Anyone who has ever tried to relocate on a whim will tell you that your biggest obstacle will be finding work, let alone if you relocate to a town between mountains with a population the size of your high school. That said, it’s been done before, and if the mountains truly call for you, it will be done again.
Like any job search, the key to landing your first mountain job before you’ve already moved to the mountains is preparation. Fortunately, we’ve developed a broad step-by-step guide for you to deploy in your job search and eventual move to the mountains.
Whether you’ve chosen the Cascades, Catskills, the Smokies, or the Rockies as your new home, your first step in your move will be gaining an understanding of the local business community. Despite the cliche that mountain towns are all ski resorts and serving jobs, different regions will provide different opportunities.
Boulder, CO, for example, offers direct access to the heart of the Rockies but it also offers a distinct and bustling entrepreneurial tech scene. Meanwhile, neighboring Nederland (only a couple miles up the canyon) suffers a job draught until festival season comes around. Are you looking at a seasonal retreat or a year-round business destination? It’s important to know before you go.
A quick Google search will provide you with insight into what industries thrive in the mountain town of your craving. But don’t mistake yourself into thinking that just because almost every Colorado town contains some semblance of a cannabis industry, you’re destined to be a kingpin. Weigh your existing experience against the needs of the local industry. Don’t know the needs? Find out. Don’t have any experience? Take note, because you’ll be starting further down the totem pole.
Prepare Your Resume
There are countless examples of effective resumes on the Internet, so we won’t go into that here. However, we had ought to discuss audience. While you might think that mountain-town people are just as care-free as John Denver would have you imagine, business owners are still business owners. They’re happy to provide opportunities to people looking to grow, but require reliability and specific sets of skills.
If you’re applying to be a fire watcher over the Summer, your after-college job at the sandwich shop probably won’t catch anyone’s attention. However, that position you held as a camp counselor will exhibit your sense of duty, level of responsibility, and overall adulthood. No one wants an immature kid to be the one standing between their town and a towering inferno.
Step into the shoes of your hiring manager and think about what you’d expect from an employee were you the one making the hiring decisions. Maybe it doesn’t align with your experience. The best you can do is reframe your standard resume to match your best guess. That, in itself, will be a valuable exercise.
Prepare Cover Letter(s)
Your cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself or, in some circumstances, plead your case. Considering an in-person interview is out of the cards as someone applying from out-of-city, what you write here had ought to equal out to the smoothest interview you’re capable of undergoing. Don’t restate your resume. Instead, provide a specific account of what makes you unique against the rest of the applicants, specifically against those who have the capability to walk down the road and shake the manager’s hand as early as next week. This is where that research will have come into play. Customizing each cover letter to the business in question will help you stand out. Don’t rule out scouring LinkedIn for an appropriate addressee’s name.
Consider getting creative, telling a story instead of writing a plain introduction. Eventually, you’ll need to explain that you’re inquiring from a distance. Use that opportunity to express your passion and willingness to get involved with the community. The last thing anyone wants is a fair-weather employee. They need to know that this isn’t just a gig to you but rather your in-road to a bevy of relationships and experiences. When you live in a small mountain town, almost everybody knows almost everybody, and communal values develop as a result. You should be willing to align yourself with those values for the better of the town as a whole.
Most importantly, include a call to action at the end of your correspondence. Something like, “If you’re interested in discussing the position more, I’d love to schedule a time for a Skype interview or phone call.”
Start far in advance (6+ months if you’re seeking a seasonal-dependent position) and begin applying to everything you see. Obviously, the best resource for that is Mountainjobs.com, but don’t let that rule out opportunities only available on sites like usajobs.gov, which is where you’ll find government positions. Likewise, the National Park Service will post jobs to different job boards, but they’ll all ultimately lead back to nps.gov. Another great place to watch is WOOOF, which facilitates short and long-term homestay opportunities. It’s important to key a watchful eye on new opportunities across various resources, both broad and narrow in their scope.
But don’t stop with posted job opportunities. Continue to research individual organizations and companies, seeking out the decision-makers, sometimes even calling just to ask for someone’s contact information, and shooting them emails. The best practice is to first introduce yourself, then ask permission to send a resume (don’t want to appear presumptuous). You’ll be surprised how often guerilla applications like this work. They show you’re eager and willing to go out of your way for the position at hand.
Follow-Up or Consider Plan B
Not every business will welcome follow-up emails. In fact, some warn against it. However, there’s little to lose if you submitted an online application a couple of weeks ago and haven’t yet heard back. Track down the manager’s information and let them know that you’re still interested in the position and wonder if there is anything else they might need from you.
Should all else fail, consider a Plan B. No, that doesn’t mean letting go of your dream to move to the mountains. Instead, it means readdressing your approach. Sure, everyone’s parents have told them to have a new position set in stone before leaving one behind, but perhaps you’ll have better luck living the unconventional life. Stash some money away and the make move anyway, intent on find work when you get there. Or, even better, embrace the gig economy for a short time. Drive for taxi apps or freelance your skills out to area businesses. Often, the latter will get you the foot you need in the door in order to secure a position down the line.
Most of all, make it work for you. The mountains are filled with people who left everything behind in hopes of getting themselves closer to nature, and they surely encountered difficulty along the way. But like all the other animals inhabiting the mountainside, their resilience paved their way.