The senior year job hunt can be scarier than running it out 30 feet over a micro-nut on a wet slab. As college students, we often feel pressure from classmates and parents to pursue lucrative and impactful careers, even if dirtbagging from the bed of a truck sounds most appealing. But landing a meaningful job and following a passion for the outdoors don’t have to be mutually exclusive. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation is responsible for 7.6 million American jobs, and plays a significant role in the U.S. economy, with $887 billion spent annually by consumers in the outdoor market. The outdoor industry is a powerful force that offers opportunities to go-getters from all backgrounds. Seven professionals across the outdoor industry share their best advice for landing your dream job.
Charlotte Austin, Mountain Guide & Adventure Writer
Job description: I leading climbing, mountaineering, and high-altitude trekking expeditions for International Mountain Guides, one of the biggest guide services in the world. When I’m not in the mountains, I’m a freelance writer, editor, and coach.
“The thing that’s been on my mind this month is how important it is to coach your community on how to best support you. My parents, for example, were (rightly!) worried when I decided to become a mountain guide. But instead of saying, ‘You’ll die hungry and alone,’ we learned together that it was more helpful for them to ask, ‘What’s your backup plan in case of an injury?’ This isn’t a clear-cut path, and the people who love you have reasonable questions. It might take some deep breathing, but work with them to let them air those concerns in a way that—if possible—helps make you stronger.”
Jessie Fallentine, Sales Operations Manager, Gregory Mountain Products
Job description: I wear many hats in this role. It’s my job to make sure retailer orders are being submitted properly and processing through with our customer service team in a timely manner. It’s also my job to organize and facilitate national sales events with and for our sales reps. There are probably a few dozen other items to add to the daily work list so I like to say my job is to be the steady, strong hub of a many spoked wheel. It’s busy but very rewarding.
“Have patience with yourself. Take time to get to know yourself as an independent adult and to work out what it means to you to succeed in life. I know as a young college graduate I wasn’t totally sure what my success looked like or what I had to do to find it. I took my first summer out of school to volunteer for the National Park Service. It was this experience that led me to the path of working in the outdoor industry.”
Kat Karney, Outdoor Photographer
Job description: I photograph people living their lives in the outdoors for commercial and editorial purposes. I’ve worked with brands like REI, LL Bean, Kelty, and many more, and my work has appeared in Outside Magazine, Misadventure Magazine, Backpacker Magazine, and on blogs like Matador Network.
“I think the most important thing to know is that whatever it is you want to do, commit yourself to it and never stop trying to move yourself closer to your goals; even if that means having a full time job and working on your passion on the side, and even if that means doing that forever. Everyone’s journey is unique to their own circumstance, and just because some take a more scenic route than others doesn’t make their journey any less important. In addition, collaborate with your peers; it’s amazing what you can accomplish with the brainpower of many. Elevate voices who don’t often get heard, help put others with important and lesser heard perspectives in the spotlight. And remember, sometimes, perhaps a lot of the time, following your passion will feel like work, but at least it will be work you can be proud of.”
Evan Merritt, Assistant Key Account Manager, Newell/Marmot/Exofficio
Job description: I develop, execute and drive business planning efforts to support the company’s Corporate accounts, Special Mark-up customers and all excess and obsolete as well as closeout sales to ensure overall sales and margin objectives. I am responsible for managing assigned accounts in liaison with internal resources and am responsible for overall account strategy development, seasonal account planning, general reporting and year over year business channel growth.
“Working in the outdoor industry provides an opportunity to mix your passion with your career. When searching for a job out of college, I spoke with many professionals in the industry and they all said the same thing: ‘retail, retail, retail.’ Retail enables you to touch a wide variety of products and brands, it allows you to see firsthand how consumers interact with that product and how they make purchasing decisions, and it also allows you to better understand the logistics and process of receiving product and getting it into the customers cart. Use the retail experience as a means to an end, and take away as much knowledge as you can. It is important to understand the role you are in, why you are doing the things you do, and how those things impact the business. Make connections and build your professional network–the outdoor industry is small and people are constantly moving between businesses. Most importantly, stay persistent and don’t lose faith in yourself.”
Matt Samet, Editor, Climbing Magazine
Job description: I oversee the day-to-day editorial and overall brand (including website and online education) operations for Climbing, which has been in print since 1970 and is the world’s oldest climbing title continuously in print. We have a very small staff these days, so I’m essentially also the photo editor—in conjunction with our art director—as well as the gear editor. I do a large amount of editing—substantive editing, copyediting, and proofing—working directly with contributors, as well as a small amount of in-house writing on news, skills, and other topics, including the occasional feature.
“I would say the key to longevity in the editorial world, and to landing gigs be they freelance or full-time, is to have a broad, diverse skillset—to be able to both write and edit with fluency, which makes you of great value to media-content producers. As I’ve learned over decades in editorial work, the strongest writers are often also the strongest editors; in other words, those who are well-versed in the rules of grammar, structure, and construction/deconstruction are often also the best writers, because they have such a solid command of the language and know how to use it to further their storytelling. So, pay attention to how the best magazine writers do it (New Yorker, Atlantic, Esquire, etc.) and learn from them—from how they put sentences together and string them into paragraphs. Also, by understanding how the editorial process works, you will be a much more pleasant writer to work with in the sense that you won’t give your editor a hard time over any changes to your work—because you’ll understand how and why it needs to change, to improve. I also think starting small with pitches is a good idea. Don’t approach a magazine you haven’t worked with before with big, expensive feature ideas; approach them instead with small news, skills, review, or opinion-piece ideas, build that trust with an editor or editors, then go big with larger-scale queries.”
Devo Derby, Events and Marketing Manager, Grassroots Ambassador, Five Ten/adidas Terrex
Job Description: I oversee the calendar of events for both Five Ten and adidas Terrex within the U.S.
“There are many brands and that are seeking individuals that will be advocates for their specific brand. The hurdle to this is making yourself known and available. Ideally, you would want to be focused on the brand’s goals and show how you can help achieve them. Ensure that you are sticking true to your values and be genuinely interested in the company that you would want be a part of. Present an unparalleled drive to learn and grow!”
Kel Rossiter, Lead Guide/Small Business Owner, Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine Experiences
Job description: Sharing the power and positivity of dynamism in the mountains with people at all ages and stages of life.
“My first and primary piece of advice is: Be very wary of anyone who goes around dispensing advice to college students. Particularly if they’re doing it in short-form contexts like this. I don’t have advice, but I have ideas. Here we go!…
Heading straight up the mountain is steep. That path may seem like the quickest to where you want to go, but it is also the most eroded, rocky, and most unaesthetic. The winding path is longer. There will be many switchbacks, where you seem to be going the exact opposite direction from where you thought you wanted to go. But–as you’ve likely already noticed–it’s often at the end of the switchback that you encounter the most inspiring views. Sometimes, you’ll even dip down into a grove, questioning yourself, thinking ‘Isn’t the point to go up?’–and you’ll discover shady groves full of beauty and life. You’ll take a drink from the spring, then climb on refreshed. Finally, you’ll reach the summit. Maybe you could have gotten there quicker via the dusty, direct route, but then, whatever the route to the summit, we all return to the valley.
Ultimately, whether you choose to ignore this advice and head straight up the mountain or explore around a bit, always carry a headlamp, and–like the Buddha said–‘Be your own lamp, be your own guide.'”
Header image by Lucas Gibbons