The day after I graduated from college, I drove west in an overloaded Honda Civic and was dropped off at the Colorado Outward Bound School.
Months earlier, I committed to moving west after graduation. I enjoyed school but was eager for a change. To my surprise, the opportunities were bountiful for recent grads who love the outdoors.
My First Job In The Outdoors
Growing up, I loved backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing. So after graduation instead of jumping on a traditional career track, I took a job as a logistics coordinator with Outward Bound.
The opportunity to live in Leadville, Colo. — population 2,000, elevation 10,000 — was something I could not turn down. Over the coming months, living and working in the outdoors was an experience that changed my life.
Are you in the same boat? Here are a few places to start.
Intern with Outward Bound
Being an Outward Bound instructor requires a savvy outdoor resume. You can intern for the school as an excellent place to start.
Interns work closely with the logistics team to deliver effective course support. They also complete up to two weeks in the field with students.
In addition, administrators who have completed years of fieldwork in outdoor education take the time to mentor interns one on one. Interns often get hired back the next year as instructors.
Join The Conservation Corps
For the environmentally-inclined graduate, the Conservation Corps offers one-of-a-kind field experience. With locations around the country, Conservation Corps partners with Americorps for funding. Projects include trail work and storm clean up, and vary with location.
Become A Whitewater Raft Guide
Raft Guiding is great If you’re eager to combine work and play.
The Colorado, Green, and Snake rivers are some of the waterways dotted with raft outfitters. These cater to adventure-seeking vacationers. Most hire guide apprentices that require no experience at all. Row Adventures and Adrift Adventures are two to consider.
Rafting is a puzzle of logistics and planning. All gear, food, and people must fit onto the rafts. If learning to plan your own trips more efficiently, and developing the logistical skills that are in such high demand in the outdoor industry appeals to you, this is an excellent option.
Work At A National Park (Concessionaire)
For those interested in playing as much as possible in a specific location, a job in a national park is a no-brainer. National parks’ hospitality services (think restaurants, gift shops, and hotels) operate through contracted companies. Xanterra and Aramark are two common concessionaires.
The companies hire hundreds of seasonal employees at dozens of national parks. An additional perk is they provide dormitory-style housing, eliminating the need to live in a tent or your car for the summer.
Work As National Park Intern
If living in a national park appeals to you but working in the service industry does not, check out the Student Conservation Association or USAJobs. The SCA is a conglomeration of environmental education, outreach, and conservation internships.
USAJobs requires a bit more navigation as it is the application site for all positions in the federal government.
Many of the positions require more advanced skill sets (wildland firefighting, emergency medicine certifications, etc).
A perk of many internships is employee housing, which simplifies a big move. This position requires you to work hard and play hard, as the acres of the park are your office, backyard, and bedroom.
Intern For Outdoor Brands
Work alongside passionate outdoorsy people designing, marketing, and selling the gear we use on all of our adventures.
If one brand’s ethic or history particularly attracts you, see if there are any entry-level or intern positions for marketing, retail, customer service, or sales jobs.
If the brand’s website doesn’t display anything, you can always patrol malakye.com for openings. Different than most job aggregators, this site focuses on outdoors industries.
Freelance As A Writer Or Photographer
Many outdoor magazines (including GearJunkie!) encourage new writers to submit stories, photographs, or videos that fit the editorial platform.
It’s a competitive endeavor, and the content needs to be engaging and perfectly executed. But for those who dream of bylines in national publications, freelancing is a good foot in the door.
Internships are another route for those hoping to become editors of the future. For both routes, persistence, great grammar, and excellent pitches are necessary.