Finding a Job in the Outdoor Industry

Over the years, I have run into a number of people that ask me how to get a job in the Outdoor Industry.  Since of many people that come to love outdoor gear and some of you might be looking for a job or a way to get into the outdoor industry, I thought it might be helpful if I shared my thoughts.

For starters, if you are coming from an industry that pays normal to good or above average wages, it is good to know that you will make on average 20% less.  I don’t have any specific numbers to back this up, but this is what I have come across over the years of working in the industry.  The reason for wages being lower isn’t that the top execs don’t want you to make money or care about your well being, but it is a mix of supply and demand and an enjoyable culture being part of your compensation. That said, if a little less pay won’t work for you, please hit the back button and keep on reading reviews. 🙂

Reason to work for an outdoor or athletic company

One big reason that most people want to work for a company in the outdoor industry is because of the culture or lifestyle.  As an outdoors or athletic person, you probably live and breathe the positive and relaxed attitude and what better way to embrace that than spend your 8-10 hours a day working with it.  After all, we spend 8-12 hours of our awake lives at work.  Let’s break that down.  24 hours in a day minus 8 hours of sleep = 16 hours.  8 hours divided by 16 hours and that breaks down that you spend half of your awake life at work.

If you want to work for an outdoors or athletic company, I suggest looking for a company that has a product that you believe in and a company that supports the activities that you enjoy.  For example, if you are a runner through and through, look for a running specific company.  If you are a diehard skier, look for a company that has a skiing focus.  This will make your transition much easier and it will help ensure a good fit.

The difference in my mind between an outdoors company and say a car company are the people around you.  They often time have similar interest and you usually will enjoy your conversations with people at work that much more.  For the majority of outdoors companies, I feel that about 10-20% of people that work for the company are not all that interested in the outdoors or athletics.  They are there because it is a job and it pays the bills.  These people are often in accounting, finance, HR, but it can really be in any department.  Please remember, this is just my opinion and is not true for all companies.

How to get an interview with an outdoors company

Getting an interview is half of the battle for most people when it comes to finding a job.  This is true for any industry really.  My suggestion is to get to know people in the company and network.


A great place to start is Linkedin.  I am a big believer in Linkedin as it can sometimes tell you a lot about a person or a company.   Linkedin for those of you don’t know is a business networking website that has been around for a long time, think of it as facebook for your career.

Steps for using Linkedin

  1. Click on Advanced Search
  2. Input the company name you are interested in
  3. Input the department you are interested in with the title.  For example, if you are looking in the marketing department, type in marketing.  For people in finance, type in finance.
  4. Mark the people that you are interested in are current at the company.
  5. Read through the results and profiles.  Keep in mind that the more people you are connected with on Linkedin, the more results you will get.
  6. After you have chosen who you want to contact, don’t contact them through Linkedin, DON’T.
  7. Figure out what their company email protocol is and send them an email or go old school and give them a call.

These days, there are a lot of people looking for jobs and most people are overloaded with work. If they don’t get back to you the first time, don’t take offense and don’t think that is the end.  Try and try again until you get a response from them.

When possible, try to meet these people face to face.  Often times when you meet someone face to face, they are more willing to help you.

Resources to finding a job in the outdoor industry

While there are not billions of resources or websites for jobs in the outdoor industry, there are a few that you should know about.  The following websites have listings for jobs in the outdoor industry.

Outdoor Industry Career Center

Some companies post jobs here, but not all do.  One good resource about the OIA website is that you can search companies by location, so if you live in Boulder, you can search for companies in Boulder and then reach out to each company separately.

I find this website to be a good resource for outdoor industry jobs.  They sometimes post jobs that are old and already taken, but that is just how it goes sometimes.

This website is more focused on action sports, so if that is your thing, then be sure to look into it. They often times will have different companies listed that the other websites listed.

If you are looking for jobs in the running industry, this is an ok resource.  There are not a lot of jobs posted here, but it’s ok.

Meetup is a great resource to meet people locally.  There are not a lot of outdoor industry groups, but you can sometimes find groups related to the outdoor industry.  I run a group locally here in Denver and Boulder  We usually will have people announce if they are hiring for any particular jobs among many other things.

Last and not least, you should always look at the company’s website that you want to apply to.  It is most convenient to sign up for an RSS feed so you will find out as soon as there is a new job posting from that company.

Suggestions from some people that matter in the outdoor industry

Tips for finding a job in the outdoor industry:

“Get experience working with consumers.  A great way to learn product, retail and consumer behavior is to work in a specialty store for 6-12 months.”

What I look for from candidates:

“Passion for the sport/activity, a curious mind and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to learn.  Many people feel entitled to get a job, but most of us started at the ground floor in order to learn the business.  Put your time in to learn the nuances.”

-Dave Larson, VP of Marketing at Brooks Running

“Accurately assess your own skill sets and proficiency – and be humble. As I look back over time at the people who have not succeeded at Backbone, many of them overstated their athletic abilities in the interview (“I’m a great tele skier. I climb 5.12 etc). Over time the truth always comes out and it appears that the same people also incorrectly assessed their skill / knowledge level on the job. Often these employees crash and burn later because they don’t ask questions, they don’t let themselves learn because they think they are beyond it.”

“Research the brand, the people and the competitive landscape before the interview. Come to the interview with questions. I judge candidates more on the quality of their questions than their answers to our interview questions. Asking how long your lunch break is, is NOT a good question. Speak highly of your previous employer – or don’t say anything. Going negative is an immediate turn-off, no matter what the circumstances were. Be willing to prove it. The outdoor industry inherently appreciates self sufficiency and a willingness to take a risk. Most people are here because they are passionate about the sports and the lifestyle and most of us have worked our way up from the ground level. We appreciate a willingness to prove your worth first – then ask for more.”

Nate Simmons, Partner at Backbone Media

Here at Patagonia, we take a holistic approach to the hiring process. We look for candidates that, first and foremost, share our love for wild places, preservation of our planet, passion for quality and our desire to make a difference. Cultural fit is absolutely key to the right hire at Patagonia. Then, we look for individuals with a strong background that fits the type of job we are looking to fill, or can compliment the open job in a unique way.

“Not being bound by convention” is one of the companies core values, and we take that value to heart when looking at the hiring process. As you can image, we receive thousands of resumes every year, so the competition is stiff. But – we read and evaluate every single resume that comes across our desks. The future of the company starts with the people we hire, and we take it quite seriously.-

Shannon Ellis, Human Resources/Recruitment at Patagonia

Kevin Fonger

If there's an activity or sport, I'll generally try it at least once. My main activities include running, hiking, skiing, cycling, camping, backpacking, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I love writing product reviews as I like helping people find the right gear so they will enjoy their activity that much more.

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