The outdoor industry, in all of its dimensions, revolves around one thing: the respect for wild spaces and the dedication to protect and share them with others. Whether it’s endangered species conservation fieldwork, white water raft guiding, or promoting a body-inclusive outdoor apparel line – there are countless ways to make a difference in the outdoors.
Everyone in this industry has chosen their path for a unique reason. Some grow up intimately knowing and loving the land they now work to preserve; some find connection through their passion for adventure sports; and some stumble into this field later in life after discovering the magic of camping for the first time. These stories are what make the outdoor community as vast as the world is large.
Perhaps you’re at the beginning of your career and need help figuring out what interests you. Or maybe you’ve been here and want to pivot and try something new. Either way, this blog post is here to help. Read on to gather my recommendations for deciding what career is right for you, where to find job listings, and how to prepare for your next steps in the outdoor industry.
A Good Place to Start
You might not know what exactly you want to do, but you’re ready to start exploring. My advice is to dive right in by participating in any workshops, trainings, and conferences that spark your interest – this is quite an effective way to figure out what gets you excited and what doesn’t. For example, if environmental education is your thing, check out the North American Association of Environmental Education annual conference, see their stellar keynote speakers, and partake in their interactive workshops. If wilderness leadership interests you, a conference like the Outdoor Professional Conference or an Outward Bound instructor training course would help to prepare you to guide. Focused events, such as the LGBTQ Outdoor Summit, are also a fantastic launching point to engage in thoughtful discourse in your field and jumpstart valuable networking.
Your Friend, the World Wide Web
With the entire internet at your fingertips, where to even start? Luckily fantastic outdoor industry job boards exist, and they have a myriad of open positions ranging from seasonal to full-time, field work, admin roles, internships, and volunteerships. Now that you’ve considered your interests and made some steps forward, here are five outdoor industry job boards that will get you on your way, each highlighting a slightly different flavor of outdoor careers:
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)
Finding workplaces that highly value DEI work has been made easy through job boards like In Solidarity, the Greening Youth Foundation, and Queer Outdoors (to name a few). Start with these on your job search to narrow down organizations and companies that align with your DEI values. Check out this article on Diversify Outdoors website for more great resources.
Natural Resources & Conservation
In the world of environmental science, the Conservation Job Board boast as the “world’s largest and most-visited website in conservation, ecology, forestry, wildlife, and fisheries.” It was recommended to me with very high regard. Search with your desired field of focus, job type, and location, and you’ll swiftly get various listings that match. Out of all job boards, I find this one the easiest to use.
Justice Outside is a resource to find positions centered around eco-justice, the movement that addresses environmental risks that disproportionately harm marginalized communities. I appreciate that they make it a point to include job salaries to increase transparency. If you are passionate about fighting environmental injustices, this could be a great launch pad for you.
The Natural Resources Job Board through Texas A&M University focuses on jobs relating to conservation, biological sciences, and outdoor recreation. This database is helpful especially for finding internships, graduate assistantships, post-doctoral and faculty appointments, and fellowships. The listings are plentiful. However there is no function to filter by location, so the site is slightly challenging to navigate.
Adventure & Guiding
Claiming they are a “job board for the outdoor, adventure, and travel industry,” Occupation Wild is a great launching point for those focusing on seasonal jobs in adventure and guiding. I like this website for its simplicity, pictures, and detailed job descriptions, though their listings are limited, and searching can be tricky.
Businesses & Retail
My job board research led me to Outdoor Industry Jobs, which is specifically a great catch-all database for vacant positions in business, retail, and marketing in the outdoor industry. Although, the occasional ski instructor gig does makes it on there. This website is so well organized, making searching very quick and easy.
I’ve used Basecamp Outdoors in the past, specifically their Facebook group, because it has a slightly more casual and collaborative structure of connecting job searchers with employers. Anyone can post listings and offerings, comment on each other’s posts, virtually network, and exchange messages in hopes of landing a first interview. This Facebook page is also a place to ask questions, share ideas, and get feedback. I’ve seen posts from wildlife photographers, a river apparel brand, digital marketers, fishing and agriculture enthusiasts, and more.
Ask Too Many Questions
Have you ever wanted to spend a summer maintaining trails in Alaska yet have no idea what that actually entails? Maybe you’re excited about teaching forest ecology to middle schoolers, but are unsure if you have the right experience. This is why we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the informational interview.
The magic of an informational interview is that you can peel back the curtains of the nitty-gritty of the job by talking directly to someone in the position you’re interested in (with hardly any pressure to impress!). What’s the first step? Make a list of jobs you might be interested in, and take note of any contacts you find during your search. This is also where the fruits of your networking labor come into play. Don’t hold back asking your cousin’s friend’s sister who has the job of your dreams, and be sure to take advantage of those connections you make during your workshops and conferences. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask too many questions.
Whether you’re new to the outdoor industry or a seasoned pro looking to level up, take this blog post as a launching point for your job search. Who knows, maybe this is the year you learn to dog sled, plant a thousand native trees, or even become an Outward Bound instructor.
About the Author
Eva (they/them) currently lives in the foggy landscape of the Bay Area. Originally from Colorado, Eva practically grew up with hiking boots on their feet and climbing chalk on their hands. After working at Outward Bound in both Colorado and California, they thru-hiked the Pacific Crest and Colorado Trails to raise scholarship money for Outward Bound California’s LGBTQ+ courses. When Eva’s not studying for their graduate degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they’re most likely fixing bikes and exploring the Sierra Nevada.