Dream Job Reality Check

Pressure, hard labor, poop: the truth about the gigs you fantasize about

Meet five individuals who, from the outside, seem to have the gig of a lifetime. The share details about their paycheck, plus perks and bummers.

Sarah Menzies headshot


Sarah Menzies: Let Media, Seattle, WA 

The paycheck $40,000 

The gig Shooting documentary films and commercial projects (The Mirnavator, Afghan Cycles, A Steelhead Quest); running a production company 

Perks Connecting with humans that I’d never meet otherwise; forging intimacy with people through the camera; going to places that I could barely dream of as a kid

Bummers Hustling up work and finding funding; unstable income (and experiencing sweaty fits of anxiety, wondering how I’m going to be able to pay my bills this summer)

Hannah Smith headshot


Hannah Smith: RMI Expeditions & Sierra Mountaineering International, lives out of her truck 

The paycheck $25,000 

The gig Guiding clients on Denali, Rainier, Mt. Whitney, and Aconcagua; serving as a leader, teacher, coach, counselor, cheerleader, and drill sergeant 

Perks My office is a gorgeous mountain; flexible schedule; the people—you don’t become a guide for the climbing, you do it because you like climbing and love people. 

Bummers The wear and tear on my body; I deal with a lot of shit, as in literal feces; having to tell people they will not get to the summit they want so badly—it’s hard to crush someone’s dream

Jeremy Martin headshot


Jeremy Martin: Bureau of Land Management, Monticello, UT 

The paycheck $45,000 

The gig Monitoring natural resources, archaeological sites, trails, and OHV use across 2 million acres of public lands 

Perks Working as a steward of the land; exploring, hiking, canyoneering, rafting, and doing the stuff that I would do anyway 

Bummers Dealing with human impact; poop and paperwork about poop—I spend an incredible amount of time figuring out how much toilet paper to order. 

Matty Wong headshot


Matty Wong: Los Angeles, CA & Honolulu, HI 

The paycheck $60,000 

The gig Shooting for commercial clients in the outdoor and fashion industries (Hydro Flask, Old Navy, Phenix Baits, Brown Folks Fishing); serving as a photo assistant when work is slow 

Perks Working with fish (unlike human models, they don’t talk back); opportunity to change perceptions of fishing and the outdoors; being able to preserve special moments in time 

Bummers Lots of time staring at a screen; work ebbs and flows; brands sometimes don’t want to pay for professional imagery. 

Jen Gurecki headshot


Jen Gurecki: Coalition Snow, Reno, NV 

The paycheck $25,000 

The gig Running a women’s snowsports hardgoods company (Coalition Snow) and media platform that includes a newsletter (Lady Parts), podcast (Juicy Bits), and quarterly print publication (Sisu Magazine

Perks Creating something that adds value to people’s lives and challenges mainstream thought on what it means to be a woman outdoors; I get to be creative and problem-solve; serving as a role model and change-maker. 

Bummers I’m on 24/7; I spend most of my time behind a computer; it’s stressful to stay cashflow positive; a ton of pressure to say and do the right thing 

Related stories: Are You Paid Enough?; Making Ends Meet; and The Gender Gap

This article originally appeared in the second issue of The Voice. Subscribe here.


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