer, and I raise live stock on a farm. Corn and cattle and horses and soy beans.

Jason with bull

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

There is a rodeo entertainer by the name of J.J Harrison. He’s just real level headed and whenever I call him and ask him for advice or whatever, he gives it to me. He’s always trying to help me. I don’t know the guy very well, I just know it’s alright when you don’t have a relationship with somebody and they still try to help you AND you’re in the same field as them. That to me is unheard of. I’m competing for the same jobs that he’s doing, and he’s still trying to help me be good – great, really.

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

The 4 C’s. Character, Charisma, Confidence, and Courage. It’s not having what you want, but wanting what you have – that’s what the 4 C’s are. Those four things are written on my wall, everywhere, because that’s what keeps me level.

jason over bull

If you could read these questions about someone else, who would you want to see answer them? (can give a job title or name a specific person).

Don Wagner, he’s an auctioneer.

Any other passing words of advice or anything neat you have going on that you would like to share with us?

I want everybody to like my page on Facebook. I want it to get so many likes that you can’t like it anymore. I don’t know what that number is, but my goal for 2016 is to have 60,000 likes on my Facebook page. I want 60,000 likes on my first full year of being an international rodeo entertainer.

I’ll be in Des Moines, Iowa at the Wells Fargo arena January 8th and 9th.  Then we go to Moline, Illinois, January 22 and 23, for the World’s Toughest, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the 29th and 30th  of January.

Work Theory is a website designed around the idea that humans should have access to jobs that they enjoy and can make a living doing. The Dream Job series gives us a glimpse into the lives of people who have managed to achieve consistent satisfaction and happiness in their career. The jobs they work are as diverse as the lives led by these individuals. “Like” Work Theory on Facebook to remain a part of the story.

If you, or someone you know is living their dream job and are interested in being interviewed, please contact Annie here.


Dream Job: Jarek Steele, Co-Owner Of Left Bank Books

Meet Jarek

jarek with word quote

Co-Owner of Left Bank Books

Are you someone who sees the potential in others? Do you enjoy interacting with others to help them succeed and look for ways to challenge them? Perhaps you believe all individuals are a work in progress, alive with possibilities. Increments of growth may be invisible to some, but to you, small steps are signs of growth that give you strength and satisfaction. You may be someone with the talent of Developer.

Jarek is kind, thoughtful, and full of courage. I first met Jarek at a diversity and inclusion training event hosted at Left Bank Books. He self identified as shy and introverted yet still stood up in front of a group of strangers to tell his truth about struggles he was facing. I eventually ran into Jarek again while I was working and introduced myself. The brief interaction ended in a warm embrace, because although I was a stranger, Jarek cared. Jarek sees the best in people, is understanding and patient. He reaches beyond what he sees is possible in hopes of a building something greater for us all.

Please enjoy the beauty in struggle and wonderful tale of how Jarek got to his dream job. Even further into the article, Jarek shares insightful advice for those interested in a similar career.

What does the phrase “Dream Job” mean to you.

A dream job projects to the world the person you aspire to be and gives you the freedom to grow by doing it.

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

I’m Co-Owner of Left Bank Books.

Everyone here is a bookseller – owners included.  It’s the first and most important job in the store.  In addition to that, I do all of the financial management, most of the graphic design and website management, and on a larger scale set the tone and message for this store with my partner.

left bank books

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

I had no idea what was supposed to come after high school.  I mean, I had a vague idea that people with money went to college and people like me went to work, but I loved school.  It was one of the only solid, dependable things in my life and I was good at it.  After I graduated I cleaned rooms in a Days Inn and played the bass in a band until I met my son’s father.

