What does a “day job” look like in outdoor recreation?

May 11, 2017

Many people go to work each day dreaming of the weekend, when they can get out and do things they love, like mountain biking, walking, climbing or kayaking.

Outdoor recreation professionals get paid to be experts in the activities they are passionate about, and share that passion with others.

But what does such a job actually look like, you ask?

Well, lots of things! Read on for some examples of outdoor recreation careers, from some of the smart, highly-qualified outdoor people that we work with at Skills Active…

It can mean following your passion, like Greg McIntyre 

1705 Greg Macintyre v2 Greg McIntyre owns Fat Tyre Adventures, a mountain bike guiding company in Otago. Fifteen years ago he was running a successful café, and spent his weekends riding around the high country of Central Otago, with the permission of the local farmers.

Then he started wondering if he could make a viable business out of mountain biking. "My accountant said, 'Don’t do it, it’s ridiculous.' 

And maybe he was right – but I haven’t got an accountant’s brain. You have to live life, and if you can do something that‘s fun and exciting, so much the better.

"Numbers don’t tick my boxes. Being outside riding my bike in the mountains, that ticks my boxes.”

From a small start with just his Land Rover and a few bikes, Greg now has three guides and offers a range of single and multi-day rides, including helicopter trips to the best bike trails.

It can mean working with young people as they learn and grow, like Shirlene Spencer

Page Not FoundShirlene Spencer is a camp administrator at Teapot Valley Christian Camp in Nelson. (She’s also the Skills Active 2016 Apprentice of the Year!) Shirlene keeps things running smoothly at the camp, and helps to look after the interns who lead camp activities. 

Shirlene previously worked in swim education and she loves helping people to expand their boundaries.

“You do see how sedentary some kids can be, so it’s exciting when you see them exploring new things. Here it’s doing the camp activities, at the Aquatic Centre it was learning to swim, and water safety – seeing them stretch outside their comfort zone.

“It’s watching kids going down an abseiling tower and knowing that you’re part of the process that brought them to camp and got them into a programme that is going to extend them and make them grow.” 

It can mean helping people run safe and successful businesses, like David Mangnall

1705 David Mangnall v2David Mangnall is an adventure activities auditor for OutdoorsMark. He has had a wide-ranging career in outdoor recreation, teaching outdoor education, guiding and instructing many different activities, leading Outward Bound courses, and more. These days he audits adventure businesses to make sure they are meeting the standards under New Zealand’s health and safety legislation. 

Being an auditor involves working closely with companies to help them understand the requirements, and improve their policies and practices where needed.

“It’s a privilege to get a real inside look at people’s businesses. And you are there to help people. Business owners have a whole lot of compliance stuff to think about, and as auditors we need to make sure they are doing the right things, but we also need to make it easy for them to get it right.

"So I’m always looking for ways I can bring in something new – a different perspective on things.”

It can mean enjoying travel, variety and freedom, like Jamie Obern

1705 Jamie Obern v2

Jamie Obern owns Tech Dive NZ, a specialist technical dive school. Jamie has been a diving instructor in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Croatia and Fiji, he has run marine science projects, owned his own dive shop, and now he teaches advanced diving including decompression courses and diving in caves and wrecks, as well as being a dive industry auditor.

Travelling and working as a dive expert is awesome, says Jamie, who still goes overseas for projects.

“When you dive in different countries, not only is it exciting, but you also pick up new ideas and methodologies.”

People think of diving as one activity, Jamie says, when in fact there are multiple specialist areas. “So it’s important to try out different niches and figure out what you enjoy most.”

Being an outdoor professional can mean many things, and this fun, exciting industry draws on an almost endless range of skills and abilities, allowing people to shine in all sorts of different roles.

For more information about our on-job qualifications in outdoor recreation, contact your local learning support advisor.