Unemployed No More: Tips for Getting a Job After Your Thru-Hike
If you’re setting out to do a thru-hike, there’s a good chance you’re giving up your job in exchange for the adventure of a lifetime. Of course not all thru-hikers are leaving careers to take on the trail—some are already retired, taking time off from school, or are lucky enough to have a job waiting for them when they return home. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve quit your full-time gig to go live in the woods for six months and need to find employment when it’s all over. Here is some of my best advice on approaching the job search, making the most out of your hike on a resume, and getting that new position!
Plan Ahead for the Job Search
We put a lot of focus into preparing for the hike itself, gathering gear, saving money, reading, and researching. If possible, save an extra cushion of cash for that gap of time between finishing the trail and getting your first paycheck. Put it away in a separate account and don’t touch it during your hike. Having this “safety net” of extra funds allowed me to take time to find the right job and still pay my bills while I re-adjusted to civilization after my hike. Keep in mind that the application and interview process can often take several weeks, and you might not get your first paycheck for an additional few weeks after your first day on the job. So plan—and save—accordingly.
Get Into a Routine
Everyone falls into a routine on the trail—wake up, eat, hike, eat, hike, sleep, repeat. It’s easy to feel a little lost once you leave the woods, but establishing a new routine, especially when it comes to filling out job applications, can keep you feeling productive. I had a lot of success devoting a few hours every morning to the search and application process, reaching out to my network, writing cover letters and following up with emails. This consistency resulted in a large volume of job applications which I tracked on a spreadsheet, increased my chances of getting interviews, and ultimately, multiple job offers.
Use Your Resources
Evaluate all the resources as you set out on your search. In addition to popular job search engines such as Indeed or Glassdoor, consider connections through previous professional networks, mentors, friends, or family. Talk to people, write emails, tell them what you’re looking for and put yourself out there. If you need cash pronto, you might consider taking a “filler” job while you look for something more permanent and career-oriented. Contact the temp agencies in your area, check out the gigs section on Craigslist, or consider seasonal work in the service or retail industry. CoolWorks is a great resource for outdoor jobs with a help wanted now section featuring immediate openings. If the outdoor industry is something you’re interested in, The Outbound Collective and OutdoorIndustryJobs.com are also good places to start. Be sure to check out this helpful article on 12 Job Ideas for Thru-Hikers if you’re looking for some additional inspiration.
Use Your Thru-Hike on Your Resume and Cover Letter
There’s no one correct way to list your hike on your resume, but having it on there can make your application more memorable and unique to prospective employers. You can list your hike as “previous experience,” in an additional activities or accomplishments section, or mention it in a cover letter to explain your recent gap in employment. The way you choose to feature it is up to you, and what’s most appropriate for the kind of job you’re applying for. Use it as an opportunity to showcase your ability to achieve a goal, overcome obstacles, plan, budget, solve problems and remain flexible. You may also want to include some statistics, especially if you fall into that 25% of successful finishers. If you need inspiration for vocabulary and action words to enhance the description of your experience, be sure to check out this awesome article on how to use your thru-hike on your resume.
Dress for Success
When I finished my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I was surprised to find myself reluctant to get back into my nice “real world” clothes, wear anything but trail runners and feel comfortable in a look that didn’t fall into the category of “wild woods woman,” “dirtbag,” or “badass hiker chic.” But given that my career is in the performing arts, a wardrobe change was definitely in order. Make sure to go into a job interview dressed appropriately for the position you’re applying for, clean and well-groomed. If you’re keeping that trail beard, consider giving it a fresh trim and some shaping to polish your look. First impressions are key in any interview, and the way you present yourself will play a big part in your success.
Be prepared to deal with rejection along the way, and try not to take it too personally! Follow up with a thank-you note or email after each interview and stick with the process, even if it takes you longer to secure a job than you had originally hoped. Applying the same persistence, patience, and determination that got you through your thru-hike is one of the the best ways to ensure eventual success in snagging that job. So don’t forget the lessons you learned from the trail, and best of luck in your search!
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