I had my son when I was 19 and spiraled into a pretty severe depression.  I was struggling with my gender identity and sexuality and feeling pretty trapped.  We lived in a garage my (then) husband had converted into an apartment, but it was only marginally livable – concrete floor, wood stove, well water, sketchy plumbing.  I wanted more for myself and for my son.  We moved to Edwardsville, Illinois, so that I could go to college.  I worked several jobs so that I could pay for it.  I still had no idea what I was doing.  All I knew was 1. people who succeeded went to college and 2. I loved reading and writing.  So I got a degree in English Language and Literature with a Creative Writing minor.

My family fell apart and I worked many, many more jobs from cemeteries, to oil fields to over the road truck driving.  At a low moment, when I was living on my sister’s floor with no car I went to the library and wrote a desperate note to a former professor who suggested that I apply at Left Bank Books.  I had always loved the store, so I applied.

My vast experience in all sorts of other jobs and my love of reading prepared me for stepping into a small business. It required everything from cleaning the cat box, to managing an event with Hilary Clinton. The responsibility began and ended with the small staff of the store.  I loved it.  I knew immediately that this was my home.  The store has saved my life in so many ways & I feel very fortunate to be here.  It has given me the room to be the person I am and grow into a much better person than I was.

jarek reading

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

I thought I’d be a welder when I was five. (I have no idea why.)  At 25, I wanted to be a writer.

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

Today I got a phone call from a closeted transgender person who came to the dedication of the country’s first transgender memorial garden – a project I was largely responsible for.  This person called because they were able to admit after 65 years that they were transgender because of the communication and inspiration of that garden.  This job, this community, this store, and my position in all of them allowed me to do that.  I can define what I do and what this bookstore does and it can only limited by a deficit in imagination.

transgender sign

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different? 

I wish I didn’t have to convince people that bookstores and other locally owned businesses were worth the effort to stop shopping at Amazon.  I wish I didn’t have to explain why that’s important.  I wish I could pay my staff what they’re worth.

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time? 

I binge watch Netflix, do woodworking in my garage, volunteer with the Metro Trans Umbrella Group and pay a disproportionate amount of attention to my pets.

jarek cat pic

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

My partner, Kris Kleindienst.  She’s worked here since 1976 and is hands down the smartest person in the room.

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

Expect to not be rich. Expect many days when you don’t think your business will last. Expect to defend its existence.  Prepare for overwhelming support from those who get what you do.  Prepare to work with people who are smarter than you are, and seize the moment to learn from them.

If you could read these questions about someone else, who would you want to see answer them? (can give a job title or name a specific person).

Someone with St. Louis Effort for AIDS or Women’s Safe House

Thank you Jarek, for your wise advice and candid story. Be sure to visit your local book stores and visit www.left-bank.com for more information on Left Bank Books.

Work Theory is a blog designed around the idea that humans should have access to jobs that they enjoy and can make a living doing. The Dream Job series gives us a glimpse into the lives of people who have managed to achieve consistent satisfaction and happiness in their career. The jobs they work are as diverse as the lives led by these individuals. “Like” Work Theory on Facebook to remain a part of the story.

If you, or someone you know is living their dream job and are interested in being interviewed, please contact Annie here.

Dream Job: Erin Willner, Account Supervisor

Meet Erin

erin w face

Account Supervisor

Are you someone who is led to take charge, understands that confrontation is the first step to resolution, and demands clarity in challenges you face? Once a goal is set, you may feel restless until you’ve aligned others with you. You understand the facts and are able to push people to take risks. You can take a stance and move forward in that direction which draws people toward you. You have a presence. You may be someone with the strength of Command.

Erin is quick witted. She will listen intently to a conversation and deliver a line with precision and punch that it might knock you back with hilarity and truth. She is thoughtful, stylish, and warm to welcome new faces around her. It feels easy and comfortable looking to Erin’s point of view when a questionable topic is under discussion. She is oozing with presence and command, and is  fun person to be around.

Take a look into the life of an Account Supervisor through Erin’s eyes. Scroll to the last question to get insight into Erin’s humor.

