“When are you going to get a real job?”
Our counselors probably hear that a lot from friends and family. I certainly heard it a lot when starting work in outdoor education, summer camp, and other seemingly seasonal employment.
Sure, my job may not have been traditional, but it was certainly real. The companies for whom I worked paid me in real money, gave me real benefits, and allowed me to be 100% financially independent. To those who asked me about getting a real job, I replied I had a real job, and that in addition to compensation it was also fun and rewarding in a way that I thrived on, just as they likely thrived on their work.
After college I could’ve become a teacher or found work in a museum. I could’ve continued as a bartender or explored a political career. Instead, after spending a month backpacking on the Appalachian Trail with my sister, I knew I wanted to be outdoors all the time, including in my career.
Upon my return to civilization, I started looking for jobs that would keep me outside. Wilderness trip leading and outdoor education called to me. I applied, got hired, and started work.
At the time, I assumed this seasonal field would take up a couple years of my life before I settled into a more traditional role. But season followed season, year followed year, and I was still working outside in beautiful places with amazing youth and great coworkers. I met some of my best friends in the industry and have explored all across the US.
I worked in the Hill Country in Texas, the North Woods of Wisconsin, the North Country of New Hampshire, central Virginia, and the city of Atlanta. In the shoulder seasons I visited friends and explored other parts of the US including the Oregon coast, the desert southwest, the snowy peaks of Colorado, and the Ozarks of Arkansas to name but a few.
I’m still in touch with friends with whom I may have only spent one season. I went to the wedding this fall of one such coworker. A group of seven of us already have a reunion trip planned for fall 2019. When I traveled to Europe last winter, I had camp friends to show me around their cities.
While my high school and college friends worked their way into management roles and said, “Get a real job,” I was exploring the country, making friends, and creating some of my fondest memories.
And that brings me to today. Now you might say I have a “real job,” working year round for one company. It is still camp, though. Instead of, “When are you going to get a real job?” people ask, “What do you do the rest of the year?” More educational moments for them, but that’s another story.
I don’t write this merely to reminisce on how I got to Camp Alleghany for Girls, or as a Program Director in outdoor education. But rather I write it for anyone who is considering a seasonal job (especially a summer at Alleghany).
This is as real of a job as you’ll ever have. We’ll pay you, feed you, and house you. We’ll give you the opportunity to create lifelong friendships, make memories, and inspire the next generation.
If you’re thinking about seasonal work for one season or for five years, I say go for it. Who knows where it might lead you, who you may meet, and what opportunities will present themselves? Perhaps you will find your calling. There’s only one way to find out.
Join us at Camp Alleghany for a life changing experience, and take my advice:
“Get a real job!”
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls