Hiking to your next job

My wife and I discovered the joys of hiking a couple of years ago. We particularly loved the national park setting and decided to make annual trips to different parks. This year we’re going to Yosemite, home to some of the best hiking trails in the national park system. And home to the iconic peak, Half Dome.

We plan to make the grueling 17-mile, round-trip, day hike to the top of Half Dome.

This is all well and good, you say, and maybe even slightly interesting. But what possible connection does this have to your career?

Very simple: it takes a great deal of planning, preparation, training and execution to make a successful climb to the top of Half Dome and back. The same things it takes to mount a successful career search.

The good news is the likelihood of slipping and falling 1,700 feet to your death is pretty slim during your career search!

Now, you wouldn’t just get up one day and decide to hike 17 miles in the mountains if you weren’t prepared in some way. A career search requires similar preparation. Every hour in the gym will reap rewards for you when you’re on the trail. And every hour you spend networking, researching and refining your marketing materials will reap great rewards for you on the career search trail.

There are books, maps, guides and entire websites dedicated to hiking Half Dome. We plan on taking advantage of every opportunity to be prepared for this hike. Multiple sources provide different perspectives of the same goal, and all of it is useful and helpful, particularly in adapting various techniques to your own personal approach.

The same holds true for your career search. There are countless sources out there, and I’d encourage you to explore as many as you can. You won’t fully adopt every idea you come across, but there can be extremely helpful points to be gleaned from any source.

Another critical way to prepare for a long hike is to, quite simply, hike. The gym is great and riding the bike is really helpful, but nothing beats strapping on the old boots and hitting the trails. We can’t replicate the 8,000-foot elevation in Wisconsin, but we can certainly log plenty of miles before we go.

In a career search, nothing beats a good practice interview. Interviews are stressful, but if you’ve had a chance to practice your answers in an interview setting, you can enter a “real” interview with a lot more confidence. And the more practice you can get, the better you’ll perform when it counts. Find different folks in your network who are willing to help you. Even if they just ask you the basic questions, you will be a lot more comfortable and natural when it comes time for the interview for that dream job you’ve been looking for.

And that’s what it’s all about: feeling comfortable in inherently uncomfortable situations. The last 450 feet of the Half Dome hike are straight up the granite face, with nothing but a couple of cables to give you some support as you climb. If I got to that part never having seen it or read about it before, I’d turn right around and go back. Don’t let that happen to you. Walk boldly and confidently into your next interview, knowing you’re well-prepared for anything they may throw at you.

Just make sure you’re not wearing hiking boots.

See you at the top!

***Scott has been with American Family for a little over two years as a benefits consultant in our human resources department headquarters in Madison. In addition to being an HR professional, Scott is a writer wannabe and has written six novels (well, not actually written them DOWN, but the imaginary Pulitzer sits proudly on his pretend mantle!)

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