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

I’m an Account Supervisor at New Honor Society. The business-world-appropriate description of an Account Supervisor is the liaison between the client and the internal team. The Mad Men reference that resonates best is Pete Campbell. Neither of these are entirely accurate, but it’s easier than articulating what I actually do. Simply put: I figure out what the clients need, determine if what they think they need is what they really need, and then I get it done.

I’ve been in advertising since graduating college, so about eight years. More than six of those years have been with New Honor Society.

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

I was a Marketing and International Business major in college but realized after week one of my very first internship that I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment. So, I started interning at a small agency and loved it.

erin barn

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

I honestly don’t remember thinking about work when I was five, which is strange since I’ve always been, as my mother puts it, an “old soul.” Meaning, as a child I preferred to read a book or watch The Lawrence Welk Show with my grandma to hanging out with friends. In retrospect, I’m now realizing my parents likely confused my being an introvert with being “old at heart.” I was already at New Honor Society at age 25 with no plans of changing careers.

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is the people. We’re a small enough agency that we don’t need hundreds of bodies to fill hundreds of positions; we get to be selective. Talent is obviously mandatory, but you have to be a good cultural fit as well. When everyone gets along and respects one another, coming to the office every day is fun and thoughtful work is produced. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. I don’t know how else to explain it.

I also get to travel a lot for work, which can be exhausting but is always interesting. Experiencing new cities that I would never think to visit on my own – Singapore, Dubai, Budapest, etc. – is a constant learning experience, both professionally and culturally.

Oh, and I get to bring my dog (read: baby), Henry, to work every day. He naps on a little couch in my office and plays with his dog coworkers throughout the day. So, that’s a huge perk.

erin w dogs

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different.

I can’t think of anything. Maybe a broader selection of cream cheese for the morning bagels?

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?  

I really enjoy hanging out at home with my fiancé, Kevin, and Henry. I guess that goes back to the fact that I’m an introvert in a career that requires me to be extroverted most of the day. I also love spending time with my family. I’m lucky in that three of my four immediate family members live in St. Louis, allowing me to freeload dinners and catch up on a weekly basis. Other than that, sand volleyball and patio drinking in the summer.


Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

I’ve been lucky enough to have the same three bosses for the past six plus years. Each bringing his or her own unique work style and point of view to the table, I’m constantly learning something new.

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

Give a shit. I would imagine that applies to most career paths, but in this industry you have to be passionate. It’s not a clock-in and clock-out type of job. If you’re just checking deliverables off a list, it shows in the work. And if it shows in the work, clients notice; then they fire you. You have to care, you have to have a critical thinker’s mindset, and you have to creatively problem-solve all day, every day.


If you could read these questions about someone else, who would you want to see answer them? (can give a job title or name a specific person).

Someone in animal rescue. I realize it has nothing to do with my own career, but you can probably gauge my love for dogs by the fact that I’ve mentioned Henry twice (now three times) in an interview that has nothing to do with pets.

Any other passing words of advice or anything neat you have going on that you would like to share with us?

I dressed up as my dog for Halloween.

erin w halloween



Thank you Erin for spending your time with us! Well wishes and safe travels on your trip!

Dream Job: Dan Anderson-Little, Pastor

Meet Dan

Dan face

Presbyterian Pastor

Are you someone who looks to the past to understand the present? Perhaps you view the past as a blueprint to future solutions. By understanding pivotal decisions, patterns, and original intentions, you are able to understand how a situation or person came to be. Through sensing an underlying structure to the present, you are able to be more confident about the future. You make a great partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be. If this sounds like you, you may be a person with the talent theme of Context.

Dan is inquisitive, thoughtful, and positive. The first thing you notice about Dan is his joyous smile. He can converse with anyone by adjusting his own communication style to that of his audience’s. He is gifted in listening and is wise about the past. Dan excels in his Context talent by using the lessons of the past to communicate how we can function in the present.

