Getting Your First Job in the Outdoor Industry
While the job market is less than certain right now, there has definitly been a wave of optimism across the industry with plentiful adverts for post restriction activities, holidays and jobs in recent days. There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel, and alongside this the shape and structure of the industry will inevitably change to meet the demands of a changed society. So with this flurry of activity comes a lift in the number of jobs being offered.
So how can you be super prepared to get your first job in the outdoors? Writing a CV and covering letter are a fundamental, and plenty of other sites and blogs cover this. In this piece I'm going to look at the process from the perspective of, hopefully, finding a really good match between you and your future employer.
Know Your Destination- Before you start looking for jobs, consider looking at what you want; what does your ideal outdoor job look, sound and feel like? Where will you be in 1,3 or 5 years time and what will you have done to get there? Asking these questions will help you to understand where in the sector you want to aim - In 5-10 years time do you envisage being a Mountain Guide stood on top of Mont Blanc with 2 clients, or working in a forest school with primary school kids - both are highly rewarding for the right person, but will present very different pathways to get there.
Know Your Start Location - knowing your starting position is really key to success. What can you offer your employer in terms of skills and qualifications is easy to define, but consider what attitudes and values you bring with you as well. Identify areas for development in your skills / practice too, some jobs will offer opportunities that could help to fill these gaps. Having recruited many people over the years for various organisations, someone who can identify their weaknesses and areas for development in addition to strengths shows maturity and balance.
A SWOT Analysis is a useful way to assess your Strengths and Weaknesses as well as Opportunities and Threats to success. It allows you to examine yourself in a different way than a CV and can be focused on skills and attributes that are more about your personality as much as job specific skills. Working through this exercise before your jobsearch will allow you to quickly filter through the options and identify the best fit jobs.
Download our free SWOT Analysis template here:
Outdoor Instructor SWOT
Download DOC • 897KB
Choose Your Route - Now you now your destination and current location you can begin to decide on your route. Searching for new employers can be a bit like taking a walk down the highstreet, some shops you will glance at, some you will stare in the window and others you will want to go in and have a good look around.
Good online sources include Blue Dome, The
Institute for Outdoor Learning and outdoorstaff.co.uk. Social media groups also offer a useful feed such as Outdoor Instructor Jobs group on Facebook. If you find an organisation that you like you may be able to sign up for emails and follow on social media. Some employers will be looking for qualifications and technical skills, whilst others will be seeking people with the right attitudes and approach to suit their organisation.
Refine your search using some of your findings of your SWOT Analysis. Other considerations in your filtering process may be: relocating to a new area, commitment to a seaason or a long-term contract. You may also want consider training contracts (e.g. Mendip Outdoor Pursuits Trainee Instructor) or apprenticeships (e.g. South Devon College's Level 3 Apprenticeship)as a way to earn money while learning and developing your skills and experience
Communicate - Sending your CV to a prospective employer is fine, but even a small company like ours gets a steady stream of CVs coming in. The first thing that makes a difference is a follow up - an email or phone call to "check if your CV has been received and has the recipient had a chance to have a look at it" is a great way to start. Consider asking for feedback about your CV rather than "have you got a job for me?"; this will help you to adjust your approach in the future and make your filtering process more effective. If you are commited to the outdoor industry then you could join a membership organisation such as the Mountain Training Association or the Institute for Outdoor Learning.
Remember - Your first contact is just that. Obviously you will want to make a good impression, but equally important is how you build and invest in the relationship going forward. I have met people at events such as Beyond Horizons who commented on reading my application several years before. I have also had phone calls years after meeting prospective employers asking me to work. Many organisations are quite small and the people hiring are often those you will be working alongside, so be positive and build great relationships.
Be Patient, Keep Tapping Away - When I first decided to work in the outdoors I began by looking through the telephone book and Yellow Pages (yes, I am that old!) for outdoor centres and began phoning people up. CVs and letters were hand written. The process is perhaps now a bit quicker in speed of communicaiton, but the consideration that goes into their creation is still the same. I got a lot of refusals and some organisations didn't even get back to me. When you go into a supermarket for a packet of biscuits have a think about all the packets you ignore or just don't choose, but remember they all get sold! It's OK to not get picked by everyone