So you decided you want an outdoor job? You have forsaken the cubicle. Good job, that's step one.
This guide will help you land any outdoor recreation industry job. These include, but are not limited to, guiding services, outfitters, experiential education, outdoor education, etc. Want to know how to become an outdoor guide?
Ready? Okay here's the five most important steps. GO!
Experience is the key to landing an outdoor job.
Why don't I list "get a degree" first? Because in the outdoor industry, unlike many modern settings, it's possible to win a high-standing position using *gasp* skill.
Narrow down your preferred fields of work I.E. whitewater guiding, and retail sales, and get experience doing them.
If you're looking for an outdoor guide job, then make sure you have "expedition" experience in the field. Trips lasting more than a week are industry standard requirements on a resume.
Get Certified You went out and got some experience in the field. Good. Now it's time to get industry recognized.
Take courses from industry leading groups in your discipline. Here are a few industry-recognized associations:
ACA (American Camp Association)
AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association)
ACCT (Association for Challenge Course Technology)
AORE (Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education)
Don't forget, these associations can be invaluable in networking, not just certifications. I personally have landed a job through the ACA.
You're almost guaranteed to need a WFR (Wilderness First Responder) certification so you might as well get that done, too. Be aware; most outdoor companies do not recognize Red Cross certifications as valid. You'll need to go through NOLS WMI or something similar.
Get a Degree You've got some experience and maybe a certification or two? Good, don't forget your certification instructor's name, it will come in handy for networking.
Now you can start applying for some entry level jobs, and while you're at it, scope out outdoor education and recreation degrees offered around the world. In the US, there are actually quite a lot of options for outdoor education degrees. A simple Google search will do you more good than I can by providing links, so get started looking.
Consider this, however, NOLS (The National Outdoor Leadership School) offers outdoor education and recreation degrees partnered with several colleges that not only offer you a degree, they also offer you expedition experience and certifications.
What!? That's three of my top five ways to land an outdoor job, in one fell stroke. Yup. Check it out.
Network with everyone you meet! Keep lists and add everyone on Facebook (keep your profile professional if you're going to use it for networking).
LinkedIn is a pretty big networking tool, also. You might want to give it a look.
For your most professional references (bosses, managers, instructors) keep a paper file list. You'll need addresses, phone numbers, emails, the usual stuff. When you're mass-applying for that perfect job, you'll thank me.
Don't be afraid to call up these people when looking for job prospects, they might have some helpful leads. Word of mouth is always the most effective way to land a job.
You did build up a professional looking resume to mail out with that job app, and all those hard earned references, right?
Start low when looking for a job. Don't be afraid to throw out apps to any job that interests you, but don't be unrealistic. If you're new to climbing, don't expect to land a job leading multi-pitch expeditions.
Look for internships, and don't think that jobs are "below your skill". You will most likely have to start yourself in the industry by taking low, entry level jobs at first while your network and skills grow.
Looking for outdoor jobs? Check out my list of outdoor job search resources!