Dan gives us a look into the world of a Pastor below. The lessons he has gained while working as a Pastor is applicable to many other industries. For example, in the last question Dan proposes future pastors to think “bi-vocationally.” Read on for the whole story.

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

For the past 24 and a half years I have been an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—the PCUSA is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the US. In that time I have served 8 congregations—four of them in the suburbs (Detroit and St. Louis), two of them in the inner-city (Kansas City and St. Louis), one of them in an exurban setting (St. Louis), and one of them in a small town in a rural county (Potosi, MO). Currently, I am the Pastor of Hillside Presbyterian Church in House Springs, MO and Potosi Presbyterian Church.

As Pastor, I am considered the spiritual leader of the congregation. My main activities are designing and leading weekly worship services, preaching (which is a 20-25 minute talk about a portion of the Bible), providing pastoral care (visiting and counseling with people, often in crisis), moderating the Session (which is the governing council of the congregation), and helping shape a vision for the congregation and working with the Session to implement that vision. Both the Hillside and the Potosi congregations are small and struggling and are wanting to discover a new direction that will, they hope, result in greater vitality and greater numbers of visitors. The other part of my work is being engaged in the local community, meeting leaders who can interpret to me the texture and needs of the local communities, and to meet potential members of the church

Because I am part-time in these congregations, most of time is taken up by the above activities. At other churches I have spent significant time teaching members at times other than during Sunday morning worship, and leading the administrative work of the church.

dan at church 2

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

Before I was ordained, I served a variety of churches and para-church organizations (e.g. a church-based anti-apartheid lobbying organization in Washington, DC) as an intern. After college, I enrolled in seminary to earn a Master of Divinity which is the degree that my denomination requires in order to become an ordained pastor.  I also come from a long line of pastors (5 generations before me) and my mother earned a degree in Christian education, so this was in the air I breathed and the water I drank from the very beginning of my life.

Dan's great-great-great-grandfather Henry Little was Pastor from 1831-1833.
Dan’s great-great-great-grandfather Henry Little was Pastor from 1829-1882.

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

When I was 5, I imagined that I would be a pastor like my father. When I was 25 I was in seminary training to be a pastor. Since graduating from seminary in 1990, it is the only work I have done.

Dan and his father
Dan and his father

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

Preparing and preaching sermons and designing and leading worship. I am good at this work and gain great satisfaction in helping people to feel God’s presence and to have transformational spiritual experiences. This does not happen every Sunday for every person, but when it does happen, it makes the whole job worth it.

I also enjoy helping congregations struggle to discover their particular mission in the world. For much of the 20th Century, most Presbyterian congregations did not think about their particular mission—you built a building, hired a pastor, put together a series of ministries (worship, Sunday School, fellowship, support of local and international charities and missionary work), and that was that. But as the church has lost influence in the culture and is declining in membership, the church must rethink and reimagine its mission in the world. This is both exciting and frustrating—exciting because the church hasn’t had to do this for a long time and yet we have a great tradition of responding to a new day with new approaches; frustrating because we have largely lost the language and practice of change and let’s face it, people don’t like change, especially in an institution that serves as an anchor for their life.

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different?

  1. Churches have lots of paperwork, bills, upkeep, and procedures that are mostly (but not always) necessary for its survival and well-being. Much of this falls to the pastor (especially in smaller churches) and it is both a time consuming and soul killing (for me—some pastors love this).
  2. The very common assumption and practice that pastors exist to do the work of the church and members exist to receive their services. While this must be the case some of the time, it frequently becomes the standard operating procedure. The Presbyterian has a strong belief in the “priesthood of all believers” which means that every person is called into service. When we operate from that premise, the pastor’s main role is not primarily to satisfy the members’ needs, but to help them become ministers in their own right.
  3. Passive aggressive behavior. If you don’t like something, just tell me, don’t tell me that “some [unnamed] people are upset.”

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?

