Eleven years ago, Chad Mihalick had just completed his degree in business administration at Pepperdine and was searching blindly for an entry-level position at an action-sports company. Frustrated by how difficult it was to even figure out who was hiring, Mihalick hit upon a solution: Malakye.com, a combination job board and news site that he launched in 2002. Malakye.com now hosts listings from some 1,900 action-sports and outdoor companies, from Quiksilver to The North Face. Here, Mihalick outlines a strategy for scoring all types of gigs in these fun and growing industries, whether your background is in design, marketing, sales, or finance.
1. STUDY. Before applying for a job, familiarize yourself with industry trends and hot topics through trade sources like OutdoorRetailer.com, SNewsnet.com, BoardRetailers.org, InsideOutdoor.com, and BicycleRetailer.com.
2. BRAND. Like it or not, LinkedIn is probably the method most companies will use to get to know you initially, and they pay close attention to your recommendations and who’s in your network. An active blog or Facebook page can also help define you.
3. NETWORK. Trade events like the SIA Snow Show, Interbike, and Outdoor Retailer are ideal venues for establishing industry contacts, but they usually require a company affiliation. It’s often easier to connect with industry people at big sporting events like the Sea Otter Classic and Teva Mountain Games. Shake hands, collect business cards, then follow up over e-mail or social media and ask if they’d be willing to spend a few minutes answering some exploratory career questions.
4. TARGET. Being a diehard weekend skier doesn’t necessarily mean you understand the technical aspects of binding design or ski lamination. Professional experience should be your entry point: if you’re an accountant, apply for a job in the accounting department.
5. CHARM. In the outdoor industries, a good cultural fit is a significant factor in landing a job. A demonstrated passion for sports and adventure can tip the scales when you’re up against other qualified applicants. Race results, volunteer stints, and travel experiences are fair game for résumés and those small-talk moments during interviews.