Developing Your Skills to Get Jobs

Seeking a government job can sometimes seem like a shot in the dark. It’s a formalized process and there is relatively little you can do to control it. For the most part, once you’ve filled out the massive applications, you just have to sit back and wait.

There are a few steps you can take, though, to boost your ranking on the list of applicants.

Natural science coursework helps – college credit in forestry, ecology, wildlife management, and geology all look good on an application. Other useful subjects include anthropology, recreation, law enforcement, and environmental science.

CPR/First Aid certification is a definite plus; contact your local fire department or American Red Cross branch for information. Depending on the type of position you’re applying for, training or experience in search and rescue, in the use of firefighting or trail building tools, as an Emergency Medical Technician, or as a lifeguard can be helpful.

One outdoor worker suggests emphasizing certain skills: “Highlight your experience with machinery and tools. Maintenance is a big part of the work load at many outdoor job sites.”

For every skill you list on the federal application, you must explain where you learned it (e.g., on the job, in college, or through special training). So try to get formal training or experience for the skills you have or are working on. Learning how to use a chainsaw even as an unpaid trail volunteer looks better on paper than learning it in the backyard from Dad.

In addition to technical skills, work experience (volunteer or paid) and general outdoor knowledge can help your application stand out. Backpacking trips with a scout group, a job at an outdoor gear shop, or membership in a local climbing club will show you’re genuinely interested in the outdoors.

One seasonal worker suggests volunteering for an outdoor organization or agency before applying for a paid position:

“Most of the people I met started out as volunteers with the Student Conservation Association or some other organization. It helps if you can get your foot in the door any way you can, and work hard to show people that you’re worth their time and money.”

Finally, go into the job search with the best attitude possible, and emphasize your eagerness to work hard. For more on maximizing your skills and giving a winning interview, visit the job search strategy section of the website.

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