As a husband, father of three (two of whom are out of town in college, one in high school) and a home owner, much of my time out of work is spent in fulfilling those roles and obligations. I like to watch movies on tv, cook, and listen to music. I also serve on the Board of Directors of a local organization that trains young people to be the next generation of civil rights activists.

anderson little family
Anderson-Little Family

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

The two most important inspirations for my work are my father (now deceased) and my wife—both of whom were/are pastors. For the first 20 years of my professional ministry, my father was an important mentor to me. He was innovative, flexible and smart.

While my wife and I have similar approaches to many things, I greatly appreciate the ways she is different from me. I run most ideas by her and value her insight and wisdom tremendously. Two years we worked on starting a new church together—we gave that work up after a year due to health issues she was experiencing, but it was great to work with her on the same ministry for that year.

dan and linda cards
Dan and his wife Linda

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

  1. Make sure this is what you really feel called to do. Ask others if they see these gifts in you. Test out your call by working in different church settings—because the churches you work in will not resemble the churches of your past.
  2. Know that the church is in a state of high flux. Do not simply hone skills for the church that you know right now because it will be different within a decade. Rather prepare yourself as a life-long learner. Don’t do this if you are not a flexible person.
  3. If digital is not your native language, learn it—it’s how the world communicates.
  4. Don’t do this if you don’t have a high tolerance of experimentation and failure—we’re going to have to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall in order for some of it to stick.
  5. Think bi-vocationally—more and more churches need part-time pastors—and thus they cannot support you. You will need other creative ways to earn income.


Thanks Dan for sharing your time with us!

Career Narrative: Food Service to Content Marketing

Early in 2015, as I drove to the first day of my new job, I found myself getting off the highway an exit early so that I could drive through the neighborhood I grew up in. Soon, tears of joy were streaming down my face. The crisp winter air cooled my flushed cheeks as I stepped up to the building where I now work. As I walked in, I felt for the first time like I had arrived, and that my future was worth looking forward to.


Jason Flamm

My name is Jason Flamm. I grew up poor. I grew up in a family that has spent their entire lives in the food and retail business. My father went to prison when I was 13 and my mother worked multiple jobs just to scrape by. By age 25, I had already worked more than 20 different jobs. I was the first and only person in my family to graduate high school and (eventually) get a college degree. I was 31 when I finally got my Associate’s Degree. I’m currently 33 and I’m still working on my Bachelor’s. Everything I’ve tried to accomplish in life, has felt like a never ending uphill battle. Without a network of people, without marketable skills, and without a good example of what success looks like, I’ve sometimes felt like giving up completely.

The year I turned 30, I decided to take hold and change my entire life. But, that didn’t mean the universe was going to make it easier for me.

I quit my job. I ended an unhealthy relationship. I went back to school. I lost over 140 lbs. I focused on doing things that would add value to myself, others and someday the world. While I worked on getting my education, I started a side project that wound up helping me change my life. I started STL SketchPAD, a monthly sketch comedy show. I had no idea where it would lead me and who it would have an effect on. Writing and performing comedy was just something I loved to do and, thankfully, I’m too insecure to try to do things all by myself. So, I invited a group of people to team up with me.

Each month I invite new people to join my team and, for some reason, they keep showing up. I purposely changed the circle of friends that I was a part of. I wanted to collaborate and work with people who were like minded and who were trying to do something special. I found myself surrounded by people who had the kind of careers that I had hoped to have someday. Those people began to help me, coach me and encourage me to start applying to better jobs. Jobs where you don’t end up with trash can water on your face and shirt (worst thing ever).

sketchpad round table

Eventually, I went back to the food and retail industry. I worked at Starbucks for a year and a half and even back at Dominos for another stint. But, while doing so, I applied to different places, rewrote my resume over and over again and hoped that someday I wouldn’t have to deliver pizzas or make other people’s coffee to earn a living. Then, finally it happened; I got a new job. I started a career at a marketing agency downtown. It’s the best work environment I’ve ever been in. I have complete autonomy and my employers trust me to do my job well. In the world of fast food and retail, you have a supervisor over your shoulder telling you “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” You have to work holidays and not see your family, because “not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving with turkey and stuffing.” And you have to bail on your friends on Saturday night because weekends are “when you make your money.” For some, working food and retail is perfectly fine. A job is a job. But, for me, I never wanted the same life my parents, aunts, uncles and everyone else around me had. I wanted, and will always want, more.

