To Get a Green Job, Don’t Just Look for an Office Internship


Popular job search blog highlights the SCA path to a green career.

According to numerous studies, the two skills most valued by employers are teamwork and trainability. This is why internships are so popular: they provide evidence for both.

But an office internship is not the only way to demonstrate these desirable qualities. You have the opportunity to try something different by getting outdoors.

Look to the Woods

After my senior year in high school, I completed a four-week summer internship with the Student Conservation Association (SCA). Six of us lived in a remote forest in northern Vermont with one adult leader. We cleared trails and did other outdoor work.

I still have wonderful memories of this experience. But more importantly, I learned about teamwork and trainability and returned with those highly prized skills clearly demonstrated. I wasn’t in an office, but I gained the experience that office executives value.

When the nearest road is a five-mile hike from your camp, it’s an absolute necessity to find ways to get along with people who end up on your team, people you wouldn’t necessarily hang out with by choice. This experience is a great preparation for a work setting where it’s necessary to get along with boss or coworker, no matter what type of person they are. In high school and college, it’s a lot easier to ignore people you don’t like.

As a team, we had to learn new skills. They were skills I’d never thought I’d need in my life, like building irrigation ditches, identifying plants, and scaring away wolves. I had to come face-to-face with the fact that I didn’t know everything (a big revelation for an 18 year-old!).

The Three Questions that Get You Hired

Internships in the woods, like my SCA adventure, can give you other distinct advantages once it’s time to look for a job. You’ll have real-life experiences that address the three questions every prospective employer wants answered successfully.

1. Can you do the job?

You were selected for an outdoor internship – a distinguishing credential in SCA’s case in particular – and you learned what was necessary to complete the task.  It proves you have the drive, flexibility, and ability to learn – a priority for many organizations that prefer to teach specialized skills. For example, you might get hired to manage a project using MS Project. Even if you’ve never done this before, the simple fact that you could be trained to build irrigation ditches makes you desirable to employers.

2. Who are you?

By the time you get back from an outdoor internship, you will have stories to tell–stories that showed how you approached challenges when faced with the unknown. These kinds of stories build character and impress colleagues and employers. If you don’t end up with some great stories on an outdoor internship, then maybe you never left your tent!

3. What motivates you?

Nothing shows personality more than taking a month out of your life for something you believe in – like caring for the environment. If there is any doubt about your commitment to a green job, your participation in an SCA internship ( or the equivalent will serve you well.

Tell Your Story, Get Hired

When you come back from an internship in the woods, you’ll be able to answer questions those office-dwelling interns cannot. You’ll have stories that will make them jealous. And more importantly, your new perspective will separate you from the pack in an interview.

Organizations prefer candidates who are trainable and work well in teams. By heading for the woods, you have the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities in a unique way – with the trees as your companions, the rivers as your iTunes playlist, and a trained outdoorsman as your boss.

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Joshua Waldman is the author of the Jobjuice Social Media Job Search App, which is now available for download for iPad and iPhone in the App Store.

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