Dream jobs’ connections intriguing

Brian Brown, ReporterWe are all dreamers, right? Well, yes, but not everyone has the fortune of working their “dream job.”

This month I’ve been lucky enough to meet some folks who are working right where they ought to be as part of Springfield Business Journal’s August-long Dream Jobs series, and I’ve been inspired by the passion from our subjects for their careers.

Dream Jobs is a four-feature series in which I interviewed individuals who have developed unique and satisfying careers that match their personalities.

The four dreamers profiled were Charlotte McCoy, marketing and special events director for the Discovery Center of Springfield; Tim Burrows, owner of Tim Burrows Metal Art & Design LLC; Michael Wehrenberg, owner of Wehrenberg Design Co.; and Laszlo Kovacs, professor of biology at Missouri State University.

Each job seemed to really match the profiled personality well, and although the jobs are very different, I was surprised by what they had in common. Dream jobs, it turns out, aren’t always what I imagined.

For one, nobody had what I would consider to be an easy job. With “offices” at home, you might catch Burrows and Wehrenberg working at any time of the day or night. McCoy does a little bit of everything all the time, including cleaning up after kids and fundraising, and Kovacs has a highly technical job that includes two lab courses – one of which features more than 100 students. It is worth noting that none of them had a 40-hour per week gig.

McCoy

Two, while each person had a hefty amount of responsibility, they also had a significant amount of autonomy. Kovacs designs his own labs and runs his classes his way. Burrows has an artistic mindset, is detail-oriented and often follows his own idea on what a one-of-a-kind gate or chandelier should look like. Wehrenberg works from home, with no employees, in shorts if he likes, and McCoy directs marketing efforts at the Discovery Center – without a budget to speak of – forging collaborative efforts she thinks will draw attention to the center.

Three, each subject had a passion for the work they do. With each person, I had a sit-down interview that lasted around an hour. They each talked about their jobs in the way people often talk about their kids, and the more we talked, the more apparent their passions became.

Four, these weren’t the jobs they necessarily dreamed of as children. I was a bit surprised by this. Instead, their careers bubbled up organically, almost as if they were fated to them. McCoy was simply a fan of the center, and on a work break after moving back to Springfield, she found a job opening with an educational background perfectly matched for her. Burrows became a welder because time was running out to take advantage of his armed-services educational benefits, and welding just seemed like a job he wouldn’t mind being trained to do. Wehrenberg, prompted by a “real-world” college assignment, enjoyed tinkering with computers and found he had a knack for creating websites when he started his business in 1997. Kovacs, who studied agriculture in Hungary, began to see a career path unfold after he had a seemingly unlikely chance to study microbiology at the University of Missouri.

There are a couple of other interesting coincidences tied to the series. Wehrenberg designed the website for the Discovery Center, which is also the home of an MSU roof-top garden where Kovacs occasionally works. Burrows’ got his start as a welder working at Bill’s Blacksmith Shop across from Bingham Elementary. I spent a good deal of my fourth-grade year staring at that shop across Barnes Avenue. I didn’t want to become a blacksmith. The building was just there, and I was something of a daydreamer.

There are other connections, I’m sure. What I’ve pointed out are the surface commonalities. Real dreams live beneath what’s apparent on the surface.

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