I had to work hard to get here. I had to take a side path. I had to find creative ways to add skills to my resume that a potential employer might actually find useful. Believe it or not, “worked at Domino’s Pizza for six years”, isn’t that eye catching to most employers.

Things that were impressive:

  • Blogging for over 10 years
  • Foster a community of creative people
  • Reading behavioral psychology books (for fun)
  • Teaching myself email marketing & SEO
  • Showing lots of writing examples
  • Being endorsed by someone who works here

Without creating and doing those things on the side, I believe I would still be stuck in an occupation that led me to depression, weight gain and at times, hopelessness.

You may not have the same life experiences I’ve had. You may not want the same future I want. The point of this article is to encourage you, if you are trying to make a change or land a job you’ll love, to continue working your butt off (even if only on the side) on the things you love to do. Get really freaking good at them. Then share those things with the people around you. Let others feel your passion and share in your successes.

Sketchpad show

Through that, I fully believe that dreams can come true and goals can be reached. I’ve seen it firsthand. When it happens for you, I hope you’ll take a moment to take it all in and then inspire other people to do the same. Also, if you ever want to write comedy, I know a great group of people who would love to help you.

Keep creating. Keep writing.

Who knows where it might take you?


Jason Flamm is the creator and producer for STL SketchPAD. He has helped over 50 writers and performers produce comedy (many for the first time) while putting on dozens of shows since 2011. If you’re interested in learning more about STL SketchPAD or what Jason is doing, subscribe to his mailing list. He’d love to meet you and learn how he can serve you. You can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bfLy3v you can also find him on Twitter @STLSketchPAD or on the web at http://stlsketchpad.com

Dream Job: Adam Shaw, QA Engineer

Meet Adam

adam at sound booth

QA Engineer

Do you enjoy exercising your brain and stretching it in multiple directions? Are you introspective; does thinking energize you? Perhaps you pose questions to yourself and try to sort out responses through reflection. If so, you may be a person with the talent of Intellection.

One of Adam’s gifts is introspection. He spends time thinking about others, pondering how the world works, and musing through possible solutions. He is caring, inquisitive, and invested in listening to those around him. Adam’s interest in video games and proclivity in understanding how gaming works has lead Adam into his current dream job.

If you enjoy spending time thinking, you may enjoy a career in gaming. Take a look into the life of a professional gamer in Adam’s thoughtful responses below.

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

My job title is “QA Engineer” and I work for NVIDIA Corporation.

What I do, day to day changes a lot, but typically it’s some combination of running software benchmarks, building/dismantling computers, testing video games or capturing marketing footage. I’ve been at this job for just over a year.


What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

My previous job was almost two years as a Sound Designer/Audio Engineer for a local mobile game studio called Simutronics.  I also acted as a QA intern there for about 7 months before switching to Audio.

Before Simutronics I had a lot of non-professional experience.  I studied music in college. I played and beta tested a lot of games as a teenager and into my early twenties as well. One day, while I was leading a raiding guild in a game called ‘Rift’ a friend of mine suggested that I might be well suited to a career in games.  Turns out she was right.  Less than a year after she made that suggestion, I had an internship.

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

When I was 5, I either wanted to play baseball or be a psychologist.  I was probably about 25 when I started pursuing my career in video games.

adam coffee
What one can find at the bottom of a tea cup!

