Path Less Taken in Outdoor Career Industry

The path less taken: A guide to breaking into the outdoor industry
by Paul Gagner, former president…

Over the last 30 years Paul Gagner has truly seen and mastered nearly every facet of the outdoor industry, starting first on the retail floor then striking out on his own as a rep and finally summiting to the CEO position at Sierra Designs. Along the way he’s also served on numerous boards including the Outdoor Industry Association and American Alpine Club. In short, Paul knows the outdoor biz top to bottom. He recently shared with us the 10 hard fought rules he’s learned for getting your “in” in the business.


Editor’s Note: While most people work five days a week and only dream of getting out to enjoy their true passion, Paul made a fateful decision 30 years ago: to marry his vocation and avocation by jumping full-fledge into the outdoor industry. He’s graciously offered to pen a series of “how to” articles to help guide you in your pursuit of the outdoor industry.
Whether you’re fresh out of school or an established professional from the ”real world” looking to bring your talents to the outdoor industry, Paul’s advice is invaluable for getting your “in”.

Why I Went Into the Woods
(and why you should consider it, too)

While the outdoor industry’s structure and operations mirror many other businesses there is one distinct and, in my opinion absolutely essential, difference.  Inside each and every member of the business is a palpable passion for their pursuit of the outdoors. And that passion creates an energy you just don’t find in other businesses, an undercurrent of exciting innovation and development that can only come from people who love to hike, climb, camp and ski and who are committed to improving the experience at every opportunity. 

These guys design, sell, and market the products for their chosen passion not simply to make a living, but to make their sport more enjoyable for every participant.

In the end, the outdoor business is first and foremost about a zeal for the outdoors. And it creates a level of passion you just won’t get selling hydraulic pumps to industrial buyers or sourcing printer parts from the Pacific Rim. Sure, the mechanics of the development and selling processes may be the same and every industry goes through cycles of prosperity and peril
but through it all one thing always stands out between the outdoor industry and the
work-a-day world: it’s the passion that makes the difference.   

This is a unique industry and opportunities abound.  I’ll share with you the
essential background information and tips for breaking
into the business!


Keep Exploring Outdoor Career Options

Look Before You Leap