Matt is currently a producer at WYPR, the NPR affiliate in Baltimore. Matt was a theater major in college and worked at a local bakery cafe in Florida. He soon moved to Chicago to pursue theater, however realized it was harder to make money at it than he thought and got a temp job doing data entry because he knew how to type. While working at his temp job, Matt listened to "This American Life" every day, for 8 hours a day. He became interested in radio and with digital editing becoming more affordable, bought some equipment and began doing interviews. After serving in the Peace Corps for two years, Matt moved to DC and there discovered a group that listened to radio. He traveled with one of the members to Baltimore and met someone at WYPR. The radio station was looking for freelancers so he did that for a year until he was hired part-time in the newsroom and then full time as a producer for Maryland in the Morning. Matt proves that by following your interests and putting yourself in places where you meet the right people, you can learn more about the field you love and get noticed.
"If you have a dream, you have to have faith," Mikia says. After attending hair school at a young age, Mikia was frustrated when she didn't pass her state certification test. She failed twice and was considering trying out a different career path, when she decided to take the test one more time. This time, she passed. Mikia worked at a local hair salon for three years. "I was scared and intimidated by the more experienced stylists around me, but I kept encouraging myself." When that place shut down, Mikia was referred to another salon where she worked on building her clientele. When that place closed as well, her clients followed her and gave her more confirmation that this was her calling. Even though Mikia had two young children and was living in public housing, she did not want to stop pushing. She saved her money and used it to open her own salon. Now she has been running her own place for 6 years. "I learned how to promote myself and invest in myself," she says. "You can do anything you want, but nothing in life is easy." Mikia likes working for her own business but is going back to school for respiratory therapy because she has always wanted to work in the medical field as well.
Jeff has worked as a producer for a variety of TV shows, including programs for the Discovery Channel. While now he can look back and smile about how he made his dream happen, it was not an easy road. Growing up in West Baltimore, reared by parents who did not go to college, no one could have predicted that he would go on to fulfill his professional and creative dreams. At Connections Friday, Jeff shared an excerpt from his memoir, recounting interactions with television big-shots and reflecting on how he got there. There came a time when he lost his job, and had four days to sit and think about what he wanted to do. He literally sat and thought. He sat on an outdoor owl statue for days in a row, contemplating which direction to go. Even though he loved the radio business, he knew programs changed often and professionals were easily disposable. Even though he liked writing, he knew that the newspaper business had its flaws as well. He made the decision to go into television. He had not just watched, but studied, television from a young age, and knew he had the passion for it. Over the years, he held all kinds of positions in the television business before finally becoming a producer. At one point in his career before he reached his goal of becoming a producer, he was offered a job as the sports reporter for the Baltimore Sun, most people's dream job. Jeff declined it, however, all because he had thought it over on that owl, and stayed committed to his decision. While sometimes you may be tempted to change direction, Jeff says it is important to ignore all the noise and stay focused on your goal.
Angela currently holds an upper lever position at a small nonprofit, helping people get scholarships to continue their education. Though many people may think that is enough work for one person, Angela has also worked a part-time job for years at places like bookstores, call centers, and cafes for extra money. At Connections Friday, Angela shared that when she graduated from college with an English degree, she knew how to write poetry, but did not know how to find a career and make a living. She and her husband both had student loan debt, so they had to get serious about finding a job. She began working at a call center originally, just an entry level job to pay the bills. Eventually she began working part-time at the nonprofit she works for now. Her main advice is to "make yourself useful", and she did that by researching and organizing extra information for the organization that she knew would be helpful for them. Thanks to her efforts, interest and enrollment in their program doubled, and doubled again. They hired her full-time, but she kept working part-time to earn extra income. Just as she decided it was time to quit her part-time job, her husband lost his job. So, she found another second job and still works six days a week. She says if you can do it, it's not a bad idea to work more than 40 hours, because you never know when you might need that cushion.