How to Use Your Thru-Hike in a Job Interview
I can’t speak for all thru-hikers, but I fully plan on exploiting the fact that I hiked 2,185.3 miles to my advantage in future job searches. Because why not – in my opinion, people who can dedicate 5 months of their lives to hiking are some of the most committed, driven, and passionate souls on the planet. In the words of an entrepreneur friend of mine a few days before I embarked on my journey, “Dude, if I was going through a stack of resumes and saw that you had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, I’d set you in the ‘to call’ stack if not only to have you come in and tell me some damn good stories.”
In expectation of a few other potential employers reacting this way, I used some of my ample thinking time on the trail to muse on the subject of using this whole journey to my vocational advantage.
1. Put That Sucker on Your Resume
This is straight from my updated resume’s “Accomplishments” section. Yep.
“April – August 2014 Hiked Entirety of Appalachian Trail
Hiked an average of 18 miles a day for 146 days on the historic 2185.3 trail stretching from Georgia to Maine. Demonstrates extreme work ethic, dedication, and commitment to long term goals.”
Easy enough, right? Short, sweet, impactful.
2. So Tell Me About Your Hike…
Is an open ended statement I plan on getting quite a bit. Former thru-hikers may respond like so:
“Well, I’d wake up every day at about 6:30 a.m., pack up my sleeping apparatus, scarf down some honeybuns smothered in peanut butter, and start hiking. Sometimes I was bored, sometimes I got angry. Sometimes I wanted to quit. But I kept moving because…”
3. “Real” Life Translates Really Well to the Trail
You could probably also mention something like,
“You have three options: (1) stop moving, (2) go back where you came from, or (3) keep moving forward. If you choose stagnation, you’re bound to the negative results of muscular and mental atrophy, as well as eventually run out of food and starve. You get nothing done, you go nowhere. No goal is achieved. If you choose option 2, you may indeed have an easier day. You may end the suffering immediately and go home. You may be sitting on the couch at home that evening eating ice cream and watching Dancing With the Stars. But here is why the trail is such an accomplishment and translates directly to my potential as an asset to you: because I kept moving forward. No matter how big the mountain (life obstacle), I climbed it. And I always, always eventually got to the top (solved the problem or found a way around it) and went down the other side (enjoyed the fruits of my labor). Some days the terrain was quite flat (life was easy), some days the terrain was extremely difficult (life threw me some obstacles), but I knew if I just kept moving forward, I’d eventually get to where I was going. I’d have a good meal, get some rest, wake up, and get back to it – because there was a goal to accomplish, work to be done, and more mountains (life obstacles) to conquer.”
4. Completing the Trail Exhibits Extreme Motivation, Dedication, and Commitment to Long Term Goals
Imagine the conversation eventually developing into a discussion of the further translation from hiking to working life, and elaborating somewhat like this:
“You have to be highly motivated to hike the Appalachian Trail. That’s undeniable. If you don’t want it bad, you won’t do it. Bottom line. The trail is 2185.3 miles long – that’s a HUGE commitment: monetarily, temporally – you put everything else on hold to dedicate yourself to the accomplishment of this one goal (company project). At first, the goal seems insurmountable, or at least incredibly daunting. You hike 8 miles your first day and you wake up barely able to move, wondering if you’ll ever actually be able to hike 15 miles a day like Zach Davis said. But you stay committed, you stay dedicated. You chip away at that goal (completing the company project) day by day – step by step, minute by minute, mile by mile, hour by hour. Then one day you’re 25% of the way to your goal. You begin to realize the value and payoff of commitment and dedication. Then one day you’re 50% of the way there, then 75. Then one day you’re standing on top of a 5,200 foot mountain in Maine and you can say you just walked 2,185.3 miles. It’s a practice in extreme dedication that is unparalleled in most of life. And if you can dedicate yourself to something like that, you can dedicate yourself to anything.”
5. Talk About Motivation, Again
I know I mentioned motivation above, but let’s talk about it some more. Some good talking points,
“Again, you have to be highly motivated to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. That is obvious. Take two employees, one incredibly intelligent but not very motivated. One incredibly motivated, but perhaps a bit less intelligent. The motivated employee will always tend to succeed more than the intelligent one regardless of I.Q. score – motivation breeds work ethic, and (there’s those words again) dedication, commitment – all the things you not only want in an employee, things you need.”
Of course, getting hired is a tricky combination of jumping through hoops, luck, and chemistry with your potential employer. Hiking the Appalachian Trail can’t guarantee anyone is going to want to hire you, in fact, it may even deter some employers (“You lived like a hippy in the woods for 5 months?!”) – I don’t know about you but I don’t want to work for anyone that would look down on something like hiking the entire Appalachian Trail anyways.
So if you’ve hiked the trail, make sure you throw that sucker on your resume. Use the above as some good fertilizer for a healthy, constructive interview conversation. You didn’t spend 5 months in the woods for nothing, right?
If you haven’t hiked the trail, imagine you’re a hiring manager and how talking to someone with the aforementioned points would feel. Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve completed such an amazing journey. And even if it doesn’t land you a job, at least you proved to the world you’re a badass.
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