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

It’s unpredictable.  Any given day I may be given a completely different task than what I was doing the previous day.  I don’t like falling into familiar patterns or getting stagnant, so it’s nice to always be mixing things up.  We’re almost always working on something current (or unreleased!) so I don’t expect I’ll ever be at risk of getting bored.

ADam with a mic
Playing Johann Sebastian Joust at the Pixelpop Festival

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different? 

I wish we had room in our office for more testers.  The people I work with are great and I wish there were more of them.  We’re a bit bottle-necked by facilities at the moment. I hope we’ll eventually get more space so more people can join us.

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?  

The majority of my time outside of work is either spent gaming, performing in, or attending improv shows, or doing photography.  I also occasionally dabble in video production.

adam doing stuff
Spaceteam Tournament

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

Within the company: My team lead Jeremy is very, very, good at his job and I hope I can one day lead as well as he does.

Outside the company: My friends Sam and Seth Coster from Butterscotch Shenanigans.  They started their own indie game studio from scratch and are incredibly smart and hard-working. I am constantly blown away by what they accomplish with such a small team and I feel like they are a prime example of what you can achieve when you set your mind to something.

adam black and white
adam black and white happy
Annnnd, not so serious!

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

Don’t make assumptions.  You don’t have to live on the coast or get a degree in video games to get this sort of job.  Just show that you can think critically, have a good eye for detail, know your way around a computer (and android/iOS), and are a fast learner.

There’s a thriving game development community in St. Louis and there are multiple opportunities every year to get your feet wet in game dev at local “Game Jams”.   Check out http://stlgamedev.com/ if you want to know more.  You’ll probably stumble across some pictures and videos I’ve taken! 🙂

adam conference
St. Louis Global Game Jam

If you could read these questions about someone else, who would you want to see answer them? (can give a job title or name a specific person).

I’d like to get a peek into the mind of a full-time college professor.  Doesn’t even matter what subject they teach.

Any other passing words of advice or anything neat you have going on that you would like to share with us?

While what I do certainly qualifies as a “dream job” it’s definitely not for everyone… but it’s definitely more attainable than you think if you go for it.

There are lots of tools and tutorials online about how to start making your own video games.  Once you know how they’re put together it’s pretty easy to figure out how they break and how to break them.



Adam is a great example of how hobbies can lead into careers. His non-professional experience lead to his first opportunity as an intern.

Video game tester, and you can too! Thanks for sharing with us Adam!


Dream Job: Kristin Finan, Travel Editor

Meet Kristin

Kristin Finan

Travel Editor

Are you someone who loves to acquire knowledge or experiences? Are you inquisitive, find many things interesting, and enjoy the world because of it’s infinite variety and complexity? You may be someone with the talent of Input. A career in teaching, research, or journalism will charge you with energy each day as you continually learn new information.

Kristin is a trail blazer in her career because of her appetite for learning more. She stands out in her career satisfaction because she was able to identify something that she loved early on, and because she sought specialization in her field through acquiring industry knowledge and new skills. Kristin is thoughtful, funny, and kind. Her strong individualism and self-concept make her wit stand out in her writing and creative choices.

Want to know how to get people to turn to you for advice? Check out what Kristin says below!

What’s your title? What do you do? How long have you done this?

Travel editor at the Austin American-Statesman for the past 2.5 years

As travel editor, I am in charge of producing the newspaper’s weekly Sunday travel section. This job includes soliciting and editing staff and freelance travel pieces, compiling photos and videos, working with designers and copy editors on the look of the section and (the best part) traveling to interesting destinations and writing about them. I also blog, Instagram and Tweet (@kristinfinan), and shoot videos about my travels.

What jobs or past experiences have led you to the current thing that pays you money (your job)?

