Thousands of college graduates this spring, and everyone will be looking for the same thing, whether it be a job, a sweet internship or acceptance into graduate school.  It is a long line of applicants  going through the interview process.  A good number of interviewers will soon start to get bored of the same ol’ candidates coming in with good grades, the “right” resume, and the list of community service projects done to pad out the resume.  It is not too late to separate yourself from the crowd and prove that you are a better candidate than everyone else!  One way to stand out in the crowd is to have participated in your college outdoor program.

College Outdoor Programs are often seen as the place the wanna be hippies, tree huggers, or loners gravitate to in college, those who eschew the frat party scene for a night in a tent under the stars, those who find getting wet or dirty or cold or scared more interesting than primping for that Friday night party.  While there might be a small ring of truth there, what outdoor programs also do is create leaders, train individuals to work under pressure, encourage teamwork, and develop management and organizational skills.

Go into a job interview and sit down with a resume that includes the fact that you were a trip leader, a kayaker, a climber or hiked the AT one summer. Suddenly the person sitting behind the desk loses that bored glazed over look and sits up and gives you a bit more scrutiny.  The standard interview questions get shuffled under the desk and the conversation turns to something like:
“So you kayak? So do I.” Or “I tried it and got so scared just turning upside down. How did you deal with that fear?”

“You are a trip leader for backpacking trips?” “How many participants were you dealing with/how long were the trips/how much responsibility did you have? Did anything ever go wrong? How did you handle it?”

“As a trip leader, what was your biggest challenge?” “Did you ever have someone succumb to fear? Get hurt? Not want to continue? Panic? How did you talk them through their issue and turn their experience around to a positive one?”

An interviewer’s job is to sort through the masses for the cream of the crop, but also look out for individuals they can relate to since they are looking for good teammates. If they can relate to you on a personal level, if you intrigue them, show them you are a leader with skills that are not taught in the classroom, you will stand out in the crowd.

If you have not stopped into the outdoor program office on campus, now is the time to do so. As a graduating student, find an activity that can give you a one-up on the rest of the graduates – even if it is just going on a hang gliding trip.  If you are an underclassman, now is the time to get to know the head of the program so that you can come in and start training to be a trip leader next year.  Programs are losing their senior leaders at graduation.  Attrition is expected each year, so now is your chance to learn what it would take not just to participate in an outdoor activity that interests you, but to use that skill  to build your own resume for that day when you begin the interview process.