Outdoor Rec as A Career


More than 140 million Americans make outdoor recreation a priority in their lives, generating $646 billion (as of 2014) of sales in the outdoor market, spending that directly results in 6.1 million jobs just in the U.S. The majority of outdoor enthusiasts come to climbing, kayaking or stand-up paddling through courses, seminars, private lessons and involvement in educational programs at gyms, schools and universities.

These extra curricular programs have caught fire over the last decade and their popularity requires a staff of mostly volunteers to manage the outings and the day-to-day. For some, these programs, and the contacts made, are entrees to permanent jobs in the outdoor industry. Surprisingly, few programs provide meaningful education per the real-world job opportunities in the outdoor field, which again number over six million.

Because of the adventure sports boom in the 1980s, yesterday’s performers are today’s outdoor staffers. These very people, who helped invent the outdoor market itself, are currently searching for young, up-and-coming athletes and workers to infuse badly-needed energy and a contemporary outlook to an industry in transition. The question is: How can the young outdoor student and enthusiast make meaningful contact with the outdoor executives who do the actual hiring?

A few suggestions for you to share with students…

First, students should be given the opportunity and encouraged to attend the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer (OR) shows — where every meaningful manufacturer and key staffers are always on hand — to see who and what companies are in the mix, as well as talking to the principals to learn what jobs are available. Many students believe employment is limited to Outdoor Rec departments or company rep agencies, when in fact outdoor companies offer an array of positions commensurate with any manufacturer.

Marketing, accounting, internal sales, merchandising, human resources, production development and many more positions comprise any viable company, outdoors or otherwise. As mentioned, there is plenty of room for a hard worker to move up quickly in most of the established companies. The OR is the perfect place for students to talk to principles within companies and to discover the opportunities.

Encourage students to intern at companies to get a foot in the door. Offer to help out at company events to learn about the company and network. At NIRSA and AORE shows, visit company booths and introduce yourself. We have brought on quite a few ambassadors because a student has reached out and shown promise and enthusiasm. Many have gone on to get paying jobs after graduation, simply because they reached out.

Bottom line: Presenting yourself and getting involved remains the direct way into the outdoor industry.

Diane Kay is the head of marketing and director of the athlete team for adidas Outdoor, USA. For more information visit adidasoutdoor.com.

Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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