The thing that drew me to travel writing was simple — I love visiting new places. After graduating from college, I came across a $400 roundtrip ticket to Europe and spent all of my savings on the two-week-long trip. One of my best friends joined me and, like so many young people who make this pilgrimage each year, we had the time of our lives eating baguettes in Paris and wandering La Rambla in Barcelona.That’s when I knew I really wanted a job that could revolve around travel. After interning at the Houston Chronicle newspaper, I was hired as a full-time features reporter and would spend my weekends traveling around Texas and relentlessly pitching travel stories to the travel editor. He became an incredible mentor to me and provided me with a number of amazing opportunities to travel to places where he didn’t want to go. When he eventually retired, I was offered his position. A few years later I was offered a position as travel editor in Austin, my hometown, and I jumped at the opportunity.

(Via amoeba.com) “Good work, gumshoe!”

What occupation did you imagine having when you were 5? What about at 25?

When I was 5, I desperately wanted to be a dolphin trainer. When I was 25, being a travel writer/editor was definitely my dream job.

Kristin Finan and baby hotel
Kristin & her daughter, chilling out, maxing, relaxing, all cool

The Best: Tell us, what’s the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is getting to have these amazing experiences around the globe and then sharing those experiences with an audience that trusts my expertise. From having a fish pedicure in Singapore (picture fish eating the dead skin off the bottom of your feet) to eating grasshoppers as a snack in Mexico to getting attacked by an ice-cream-crazed seagull in England, there’s never a dull moment in the world of a travel writer. I also love hearing about readers’ travel experiences, favorite destinations, bonding over anecdotes, and advice.

Kristin Finan Taj Mahal
Kristin outside of the Taj Mahal

The Stink: Tell us, what’s part of the job that you really wish were different?

There are so many great stories being told, and so many amazing destinations to visit, that it can be difficult to narrow down the stories I want to feature in the paper each week. I only have four pages each Sunday, so I have to be smart about what we feature. I try to include a mix of far-flung, aspirational destinations, cool U.S. spots and consumer-friendly, need-to-know news on the travel industry.

Outside of your job, how do you spend your time?

Outside of my job, I enjoy spending time with my husband and my two daughters, 6 and 4. I am very lucky to be able to travel with them frequently and love how curious, engaged and excited they are when we go somewhere new. Sure, you may have to deal with a tantrum or two, but to me there is nothing more gratifying than traveling with kids.

Who is someone you look up to for career inspiration?

Travel writer/author/tour guide Rick Steves has definitely been an inspiration to me. I love the way he covers his beat, Europe, in a way that is very, very honest. His biggest concern is that his readers know exactly what to expect when they visit a certain place, and he does such a great job of relating to people while providing candid information about his experiences.

Via hulu.com

What is your advice to people who are interested in a similar career?

My advice for anyone who wants to be a travel writer is to start by traveling as much as you possibly can. The more you learn about the world around you, the more you’ll be able to express the uniqueness of certain cities, countries and attractions to others. Once you’re a comfortable, confident traveler, you can start to tell your stories with the kind of authority that will make other people turn to you for advice.

If you could read these questions about someone else, who would you want to see answer them? (can give a job title or name a specific person).

I haven’t totally given up on my dolphin trainer dream. Could you get a dolphin trainer (or someone in a similar animal-related capacity) to answer these?

Via imdb.com. Someone get Flipper on the line!

Any other passing words of advice or anything neat you have going on that you would like to share with us?

Finally, I’d just say that when it comes to travel, there’s no time like the present. You don’t know what the future will bring, but I can tell you that every trip I’ve taken has been money well spent and an amazing bonding experience for everyone involved. Can’t afford a far-flung getaway? Plan a visit to somewhere you’ve always wanted to see in the U.S. Don’t have many vacation days? Consider a staycation in your own city. There’s always something new to see and do, and there’s no better way to expand your mind, and perception, than to get out and see it.

Thanks Kristin! It is truly a delight to have you as a guest. If I can get Flipper as an interviewee, you will be the first to know. He’s a dolphin who trained himself, ergo he is a dolphin trainer, right?

Be sure to follow Kristin on Instagram and Twitter, @kristinfinan or on her site, www.kristinfinan.com.