How to Use Your Thru-Hike on Your Resume

You just hiked the Appalachian Trail (or any long trail) and now the reality of the real world sets in; you need a job! But how do you explain to a potential employer, who does not understand the achievement of hiking a long trail, the advantages of hiring you? Well in reality, putting the words “Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail” at the bottom of your resume is not going to help. But more importantly you are doing yourself a miss service by not utilizing the accomplishment you just achieved.

In Christopher Heald’s video; Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers Trailer #2 a 2014 hiker named Napoleon states:

“If some kid walked into my office with nothing on his resume but he thru-hiked the AT; all I would want to know is how much money he wants to make cause I’d hire him on the spot!”

Unfortunately there are not too many Napoleons in the world with the ability to hire thru-hikers on the spot. So it’s up to you to use the achievement you just gained and put it on your resume; to make it mean something!

For an older hiker like myself it is not so difficult to have a full resume and demonstrate action words through many years of a career. However the trail was composed of mainly college grads in their early 20’s who don’t have the career backgrounds to support a resume. But what they do have are life skills, they demonstrated strength of character and attributes any employer would be happy to engage into their workforce. Motivation, discipline, ability to act under stress, cope with adverse conditions, work outside the 40 hour week norm, determination, goal focused and so much more.

I am not a career guidance official, or in Human Resources, I have no formal resume writing qualifications. But I am a Project Manager; I select teams of people to support projects I am assigned and I want to be successful in my job. So I select the best candidates available, I want to be able to trust that they are doing their jobs while I am busy doing mine. Therefore, when I look at a resume, I want confidence a person can be trusted, self-motivated, disciplined and a doer. I don’t need talkers, I need doers, people that have a goal and despite the challenges they get it done. Not people who come running every five minutes with issues they want me to solve, I want people who solve the issue then tell me how they did it. I want a thru-hiker, because I know what a thru-hike involves! You need to convince the interviewer in front of you why they need you on their team.

The University of Michigan lists 136 resume “action words” which could be used to enhance your profile. Of course we are not attempting to add all 136 to our resume, after all the word resume comes from a French word “résumé” meaning “a summary”. Even in a longer Curriculum Vitae (CV), Latin for “life story”, a person would not try to cram all 136 words into the text. But what you need to do is select power words that can be applied in relation to a thru-hike, then enhance those words with descriptive text, or be prepared to talk about the words during an interview.

In all likelihood the interviewer will have little or no concept of the accomplishment you have achieved. They may have watched “The Way” or read “A Walk in the Woods”, if you are lucky! So take the opportunity to discuss your success, but don’t labor the topic, its there to be used as a demonstration of skills, not a thru-hiker presentation. Unless of course you are blessed enough to be getting a job as a thru-hiker guide! If the interviewer is interested in your thru-hike they can chat all day, once your hired. Right now its time to sell your skills and demonstrate why you are the right person for the job.

I have selected some words from the University of Michigan list as examples, but this is by no means an exhaustive selection. Use words you feel comfortable with, be able to give examples of situations that demonstrate and support the application of the words used. In each case I have added a definition of the word from Merriam-Websters. In some examples I have used multiple action words within the same sentence.

  • Achievedto carry out successfully, to get or attain as the result of exertion -Through the period 28 February – 04 August 2014 achieved the goal of hiking the entire 2185 miles of the Appalachian Trail

    (Do not leave the words “Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail on the bottom of your resume. You achieved something amazing and very few people in the world get to attempt and even less succeed. Use it!)

  • Addressedto direct the efforts or attention of (oneself) -Addressed issue and concerns immediately they arose to prevent failure of the project.

    (In this instance you could expand by talking about an injury you had to seek help for, or assisting another hiker who need help. Perhaps a piece of gear had a catastrophic failure and you communicated the situation to your logistics team (mother) and arranged and scheduled replacement to be sent to a location ahead of you. This demonstrates planning and scheduling and communication skills.)

  • Budgeteda plan used to decide the amount of money that can be spent and how it will be spent –A financial plan was developed for the six-month period of hiking the Appalachian Trail and funds were budgeted according to requirements. The budget plan was utilized to monitor and control the financial aspects of this project.

    (The gear that failed cost a significant amount of money from your budget. So now you had to make adjustments to your budget plan to take into account the extra costs. That could have been through saving costs elsewhere, raising more funds, or changing your schedule.)

  • Financedthe way in which money is used and handled –

    Hiking the Appalachian Trail was a self-financed project that required fundraising and budgeting throughout its duration.

  • Motivatedto provide with a motive or serve as a motive for –A self-motivated individual, whom demonstrated the ability to maintain focus and determination, even in adverse and stressful conditions.

    (Mention the rain, lots and lots of rain, cold, snow, heat, snakes, bears, day-hikers; let them know this was not just a walk in the woods. It was a challenge in which you had to get up every day, out of a warm dry sleeping bag, put on wet cold clothes, and hike 20 miles over a bloody big mountain. Let them see that if the person in front of them can do that then they can get to work on time, on a Saturday, at 5.30am if needed.)

  • Researchedcareful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something –Researched, planned and executed a project to hike 2185 miles of the Appalachian Trail within a six-month period.

    (Spending six-months in the woods is not a vacation, its work and bloody hard work at that! You didn’t just throw on a pack and head out there; unless your trail name was “Late Start” or “Last Minute”. You researched the trail and all it involved; you researched the gear, the water requirements, nutrition, terrain, resupply points, weather, maps etc. You made a plan based on the researched and procured your gear based on that plan and the budget you had available.)

  • Communicatedto convey knowledge of or information about, make known –Throughout the duration of the Appalachian Trail thru-hike the schedule of resupply was communicated and coordinated with a logistical support team.

    (You demonstrated communication skills beyond the daily grind of email; you had to! Face-to-face communication with other hikers on water sources ahead, phone communication to hostel owners, formal communication with equipment manufacturers, written clear communication in your online journal; communication to schedule resupply, for safety in bad weather, instructions to other hikers of hazards ahead, the AT is a communication highway and you used it all.)

I hope I gave you some ideas, which you can utilize to strengthen your resume. As I said when I select a team on a project I am going to be responsible for I want the doers in life not the talkers! So demonstrate to me you are a doer and you will head to the top of my selection list.

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